Tag Archives: interview

Backstage with FOKN BOIS

So guys, what was the first instrument that introduced you to music? 

M3NSA: “All of my friends and family played the piano. My both grandfathers were serious piano players; almost professional so to say. So, when I told my parents that I wanted to learn to play keys they both jumped on it. A bit too seriously I might add. I started getting lessons five days a week.

“At that time, I was around eight or nine years old and I naturally hated it. After that I was put in a choir and I became a serious piano player in the church. Stuff like hymns and accompaniments for the singers in the choir. At a certain point I started to go through changes in my body, if you know what I mean. My interest for the girl singers increased substantially and rock music took over.”

That was the end of soul?

M3NSA: “Well, yes and no. It was the end of the church soul and the beginning of a new kind of soul. Eventually I got more interested in just producing. Combining different instruments and making new sounds.”

When you’re composing, what is your favorite key to write in?

M3NSA: “I like minors. It’s usually easy for me to write something in Gm. When a piece is finished I use a computer to transpose it to whatever key I want.”

Do you still have your first instrument?

M3NSA: “Yeah, actually I do have my first keyboard, a Casio. One of the transistors blew up, but my mum still kept it. This synthesizer was special, because it had all the sounds which were used on the Carpenters song “Rainy Days and Mondays”, so I used to play them a lot. It was crazy.”

And what was your first instrument, Wanlov?

Wanlov the Kubolor: “For me it was also the piano. There was one in my dad’s house, but no one was urging me to play it. It was just there, so I started playing it and experimenting on it like every day. And one day my father gave it to his girlfriend.”

What a dick move. Did that break your heart?

Wanlov the Kubolor: “Yeah, it kind of did. So, I went on to the next thing, catching insects and dissecting them.”


Wanlov the Kubolor: “No, just kidding. But after that, there was no music for a long time. Years and years later I saw a guitar at a friend’s room, picked it up and started experimenting. I was just fooling around on the strings figuring it out along the way. I never had guitar lessons and I never learned anything about keys, notes or even the names of the strings.

“Not until three years ago when I watched a documentary made by a Swedish guy about a musician from Detroit, Michigan called Sixto Rodriguez: ‘Searching for Sugar Man’. I fell in love with his story and his music, so I seriously started studying the guitar. Before that I was more into percussion.

“Now I really like the guitar, because the instrument is good for accompanying my voice when I have something serious to say and that’s all I need.”

You can do a lot of percussion on your guitar, right?

Wanlov the Kubolor: “True, and it’s a lot easier to carry it around as well.”

So, what do you guys love most about your job? 

M3NSA: “All the different types of Wi-Fi and all the passwords that go along with them. It gives you the feeling of infinite power, being connected to the world. It’s amazing, really.”

Wanlov the Kubolor: “Yeah, all those different names, emails, places. I have to agree with M3NSA, it’s great.”

Wi-Fi? Okay, cool. So what is the craziest Wi-Fi name you have in your collection?

M3NSA (laughing): “‘Wu Tang-LAN Ain’t Nothing to Fuck With.'”

Wanlov the Kubolor: “I’ll have to go with ‘Pretty Fly For a Wi-Fi’. That’s one of my favorites. But now to answer your question. We are all caught up in so many routines in our daily lives. Not only the people here, but almost everybody around the world. We only know the route from our home to work or school and that’s it.

“But, exposure to the world makes you more understanding and tolerant towards other cultures. So, what we are blessed with, because of our job as musicians, is that we get to travel a lot. This helps us becoming more wholesome people, more understanding. It challenges us to look at things from a different perspective.”

Makes sense. Does all that travelling together turn you into family?

Wanlov the Kubolor: “Yeah, it really grounds you like a person. Entering different communities and lifestyles gives you a lot of new energy and brings you together. It’s an adventure that the two of us are living day in day out.”

M3NSA: “I often try to picture me living in Ghana or England my whole life stuck in a set paradigm, a box. Well, I think I would have been a very angry and frustrated person if that was the case. Now I feel really grounded and I feel very comfortable in my skin, because of my experiences as a traveler. It’s not only about the music, but more about the whole experience.”

And now we’re on the subject of experiences. What is the weirdest thing you have experienced backstage?

M3NSA: “Backstage? Wow, that’s a good question. Wanlov?”

Wanlov the Kubolor: “Snoop Dogg. Yup, that’s by far the weirdest adventure we had backstage.”

M3NSA: “We were playing at Sziget festival in Hungary and when we entered the artist area we saw the whole Dogg Pound with Snoop, Warren G, Daz Dillinger, Nate Dogg had just passed away. This are people we grew up idolizing and sharing a room with those guys was something we never thought possible.”

Wanlov the Kubolor: “Snoop had his own bodyguards. He told us that he had them around to protect him from the local authorities, because smoking weed isn’t legal everywhere in the world. Crazy stuff, so by far our weirdest backstage experience.”

If you had to give one tip to starting musicians, what would it be? 

M3NSA: “Don’t do it.”

Wanlov the Kubolor (laughing): “And if you don’t want listen. Well, then just start doing what you want to do. Don’t listen an’ go for it. Keep trying, keep practicing, keep experimenting until you hit the spot in your soul.”

