Ahead of their Australian tour, we spoke to APTBS’ Oliver Ackermann:
Are you at home at the moment or touring?
I am at home at the moment designing a few effects pedals, finishing some songs, remixing a Froth track and building some custom gear for this tour we are about to head out on.
Who did you grow up listening to? Who do you think influenced your musical tastes?
My parents were in to a lot of 50s and 60s rock and roll and folk music as well as a lot of classical and jazz. I loved a lot of that and also some 80s pop music that was still hanging on at the time. My brother started getting in to a lot of Punk music and when he showed it to me it blew my mind. I had never heard anything with such energy and excitement and with a real and powerful message. After that when I started discovering music for myself I got into a lot of sound based music, psychedelic stuff. My Bloody Valentine, The Cocteau Twins, Slowdive, The Cure, all of these bands seemed like the next level in music and made me feel like I could maybe use some magic instrument to transform my angst and emotion into music. Then I went to school in Providence Rhode Island at a really incredible time when the whole town seemed like a bombed out wasteland and people turned abandoned buildings and such into show spots and it was insane. And then later in life living in Brooklyn we had a music venue at the warehouse I lived and so I would see so many other bands it was always blowing my mind and inspiring to make me wanna live.
When did you realise you wanted to be a musician?
My best friend Paul had an electric guitar and this Peavey Classic amp and it sounded incredible. Then once I picked it up myself I was hooked. The feeling of strumming a chord through an amplified guitar is insane. Everyone should go over to a friends house who owns an electric guitar and big amp, crank it up and strum it to feel that power. It isn’t headphones and that connection is liquid magic.
How does it feel when you hear of bands citing you as one of their main influences?
That is really pretty crazy because I think I will always feel like a fan of other bands who enjoys to make music for myself. It is a pretty nice honor to think something I have done has done something positive for someones life.
What advice would you give to new bands just starting out?
Do what you want to do. Chase all avenues to find out what that is and make the music scene something cool by doing something cool.
What are you listening to right now?
The new Froth record cuz my buddy sent it to me. It’s really rad and slow. I’ve also been listening to all these live on KEXP cds that are in my car. I usually go for WFMU but have been traveling outside the radar zone so gotta hear more no format radio.
How is PINNED different to your previous releases?
I had just moved a couple of times and the record was written over those periods. Really it was a time of a lot of changes. At some point in the writing process Lia joined the band and that shifted the direction again. It was an interesting time of a lot of uncertainty in my life and I think it is reflected in the record.
What are the stories behind some of the songs on PINNED?
So often I read or hear stories of wild conspiracies and its really plausible at times but also could be completely bogus. The song Execution is about some higher up people executing people for their devious plans. I know a lot of people don’t care for human or animal life so perhaps it isn’t very far fetched.
With Never Coming Back: What came first – the music or the lyrics? What prompted the lyrics?
A lot of time I find myself reflecting on my life and what I’ve done and times I’ve had and what those feelings are to remember things and wish and want for things to be the way they were in the past as well and not want and also regret for things I’ve done or become. This is one of those songs.
Which track on Pinned was your most challenging or rewarding, and why?
Frustrated Operator for sure. I got to do what I had always wanted to do. Throw a party and transform the sounds to sound like guitars. I think the mind associates actual sounds with memories so for me it triggers that and for other people perhaps something similar. I have used sounds like these in other circumstances like trains and such but it was never quite as literal as the song that is a party have a party.
What are the main differences, production-wise, between your latest release and previous releases? What about musically, lyrically, stylistically?
This record is quite a bit more minimal that a lot of the other releases. We recorded a lot of it live and some of the songs are even sitting down with a drum machine so a lot it came with quite a different vibe. It is still pretty much completely produced by us so it has that kind of weird production of someone who records records whose mind has been trapped in the forest for 40 years.
Do you enter the studio with tracks ready to go — or have basic ideas that then form as you play together?
We did a bit of all of that for this record. Some of the songs we had worked on for a really long time and then just tracked them live and others were slowly or quickly worked in an apartment or the trashed warehouse I was moving in to.
