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Naomi - interview - Holophon

Tracklist (Interview) :
1. Astonsilicon
2. Fade Out
3. Option
4. The Book
5. Three Stars No Match
6. Paravent
7. October
8. Rainfall
9. King Kong Is Not Dead
10. The Great Event
11. Exit Song (plus hidden track)

( down-tempo.net) If Naomi were an animal...
( Bernd) ...it would be - a dolphin? No.
( Nico) A cat?
( Bernd) Something with a cuddly fur. And claws, too.
( Nico) But it keeps the claws in most of the time.
( Bernd) And it can run really fast.
( Nico) Yeah, it could, but it's too lazy.
( Bernd) Garfield!
( down-tempo.net) a film / a tv show
( Nico) A sitcom with two grumpy old men who live together in a tiny apartment and fight about who gets the bigger part of the cake and who has to do the dishes. Strong stuff. But the music will be good[i]

Plus d'infos :
( down-tempo.net) How do you feel about this release?
( Nico)Good. 'Pappelallee' has been finished for some time now (the original release in Germany dates back to March), and when I listened to the album a few days ago I actually enjoyed myself. So our original fear that this album might be a typical second album (worse than the first and third) did not prove right.
( Bernd) But of course the third one WILL be better.

( down-tempo.net) What did you change in your way of producing music since 'Everyone Loves You'?
( Bernd) Not much, really. Some new plug-ins. No new concept. Still no concept at all. But while we started recording the first album in our shabby old rehearsal room in Hamburg (where we were living at the time), this time we did it all in Berlin, sharing a flat with a studio. That means we had central heating instead of an old coal stove, which is nice.

( down-tempo.net)Were you in a different state of mind when you started recording 'Pappelallee' (different from recording 'Everyone Loves You', that is)?
( Nico)A second album always feels different. You know that you’ve done it before, so the question is not if you’re capable of finishing an album anymore. You ask yourself: Are we going to be able to make a better one than the first one. I think there’s more pressure on the second album than on the debut. The trick is not to let the listener hear that.

( down-tempo.net) From 'Everyone Loves You' to 'Pappelallee' where did you want to go?
( Bernd) Basically, we tried do make the album a bit more coherent, less zig-zagging in terms of styles. The first album still echoed Naomi's early years, when we tried a lot of different things until we finally found our style. Plus, before Naomi we both had been songwriters in a more traditional sense. Then we turned to samplers, computers - and like most people who discover something new, at first we tended to throw out everything old. Let's not sing ourselves! Let's not write too personal lyrics! Chord changes are evil! We weren't all too strict about that, as you can hear on some of the songs on the debut album, but that was the general idea.
This time, on 'Pappelallee', we allowed ourselves to take in some of the old strenghts and loves. We also felt encouraged by the fact that people had accepted the first album with all its different elements, so this time we felt that we could do anything.
( Nico) Then there were some elements we just had got tired of, like the little vocoder-grooves which you can find on almost every track on 'Everyone Loves You'. We still like that sound, but we didn't want to repeat ourselves too much, so it had to go.
But to be honest: We didn't really know what the album would sound like and where we wanted to go. We just worked, we wrote songs, we built arrangements, and then we tried to put it all together in a way that made sense to us.
( Bernd)When it was finished, we were surprised what a slow and quiet record we had made. It wasn't intentionally, it just happened.

( down-tempo.net)Were there ideas you couldn't do on the first album you eventually laid out for this new one?
( Nico) Do more songs. Dare to be more personal than on the first one. And of course: Try to fit an acoustic guitar on every song...

( down-tempo.net) Do you consider it as a sequel?
( Bernd) No. It was a new beginning, like every album should be. But we were obviously still the same two people. We have our own voice (a distinctive one, hopefully), and we found out that even if we try to do something wildly different, in the end it always sounds like... Naomi. In that respect you could call it a sequel, but then any record is.

( down-tempo.net) Still Selda Kaya on vocals but a lot more of Naomi's core members on vocals...
( Nico) Just the way things turned out. We did two more tracks with Selda that we didn’t finish because we just didn’t get a grip on them. Plus we liked the ones with the less typical male vocals a little better this time. But of course plenty of those got the boot as well...

( down-tempo.net) Could you explain to us where Pappelallee is in Berlin? What is typical about it?
( Bernd) It is in the district of Prenzlauer Berg, a lively neighbourhood within the former East-Berlin, where lots of artists and creative people live. It is not as cheap as it used to be, but still much cheaper than many other parts of Berlin, and definitely cheaper than Hamburg or Munich or Cologne. We enjoy the atmosphere here. There's a sense of being 'in progress', nothing's ever finished, you don't settle down that easily, and money and success are not that important. It can be exhausting, but it is inspiring. Just be careful you don't step into dog shit.

