Not only that German Long Distance Calling deliver excellent new music on their newest album ‘How Do We Want to Live?’, they also gave the record a title that is food for thoughts. Perfectly matching the current time, the album title immediately triggers an individual reflection on the question. Markus’ Heavy Music Blog had the chance to talk to Long Distance Calling bass player Jan Hoffmann about the title and many more interesting details concerning the new album.
Markus Heavy Music Blog: Jan, let’s talk a bit about the new Long Distance Calling album ‘How Do We Want to Live?’. I think, it became a great album, which is almost visionary, considering the theme and the fact that it was written long before Corona. When exactly did you guys start working on it?
Jan Hoffmann: We started the songwriting in September and a few weeks later the concept was in place. So it was really long before Corona started, but it fits incredibly well.
MHMB: What inspired you back then to explore the theme of human, AI and machine?
Jan: It’s like you don’t really have it on your radar anymore, that all this is already a very big part of life. In September, we musically accompanied a keynote event in Cologne. It was not a real concert but more like the Harald Schmidt Show (a former German Late Night show), when music was played between the performances. For this event we wrote the first song, which became the first two songs on the record. The event was about curiosity, about the future and artificial intelligence. Someone from Wikileaks was there, Daniel Jung, who teaches math on YouTube was there, a young entrepreneur who, together with various organizations, has set himself the goal of planting 1 billion trees, generally how apps work and what the future looks like, stories like that. We caught fire and threw ourselves into the topic. It’s a bottomless topic. You can constantly inform yourself and you will always find new things. It was so exciting. First you realize how strongly all this has already sneaked into your everyday life. How will things be in the future and how much of what is possible will we allow? That was actually the basic question and we found it very exciting. We wanted people to deal with the album title, whether one like it or not. Everyone who reads the title, automatically asks oneself this question as a reflex and if you want to, you can really dig into it.
MHMB: I can confirm this. After reading the title I started to think about how I want to live and/or we as a society.
Jan: Right, exactly. It can be transferred to two levels, the ‘we’ and each one of us individually. How much do I want to be engaged in all that? Progress goes on and on. Right now it’s all about the Corona app. There are people, who complain about privacy but use Facebook, Whatsapp and Instagram. Of course complete bullshit.
MHMB: As a band you are also curious, otherwise you probably wouldn’t have chosen an approach of including more electronic elements. What fascinates me again and again is that, as an instrumental band, you have more depth and meaningfulness in the songs than some bands that write songs with lyrics. Does that come naturally with the songwriting or is it really hard work?
Jan: In the beginning we never know what where we are heading to. We always start from scratch. As soon as we had the idea that everything should move in such a thematically direction, we knew that it would be more electronic, because it fits the concept and the topic ‘future’ very well. We have always had electronic elements in our music, very subtle in the beginning and then in the course of time more and more. This time we focused a little bit more on that, while on the last record the riffs were much more dominant. It wasn’t planned at that time either. We just started writing the ‘Boundless’ record and that’s what came out of it. We thought: “Oh, it’s pretty hard, somehow”. This time we wanted to create a kind of counter concept and that’s where the electronic approach came into play. That’s why we approached the songwriting slightly different than on the last record. We approached a few things in a very traditional way, meaning we meet and jam, but this time we also started with electronic sounds, which we usually added at the end of the process. With ‘Ashes’, for example, everything but the guitars was done first and with ‘Voices’ it was the same.
MHMB: It’s interesting that you mention these two songs, because with these two tunes I think that the electronic sounds get through the most. Let’s stick to the electronic theme for a moment. The sound can be cold and mechanic. I think about bands like Kraftwerk. Your sound is futuristic but still organic and warm. Did you guys put special emphasis on this?
Jan: It’s like this, you record the drums and it’s properly done with a drummer, but the sounds are at least partly replaced by samples. We didn’t want that at this point. We rented an incredibly expensive room in Hannover, where we recorded the drums, where you can get the best possible sound with natural means and as good as possible microphones. This time it was important to us that it doesn’t collide with the electronic parts so that everything sounds very organic. We also made sure that the electronic sounds aren’t super modern or just 80’s. We used elements from all decades of electronic music so that the everything feels timeless and doesn’t lose its warmth. It’s probably the most organic record for a long time despite the electronic sounds.
MHMB: Long Distance Calling recently posted a video on Facebook where you guys described yourselves almost as nerds in terms of sound. Are you perfectionists?
Jan: Terrible. Yes.
MHMB: How do you still manage to bring things to a good result without getting lost in details?
