SPACE INVADERS - Interview about the new album "Dreadnought

22. September 2015

Space Invaders Underground

SPACE INVADERS - Interview about the new album "Dreadnought

Interview with Paul Pott (bass), Dirk Jan Müller (keyboards), Dennis Gockel (drums) and Tipi Mike (guitar)

eclipsed: After two live-recorded albums you have now improvised in the studio. What effect has the "new" environment had? Is it a different kind of jamming?

Paul Pott: The new environment seemed a bit distorted to me, as I was standing in the studio with an acute herniated disc and a paralyzed leg and stunned myself with all sorts of colorful pills and a bottle of whiskey so that I could hold out the weekend. But in any case, I can say that recording in the studio has the advantage that you can stop a jam if you don't like the result or if the jam doesn't work. On stage you're nailed to pull something like that through and bring it to an end.

Dirk Jan Müller: It's quieter in the studio and you hear everything better than on stage. On stage it is therefore sometimes very difficult with musical communication.

Dennis Gockel: Absolutely. The direct resonance from the audience is missing of course, on the other hand you can dive deeper into the resulting material, because you are not distracted. I have to say that the sound on my headphones sounded so fat through the pre-amps of the bell desk that it beamed me away.

eclipsed: The keyboards seem to be more in focus this time. Correct? How did this happen?

PP: This time with Matt Korr as producer we gave the success of the sound out of our hands. After a few corrections to the mix, "Dreadnought" sounded the way it sounds now, and we were satisfied. I didn't mean to. It was probably Matt's influence.

DJM: Because a guitar is missing, unlike the live recordings. And after the mixer got on his nerves four times to finally make the synths louder, the fourth time it worked out.

DG: Not quite, because of Dirk Bittner's departure only four of us were in the studio, and we were confronted with a technical level that was so unusual for us. In the end the whole recording sounded frighteningly clean and somehow empty. When I did the first mix sessions with Matt, we were faced with the problem of getting the whole thing more spacy somehow, then we experimented a lot with different effects. It's something of a lizard general in the Vogon fleet, isn't it? The synth and the Mellotron of Dirk have more room in the overall sound due to the missing rhythm guitar.

Tipi Mike: It always depends a bit on the mixer, and with just one guitar you have more room to move. And since Dirk mixed the first two records, he probably didn't want to impose himself to give the poor guitarists, who never hear each other anyway, a chance.

eclipsed: Please describe the typical recording process. How do you jam? Where do the ideas come from?

PP: We agree on basic tones and play straight on. That's all there is. Although ... since Brainy [note: Baal Brain, the guitarist of the band Knall] is a permanent member of us, we have also used the method of Knall a few times. They have the so-called "magic word". It contains all the basic notes that need to be played, and at the same time the magic word is the setlist. That kind of thing can go in your pants. This does not appear on the record either.

DJM: There is no typical recording process. The ideas come, or they don't. That's why you take in too much material to pick out afterwards.

DG: Well, somebody starts somehow, and the others play something to it, a kind of musical glass back. That's how we've always done space, and that's how I actually know the principle of free improvisation. Nothing really earth-shattering new then.

eclipsed: Are you still experiencing/again experiencing surprises? Is the "First Time Appeal" still there?

PP: Oh yes. Not only do the listeners not know what they are offered, we never know before. And just the other day I said to Dennis at a gig: "Holy shit, what was that all about?" These are moments in which everything works 100% and is right. Something like that feels exactly like the first time. "Witch drool" is one such example. Nothing but the keynote was agreed upon. And there's only one take of that song.

DJM: Rather rare, with the surprises. The allure of the first time? Was there ever?

TM: After we got to know each other a bit better over the years, it became even more awesome to jam with the guys.

eclipsed: The pieces seem more "structured" than at the debut. Okay? If so, where does it come from?

PP: Yes, consent. That's because we're now better at it than we were at our debut. We all know how rock music works, and when you listen to our three records, you'll notice that we did our space rock homework. Dennis is an absolutely team-oriented drummer with fast reactions and present signals. And it's usually up to the drummer whether you can appear structured as a jam band or not. Dennis has grown quite well in his role over the last few years at 2½, which has also brought us forward in our interaction. Such things as "Dreadnought" we wouldn't have just shook off our sleeves in 2013. The structure that suddenly appeared was also an issue for us. We are currently observing ourselves and are looking at how we can expand this further.

DJM: Pure chance or skill. We don't know that either.

DG: Well, just the pieces we chose for the record from the six hours of material. We are really good at noticing each other when the others want what or in which direction it could go. Actually the perfect condition for improvisation. Just worked out great with the crew right from the start.

TM: I think this is due to our responsiveness, our experience and our collective thinking, like a flock of birds that knows collectively when to turn.

eclipsed: How did you come up with these "dirty", immediately eye-catching vocoder sounds?

PP: This is not a vocoder. That's Mike's talkbox. We always call it the "stomach tube." And I wouldn't be averse to Dirk using a vocoder.

