Interview #18: Nils Frahm

Nils Frahm is a German pianist born in 1982 (he’s not even 30!) and his signed to the wonderful label Erased Tapes.  His latest record ‘The Bells’ is a stunning piece of improvisational piano pieces recorded with the simply wonderful Peter Broderick.  On Sunday night in Glasgow I was lucky enough to catch him supporting Balmorhea and what a wonderful show it was indeed.  Nils very kindly took some time to answer a few questions I put to him.  A big thanks to both him and Robert at Erased Tapes for making the interview possible.  So please, have a wee read and then go and check out Nils music here. Also, please check out Nils on tour around the UK and Europe with Balmorhea right now.  Listings on his myspace.  You will not be disappointed.  Enjoy.

TSP:  When did you start playing piano?

NF:  I had my first lessons when I was 8, but I liked to pester my parents with my little noise performances before then. They gave in and thought it might be good for me to learn a little more about this instrument.

TSP:  In your eyes what makes the piano such a great instrument?  Do you play any other instruments?

NF:  The piano provides the largest range of tones. All registers of an orchestra are laid out in front of you. Other than that it just sounds magical and it is a great solo instrument, so you don’t necessarily need other musicians to accompany you.

TSP:  Which artists have had the biggest influence on your own work?

NF:  Undeniable influences are: Arvo Pärt, Chopin, Satie, Valentin Silvestrov, Steve Reich, Keith Jarrett, Moondog, John Surman, David Darling, Bill Evans, Philipp Glass. But also more contemporary artists, mostly friends of mine: Peter Broderick, Greg Haines, Dustin O Halloran, Machinefabriek, Heather Woods Broderick, John Convertino, F.S. Blumm etc.

TSP:  Erased Tapes have some pretty wonderful modern classical artists on their roster currently.  How did you come to work with them and how has the experience been so far?

NF:  I got in contact with Robert through Peter Broderick who had just released “Music for Falling From Trees” on the ET imprint. So through this connection Robert got to listen to my work and after that he offered me a record deal. I am so happy and proud to be in the ET catalogue. It is a fantastic label for an indie musician like me, not too big and most definitely not too small. I have never seen a man work so hard for his artists, so I can say that I am fully satisfied with the work of my label.

TSP:  Your recent record ‘The Bells’ is simply stunning.  On that record you got to work with Peter Broderick.  How did that come about and how did Peter challenge you as an artist?

NF:  Peter got in touch with me through Myspace as he liked my playing, so he told me about his idea of helping me to capture some solo piano recordings. Peter has become my closest friend over the last year or so and meeting him has changed my life a lot. Before him I was not connected to a musical scene at all. I played the same music and worked already as a musician, but I never considered playing live shows or solo piano. The piano was a very private thing to me. I was working in a studio, recording and writing music. Playing piano was more of a little side project really. It was amazing to hear from a gifted guy like Peter that I should release my piano work. Until that point I had little confidence in my music. Without Peter my life would be very different and I am so thankful for all his help and support. He indeed challenged me a lot, he is one of the most gifted people I’ve ever met and there is nothing out there like a Peter Broderick show. I learned so much from him, also that the people expect a show and not just a concert.

TSP:  It seems to me that artists like yourself, Olafur Arnalds, Johann Johannsson, Library Tapes, Danny Norbury and Peter Broderick, to name a few, have helped create a crossover between classical and alternative music.  Do you feel this to be the case and if so what is it about your music that makes it more accessible than traditional classical pieces?

NF:  I am very surprised about the rapidly growing interest in music like that. I guess it has something to do with a certain zeitgeist and I know that I am lucky to be part of this new movement. All those artists play their music to the people while they are still alive, so I think that is one big reason why people have easier access to the music. And a lot of this music is played in indie venues to an indie audience. None of my friends are playing in philharmonic concert halls (yet), so there is a border between classical music and what people call neo-classical. For some reason I don’t like the term too much.

TSP:  Being based in Scotland my blog tends to focus on Scottish music, are you looking forward to playing Glasgow in April?  Have you been to Scotland before or will this be your first experience playing in our country?

NF:  It will be my first time in Scotland and I can’t wait. I hope that I will find a nice piano and a nice audience there so we will all have a wonderful night together. I love traveling with Balmorhea. Their music moves me in a very special way and it is such a treat to be around them. 

TSP:  Finally, what does the rest of 2010 hold in store for you?

NF:  I will play a solo UK tour in May and a full EU tour with Rachel Grimes later this year – someone I have great admiration for. Also, I will keep working on my upcoming album on Erased Tapes. I have two collaboration works to be released soon too. One is a collab with F.S.Blumm – another great artist from Berlin – out on Sonic Pieces. I am also very excited about my collab with the wonderful cellist Anne Müller, to be released on Hush Records. And of course I am looking forward to all the projects that I will produce and record for other musicians in the studio. There’s a lot of work to do…

5 thoughts on “Interview #18: Nils Frahm

  1. I met Nils for a chat before his gig in Glasgow and he couldn’t have been nicer. I think that chat will be included in Neil’s 2MF podcast in 2 weeks time.

    And that gig on Sunday night was absolutely perfect.

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