“If you get a good jam session going, you’re normally almost done!” Thomas Fehlmann|
Both solo and alongside Alex Paterson in The Orb, German producer Thomas Fehlmann has spent the past few decades proving himself to be a relentless experimenter and sonic adventurer. This month he returns to esteemed label Kompakt for his seventh solo album, Los
Lagos. FM caught up with him to talk studio creativity…
When did you start making music?
“I bought my first synth in February 1979 – a Korg MS-20 – and plugged it into my reel to reel tapemachine. That was just medium sized fun, but a month later I met Conrad Schnitzler and he introduced me to the concept of having a chorus echo inserted. Other main influences at the time, both musical and conceptual were Brian Eno and Robert Fripp.”
Tell us about your studio/setup
“I’ve been developing my home studio since the beginning of MIDI in the ’80s first running it with a Yamaha QX5-sequencer, then Commodore/Steinberg, then Atari/C-lab, then Mac/Logic and finally with Ableton Live. The room is soundproofed since many years and I would not want to go anywhere else.”
What DAW do you use, and why?
“A Hammerfall RME Fireface 8 track system. Why? Stefan Betke had it for sale, he said it was good. I like it because it’s just run since its first installation without any trouble. For live I use a Focusrite Firewire device that’s not on sale anymore. It has six ins and four outs. A few years ago on tour in Oxford my trusty EDIROL started to play up and the local musicstore helped me out with the Focusrite. No complaints.”
What one piece of gear in your studio could you not do without, and why?
“If we’re talking synths that would be the Korg MS-20 combined with the SQ-10 sequencer. I’d be OK with working just with these and Ableton Live if I needed to.”
What’s the latest addition to your studio lineup?
“It’s the Eventide Space stompbox, a brilliant piece of gear: cuts trough loud and clear and easy to handle. I used it first just for live but now it has its place on the console next to the masterfader. Might have to get a second one actually.”
What dream bit of gear would you love to have in your studio?
“I could do with a plugin for Ableton Live that would clear samples for you. Or alternatively giving you a warning if the sample use is ‘dangerous’. That would be really helpful. Sorry, but you asked…”
When approaching a new track or project, where do you start?
“A jam session would be the route but where do you start the jam session? If you get a good jam going you’re normally almost done! It would be a sequence created with the Korgs and then cut it up or silence a few notes, fill up the gaps with beats or noises and get a good flow going.”
What are you currently working on? Any new projects we should know about?
“I’ve just finished the soundtrack for a history documentary on the Weimar Republic, about the turbulent political and social times 100 years ago. It’s called 1929The
YearBabylon. I’ve tried to bring the feel of the golden ’20s together with a contemporary touch using lots of hissy samples as a main thread. In some places it was just badly-looped hiss and then building a vibe with some overdubs when melodies or rhythms started to peek out…”