Zahn are a new instrumental (noise) rock group consisting of Nic Stockmann (Heads., ex-Eisenvater) Chris Breuer (Heads., ex-The Ocean) and Felix Gebhard (live-Einstürzende Neubauten)
This, as well as 87,5% of the content on the album started with one of Chris Breuer’s relentless bass riffs. The drums follow the riff, Nic Stockmann puts them together in a way that, when I listen to ZERRUNG, makes me feel like I’m slapped in the face repeatedly for the duration of the song. While, guitar-wise, I had intended to create a Cramps-like vibe in the song’s intro, this ended up being something completely different after Wolfgang Möstl added his spooky noise guitar tracks, which was a nice surprise. I don’t know how Peter Voigtmann makes his recording room sound the way it does, but the drums were huge even before Dennis Jüngel performed his magic during the mixing process.
There’s a German expression, often used to describe a piece of music that is tight and ‘in your face’, that’s also illustrating the actual act of hitting someone on the head. The expression is ‘auf die Zwölf’ and it’s pretty much what I think of when I’m trying to find an adjective to describe this track. ‘Auf die Zwölf’ is also a very macho thing to say, which nicely adds to the overall flavor (and the title) of this tune. I think we managed to deliver this as direct and minimalist as possible. The way guitar and bass are simultaneously plowing through the chorus parts gives me goose bumps and when at first Fabian Bremer adds spaceship synthesizers and fuzz and then Peter Voigtmann comes in with the extra drums the whole room explodes in a very beautiful way. If you listen very closely to the second verse you’ll hear a Stooges-inspired piano that was played by a caveman.
The song’s title was inspired by Werner Enke’s monologue on “Tseudophilosophie” in one of the finest works in the history of German cinema “Zur Sache Schätzchen”, a movie I’ve watched around forty times in my life, which my bandmates, when I enthusiastically tried to introduce it to them one night while we recorded the album, simultaneously fell asleep to. Later, they even wanted to change the song title, which I successfully vetoed. I know it’s not particularly cool to cite U2 as an influence, but I feel my guitar playing on Tseudo was somehow inspired by The Edge. Or at least I felt like The Edge when I played it (I even wore a black hat). Chris’ genius strike was buying a lap steel guitar and a looper pedal during the production process, which enables him to loop his bass part and play it back while switching over to the lap steel in the middle of the song and then move back to the bass again. Technology has come a long way since the olden days. After the overall build-up towards the end of the song where lap steel, delays and Alexander Hacke’s synthesizers create a raging ball of noise, all that remains is a spooky choir that Hacke added, leaving the listener with a promise of healing after all the terror and madness. Which the next track puts an end to.
This started as an improvisation on electric baritone guitar, which Peter Voigtmann captured between recording other songs. I edited it, gave it some structure and put a lot of synthesizer tracks and some electronic beats on top. Sofia Salvo later provided some of her magical trademark saxophone styles, which, to my ears, turns the whole thing into this weird scenario where a free jazz horn player gets lost in a Berlin night club on a rainy September Sunday noon, when only a few hardcore enthusiasts keep moving on the dance floor while everybody else starts swigging big glasses of water in fear of the approaching comedown.
Although we won’t be able to ever play this piece live it’s one of my favorites on the album.
SCHRANCK is the first song we put together that didn’t get shelved later and in my memory this took us only about 30 minutes. It was instantly agreed on that this was a keeper. Structurally we never changed a thing, this is just the way it turned out. It’s the only track where I drop the low guitar string to a D, which I regret now, because aside from this I could play a whole Zahn set without changing the tuning. The title describes this piece rather accurately, ‘Schrank’ (without the extra C) being a big piece of furniture that you’ll have a hard time carrying around by yourself.
Because the tempo of the song and something in the bass riff reminded us of ‘Black Hole Sun’ by Soundgarden this little ditty was named LOCHSONNE SCHWARZ. To me it’s the oddest tune on the album. Alexander Hacke’s synthesizer additions make it even more weird and the whole thing turned out more claustrophobic than any of us had imagined. There’s hiss, there’s wobble, and there’s Nic and Chris’ stubborn and stoic steam engine rhythm section. Does all that make it a ‘song’? I still don’t know.
Like most Zahn songs this is based on a repetitive bass and drum figure that allow the guitar to do whatever on top. To me it’s one of our most fun tunes to play. The way we stumble into the chorus is a moment I look forward to every time. The sax lines Sofia Salvo throws at the listener throughout the last chorus make my hair stand up. I would like to thank whoever invented fuzz and reverse delay as those effects are the key elements to the guitar sound on this song.
The verse’s guitar line was written by Chris and it started a Sergio Leone movie in my head right away. I know everybody is always talking about how they were inspired by Ennio Morricone western movie scores, but in this case it’s true. This is our tribute to the maestro and what else could we name it but STAUB! I later added some very sad and longing harmonica lines that I was extremely satisfied with because to me they
transported the Morricone vibe even further, but my effort was turned down by my fellow bandmates. Can you believe it? Needless to say this situation almost led to the end of our little enterprise, but we managed to navigate this crisis and solve it over a few tin cups of cowboy coffee. The long piano loop at the very end is intended to help the audience find some peace and relaxation after listening to the album. We’d like to encourage everybody to use it as a soundtrack for a short moment of meditation and inspection of their inner life before returning to the world outside. Thank you.
On a Different Note:
- Track-by-Track: Deeper Graves – Open Roads
- Track-by-Track: Emerald Comets – Strangelands
- Track-by-Track: Darren j Holloway – Salt Heart
- An Interview With Electric Bird Noise / Brian McKenzie
- Track-by-Track // Tristan Welch – Temporary Preservation