Fabian Fenk and Anton Feist comprise the electronic duo known as The/Das. Hailing from Berlin, they sat down with FDRMX to talk about everything from tour, to their split from the trio Bodi Bill, to how to become an electronic music producer, to super powers and more. Below is the Encyclopedia of Music’s Parts One and Two of our interview with The/Das.
FDRMX: Are you guys on tour right now, are you playing shows?
Fabian of The/Das: Well we played a few shows around our release date, which was Friday. Now it’s break – kind of a long break, two months, and then we tour. Everything was postponed because of the record, and then we missed half of the festival season. So we start touring in October, November. The weird thing is, I’m probably going to Burning Man, so I hope to get a DJ gig in New York, which would be nice. I dunno, just to say hi [to the city], because we are planning to do more…this album right now is band stuff. And we plan to also do the clubby thing again. Last year it was all about club stuff, this year it’s band, so I thought in preparation of next year, it would be nice to say hi to a few cities…. We’ve only played two times in the states together, just once in Detroit, this movement thing. The city is great, but a weird techno festival. I guess they have beautiful festivals in the west. So we have to explore this at some point.
FDRMX: What’s the craziest thing that’s happened on tour?
Fabian: I dunno, just a lots of rock n roll…I don’t remember anything weird. We’re one of those bands that doesn’t have much music out, we’ve just started playing music on tours and it’s all pretty new for us, like after seven years of touring and because we’ve been more like, reading and talking and stuff…. And all the group activity was low because everybody was in relationships and stuff, and we’re really just into music, we’re not into like, burning down hotels and stuff. Well, I guess in the beginning we did some weird things. I remember going with those weird guys in South Lake Regensburg…. I remember Alex took a weird drug and he was in the garage — do you remember this? Regensburg? No? — but it was an accident, like somebody was totally confused but…we’ll have to think about it.
FDRMX: Can you tell me why was the split from Bodi Bill necessary for you?
Fabian: Mostly because we felt like we wanted to have a fresh start. Because we released almost four albums and it was seven years so it felt like it was a good time for a break. Also Alex, the third guy, started a new band so it was a chance…. All of a sudden we had this idea of a one-year break, and right now it’s like a three-year break and it still feels better like this than to go back to the old thing. I don’t think we broke up, we just see year-to-year, and it’s just refreshing this way. Totally noncommercial decision, more like having a free, clear head.
Anton: Having no image, you know?
Fabian: Yeah we really just felt it’d be nice to try to not have an image. To be really normal and talk to people. Before, we were always treated like the “boys of Bodi Bill” and we wearing costumes and all this stuff. I think after a while you just get tired of it. I think this whole pop star stuff, especially in the underground scene, is over. It’s boring. People want to be closer. Just to have direct contact and feel like…I don’t want to pretend like we were something special, we just want to make music. And if you’re in disguise, you’re not really sharing it, you’re always hiding behind something. That’s the real difference from Bodi Bill.
FDRMX: That makes sense. Well what is your guys’ songwriting process like now? Does one of you write the lyrics and one of you make the tracks, or are you working together from the start?
Anton: No, it’s quite a different process. Of course, Fabian is the voice, so he writes most of the lyrics. I might add a word [laughs] if he’s wrong or something. Both of us do experiments. Experimenting with sounds. After a while, once we are confident with an experiment, we play it for the other, and we decide if it’s great and has a chance to be a song or a track, and then we go on and add instruments and arrange it. Or we throw everything away and start new. Every song has it’s own history of its making. I think we can remember how every song was created because its so different. So it’s interesting.
Fabian: It’s nice we are able to work alone, [separate] from each other, but then since we’re just two people it’s really easy to adopt the other one’s idea. In a trio it’s really complicated because we have so many different combinations and this way, maybe he can start work on something and then we go together. That’s a big difference from the band before [Bodi Bill]. It’s probably boy stuff. You know how boys have arguments over stuff. But like this it’s straighter and easier for us.
FDRMX: I gotcha. In that case, what would you say to two little guys, like younger versions of yourselves, who want to be electronica music producers? Do you have any advice would you give them?
Anton: Sure. It shouldn’t sound like we’re some teachers, “Hey do this, don’t do that,” but I think something that would have helped me a lot ten or fifteen years ago is if anybody had told me not to try to copy somebody or to evaluate my stuff against another producer, because you will always lose. You can’t be better than your idols. Just forget about them and look at what’s coming out of you. Okay now that sounds American actually…[laughs]. You should listen to your personal output, how does it feel, what about these things do you like — take this and let it grow.
