"It Forced Me Into Situations I Didn’t Want To Be In"

25 February 2016 | 7:01 pm | Alex Griffin

Doing things his own way

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With more than a dozen albums and soundtracks under Volker Bertelmann's belt, he’s proved there’s still an endless heap of life left in the ol’ ebony and ivory, no matter how much Billy Joel managed to pound it to death.  

Albums record such as his 2014 masterwork, Abandoned City, use the piano and a range of techniques – clipping strings, muting them, looping patterns, to name a few – to create a language that reflects his fascination with empty, post-human spaces, resulting in miasmic worlds that still sound as far removed from a solo piano record as the do anything else on the planet.

Bertelmann’s enthusiasm about coming to Perth for the first time neatly sums his whole approach to making music; he feels lucky to do it, and he wants to share it around.

“I think to have an impression of a country, it’s necessary to come down regularly to build an audience and find people you like, and to not concentrate so much on Europe. I was very touched by the response last time I was in Australia, I felt very welcomed, and I’m excited to meet people and play in Perth.”
Connecting with people mightn’t be the stated ambition of all who dwell in the avant-garde, but Bertelmann’s had an unconventional journey en route to concert halls. His first band, the '90s German rap pioneers (no lie) God’s Favourite Dog did the hard touring grind to build their reputation and fanbase, and he remains proudly old-fashioned when it comes to pounding the pavement for his music. His longtime habit now is to improvise his improvising - or, so to speak – he’ll prepare his piano with whatever’s at hand at the venue.

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“I have to search, and be open to new things,” he explains. “I want to not just be playing piano, but crafting at the same time, creating new qualities of sound. I am always searching for appropriate sounds. You can start to think very quickly when you have no doubts; I used to be really occupied by conventions, where you can’t do this, can’t do that… it forced me into situations I didn’t want to be in. I’ve been finding the right way, so my preparations are all about surprising myself.”

Originally published in X-Press Magazine