In times when producers and DJs are exposed on mega stages well separated from the crowd recording their ‘idols’ with their smartphones, it is a real pleasure to see four musicians sitting on a sofa with a lot of music gear in front of them, right next to the stage, to create something new, fresh, including the people into their show through their sheer appearance. On top of the whole gear there is a massive copper bowl filled with rosewood to purify the ambience. Apart from the four sitting on the sofa there is another one in control of the beats, standing in the booth because he played before the live act started. These five musicians are Martin Gretschmann aka Acid Pauli, Jonas aka Jo.Ke, Nu, Chris Schwarzwälder and Raz Ohara, together they are called ‘FEATHERED SUN’.
As there is very little information about them online I got the immense pleasure to sit down with one of them, ‘Jo Que?’, in the hotel Royal Plaza in Ibiza, just before their live act in Heart took place, a venue that is to revolutionize the way to go out in Ibiza, on Sunday the 20st of September.
Jonas, it is a great honor to have you in dub magazine, even more knowing that this is the first ever real interview you give to the world. It is difficult to know anything about ‘FEATHERED SUN’ as there is almost no information online. Is there a reason for keeping it a secret?
Thanks Andy, the pleasure is mine. The project was born without any prior plan, evolving through the years. We didn’t decide to not publish anything through the net, it just happened that way. A few times we tried to record our live sessions but something always happened so we concluded that the magic of the moment happens, well, just in that moment. So we do not give it too much shape, not because we don’t want to, but because it is not in the nature of ‘FEATHERED SUN’ to be something precise, determined, from the assembly line. However, we do understand that our fans would like to have something to listen to, maybe not to revive but re-activate what they experienced, at home. We might create a webpage and a Soundcloud page soon. We decided it would be better to not have a Facebook fan page.
So tell us, what is it about?
It is a collective in constant movement. Each one has his life and career as a solo artist. It’s not like a guitarist and a drummer get together to form a band because they need each other in order to make music. Me, I never set out to make music. My friendship with Nu, which was the initial link to all of this, spins over almost 20 years now, we knew each other as teenagers in Peru at school, and we always reconnected after. I was sort of getting on the nerves of the people around me, singing to my guitar. Being a cooking apprentice and about to have my first child. At some point I was undergoing a difficult phase in my life, emotionally, plus I had an accident with my bicycle, quite serious, leaving me with 35 stitches in one ear, the toes of one foot broken and limping on the other. Anyway, being alone at home I found myself singing ‘Who loves the sun’ from Velvet Underground and the melody transformed itself into something else, and I felt that if I recorded it, it might take some weight of my chest. So I called Nu to see if I could come over. He was living in a studio/gallery place called ‘Spielraum’, where we would hang out a lot. As I arrived at his place he was producing a new track – sounding in his laptop – and I said ‘Maybe I could just sing on top of that?’ and he answered ‘Sure, go for it’ and we did one 17min take – done. The rest is history as they say. That song got quite well known. It was a sign of sorts. Later he gave the recordings to Martin and he did the ‘Let it be naked Remix’. NU kept all of this a secret; I didn’t know it was going to be released on the label of Bar25 nor that Acid Pauli had done the remix for it.
Just today i listened to both mixes…
It’s a very nice thing. For those who understand German it’s a bit funny as well. But for me it had a super intense personal impact because they just opened ‘Kater Holzig’ (in Berlin) and Martin played the opening, so as I walked in I hear my voice talking in German saying that I can not drink beer because I am on antibiotics – I started to cry heavily returning to this difficult time, and the music became a vehicle to conjure those feelings. It is and keeps being an inspiration that feelings like harm, frustration, fear and pain can be transformed through music into something that inspires people, giving them comfort. Some people contacted me telling me this song helped them getting through difficult moments.
The universal language that music is, no?
Yes! Definitely it is what we want to maintain, to give ourselves this space to share. From my point of view -never having thought of a musical career- it was and still is incredible to have such great and talented friends when it comes to producing music, to flow with them. Another reason why this project came to life is the live improvisation. As I was playing with Nu every single step led to another. First time we played together was at the after party of the Bar 25 anniversary in the Circus, it was a dub set with a self-generating beat on Lemur that you could manipulate, one or two guitars, one microphone, lots of reverb and delay and…
We were supposed to play four hours and ended up playing 10 hours at 70/80 bpm. Amongst the ones that stayed at the party – it was a Monday night – was Raz, buried under confetti, asking himself like all the others what that sound was that they never heard before. Therefore he got in contact with Nu after and gave him some tracks for remixes. From there onwards both played ambient music live together with lots of instruments, also slow stuff. And I always told Raz ‘hey, it would be great to make music together’ and ‘let’s meet anywhere, even in a park, and sit down with the guitar’ but nothing ever happened – and all of a sudden we are at the Fusion Festival, in the ‘Bachstelzen’ Forest, on a big sofa on stage, Sunday daytime with a slot of six hours. The power went for an hour and a half, which means no sound, and Raz and myself found ourselves playing acoustic guitar on the edge of the stage with the crowd there. I met Mexican Joe that day, who started rapping in spanish. Eventually the power came back on, the sun came out and everyone started dancing a bit…
Those are the best moments…
Every time we did something for the first time it was like a jump into cold water, a dive into the deep end. There is a certain element of caos to the whole operation, like a necessary part almost. That’s the reason why it would be somehow counterproductive to try and define what we do now, because it never had any definition. There were always changes, also music wise, even now that we move towards dance music and play more of that style it does not mean this is what we do exclusively. I would say the majority of the tracks we produce in the studio, at home, are more like songs. There are also jam sessions of 10 minutes where we just tried out some sounds and Martin recorded them so at the end it is great to have those as memories, but it is not such an easy product to market. You release an EP, make a hit, then you play in that club and…
You take advantage that one thing works and repeat the same formula over and over…
So one could say the definition of your project is there is no definition.