When do you hit that spot?

M3NSA: “You’ll know when you do.”


Backstage with pianist Martin Kohlstedt

We watched pianist Martin Kohlstedt play an impressive live session at Welcome to the Village. After listening to the hypnotizing sounds of his set we couldn’t just leave without asking Martin some questions about his views on playing piano, improvising and music in general.

That was pretty amazing what you did there Martin. Do you remember the first time that you touched a piano?

Thank you so much. Yes, I do remember the first time I started playing the piano. I was twelve years old. We had a detuned piano in the living room, so I would sit behind it and play the A key in sync with the big clock that we had in the room.

That was very meditative for me. So at one point I started to put tone on tone, on tone on tone. Step by step I began to form my own musical language with its own terminology.

So you designed your own way of interpreting music. But actually you weren’t aware of what tones, notes and chords you were playing?

Yes, I was just experimenting with sounds, combining tones and chords I liked and neglecting combinations that did not appeal to me. I did this for about three years. When I turned fifteen I started getting lessons for keyboard. That’s when I got acquainted with the traditional way of reading and interpreting music.

Was that hard after such a long time of thinking and acting in a certain way?

Actually no. It depends on the teacher. A classical teacher is more likely to force you to adapt to the “real” system and hit you on the back, so you sit straight when playing. Luckily I had a jazz teacher. A very nice and open-minded guy with whom I could talk about the way I saw music and experienced it.

That was the moment I knew that I was at the right place and that I had to learn to understand the jazz circle so I could talk to other musicians. So I started with jazz lessons.

Since you have another way of looking at sound, we at Chordify are very interested in what your favorite chord is. Do you have one?

Let me think. Yes I do have a favorite chord. It is an Em with a four inside it. I don’t know why, but maybe it has to do with the way I compose music. When I start playing I’m never deciding from the very beginning if the piece is going to be in major or minor. This chord kind of keeps all the options open. It helps me to be free in my play.

I saw that you have a lot of percussion in your style of playing. Where does that come from?

That’s true. The name of the song is TARNAO and it is made up from two three letter patterns – I always name my patterns. When I play I combine these patterns so it becomes one big improvisation. TAR is very percussion oriented. Especially in the piece that I did for the session I hit the keys hard, almost as a kind of drums.

So in your composing you still go back to the old piano in your parents’ living room. Do you still have that original instrument by the way?

Well, I kind of still have it. The piano is new from the inside, but the housing is from the old instrument.

Did you name the piano?

Interesting thought. Well actually I never had a name for my piano. It was more of a presence, a feeling which I associate with the instrument. Like a partner, someone you talk to and play with

What part of your job as an artist do you love most?

I’m free. The thing is, I grew up in a very conservative region in the south of Germany. Everybody was talking about the future in ways of making money. What jobs are the best, what skills are most likely to get you rich. I’m not like that. That’s why I didn’t like this way of reasoning.

What I really love is travelling around, meeting new people and learning from them, talking with them about music. That kind of freedom is something other jobs can’t give me, because I do what I love most; making music.

Who is the most inspiring fellow artist you met in the last couple of years?

There was one wonderful guy with whom I did an improvisation. His name is Peter Broderick and I played a session with him in Münster and also for a German radio station, NDR. We didn’t know each other personally, but we did a very intimate improvisation. He was very expressive and I was very introvert in the beginning.

While we were jamming we started to know each other through the music. So we got acquainted through playing together. That is a whole other way of talking to each other, a totally different and deeper conversation, than just sitting and exchanging thoughts.

That sounds really great. I have one last question for you Martin. If you could give one tip to a beginning musician, what would that be?

Wait with the sheet music. Use your own inspiration while getting to know your instrument. Don’t follow strict rules before you have explored the world of sounds on your own first.

Releasing the Android app: an interview with design master Dean

Dean and the team at Hiro worked for months on the long awaited Android app. The long hours paid off, because now everyone can download the freshly brewed app for free! But what preceded the release? We asked Hiro’s product designer Dean Janssen about his experiences.

Android App Chordify Google Play

How did the developing process go?

“Compared to an iOS app, developing an Android app is quite challenging. There are so many more devices that can potentially work with the app. With the iOS app you only have to consider a handful of iPhone models. That means that the testing for Android is far more extensive.”

How do you look back on making the app?

“Because of the strong demand it was very tempting to start shipping in an early stage. But I’m happy that we took enough time to do a sufficient amount of beta testing. It may have taken a little longer, but now that everything is running stable, we can launch the app with confidence.”

What are you most proud of?

“Above all that it has become a true Chordify app. Whether people use the iOS version, or the Android version, the ease-of-use stands out. Apart from some minor adjustments specific to Android, the apps are very similar.”

What do you hope the app will do?

“I’m mainly curious there will be differences in how people use the Android app or the iOS app. Which app do people use longer and more often? Will they be using the app on different locations and different moments? For example, with our previous apps, we could clearly see that iOS users got out of bed earlier, and that Android users stayed up later. It’s fun to observe stuff like that.”

Download the app here. Happy jamming!

Dean Janssen – product designer at Hiro