Why can't I commit to anyone
"She was not obliged to anyone"
In 2002 the Cologne DJ and producer Hans Nieswandt had already made a remix for Hildegard Knef ("With you, it was always so nice") and always praised this work afterwards. Because there was material of special quality: complete orchestral tracks from the Seventies with Knef's voice as dry a cappella. Frank Schmiechen spoke to Nieswandt about the new album with twelve "Remixed Versions".
How did you approach Knef ten years ago?
She was still alive and welcomed the project and found it good. I didn't want to make a wacky techno version, I wanted to stay very close to the original. With the entire text if possible, because the source material was so incredibly fascinating.
So are you a real Knef fan?
I am now connected to Hildegard Knef in a very special way. I spent a great many dark hours with her mind. Since last year I have been haunted by the word "haunted" from a book by Simon Reynolds. The music of today is teeming with the ghosts of the music of the past in every nook and cranny. And this Hildegard Knef project is my contribution to the subject of "Spukologie". Last winter, when it got dark early, I sat in the dark like at a séance. With all these old musicians and this singer. I channeled them. Like a medium. You let them play again.
What could be heard on the tapes?
That was the complete multi-track tapes. So including lead. With a cough and botched counters. Then suddenly they start playing and the piece is completely there. You can hardly hear the bass and drums. Strings, wind instruments and their voice are right at the front. I then rethought that, started with more modern ideas and put bass and drums as the basis. When I had that, I looked carefully: What do I do next? I take the guitar, the chords and cut them shorter, put an echo on it, then it goes more in the direction of disco. Then there is vibraphone. You don't need to do anything. It all worked very well in a phenomenal way.
Is there anything comparable in German pop today that would appeal to you?
No. Even with the best will in the world, I can’t think of anyone who writes or sings like that.
Why not? What was the trick?
Hildegard Knef grew up in a completely different way. She ran to acting class when the bomber all clear. As a result, she had a completely different basis of experience and a completely different character. When she made her records, she didn't feel obliged to anyone - except for art.
And that is no longer possible today?
There are a couple of examples. But Hildegard Knef's expressiveness also has a lot to do with the fact that she is an actress. That she also plays her songs in a way. The pain. That is not meant negatively. Actors also play pain in films. Nobody says, hey, this is just an act. That's how you do it as a great vocal actress. And not many people can do that today.
Why do you have to be technically skilled in singing these days?
So that you might get into the second round at the casting shows. Isn't it true that great pop stars can never sing? I actually think so too. I wanted to make a modern record that would make young singers think: Wow, I want that too!
Do you have educational requirements?
I want young people to feel what I felt when I heard the material. I haven't been a Hildegard Knef fan since I was a child. I've known the Knef for as long as I can remember. But it was controversial in my family when I was little. Well-behaved housewives in particular didn't like Hildegard Knef that much. Because she showed them how someone can be free. Because someone here rises above what was actually intended for women. Be beautiful. To be nice. To clean up.
When hearing your remixes, the question arises: why do young people always have to dance? Can enjoy the music that doesn't have that hard beat?
Because we DJs really trained them and made sure that they no longer just stand around. Every piece on the Knef plate can now be mixed. Everything is cut to the beat. In the original the tempo meanders and everything is completely free. I worked on that as a DJ. But it wasn't necessarily made for DJs. I can't imagine a lot of clubs playing these tracks. I think of an audience that listens to things at home. Or in the car. For me that was also the beginning of producing after my time in bands. Find the best spots that have nothing to do with dance or disco, sample them and bring them into other contexts. It's like screwing wheels down there - and off you go. I think that's just great to this day.
What drives you when you stand behind the DJ booth?
I want people to dance and be amazed. Simultaneously. Dancing, and suddenly things break in on you that you would not have believed that you would experience them that evening, that you dance to
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