Well yes, there are defined things, mostly to have a solid foundation of beats where we can build on to get further. In the beginning it was Nu, Raz and me performing under that name until the first EP was released on Platon. As we went to Paris to perform Nu said ‘you know what, I produce so much together with Chris and he is intimate friend of all of us so I would like to take him with us to not be the only one responsible for beats and basslines. It would be two of us and you two playing on top’. We went ‘super, let’s take him with us!’ After that there was demand for us to perform, but Nu went to the peruvian jungle for a few months so we said ‘we would like to keep performing the three of us’ and he said ‘sure’ and gave us some more songs, apart from the ones we produced together, so we played that 3 people set-up with Chris a lot. It was a trip because, as we played shorter slots, we realized ‘if we only have 90 minutes or 2 hours to say something, we like to build the outlines of the set before. If we have 3 hours or up to 6 hours we’ll let it flow, but in a short time window we need some sort of game plan.’ And it was great, out of that we started to concretize certain things, e. g. we had an instrumental and Raz came up with some words he had written for an album years ago, so we rehearsed them and it turned out to be incredible. We performed it and the first time was already like ‘wow’. As we then sang it with two voices it got even stronger. So you learn that it is great to not rehearse too much, but do some things over and over, and that having a plan on what to do is not such a bad thing. Now, in terms of what we can do we got two options: Or we play a bigger stage in a shorter slot, something more like a concert, a showcase, or we have more control about the setting and about what comes before and/or after. Tonight, with Martin being the resident at Heart, knowing the club he tells us when and for how long we play and then will join us again – we know they take good care of the event, of the sound and everything. We’re sure to have a great set-up and atmosphere so we can let it flow as we know we got enough material to choose from, to play what really fits.
At the very moment, wherever inspiration takes you.
Yes, a shared moment through music, always together, in our group as with friends and the public, because this energy feeds our creation, that’s where the magic can happen. The important thing is to be open to feel how’s everybody, up to a point where we have sometimes held back for the first hour to find ourselves, if one comes from here, the other from wherever and we don’t have time to be together for a good while to talk and communicate before.
I think that forms part of the enchantment, the people know they don’t know what to expect, they see you one time and have their experience, they see you another time and it’s different…
For sure. Because of that we just had a conversation about how to define what can be called ‘FEATHERED SUN’, caused by travels or destiny we had two gigs this summer where we only were two, so can a gig only by two of us still be called ‘FEATHERED SUN’ or not?
How did the name come to life?
Raz came up with the name and we all liked it. It came easy, he said ‘what you think about “A journey to the feathered sun”? Because it’s not ‘Nu featuring Raz Ohara and Jo.Ke’, it’s different, so he came up with the name out of the blue and we all liked it so there it was and nobody ever questioned it. That was the original name, later it got shortened to ‘The feathered sun’ and finally ‘FEATHERED SUN’ which is the most concise.
So it is more than a project to make music?
Definitely. First of all we are friends. We hang out, have dinners and all that and don’t make any music. Then we spend a lot of time together travelling, so the connection is not based on music but the music is based on our friendship.
Some of us are more friends than others. You know that sometimes you have a friend but he is not your bro, but if there is a friend in common the energy is incredible. That is as well how we produce; Sometimes you are totally connected and all is flowing. The third EP that will be released now – as well on Platon – was basically made by Chris and me, on top Raz came to Peru and recorded some incredible vocals just after arriving from the airport, we showed him what we were doing, he took the headphones, mic and – bam! – on the spot. Later we sent all recordings to Nu who was in Berlin and he created two more tracks out of it.
Modern technology makes this possible.
You can connect way more easily. And we know each other very well and are fond of each other, so if you receive all of this you treat it like a present and make sure to give another one in return.
Yes, you give it all your love and out comes the best of all.
Recently Martin made a track out of the blue “Tierra y Mar”, Chris gave him stuff we had recorded for that same session, it was my favorite track, but it was just a fat hip-hoppy beat. Martin mixed it with other recordings and played a beautiful new synthie on top. It was totally unexpected. Listening to it I thought by myself ‘wow, how fortunate we are that out of all this mess something beautiful comes out that persists.’
When you perform live I saw a lot of gear, it is not five guys with five computers, that must be some spectacle, no?