( down-tempo.net)What does 'Pappelallee street' mean in your life? Why did you choose such name as an album title ?
( Nico) Pappelallee is the street were we lived together, the place were we made this album together. It just felt logical to give a personal album a personal title.
( Bernd)And it is a nice word. A very long word made of only four different letters.

( down-tempo.net)The first track 'Astonsilicon' starts off as an old KLF 'Elvis on the radio' track from their Chill Out album . It is then lavishly layered with strings and organ. What is 'Astonsilicon' to you?
( Bernd) 'Astonsilicon' to me is my least favourite track on the album (especially the parts that were my ideas), because I think it could have come out much better than it did. But many people like it, so maybe I'm wrong. I'll tell you a secret: The title contains the word 'tonsil'. Because Nico had to have his tonsils removed at the time. This is true - another track on the album, 'The Book', was initially called 'Tonsil Time', because I started working on it while he was lying in the hospital.
( Nico) I was afraid that maybe my voice would change after the operation, but it didn't.
( Bernd)It didn't get any better, either.

( down-tempo.net) With lyrics such as 'but in October all the drunkards are sober' you have an unfamiliar approach to text (witty, intense, with lively detailed accounts) for so-called 'electronic' bands. To us your songs are akin to Pet Shop Boys' (circa their album Behaviour) songwriting. Any comments on that?
( Nico) We’ve always considered ourselves to be songwriters rather than mere 'knob-twiddlers'. We listen to all kinds of music from Country to Electronica. Text is a such a wonderful possibility for expression. Why waste it?

( down-tempo.net) It sounds like you've stripped down the music to a lesser use of electronics. Was it something you were looking for for your second album?
( Bernd) Somehow I like it that you get that impression, but we didn't. There's more acoustic guitar, but that doesn't make the album any less electronic. There are definitely more synthesizers than on the first one. Even many of the guitar parts are heavily processed and cut up. The vibraphone parts, too. Well, the melodica is 100% real and pure. It's an old Hohner melodica from the Sixties that I bought on Ebay.

( down-tempo.net) How does work take place in Naomi? Who does what? In what proportions?
( Nico) Basically we both do everything, so a song can start either way. When it gets down to the detailed production, Bernd is in charge of the 'key-department' (from Rhodes to Synths to melodica) and I cover the strings (basses and guitars). Apart from that we take turns at the cockpit.
( Bernd) For example, when one of us is at the microphone singing his vocals, the other one acts as the engineer and producer. Or when one of us has written lyrics, the other one will read them and go: "I like it... but this line here is weak. Let's change it." And the writer will come up with something better. After some sulking.

( down-tempo.net) Do you feel like you belong to any 'electronic clique'? Do you feel closer to Beth orton's electro-folk or The Beloved electro pop duo?
( Bernd)No clique at all. No scene. Even though we're living in Berlin. We're our own little island. The Beloved? No. Beth Orton? Maybe, yes. Songwriter with electronics. Personal lyrics. Lovely voice. And she has that melancholy - in that respect we are related, even though Beth Orton has taken way more drugs than we have.

( down-tempo.net) For everyone loves you the name of the album was truncated from the song lyrics (as they go 'Everyone loves you when you're down') Now for Pappelallee we understand the missing word is 'Strasse' . Our 'theory' here is you like half-exposure /-disclosure. How do you respond to that?
( Nico) Just a simple language problem. 'Allee' is German for 'alley' or 'avenue'. So there’s really nothing missing. Pappelallee really is the full name of the street we live in. It means 'Poplar alley'.
( Bernd) But your 'theory' is correct anyway.

( down-tempo.net) How did you personally go from Mole Listening Pearls to Holophon?
( Bernd)Basically, the new label asked us if we wanted to carry on with them and we thought about it and said yes. It's much better now, and we hope it will stay that way. It was unpleasant for a while - losing money, losing the belief in everyone and talking to lawyers instead of making music. Although our lawyer is actually very nice. His name is Alexander.

( down-tempo.net) This interview is for a website. Are you techies, net addicted or 'internet illiterates' ?
( Nico) We use the internet frequently but wouldn’t consider ourselves techies. Any fifteen-year-old knows a hundred times more about that universe than we do. But we manage...

interview finished and onlined in August 2004. Many thanks to NAOMI (Bernd Lechler & Nico Tobias)
Publié le : 08 Mai 2006.

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