Jan: At some point you have to say “this is it”. Especially when it comes to sound, even live, it’s all about trust. We recorded the guitars ourselves again, like we did for ‘Boundless’. Dave is the mastermind behind the recordings. He takes over the technical aspect of it and he is really picky. We only record what is really good. also concerning the sound. For four days we try out, which amplifier is used with which box and which guitar. It’s their passion and when all this is done, we start recording. We are very perfectionistic because especially as an instrumental band the sound is the most important thing. You can’t hide behind anything and the sound has to be as good as possible.
MHMB: We mentioned Corona already earlier. How is it to be a band in a time when the music industry is suffering heavily?
Jan: Well, that the festivals are cancelled is of course bad. It’s bad because the record can’t be promoted and financially it’s not cool either. It is sub-optimal, but we still have the tour in September, however we will manage to get it done. And we are also playing the drive-in cinema show in Oberhausen at the beginning of July. We have also discussed with the record company, if we should postpone the album, but we worked so hard, that it really would feel frustrating to put the finished album in the drawer for half a year or a year. It also seems to be the perfect time to release the album, a plan that was slightly challenged when the Sony warehouse in France shut down completely with not accepting any new products. It was soon dissolved, but we would have published the album only digitally, if necessary. Our record was just finished when they opened it again and everything worked out fine. We decided to go on with it.
MHMB: You mentioned the drive-in cinema show in Oberhausen. How did this come to the plate and what do you expect when performing in front of headlights? Somehow ‘Sounds & Seats’, only different.
Jan: The guys there wanted to have us play such a show and they asked us whether we would like to do that. It is of course a bit weird. I can’t imagine such a show for many bands or a certain music. For us I can picture it more or less, because we have shows with ‘Seats & Sounds’, where people sit anyhow. We will also put some visuals on the screens. I can imagine it, but how it will be in the end is something we will see when time has come. It is definitely something different and we are always open for to enter new territory, so why not trying something.
MHMB: One could say ‘Curiosity’.
Jan: Right. We’ll play lots of new stuff and some old classics.
MHMB: Regarding ‘Seats & Sounds’, from today’s perspective, how would you rate the chances of the shows taking place, let’s say on a scale of 0-10?
Jan: I must honestly say ‘5’, because I really don’t know. It’s seated, which can be a big advantage. But I can’t judge it. We don’t have a YES or NO from the government, from the agency, from anyone. The whole thing also depends on the federal states and is therefore very complex, but it is still on. It’s almost three months to go and in Switzerland, concerts start to return to usual. We’ll see. We’re trying to get all the shows done in September.
MHMB: One of the shows is planned in the small hall of the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg. How did this cooperation start?
Jan: We didn’t expect that they wanted to work with us. We asked them for fun and didn’t expect a positive reaction. But they jumped at it immediately and after 2 weeks the show was sold out.
MHMB: Let’s come back to the record again. With ‘Beyond the Limits’ you have a song with vocals on the album. Now, you have also had some songs with lyrics in the past, but why this song on ‘How Do We Want to Live?‘?
Jan: It was quite at the end of the songwriting process. We had this song that felt like it had a ‘normal’ song structure. Then our producer came around the corner with Eric, because he had recorded with him before. He recommended Eric to us. We liked the idea and got him on board to sing the song. It was also about the fact, that it gave us a new narrative dimension, in addition to the voice samples. The song is written from the perspective of the machine and it was therefor a nice piece of the puzzle.
MHMB: One other thing since I have you on the line. Janosch and you, you have a Podcast ‘Lachend in die Kreissäge’. How did the idea emerge? A fun project?
Jan: We talk on the phone several times a day anyway and we thought, why not recording it? We both listen a lot to podcasts and so the idea was on the plate for a long time. Because of the new record, we were very busy and after everything was recorded we started the podcast. In the Podcast we talk to other interesting people and we have now released three episodes. The fourth one is already produced. It’s just exciting and it’s fun to talk to people.
MHMB: Jan, thank you so far. Is there anything else you want to address?
Jan: Yes. I hope that soon a bit of normality will return, that we will learn something from the whole situation and that as many people as possible stay healthy. To our fans of course, that they get the record if they want to support us. Currently this is the best option and even if you are a rock/metal fan, dare to listen to the electronic sounds since there are still hard riffs on the record too; they are just well dosed. Get the record, support us and think about how you want to live.
MHMB: These are perfect closing lines. Jan, thanks a lot for your time and good luck with the new album and the upcoming tour.
Pics by Andre Stephan