Circuit Sweet Interview

Gavin Brown Takes On Conny Ochs | Interview + Album Release Special

March 6, 2019

German songwriter and talented artist Conny Ochs released his fourth solo album ‘Doom Folk’ earlier this year via Exile on Mainstream Records. The artist released his triumphant new record 15th February. Conny Ochs believes that the best stories are always the ones that nobody told yet. He seeks to envision signs of the world that are concealed to most others, and to explore them in a more detailed and higher density. On his new album, Doom Folk, Conny follows different pathways to those which he has forged before, channeling his observations into narratives driven by two powerful forces, fervour, and vulnerability. 

Gavin Brown spent some time with Conny to discuss the new records, influences, being on the road and more…

Your new album Doom Folk is out now. How did the recording of the album go?

I started recording with a high fever, and I feel this was a good thing. I lost myself, and then put the pieces together again. That´s pretty much what the album is about after all. I worked again with my friend and producer Thommy Krawallo at his studio in the middle of nowhere. It´s peaceful there, but it can also grow real dark outside. This went into the music, too.

 Who did you work with on the album? 

Thommy kicked my ass when I ran away too far, and his marvellous wife made us dinner and listened too us moan and set our ears straight. She’s a great composer. Given that this time I played all the instruments myself, it´s been just the three of us.

Do you think that Doom Folk is an apt description of the music you make and is that why you have the album that title?

To me this is how my songs feel, yes. I am familiar and most of the time I feel even comfortable in dark places and in solitude, but I also long for company on my way. That is the schism in my music, maybe. There is a fragile balance between light and dark.

What has the reaction been like to the news material you’ve released so far?

I notice people react with curiosity to the “optimistic“ vibe of the music. Given that almost all of the songs are talking about struggle, loss, and madness that is a good thing I guess. This album is quiet different from the previous ones. I was not sure whether people would like the band setup, as my songs have been real stripped down before. But I see a great curiosity and understanding, which makes me very happy.

You’ve just done a video for the song Dark Tower. Can you tell us about the video.

“Dark Tower” was the initial song that kind of sparked the whole feeling of Doom Folk. I wrote it on tour in Prague, when I mourned the death of one of my greatest heroes. Prague is a spiritual place, it can be quiet dark, but it is always powerful. I found myself meditating on loss wandering the obscure alleys of the city and by the shores of the Moldau, trying to find a way to share grief through putting it into words and shaping it into a song. I found since then, when I played the first version during the following shows, people related to it. There was an unspoken union in the untold. It was clear to me that I wanted to release the song as a first breadcrumb leading into the album. Here I found how much sharing pain really is a part of healing. It reminded me again of the meaning of a song. To share, to live.

We filmed the video in one of my favourite venues ever, at the UT Connewitz in Leipzig. a place full of spirit and history, run by good friends who let us hang out there for a late afternoon in winter. Just the right place to conjure a spirit of calm intensity. The sort of which you can feel in a place where you feel at home and you are with friends. This is what I wanted to show to people as a first look at the album. Togetherness.

You’re currently touring Europe in support of Doom Folk which started at the end of February. Are you looking forward to being back on the road?

I am always happy to go on tour, in the end this is where my songs come from and where they belong. This time I am looking forward to playing the new album especially because it´s the first time I will play shows with the band.

The Euro trip includes a date at Roadburn Festival. Is that a show you’re looking forward to?

Of course, Roadburn is one of the greatest festivals I have had the honour to play at. The booking is awesome, so many great, often undiscovered bands are playing there. In addition to that, we will celebrate 20 years of Exile on Mainstream Records with a lot of friends this year, that’s gonna be a blast!

You’ve played Roadburn a few times in the past. How were those experiences?

The Roadburn family is caring and open minded, the bands coming from all kinds of genres are always surprising, inspiring and supportive of each other. It´s like a big party with friends and A LOT of music. A place like this makes you believe in a healthy scene really, one that is truly about sharing what you feel, what is real and means something to you. Also, it´s a real test of what you´re made of. You can go from concert to concert without ever pausing for days. That´s a real trip.

Are you playing at any festivals this summer that you can tell us about?

