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Progressive Rock Interviews

Centrozoon

Interviewed by G. W. Hill

Interview with Tobias Reber and Bernhard Wöstheinrich of Centrozoon from 2012

MSJ:

Can you catch the readers up on the history of your involvement in music - both individually and as a band?

Tobias Reber: I've been making music since my early teens, first as a guitarist and since my early twenties more and more as an electronic musician. I've played concerts as a solo musician, as an interpreter or improviser in ensembles and I've composed music for CDs and interactive media and sound installations. These days I'm very interested in "computer-aided composition" - using the computer to generate musical structure. I've been invited to join centrozoon in 2008. The new record Boner is my first as a full member but I'd already worked with the group on their previous album Lovefield.

Bernhard Wöstheinrich: I started about 1987 to experiment intensely with my own sounds and tunes after I had learned that drawing and painting alone wasn't enough for me in order to express myself. I was longing for something that might have a more "performing" approach. Inspired by bands like Die Einstürzenden Neubauten and others which I would call nowadays “informal” I finally developed a very personal approach to composing and recording my early tapes. I also met a lot of people very soon after I had started to make my own music, because Bielefeld, the city where I studied, used to have an extensive network of musicians. There, I also met Markus.

So, the foundation for centrozoon was laid actually very early since I still have the same "informal" approach that I figured out back then.

MSJ: Who would you see as your musical influences - again, both individually and as far as this project is concerned?
Tobias Reber: My emotional background is in rock music but my tastes and interests have expanded in many directions. I'm very much into forward thinking musicians in any genre: people who have a deep understanding of what makes music powerful, and who find contemporary ways of giving this force a voice. This is something we aspire to with centrozoon.

Bernhard Wöstheinrich: I guess beside those music styles I used to be “into,” my actual musical influence is basically almost everything I ever heard in my life, no matter if I liked it or not. It seems to me that even the worst pop song is nothing but a possible variation of form. However, of course, I do have a couple of influences which made me concentrate on specific aspects in music and sound. But rather than naming them here I’d like to state that a lot of them finally turned out to be nothing but a personal longing for a certain cliché. It was a big motivation to accomplish a purpose based on those longings, though.

MSJ: What's ahead for you?
Tobias Reber: For the moment we will continue to try and get Boner out into the world. We are also currently digging through the recordings of our recent tour and deciding what to do with them. Concert plans for the future are being discussed.

Bernhard Wöstheinrich: Performing live is to me essential, therefore I continuously look out for appropriate possibilities to do so. I assume I eventually will also get a better idea of how to find and address an interested audience.

MSJ: I know artists hate to have their music pigeonholed or labeled, but how would you describe your music?
Tobias Reber: Coincidentally when I chatted with Bernhard on Skype today he said something interesting: “centrozoon equals pure, uncomfortable and startling innovation. Like a rock band in the 60s.” That is a bold statement but I think the music holds up to it.

Bernhard Wöstheinrich: I made this statement to achieve a certain kind of self-awareness which was inspired by a dream I had the night before. Actually I don’t mind to be labeled, but regarding centrozoon I really have difficulties to find one that is at least in some degrees suitable. First of all I would call our music challenging (if that would work as a label anyway), even for us musicians. Although it might have some recognizable influences, it seems to me that it is basically just too much rampant and unrestrained to fit in even the widest pigeonhole. However, to find an adequate label in the end, would make it a lot easier for us.

MSJ: Are there musicians with whom you would like to play with in the future?
Tobias Reber: Yes.

Bernhard Wöstheinrich: Yes. Tobias Reber, for example.

MSJ: Do you think that illegal downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?
Tobias Reber: I think this question is only still around because we're in that transitional phase where we still consider the ubiquitousness of digital goods an exception or even violation of an old norm. Those who want to take digital goods for free will be able to do so, and those who want to pay the creator something will hopefully be able to do this in ever more direct and simple ways.