Yes, there is some paraphernalia… If time is on our side we will in the future try to become more like a band when on stage. There is always the ambition to make a live act more ‘live’, like having a Rhodes, plus another station, more live instrumentation, but right now it’s great that each one can play with his gear. Raz has his set up and I’ll bring some stuff as well. But most of all I’ll try and be a bridge to the audience and us. To connect. Let’s say in this ‘loosefit’ each one has his part, it’s not that each one does all. In the future I guess we will create many different set-ups, rotate positions. Because we all know how to play some piano and/or guitar, so we could as well transition between songs. But to get there we’d need to rehearse quite a bit, so we need to spend more time together and this time needs to be created. Right now we do not have this time.
Sure, as each one has his own career, his life…
Raz is ready to release his new album, after ‘Moksha’ last year, which by the way is a masterpiece – I don’t tire to promote it, every time somebody asks me about anything I’ll speak about this album. You can listen to in on his Soundcloud, the whole album is there. For me it sounds almost pathetic but I was about to stop making music, feeling that what I do is banal, in comparison. For some weeks I felt this way because this album is so profound, so in its own world, a real voyage with a beginning and an end, it’s incredible.
Oh yes i know that moment very well: You listen to something so good and you think you will never get there, but then it not only animates you to get better but to amplify your vision, to admit there is so much more and you say ‘yes i can’, or at least you try…
Also to understand that you are you; self-acceptance. What happens is I did not yet spend so much time in music. You could say I am the rookie. Each one of them has his career in music, studying sound engineering, or e.g. Chis was a Hip Hop DJ with real skills, Raz is such a talented musician and recording artist for many years, Martin with all his projects. So I’m playing with them, travelling more, making a living, so it’s time step it up, to improve, to get to see my career as a Singer/Songwriter, but to also include all it takes to be better live when playing with FEATHERED SUN- having and mastering my hardware, bringing in my part on my own. Everything evolves and grows when you invest time and care. The best part is to be able to do that in such a lovely and at the same time ambitious context. I am the fan number one of each one of them, so for me all this is ‘wow, here I am with my friends and we are making music – all together – how great!’ So I have to try and be at my best and get better; make it up to them, you know?
Is there any role model for you?
Musically there are many people I look up to. Inside ‘FEATHERED SUN’ everyone inspires me deeply. In terms of role model I think the one for me to follow is Martin himself, because when we got started he was already there and we did get inspired so much by his extended sets in the Bar 25. He played such a unique, eclectic style. Sometimes at home, after partying for a while, we listened to the live stream of the Bar for an hour or more and we said ‘oh well, we have to go back there’. And when it comes to recording also, he works so smooth and quick; he is a leader without leading, he teaches without lecturing.
I had the same impression, without knowing him personally i listened to his music and i very much respect him for that and his sets, but as i got to know him i was surprised by his gentleness, he is so kind and so educated, i was fascinated.
He has a heart of gold, and he himself manages his career (with a little help here and there), he never let anybody tell him what to do. He has his own identity and won’t do things just because they sell. He has and guides his principles very well without exploiting his popularity too much.
Indeed, and this is something very precious, priceless. Where can people listen to you besides your gig today at Heart?
After that gig our season ends; I will go to Peru because as a Chef I got my own restaurant in Punta Hermosa called ‘5P’ but yes, we are planning to play some dates in Mexico, the U.S. for November, then a tour with a more Latin American focus – the places are yet to be defined, to take place in February. And from May onwards we are back in the European circuit.
We are very happy with the release of our last EP ‘Saubohne’ on the very much appreciated and musically interesting label that is ‘Circus Company’. For Autumn/Winter we will return to Platon Records with our third release, the one I talked about before. It is the first EP that I see like a mini album, a pretty coherent EP. A third of the 300 vinyls pressed will have some artwork with artists we know and like, to create a ‘handmade’ limited edition, let’s say 10 with one artist, 10 with another and so on, to give it even more affection.
Last but NOT least – if you’d be king of the world, what would be the first thing you’d change?
What all of us would change if we had that power, I guess. End hunger and violence. I am very surprised to see what is going on with the refugees, its is pretty fucked up to see we keep having the mentality to rather possess than co-exist, we do not realize we are all one, so I guess this is the most important thing, to realize that all is connected. I think a good party has that, drugs or no drugs. A sort of communion. Ideally these celebrations are like ceremonies, one of the few moments where you get this state of unity, all together celebrating the same vibration at the very same moment. This is what has to change, we need to realize that we are one part of a very complex big picture so beautiful and complete, it is worth understanding what each of us can do to be able to coexist with life at large in a better way. Or we realize what we are doing or we will pass like the Dinosaurs.
It’s 7 a.m. at the date of their performance, the club is about to explode and the audience is in a true state of trance, all united by a sound that is difficult to define. What i do know is that this is divine music, inspired by the love of frequencies, born from the heart and performed by true masters. The five are standing on stage, bowing down in front of the audience to show their respect, i got goose bumps since quite a while knowing that we were all testimony of something unique. And yes, let’s hope that we will realize we are all one, so we can reverse the path to destruction of our home – planet Earth – and celebrate it to the max – with the music of ‘FEATHERED SUN’ sounding eternally.