There will be a few underground festival shows in Germany and Italy we are working on right now, soon to be announced…

Will you be hitting the UK for some dates at any point?

I really hope so, unfortunately I did not have a chance to play in the UK for a while now, and I am working on it to change that.

What do you love about being on the road the most?

I love to get lost. It´s easy to get lost on the road, it´s hard sometimes, but there is a great power in that. You need to rearrange sometimes, and for that you need to fall apart sometimes, too. Also, you see so much of the beautiful nature that surrounds us, which always takes my breath away. It´s all in the making, even places you have seen thousands of times. Then, of course, there´s playing your songs to people. That´s when music and magic can happen. It all comes down to that.

Who have you loved playing shows and touring with the most?

The tour that was most important to me in what I do now was the one with Wino. Playing with him changed my life, both as a traveller and as a musician. Also we had our friend Al, who is the greatest driver and roadie under the sun, who saved us more than one time. We played for seven weeks almost everyday. This tour taught me what touring is about and what it´s not, and I couldn´t get enough of it.

And who would you love to play with in the future?

I am looking forward a lot to play with my best friend Hannes Scheffler on Guitar and Bass again. And my favourite drummer, Johannes Döpping, will join us. What more can you ask for!

Will you be debuting a lot of new material from Doom Folk?

I don´t really have a fixed setlist, but all the songs off “Doom Folk“ will be in the game!

What are your favourite albums of all time?

Lets’s say three? Well…okay….mmhh…oh ´tis such an ephemeral thing!  Prince ‘’Prince“. David Sylvian “Dead bees on a cake“ Nirvana “Bleach“. Queen “A Night at the opera“. Beatles “Revolver“. Three!

And in keeping with the new album, what are your favourite folk albums?

In the sense of a songwriter…

Tonwes van Zandt “Delta momma Blues“

Leonard Cohen “Song of love and hate“

Nick Drake “Five leaves left“

Will you ever work with Wino again?

I hope so, yes. In the last years we both took different paths, but we still have do do some touring for the second album we did. Sure these songs have to be played live at least once!

What was the experience like working with him on the Freedom Conspiracy album?

It was quite simple, we took the songs we had written during the tour for “Heavy Kingdom“ into the studio, and when we tended to go a little crazy, Thommy (Krawallo) helped as to stay cool. We experimented more than on the first record, given that we had a little more time in the studio. It was a strange time for both of us because we were both struggling with our other lives a bit, but the music helped us to put it all back together in the end. I feel the raw and free approach we had on “Heavy Kingdom“ became something deeper here. Especially regarding each other as friends and writers.

How did you and Wino hook up in the first place?

I was booked by our label to be his driver on the 2010 tour he did for “Adrift“. Then i had the chance to open for him with a short 20 minute-set. That was my first proper tour, I had just recorded the “Raw love songs“. Already after a couple of days we ended up jamming and writing together in the backstage, and soon playing together also onstage. Something really clicked there. I learnt a lot from the man, and I will forever be thankful for that. Still, I also had to do the driving each day. I felt like a real apprentice! Wino was always really cool and generous with me.

Who else would you like to work with in the future?

I dream of meeting Pj Harvey. Also I would love to play with bands from a totally different genre, like H09909. I dream of meeting Henry Rollins, too. I am working with the producer Daniel Mal de Testa from Veneto in Italy on a strange little noise project. That is very exciting.

Who have been the biggest influences on your career as a musician?

I´d say apart from the music that influenced my life, there is my best friend Hannes, who taught me to play the first chords on my untuned acoustic. Then there was Andreas from Exile on Mainstream Records, whom I met 10 years ago and with whom I have become close friends since then. He gave me a chance to play, and always was and is by my side. He also introduced me too Wino, who literally dragged me out into the streets and who fed my hunger for the song. Thommy taught me how important it is to focus on what you do and work on it. He is one of the best teachers I had and still have, both in the studio but especially in understanding a song. And there are singers like Chris Cornell, Jeff Buckley,Odetta and songwriters like Townes van Zandt, Elliot Smith and Fred Cole who keep me going everyday to look for THAT song. And all that comes along.

Doom Folk released on LP, CD, and digital formats through Exile On Mainstream – February 15th

Words: Gavin Brown

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