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A word with: Brandt Brauer Frick

Marcus Barnes

1 BBF by HarryWeber 300x150 A word with: Brandt Brauer FrickIn the studio music producers work with a variety of tools and technological equipment to build their tracks, bringing these largely artificial sounds together on a computer program. Many of the sounds are digital recreations of real instruments, which begs the question ‘If it’s possible to make house or techno in this manner, how well would it translate to a live band or group?’.

German three-piece emsmble Brandt Brauer Frick are the answer to this question. They produce music that replicates the sound of what’s produced in the studio with the aid of live instruments, and very entertaining it is too.

Here, I speak to Paul Frick who offers some insight into how the group works, recounting some of their experiences and their approach to music making.

What was the initial spark that started the whole BBF group getting together? Whose idea was it and how was that idea made a reality?

We mutually liked each others house music projects – Daniel and Jan as “Scott”, me as Paul Frick. When they found out that I also compose for classical instruments, they had the idea to do a session together and see what comes out. And we simply had a good chemistry, made “Iron Man” on the first day, “Bop” and “Paino Shakur” on the second day, “Corky” on the third. Then it was clear that we wanted to continue, and a few weeks later we got signed to Tartelet Records.

Can you describe the stages have BBF gone through to reach the stage you’re all at now?

I guess one important step was to start playing live as a three-piece in 2009. But naturally it started slowly. We had the idea to form an ensemble right in the beginning, but it took a long time to develop the ideas, find the confidence, the musicians. And then in 2010 K7 gave us their support and we finally tried how it works to play with 10 musicians. Right now we have experienced that you can do great things when you have some good people around you, and a lot of things that we were quite afraid of turned out to bring us unforgettable moments, for example playing in the mud madness of Glastonbury with classical instruments and four ballerinas.

Presumably some of the early BBF compositions are probably not as strong as the ones you perform now… what were the main flaws in your early work?

Well, I hope that doesn’t sound arrogant, but we haven’t released flaws, as we are very severe about what we do, and we are a three-person group, so it’s always hard to get each of us satisfied. And if that’s not the case, then we throw it in the garbage. Actually we really do like the pieces we made right in the beginning, because we had such a new and exciting vibe and chemistry, that we wouldn’t be able to recreate now, even if we wanted. That is true for all our music: it reflects our lives and thoughts at that moment, so we can’t repeat the same vibe, we have to move on.

Who writes the group’s compositions and what are the key inspirations/processes behind your music?

We jam together in the studio and record everything. Usually there’s at least some good idea in it, so we develop it and throw away the rest. The next time we jam some more, edit it and so on. It’s basically a constant switch between improvising, editing and composing. When we make an ensemble version, we first brainstorm how it could work, who plays what and how, and in the end I write the arrangements as a score. Then, when we rehearse, it still undergoes some changes, either because somebody comes up with new ideas, or something might not work the way we had imagined, so we need to change it.

Which five dance music tracks, old or new, would you love to perform live as BBF?

We don’t see ourselves as a club music cover band, so we just want to play our own music. The two cover versions on the “Mr. Machine” album are ensemble versions from remixes we had made. And as we had only used the original vocals and built our own new pieces around them, they are actually not really cover versions but rather new pieces. We want to express our feelings in our music and find fresh and authentic means for it. We are not at all a cross-over or cover band.

Describe a time when a performance went really wrong…

Some weeks ago we played in Cologne as a trio, and the sub-bass on the stage was so exaggerated that Daniel’s electronic drums failed, which had never happened before, even though we always have a lot of sub-bass. So the whole second half of the gig was basically a mix of playing and problem-solving and that was quite a pity, especially as a friend of ours had made a great light installation for the gig. The sub-bass in that venue was directly underneath our feet and instruments, which was not very cool. Even the keyboard was slowly moving by itself, and it’s quite heavy!

Have you considered asking a well-known producer to write and conduct a composition just for BBF?

No, we are our own producers. But we want to do more collaborations with vocalists. Actually our long-time dream is to become Björks band…

Who among your dance music contemporaries do you feel has the strongest influence, even if subtle, on BBF’s signature style?

As always, we can’t reduce our influences to a few musicians. But to name somebody: when we met, it was clear that we are all three big fans of Theo Parrish. Same with Steve Reich, from the classical world.

Are you guys ever going to produce an entire theatrical composition, similar to an opera? And, if so, what would the storyline be?

We are actually planning something in that direction, but can’t tell you about it!

Why do you think there aren’t more groups like you?

Probably because we are freaks, haha… Still there’s interesting people, whose approach has to do with ours, for example Francesco Tristano or Elektro Guzzi, even if they sound very different from ourselves. I would actually be happy if somebody tried to copy us, just out of curiosity I mean. The reason why playing club music with real instruments can’t become a huge movement is quite evident: it’s not easy and also a bit schizophrenic…

What does the future hold for BBF?

Eternal happiness!

Brandt Brauer Frick play fabric on Wednesday October 5 – click here for tickets.

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