Interview with Zahn members Felix and Chris
"The Instruments set the Direction of our new album"
I already introduced you to Zahn two years ago when I posted my interview with Felix (Gebhard) about their self-titled debut record. Now that they're about to release their new album, "Adria", I arranged another chat with Felix and his bandmate Chris (Breuer).
Musically, the three Zahn members are anything but newbies to the business. Among other projects, Chris has played with Heads, LLYNCH and The Ocean, while Nic (Stockmann) was also part of Eisenvater alongside Heads. You may know Felix as a live member of Einstürzende Neubauten. It was always clear to them that they would join another project together at some point. With their new LP, they are now shifting up another gear. Anyhow, please enjoy my interview and "Adria", of course!
Anne: Hi Chris, hi Felix! Thanks for taking the time! How are you doing today? I'm guessing pretty busy?
Chris: We're doing excellent, thank you! I hope you are, too! A lot is going on these days, but "nothing to do" would definitely be a worse option.
Anne: I'm glad we finally found time to discuss your upcoming album. It's been a while since Felix and I talked about your debut, "Zahn". The new record is called "Adria"; you plan to release it on November 24th. So, is everything ready and waiting to be shared with your fans?
Felix: Absolutely! The foot is already twitching on the pedal!
Anne: What do your plans for the release day look like?
Chris: Of course, we will celebrate our new album extensively. First, on a small scale, and then we're about to plan a small tour for next spring.
Anne: How did you come up with the title "Adria"? I immediately thought of colourful parasols and a mixture of ice and sun cream. The eleven songs are quite a contrast to this softened image.
Felix: Chris had this vision of caravans or camper vans with the word "Adria" on the back of their high roof. It then became a kind of association for all of us. The 1980s, summer holidays, dusty motorways with the smell of exhaust fumes, sitting in the back seat, reading an Asterix comic book and feeling a bit seasick from the rocking of the car. Moreover, this Adriano Celentano song always comes to mind when I think about it.
Anne: What particularly inspired you while writing the album?
"Our musical language has become more extensive"
Zahn – "Adria"
Felix: After our first album, numerous new musical instruments found their way into our rehearsal room—especially various synthesisers. It turned out that trying out these new instruments set the direction of most of the pieces. The better we got to know them over time, the more extensive our musical language became, and so various other sounds and musical structures gained weight with the new pieces.
Anne: There are three of you. Do you write all of your songs together, or does everyone come up with some of the parts, and then you combine and finalise everything, refining and tweaking the songs?
Felix: Oftentimes, Chris comes up with a basic idea that he records as a sketch, and the three of us continue from this point. Or we combine two ideas and then come up with a third idea. I'd say it varies from piece to piece. It's exciting when something completely unexpected and unplanned emerges during the process.
Anne: I always think your album covers are quite genius. The last one was a pretty crazy milk jug Chris dug up somewhere. On "Adria", there's a trashy old swimming pool—somehow reminds me of a David Lynch movie. Chris, did you come up with the idea for the artwork again?
Chris: Yes, I came up with the basic idea. Fabian Bremer did the creative realisation. Lupus Lindemann took the Adria photos. Sometimes, everything fits together perfectly. I used to focus more on having aesthetically pleasing covers. Now, it's more important to me to use images that are powerful and/or confusing and less decorative. Beauty tends to bore me.
Anne: Speaking of movies, I think I can hear your love for good film music (for example, in the song "Idylle"), or am I wrong?
"We wrote 'Idylle' in honour of Angelo Badalamenti"
Felix: You're correct! I have soundtrack associations with many Zahn pieces from the outset.
Anne: This "retro movie vibe" runs throughout. Are you planning to score a movie someday? Please reach out to me if so; I want to watch it!
Felix: We're open to anything! There's a good chance we'll work on a movie soundtrack someday. With "Idylle", we made it a bit more prominent, and it became a kind of tribute to Angelo Badalamenti, who sadly passed away last year.
Anne: Like last time you recorded at the Mühle, the studio where The Ocean, among others, recorded their songs. I've heard a lot about this beautiful place. What makes the Mühle different from other studios?
"This studio feels like it was made for us!"
Zahn – "Adria"
Felix: Firstly, the recording room at the Mühle has a sound that was made for Zahn. Besides that, our collaboration with Peter Voigtmann has become quite natural and fast, as the four of us can communicate with each other effortlessly. So, there was no question of going anywhere else for the second album. The Mühle location is, of course, a big bonus—it's much more relaxed to step outside the building during a recording break and stand in a horse meadow than at Kottbusser Tor in Berlin Kreuzberg.
Anne: I heard that Magnus Lindberg (Cult of Luna, EF, Oh Hiroshima, Blessings, Soonago, OK Wait, etc.) was also involved in making the record. How was it to work with him?
Felix: Well, the collaboration took place via file-sharing portals—we didn't sit behind him while he worked on the tracks. But Chris and Nic have worked with him in the past, and we felt he'd be the right person to mix and master this album, which turned out to be accurate. We were thrilled by his first suggestions.
Anne: What has changed for you since your 2021 debut?
Felix: We've matured as a band and broadened our horizons even more than they were to begin with. We've realised that we can do anything the three of us want to do artistically with Zahn. To paraphrase Tom Petty, "The sky is the limit".
Anne: Chris, music is your life. When you're not writing songs or rehearsing with your band, you put other artists in the spotlight with Crazysane. Did you always know it would turn out like this? How old were you when this "magical pull" started to attract you?
Chris: Music is definitely a big part of my life, but thankfully not only. It started very early for me, with Dead Kennedys, Spermbirds, Metallica and a horrible haircut.
Anne: What was it like with the rest of the band?
Felix: I started playing the guitar when I was about 17 and have been in bands ever since. It's been a few years now.
Anne: I think the world needs more experimental rock music, and it's clear from your music that you feel the same way. As an "insider", how do you rate the scene right now? A lot is going on, isn't there?
"We want to perform as often as possible!"
Felix: Definitely. But I've always had that impression—especially as there isn't just one scene but thousands. There's a lot to discover.
Anne: You will release "Adria" on November 24th, and you're in the middle of preparations. Do you already have plans for the time after that?
Felix: We will play live as much as possible in 2024!
Anne: Thank you very much for taking the time! Much success with your release and the tour plans!
Felix and Chris: Thank you very much!