Bernhard Wöstheinrich: I would second that. Yet, we still don’t have an idea where this whole internet and communication thing is turning to. Particularly for independent artists like us it is essential to find a kind of audience that shows at least a basic way of appreciation and respect. All those silly downloaders-for-no-reason will not understand what they have stolen from us, anyway.

MSJ: In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them?
Tobias Reber: I feel like I'm only in a position to speak for myself, and for me it hasn't been an issue yet. I'd prefer an attentive listener over one who's only focused on his microphone or camera, though, but that's beyond my control.

Bernhard Wöstheinrich: Assuming that the artist does not really mind trading their very own work is just lame and brainless, and I am convinced that those individuals who do such things are not what I would call a fan, although they might have bootlegged the show because they thought they liked it. Again: I still hope that we come to a perception at some time that there is a basic appreciation for those things in life you love. Only then is it possible to survive as an artist.

MSJ: If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why?
Tobias Reber: If I were a superhero my arch nemesis musician would probably be a superhero too. He'd likely bombard me with infrasonic weaponry but I'd neutralize that with a swarm of syncopated 64th note pauses and then defeat him with a high cut filter.

Bernhard Wöstheinrich: That is an odd and funny question. So, if I understand your question correctly, I’d only be afraid of somebody who is like me, and I would be curious about this counterpart of myself at the same time. Musically the only kind of an arch nemesis I ever met is Markus Reuter, and I am very thankful because this became a pretty fruitful encounter.

MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
Tobias Reber: The most recent one was Meshuggah's Koloss. Like all of the band's albums it takes some time to familiarize myself with it, and I'm enjoying the process a lot. A great instrumental/progressive rock album that has just been released is the debut album of my friend Alex Dowerk's band ZweiTon, Form, co-produced by Markus and Adrian Benavides (who also did one of the two mixes of the new centrozoon album). Looking back over the past months I've particularly loved British songwriter Fink's music, Wyndel Hunt's drone album Sunshine Noir on Dragon's Eye Recordings and several albums by Robert Wyatt. And I'm continually listening to Devin Townsend.

 

Bernhard Wöstheinrich: I have listened lately to Robert Fripp’s A Blessing of Tears, Kate Bush – 50 Words for Snow (I wanted to find out how the music works in May), Tool – Undertow and Eberhard Schoener – Trance-Formation, as far as I can remember…

MSJ: Have you read any good books lately?
Tobias Reber: I've loved Nnedi Okorafor's Who Fears Death, a tale of a sorceress in a post-apocalyptic Africa. Okorafor is tackling issues of gender, power and tradition in a very brave way while also delivering a page-turning quest story. I'm currently reading Catherynne Valente's short story collection Ventriloquism. She's a wonderful and very unique and intelligent writer.

Bernhard Wöstheinrich: Jule Verne; Off on a Comet – being aware of the political incorrect parts of the book.

MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
Tobias Reber: That was my student's performance / sound installation tonight in my hometown.

Bernhard Wöstheinrich: Yoshi Hampl on his “solo:noise:and:silence” tour

MSJ: Do you have a musical "guilty pleasure?"
Tobias Reber: I don't remember feeling guilty about liking a particular kind of music.

Bernhard Wöstheinrich: Yes, I think there are some things that potentially could be named as “guilty pleasures.”

MSJ: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
Tobias Reber: I can't remember any. It must have been so bad that my brain neglects to remember it.

Bernhard Wöstheinrich: If I only knew what Spinal Tap moments could be…

MSJ: If you could sit down to dinner with any three people, living or dead, for food and conversation, with whom would you be dining?
Bernhard Wöstheinrich: Markus, Tobias and Bibbiboo.
MSJ: What would be on the menu?
Tobias Reber: Fried vegetables, antipasti, various salads, humus.

Bernhard Wöstheinrich: I am fine with Tobias’ choice. Indian food could be an option, too.

MSJ: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?
Tobias Reber: Never trust the way you are.

Bernhard Wöstheinrich: Me neither .

MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.
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