How did Lia Simone Braswell join the band? How do you feel some of the songs may have changed after Lia joined the band?
Dion saw her at a show and told me he had seen her and she was a wicked drummer and so we all started playing together. It really wasn’t until after a little while that she started singing on some of the songs and now it keeps on being more and more. She sings in such a unique way I never thought I would ever be playing with anyone who sounded like her. It is great.
And, though it’s been a while, how did Dion Lunadon join? What’s it been like working with him?
Dion has been with the band for almost 10 years. It’s been great working with him. He is a brilliant songwriter, producer, wicked bassist, guitar player, not that great of a drummer but has a drum solo on Worship, a super funny guy and great friend.
What about the look of the album; in terms of artwork did you set the direction?
I really wanted something iconic and that was about it and our friend Ebru Yildz really ran with it and took all of these incredible striking photos for us that we got to pick through. The dead eye instantly struck me as the one. Something about the abnormal leads to me imagining what life could be like and I like that. Putting yourself in other peoples shoes. I don’t think people do it enough.
How did Re-PINNED eventuate? Did you approach artists or did they approach you?
It really happened in both ways. there were some people who really wanted to do remixes and people we really wanted them to do remixes. It really turned into a dream come true of artists doing the remixes and I really love every remix they did. When does that happen?
* RECORDING SESSIONS:
On Friday, What’s My Scene ran the Australian premiere of Fuzz Club sessions – how did those recordings come about?
Fuzz Club approached us on tour and asked if we wanted to do a session at the end of tour in a studio for a few hours and I can’t remember what we told them. I really love what Fuzz Club are doing as a label, they have so many great bands and making a real scene happen and I appreciate that to no end.
Are you working on new material now?
We are. Our live sound engineer recorded almost every show of the past few years and we had been throwing ourselves into the crowd and improvising songs with the pressure on. That moment of fear and excitement to keep a shows momentum going means that the improvisation has to match it or it fails. This means if the song is sucking you have to make it killer. So we took those tapes and listened to them, cut them up, and have been playing those moments and turning them in to the normal so that the next moments will be the grandchildren of those other moments.
How do you feel about touring?
I love touring. For me it is a vacation. Life is so slammed full of responsibilities these days it is such a break to be put in a situation where there is nothing you can do, you can not be responsible. You just have to make it to the next show and the rest of the time is spent checking out areas, meeting up with old friends, and meeting new ones.
Are there any on-the-road anecdotes you can share with us (that maybe you really shouldn’t)?
Ha ha, that probably means I shouldn’t. All I know is don’t bring a chicken to a waffle house to dine with ya. And feel the power of the Bruja.
What are your impressions/favourite moments in Australia?
I remember the first time going there we went to Bondi Beach and 2 of us wore sunscreen for the hour we were there and 2 of us didn’t. All I can say is one of us looked like a lobster, one of us a sunburned raccoon, and the two of us had nice tans. Someone also got bit by a shark while we were there! I feel like I am out in the wild when I am there and I love it. The albino kangaroos, lone koala, sea lice, all of it.
With so much material to choose from, how do you approach writing setlists?
We just pick which songs we feel like playing right before we go on stage. I like to hang out before the show and if there are other bands or artists performing check out what is going on and base what I feel would fit in with what is going on on the night.
What can your Australian fans expect from this tour?
It has been a few months since we have toured and so much has happened in the meantime I am just super excited to be out playing shows again. We have a lot of new tracks that we have never played for anyone and I am thrilled.
What is next for you? For the band?
I have been writing and recording a lot of music and the band has as well. I sometimes think about moving someplace else so we shall see, it might just be that year.
How would you describe your sound in food form and why?
Mashed potatoes. Big ol’ pile of mushy yummy.
What is your “scene”?
I like working on things or talking about dreams.
CATCH OLIVER ACKERMANN AND APTBS ON THEIR AUSTRALIAN/NEW ZEALAND TOUR:
AUSTRALIAN & NZ TOUR-DATES
Thur February 28 – Melbourne – Cherry Bar – SOLD OUT!