Fabian: And I think the other thing about electronic music is everything can be an instrument. There’s not just a typical 808, and whatever synthesizer drum machine combination. You can also work with samples. When you see musical history and you see all this stuff created and where it comes from, like 50’s and 60’s, it’s recording snippets and gluing them together. I think this is also a great approach for kids who maybe don’t have any means to work with. Maybe just a microphone, right? You can still make amazing music with that. Also, if you listen to all this hip stuff, like Grimes, there’s so much voice in it but the way she works with it is on. FKA Twigs too…it’s an electronic music approach, in my opinion. Sampling a voice and duplicating it and multiplying it. So I would say everything is an instrument, so don’t think you need a fancy synth or a fancy drum machine. Just use whatever and toy with it.
FDRMX: I see you’re wearing a Miami Beach hat – as in your Miami Waters music video. You actually have a couple music videos with beaches in them.
Fabian: We come from a very gray city.
Anton: We don’t have beaches
Fabian: Sometimes it’s very nasty. I dunno how it is, I’ve never been to in New York in winter, but when the India video was done it had been dark and gray for four months so it felt like the best thing to do. Stand on the beach. It’s a nice thing to do anyway.
Anton: The theme for the videos is traveling and seeing other places.
FDRMX: Do you guys like to travel?
Fabian: I like it. It’s not always easy to do.
Anton: Mostly we travel because of music, which is great because we’re not tourists. We are travelers. We have something to do when we arrive. But I think sometimes you should be a tourist and that’s not what we have the time or the money for right now. But someday I’d like to go for three months to China or something, without a job.
Fabian: Music is so demanding. You really have to make music to have an album done by the end of the year. Like right now it feels awkward because I know I leave in a week and I’ll be gone for three weeks and I feel like, well maybe I should be making music during that time. It’s weird. Making music is hard to do during travels.
Anton: We’re not at the age of leaning back right now. We have to always be productive and we have so many ideas, and it’s like, “Let’s do it!” Maybe in twenty years when we are old guys we can go to the beach with another state of mind.
FDRMX: Do you ever take a day off?
Fabian: Yeah sure.
Anton: Not so much.
Fabian: I mean, not so much (laughs). It’s tempting to be in the studio all the time because our studio is in a house. We live with the label and our other friends live one floor above, and it’s really nice here. There’s a terrace and it feels like a living room sort of. We have two other friends who have their studio here. So it’s like an addiction, sometimes you wake up, and it’s like going to your living room. I guess that’s why we spend a lot of time here in the studio.
Anton: Sometimes we forget everyone because we have everything here. Our instruments, our friends, a nice terrace, it’s in the center of Berlin and you can get to everywhere from here, so six days out of the week I’m here. Sometimes it’s too much. I think I have to start a new social life. Of course you have about twenty, thirty people here who are all friends, but I lose the others that aren’t here all day and I see them hardly at all any more.
Fabian: Its really tempting because it’s an addiction. It’s like digging for gold. Hoping for another a song, maybe an album at the end of the tunnel. It doesn’t really make sense, it’s a proper addiction, there’s no planning it out.
FDRMX: Ok, I have one random question for you guys, a silly question. If you could have any superpower in the world, what would it be?
Fabian: There’s so many.
Anton: I’d like to fly of course. Yes sometimes, especially when you’re a kid, you dream about being very light, and you look down at the floor, like “Oh man!” When I wake up I’m very sad because I can’t fly.
FDRMX: Where would you fly to if you could?
Anton: Everywhere! Not so far, just to be over the building would be great. Or just to escape traffic jams.
Fabian: My first thing was invisible, but that’s kind of lonely so maybe flying is better. But being able to go through walls and all this stuff is kind of a lonely adventure – you can’t take anybody with you.
Anton: Actually being able to fly is not a superpower. Birds can do it. But being invisible is a super power.
Fabian: I said invisible but it shows that I wanna be sneaky.
Anton: X-ray vision.
FDRMX: What about mind reading?
Anton: That would be scary.
Fabian: Is that your favorite super power?
Anton: Did you see that movie with Mel Gibson? He can read all the women’s minds.
Fabian: I guess it’s totally terrifying.
Anton: Better not [have mind-reading ability]. But some people are quite good at mind reading without hearing [people’s thoughts], they are so sensitive they can read your mind. You can learn.
Fabian: I dunno….