DJM: It's not a vocoder, it's a talk box, a stomach tube, a vomit tube.

TM: The vocoder sounds you probably mean are my talkbox, and I've had them for over ten years. David Gilmour often used such a talkbox on "Animals" and Peter Frampton on his "Do You Feel". It's just a beautiful mouth wah wah guitar sound.

eclipsed: Is the track "Hexensabber" a tribute to "Hexensabbat" from the Passport debut?

PP: I have to admit that when I suggested the title Klaus Doldinger appeared in my mind's eye. With saxophone and Mielke horn-rimmed glasses. The story behind "witch drool" is a different one: During the three days in the studio we had a visit from Rotbert, a tomcat. On the last day in the studio it was clear that we would dedicate a song to him. He was in control all day long, on a black leather sofa, and had his head scratched. You can see it on the inside of the "Dreadnought" CD cover. Whenever he was cuddled on the head, he would start purring like a chainsaw, drooling on the sofa. At some point the sofa was so drooling, from front to back, that we just sat down on the backrest. And then it was clear that Rotbert's song should be called "Hexensabber" (with Klaus Doldinger in the mind's eye).

TM: No, not a tribute to Passport, but a tribute to the alien that came to visit us in the studio. That just drooled a lot.

eclipsed: What do you see of your music? Psych? Space Rock? Krautrock? Somewhere in the middle of this magic triangle?

PP: I see our music as Space Rock, in the tradition of Krautrock.

DJM: Space Rock

DG: I don't know, it's your job to put that in some drawer, isn't it? Funk, Impro, Doom and Space Punk are still missing to turn the triangle into a heptagon ...

TM: I can hardly reduce our thing to three terms. It's cosmic music, everything that serves us for the flight can flow into it.

eclipsed: Do you play with the idea of going beyond jamming and "composing something"?

PP: Composing songs is not an issue for us. Composed songs must be rehearsed. But that is not possible for us, because we live too far apart. That's why we started Space Invaders as a jam band. I can't imagine that we will ever do anything with the Space Invaders other than improvise freely. For everything else, all possibilities are open to us in other projects.

DJM: Doesn't have to be. That's very exhausting.

DG: Not really, is it? The fact is that we see our improvisational movements as spontaneous compositions. So we compose all the time, theoretically we could work out the material afterwards and process it into repeatable songs. To become a significant piece, a session part needs its own image. We then let the pieces affect us and name them after the images they create in us.

TM: Why compose before, when you can make the moment much more alive?

eclipsed: Is it still "just" about the fun of it, or are there more ambitions after three albums (including Nik Turner)?

PP: Of course, the fun of it is still in the foreground. But the desire to get ahead as a band also exists, of course. And with "Dreadnought" we have now earned money for the first time. Of course, we took that straight to the head and bought a mobile recording studio. This made it clear to us that you can't buy a mobile recording studio that can take a jam band to the next level with fun alone. But in the end it comes down to the fact that we want to have fun with it. Hand on heart: You don't get rich and famous with the sound we prefer. Profit is therefore not a desirable goal in a space rock band. But a bit of profit, which you invest in the thing again in order to get ahead and have even more fun with the thing, is by no means to be despised.

DJM: Just kidding. Other ambitions would be out of place.

DG: No. Having fun is the best thing that can happen to you. We are lucky not to have to live off the music, that lets art breathe and keeps us away from stupid thoughts

TM: It's more than just fun when you make music. For me it is also passion, sound research, philosophy of life, attention to detail and much more. Music is the elixir of life. Ambitions? I just want to go deeper into the music.

eclipsed: You have again chosen a cover by Sergey Skachkov. What fascinates you so much about his paintings?

PP: Sergey is just a great artist. His paintings create an alien atmosphere. When I look at the pictures, I always wonder how the people in them live. What culture do they cultivate? What do they do at night when they get home? What do they eat? Do they live to work or vice versa? Are they also looking for life in outer space, or do they even have an awareness that there is more out there? I can think for hours about Sergey's landscapes and figures.

eclipsed: Back to the Herzberg: You appeared there more or less spontaneously several times. What was it like there? Aren't several appearances also exhausting?

PP: The performances themselves are not exhausting. But a gig means a job before and after the gig. And several work assignments during a festival can be exhausting. Especially since the work performance is not always brought quite sober. But Herzberg is already great. Meanwhile we have gained a loyal fanbase there. There's just a great audience.

DJM: The gigs were quite different. Since it is really very exhausting, we have reduced it every time: from 5 times in 2013 to 3 times in 2014 to 2 times in 2015.

DG: It will always be a pleasure for me to play there, no matter on which stage, no matter in front of how many people. It depends on the atmosphere at our sessions, and it's just incredibly energetic and positive there.

TM: For my part, I can never get enough. I also play ten hours a day, if they let me, and after a week I am well-rehearsed with the boys. It's exhausting, but fuck it, you only live once.

Interview: Bernd Sievers

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