Outbox: Thomas Fehlmann
- Words: Patric Fallon
Calling Thomas Fehlmann anything but a legend would be a gross misstep. The veteran ambient techno producer has been releasing music since the early '80s—an era verging on "vintage"—on a varied list of respectable labels, both solo and with Alex Paterson as The Orb. Now in his 50s, Fehlmann recently embarked on a new endeavor: composing the soundtrack to German reality TV show 24H Berlin. From those sessions, Fehlmann's latest album, Gute Luft, was born. We snagged the painfully serious techno progenitor for a chance to e-chat about his first concert, what song people should remember him for, and why he'd like Brangelina with him on a desert island.
What sounds do you hear while you're answering these questions?
The fridge, passing cars, a few raindrops, the rumble of the city in the distance, and the scratching of my ears on my hoodie.
What are the earliest bands you remember listening to as a child?
I only knew The Beatles for a good while. Then I liked The Mothers of Invention and Traffic. Later, Led Zeppelin. That was also my first-ever concert. Memorable!
What were your hobbies as a kid growing up in Zürich?
Exploring the nearby woods, playing guitar, collecting records, copying Picasso paintings.
Any embarrassing moments from performing live?
The sudden failure of the power supply in front of approximately 6,000 people at the Benicassim Festival was pretty embarrassing.
It's a few hours before you go on at a massive festival. What are you doing before you go on stage?
[Taking] a power nap.
What's the best meal to eat the morning after a night of heavy drinking?
Porridge with fruit, nuts, and honey.
Describe your music in three words.
Sexy ear candy.
Is it odd being surrounded by kids half your age when you perform?
Odd? What are you talking about? I didn't notice that yet. : ) It's another beautiful aspect of music to make those clichés redundant.
You're secluded on a desert island. Name five albums, four movies, three books, two people, and one beverage that you take with you.
Albums: Miles Davis' Bitches Brew, Brian Eno's Another Green World, Wolfgang Voigt's GAS, The Mothers of Invention's Uncle Meat, and Theo Parrish's Sound Signature.
Movies: Federico Fellini for the fantasy, François Truffaut for the heart, Quentin Tarantino for the fun, and David Lynch for the mystery.
Books: David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, G.I. Gurdjieff's All and Everything, and Robert Musil's The Man Without Qualities.
People: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, because they would come with a helicopter.
Beverage: Sake (provided water would already be there).
You're asked to do a Kraftwerk tribute album. What songs would you cover with The Orb? What songs would you do under your solo moniker?
I don't like the idea as such, but if I had to, I would choose material from the first three albums that still have not been re-released. With The Orb, I'd do "Kling Klang." On my own, I'd do "Tanzmusik" from Ralf und Florian.
If you could've spent your life doing anything outside of music, what would it have been?
I guess I would be working in visual arts. That's where I initially came from.
If you could choose one of your songs to live on as your legacy, which would it be?
"Du Fehlst Mir" from Vision of Blah.
How did the soundtrack for the 24H Berlin TV show become Gute Luft?
With a massive pair of digital scissors and lots of green tea.
Listen to "Permanent Touch" off of Gute Loft which is out now on Kompakt.
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