'The biggest change in my life is that I stopped wasting time on things that I don't want to do'
13/03/2017, Fred GADGET
Hello Cris, since it’s your first interview with Peek-a-Boo Magazine maybe you can start with introducing yourself to our readers?
Hello readers! I am Cris from the German electro-pop band Alphamay. Off stage my Alphamay jobs are to create and produce the music and to co-create the lyrics with the other half of Alphamay, Henning. I am also responsible for the programming of our synchronized live lighting while Henning does all the video visuals and clips.
Can you tell us more about the origin and meaning of your band name Alphamay? A name, which is not chosen lightly if I’m well informed?
The nucleus of Alphamay is a rather severe traffic accident which involved Henning and I as passengers. While Henning was rather lucky at the time and got away with rather minor bruises I took a hit to the back. This broke a few ribs and fractured a vertebrae and basically broke my spine. I was lucky to get out of this accident alive but I have been confined to a wheelchair ever since, being paralysed from the belly button down.
The accident happened in the early hours of 1st May 2012. The name Alphamay is derived from this date: Alpha for "1“ and May for - well - May :-).
Did this event change your way of life? Your way of thinking?
I most definitely has. In many, many ways. Some more significant then others. For one thing, life has become more complicated and tedious in a lot of situations. One thing you don`t realise is the importance of standing and walking until you can't do it anymore. The other thing you don`t realise is that having to use a wheelchair is actually the smallest of the inconveniences of being paralysed.
In making music you can pretty much cope and find ways to keep on doing what you do. Playing instruments sitting down is not a problem. And now I can finally use the phrase "carry me on stage I want to play!“ when I need to get up the stage stairs.
The biggest change in my thinking is that I stopped wasting my time on things I do not want to do and I concentrate on what is important to me. I do not want to look back anymore and be angry at not having done what I had wanted to.
Did you manage to write-off and come to terms with this experience? Did making music help and how??
Absolutely - I used the half a year in hospital for a complete metamorphosis. I had time to think about myself and about being alive and creative. Music has always been the centre of my life and has firmly solidified this position after the accident. I play more live shows then ever and thoroughly enjoy it!
Actually, even though it might sound wrong in the wrong context I think the accident might be the best experience in my life. It got me focused.
Before you were also involved in a rock band and it’s well known most rock artists seem to hate electronic music. So why the drastic switch to a full electronic band?
To be honest, I did not switch at all, I just extended my horizon. I am still playing in 'Rozencrantz' but a year ago I switched instruments with our keyboard player in order to give the music a new approach. I am still playing bass guitar in an alternative rock band called ‘Spirit Of Desire’. So I am involved in three performing and producing bands. Rozencrantz has just released a new EP and Spirit Of Desire will release in August this year.
To create a full electronic band has been a dream for me for a long time but I just never got around to it. I started writing electronic music only after the accident. This had to do with my new attitude not to hold off anything anymore. In Henning I found the right collaborator and after a short period of getting to know the new styles he greatly enjoys the possibilities electronic music has to offer.
We share a love of eighties music and this being the defining decade for electronic music, there is simply a lot of it in our musical DNA. We do not see a contradiction in creating, loving and performing different styles of music. All our projects profit from our extended musical horizon.
Maybe a question for the gear/instrument freaks amonsgt our readers. Which are the instruments or (software) tools you like to work with and how does a song get shaped in your studio?
I rarely use real instruments and if so it`s old analog stuff like my KORG MS-20. Most of the time I compose using virtual machines. Today`s simulations have become quite good and it is a pleasure to choose from a whole attic full of equipment. My most loved instrument is UVI’s Falcon and their superb collection of classic synths. They are doing a great job recreating old classics but I am not limited to this one engine, of course.
Songs start their life as concepts. Sometimes these concepts are based on a sound I hear, a feeling I have or a little melody in my head. From this point I just let the concept grow. Once I have created a few parts and a little arrangement I make a downmix and put it into my concept folder. Each year around 150 - 300 concepts end up in such a folder.
When we decide to publish new music we dig through these folders and if something tickles our fancy we go forward with the production.
Vocals/lyrics start out when both Henning and I sing in a rough take separately. We then analyse the different approaches and decide where to go from there. Usually we also analyse what we have sung intuitively and pick out some phrases which are then extended to full lyrics.
Last year, in 2016, you got a nomination for Best German Electro-Pop band and ended as 2nd best. How did that happen and did this open (different) doors for you?
We were rather delighted when we received the invitation to the award ceremony. And yes, there is a bit of a door opening factor to such an award. You can imagine it as a good hook to begin an application for a show with. Usually you get enough attention for the booker to read the entire email and not to trash it with the others. Other then that there is not much to it.
Which artist(s) made you decide to make music and start your own band and why?
There are a lot, for sure. When I refine the question to which are the greatest influences for me to start Alphamay I would say three names: Ernst Horn, Gary Numan and Vince Clarke. Each one of these composers has a special significance for me when it comes to electronic music. Their composing genius and the beautiful sounds and arrangements are really special to me. Each one of them seems to have their own unique approach to think out of the box and make electronic music using the full potential of their instruments.
As a musician you must see and hear a lot of music but when was the last time you were really blown away by a song or a band?
The last performance that really blew my mind in a very good way was Einstürzende Neubauten. I love the way these gifted individuals create a canvas of sound for Blixa Bargeld to draw on with his vocal performance. Their unique way of creating rhythm and layering sounds on top of each other is something you normally only experience in electronic music. To see every part of it unfold on stage right before your eyes is a truly awesome experience.
Any artists you would like to collaborate with and why exactly?
Here we get right back to Ernst, Gary and Vince. It would be a treat to be able to work with one of these guys. A peek into their musical minds would be invaluable.
But I enjoy every collaboration I get to do. I do quite a bit of remixing and collaborations with other bands and each one of them gives you an opportunity to take a new angle on musical creation.
Your last album ‘Twisted Lines’ was released in 2016 but you are already working on a new album as we speak, what can we expect and what themes are you writing about?
Our forthcoming album will be called The Simulation Hypothesis and conclude the ‘Dazzle Trilogy’. These three albums: ‘Dazzle Camouflage’, ‘Twisted Lines’ and ‘The Simulation Hypothesis’ share an overall topic. They explore the tendencies of contemporary westerners to grow more and more apart from other humans on the outside and from the exploration of their own being on the inside.
‘Dazzle Camouflage’ was focused on the inside view, the inner ocean behind the mask we wear for the outside world. We all wear masks nowadays and many people spend their time filling these masks with constructed values instead of the exploration of themselves. ‘Twisted Lines’ looked at the masks from an outside view. The twisted everyday experience of people torn between reality and the virtual realm. ‘The Simulation Hypothesis’ now wraps everything up and asks the all important question for one last time: Are we real?
After more than three years of work on the trilogy it is nice to look back on our own evolution as a band over this time.
Any last message for our readers?
We do what we do to bring our music, our videos and our message to the people. What we like the most is playing live shows, to go out and have a big party with people that share our love of music. Our hopes are to play more shows, create more music and meet more people.
So, come to our shows, have a good time and spread the love of music.
MARK HARRIS & PHILIPPE GERBER • Philippe and I would like to work together live. The fact there is a large body of water between us - I work in the UK and Phillippe is in the US - is not helpful.
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