Talking To Nils Frahm

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A few weeks ago I met German pianist Nils Frahm in New York (that sounds so damn cosmopolitan, doesn’t it?) and had the chance to talk to him. I arrived
photo by Vanessa Maas
A few weeks ago I met German pianist Nils Frahm in New York (that sounds so damn cosmopolitan, doesn’t it?) and had the chance to talk to him. I arrived at the Living Room in New York’s East Village, while he was doing his soundcheck, or rather tried to get some decent sound out of an old and shitty piano. Until that moment, I hadn’t been aware of the fact, how hard and sometimes frustrating it must be if you have to deal with those kinds of conditions in many venues. We had a good time though, and Nils was pretty convincing by selling the piano sound as Hauschka-esque to the audience when he entered the stage later that evening. When I prepared the interview, I decided not to talk to him about his music in general or his current or upcoming album, instead I wanted to get a feel for his music from a different perspective.

What are you reading at the moment?

I'm reading Erich Fromm's "To Have Or To Be?" at the moment. I'm pretty impressed about his acuteness of thought. I guess we're all familiar with his topics in one way or the other, but it's interesting to see this complex issue from different angles.

What are you looking forward to?

I'm looking forward to the summer. I'm going to go hiking in Iceland and visit some friends in Spain afterwards.

What makes "you" you?

My music. Big ears, which I always lend to my friends for their thoughts and problems. And I'm what you may call a relaxed pedant. Things don't have to be perfect, but I always try to make them better. Whether it's cooking, a conversation or just entering a room, lighting a candle and turning off the ceiling light. Things like that.

What would you like to be able to forget?

As a matter of fact, I think there’s really nothing I have to forget or repress. There are always things I don't want to think about, because they make me pretty angry. At the moment one of these things is the Syrian War. So, I guess I'd like to forget the things that make me angry.

What is your favourite question to ask other people?

Well, "how are you?" is mandatory, of course and genuine at its best. But, as a matter of principle, I only ask genuine questions.

What was the last movie you watched?

The Descendants. The film was surprisingly good, including a few moments where I was deeply moved. The film did everything right, although it is hard to ignore George Clooney for being George Clooney.

What was something you wanted today, but couldn't have?

A decent piano.

What do you not want to talk about?

There's nothing I wouldn’t want to talk about.

What do you believe in?

I believe that the sun will explode in four million years.

What was the last thing that made you laugh?

The question about what I wanted today, but couldn't have.

Pick a colour for today.

steel blue

What is your secret passion?

Sweets and Belgian beer.

Which living celebrity would you want to interview?

Mark Hollis.

What do you wish you could stop from happening?

I don't want people worrying about me.

Is life fair?

You could just as well ask , if love is fair. Is it? No, it's not.

Who would you trade places with for one day?

I'd like to play a Radiohead concert in front of 20,000 people and I would definitely be Thom Yorke then.

What are you exploring at the moment?

My limits. How far can I go? How much can I travel? How many gigs can I play? What's in it for me? Am I doing fine? What do I want to change? I always try to keep things in perspective to see what the bottom line is. Then I turn the knobs a little, to change what needs to be changed.

What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

I set a plastic duck on fire on a lake and was very amused about it. Probably because I had drunk absinthe.

What was the last concert you went to?

Japanese pianist Mitzuko Uchida playing Schubert’s sonatas at the Berlin Philarmonic.

What do you have to lose?


What are you sentimental about?

I'm sentimental about my flatmate telling me he'll soon be moving out.

Who would you pick to paint your portrait?

Certainly not Keith Haring. What about Rothko? I think that would be really interesting and two-dimensional.

What do you like about yourself the most?

A certain empathy for people and situations.

What are you afraid of?

Like all people, I'm afraid of not being loved.

When was the last time you went dancing?

I danced barefoot to techno in Leuven (Belgium) after a gig.

What do you have no patience for?

Patience? I never have patience.

What don't you dare to do?

I don't dare to sing. I made some recordings in my studio, but promptly deleted them. Unfortunately, it sounded awful.

What do you have to get done?

Only such boring things as doing my taxes, fixing cables or buying underwear.

What's on your wish list?

I'd like to live somewhere else, but I have no idea where that place will be, yet. A piece of land with a few trees, where my neighbours are not too close and I would build a house there.

What is the most precious thing in your life?

Self-esteem, family and friends.

What is your mission?

I always want to make good things better. Whether it's my music or the soup I am cooking.

Nils Frahm's album "Felt" is out now on Erased Tapes.

Published: May 14, 2012
by Claudia Nethge (artistxite)
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