We’ve been fortunate enough to have become close friends with Dresden-born musician, writer, and filmmaker Franz Rothe over the past year here in Brooklyn, and his versatility and creative output are huge inspirations for us. In an insightful interview, Franz guides us through his perspectives on Reflection and Response, explores how these concepts fit in with his musical process, reflects on a recent album called Away that he worked on as part of the band Franz & Frau Schneider und dieser Andere, and talks through various current projects. Let’s dig in:
I believe that the urge to write a song results from the need to capture and express a certain feeling…You chase this feeling, this impulse, because it is haunting, like something you have once known but forgotten. And you try to figure out what it is, what it wants to be, how it wants to sound.
– Franz Rothe
FR: I am from a beautiful city called Dresden in Germany. But I have been living here and there in the recent past. Right now I live in New York, which is wonderful but won’t last very long either.
FR: I think that, in a way, Reflection and Response describes the very essence of music or really any kind of art. I believe that whatever we create can only be seen as a response to what we have seen, heard or experienced before. At least I would say about myself, that I’ve never come up with any kind of idea that was not a response to something somebody else did before me. We reflect upon our experiences, our impressions, and we respond to them – knowingly or not – and sculpt them into something new.
Pessimistically, that view could lead to questioning the mere idea of originality, as everything is just a combination of what was there before. But on the other hand, I enjoy the thought of being a part in an endless chain of Reflection and Response.
(For example, I am not ashamed to say that my biggest form of admiration for any kind of art is the thought ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’ followed by the thought ‘How can I take that and turn it into something new?’…)
How does your album ‘Away’ fit in with that definition?
FR: I think the album ‘Away’ is on many levels the product of Reflection and Response – it is what we made of music we heard, songs we love, songs we hate, books that touched us, people that surrounded us and places we have been. But it is also what we made of each other and ourselves.
I believe that the urge to write a song results from the need to capture and express a certain feeling. It’s never about which chords might go well together and which words might rhyme. You chase this feeling, this impulse, because it is haunting, like something you have once known but forgotten. And you try to figure out what it is, what it wants to be, how it wants to sound.
I think, in the best case an artist should be like the needle of a record player, materializing an invisible something.
As we were three musicians working together on this album, the most important part was responding to our surroundings in a similar way. Sharing an understanding of the feelings that we wanted to transport in the music we made. And with every musician we brought into the studio, we hoped they would be telling a similar story as we did, adding to what the three of us shared.
Then again, that sounds way more complex than it actually was. In the end we just made music together, simply loving each other for that.
FR: I’m trying my hand at a couple of different things right now. There are so many languages in which you can express yourself, so I tried to look for other languages like film or writing. Kind of to find an outlet for things that haunted me, but couldn’t find their way out of my head through chords and melodies.
I made a documentary about forced evictions in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, with my dear friend Michael last year. It’s called ‘The Final Days’ and I’m happy about anyone watching it on vimeo.
Right now I actually started writing a book, which has been on my mind for ages. But first novels usually suck, so there’s really not too much to expect there…
Who or what inspires you?
FR: Places. People. My friends. Vivi and Lukas, who are the other two-thirds of the band. Their talent and their ability to always just naturally come up with exactly the right thing – that never ceased to amaze and inspire me!
Generally speaking though, in the best case, absolutely anything could be inspiration. But unfortunately I often have a hard time keeping the open eyes it takes to be aware of what’s actually around me.
So what I do is I travel a lot and try to see and live in as many countries and cultures as possible, to absorb as much as I can.
FR: Huge shout out to Vivi and Lukas, with whom I made the album ‘Away’ and whom I miss terribly when we are too far away from each other to make music!
Reflection and Response.