Interview | HOWLING

Interview | HOWLING

A house music visionary and an indie rock eccentric find inspiration in each other.

by Joshua P. Ferguson

The story of HOWLING is one of happenstance and good fortune. Its members, Frank Wiedemann—one half of singular house duo Âme and co-founder of Innervisions records—and Ry X—indie vocalist and member of the Acid—come from seemingly opposite ends of the musical spectrum. Yet, working together, the result couldn't come across more naturally. What started as a chance meeting through a mutual friend led to the HOWLING's namesake single, one of our top five songs of the year after it debuted in 2012. 

Riding the back of its popularity, the two have turned out a full-length album called Sacred Ground which saw release on Ninja Tune sister label Counter Records earlier this summer. Deeply soulful and deeply house driven, the release presented the opportunity for us to chat with HOWLING's Frank Wiedemann. Speaking from his Berlin studio over Skype, Frank had lots to say about the band's genesis, taking the act live and how natural it's all been.

Your introduction to Ry came through a mutual friend. What was it about the two of you that made your friend think the two of you would hit it off? 
She was going to LA to visit Ry and I was Skyping with her and he was in the background. Then she came back and stayed at my place and was Skyping with him and I was in the background. We just got curious about who these other guys were I think. I didn’t know anything about Ry’s music, neither did he about mine so we met in LA for a pizza and figured out that we liked each other. We were in the same state in our lives in a way, change had happened for both of us and we were on the same path. He sent me the “Howling” sketch and I immediately started working on it. From there we moved on.

It seems like that happenstance and spontaneity is a theme for HOWLING. Were you looking for a collaboration like this—a vocalist or a way to do songwriting that wasn’t just dance tracks? 
No, not really. But I have to say, shortly before I met Ry I moved to Berlin after 37 years of living in South Germany. Since I’ve been here, there have been a lot of things like this happening for me. I think it was quite, I’m not saying logical, but it all made sense. I wasn’t particularly searching for a singer or songwriter but I was definitely very open-minded for something new at that time (and still am actually). The older I get I get more curious about collaborating with other people I guess.

On the surface it seems you two come from very different places musically, but obviously you and Ry clicked on a few levels. As you’ve gotten to know each other have you discovered mutual influences?  
Yes, not only musically. I think also from our whole lives. We come from totally different backgrounds but we are still interested in the same music and we are on the same ‘life level,’ if you know what I mean. I’m also curious what comes out when somebody interprets a Fela Kuti song and makes a folk song out of it and me doing a techno song out of it. It’s interesting which directions it leads us and then brings us back together.

The first result of you two working that way is the song “Howling.” Were you surprised by the level of response it got or did you two sense you were onto something already? 
Oh, you never know this. I had a very good feeling when I did the first version. It was instant love of the song. This is always a good sign of course, when you’re super secure and sure what to do with it. I was at Watergate, a club in Berlin, and played it there in my live set. The response was immediately very good, very very good. So of course you get a feeling, ok, this is something bigger than what you usually do. But no, you can’t plan that. So many things have to come together at the right time and the right spot, you can’t plan this in my opinion. 

Naturally does seem to be the best way, particularly for HOWLING. Can you tell us about how that song evolved into a full-fledged project? 
This all also happened quite naturally. Ry came over to play two very intimate shows and we needed more material for these shows. During rehearsals we instantly recorded things and it was a very natural way of working together. It was such fun you know, like, 'Oh that was so nice what you’ve just played I want to add something to it.' Plus we spent 10 days together and discovered it’s super nice to hang out together. We never really said, 'So should we have a project now?' It just happened.

You’re known for your electronic compositions but also your improvisational way of composing. It sounds like this worked really well for Ry also. 
Of course he’s the guy writing the song more classically, that was the beginning. But then we found out that he actually likes to work the same way I do, jamming and pressing the record button at the same time to capture the momentum in a way and get something out of the spontaneity. The best moments happen when you just play, in our opinion. Almost all the time the best take you do is the first time, so we were all about recording everything whenever we play.

You guys did a bunch of work in Berlin, but you record much of the album elsewhere yeah?
Actually, we recorded a lot on our first tour in 2013. We had a lot of off dates and time to spend on farms and in studios, quite innocent in a way. For example, there’s a little farm in South Germany where I try to escape Berlin sometimes. There’s an old Philips organ. It’s nothing special, but the place with the organ and the microphone, sometimes that’s just enough to do something special.

Pairing the song names and the places, it seems they played an important role. 
All the songs have a connection to a place and a certain moment in our lives actually. For me, the album is like a journey through the last three years. I know exactly what made us do this song and where we recorded and this and that. It’s like our diary in a way.

Now the question becomes how to get the record ready to play live. I know you have a third person that joins you live. 
The third person is Jens Kuross on drums and organ. Our advantage is probably that we already had two little tours to learn and to grow without too much pressure. Now that we’re going to do our first shows for this tour, we know quite well what we are doing and can also grow on this. Our plans are first, we’re going to have a couple different versions of each song. If it’s a house club or an intimate concert or a big stage at a festival, we want to be able to react to where were are and how we feel at the moment. The second is that we’re going to work together with a couple of visual artists. They are called Children of the Light from Amsterdam. They did the light show for Darkside with Nicolas Jaar. I like the simplicity and how easy it is to understand technically the Darkside show. You have the big mirror and the four spots and yet it’s doing some magical things visually for you.

Earlier you mentioned moving to Berlin has opened you up to new collaborations and such. One of these is your work with Henrik Schwarz. Is that something you’re hoping to do more of? 
The thing is Schwarzmann is all about improvisation. It’s a total freeform thing. We could be at Berghain playing techno for two hours or it could be like what happened in Amsterdam last year when we had 11 friends playing with us for one of the last days of Trouw. We both want to do more like this but we’re occupied by all of our other projects so Schwarzmann becomes like our playground. I don’t know what’s going to happen with it but we’re sure going to continue doing it. There’s no marketing plan behind it. We could do no record ever because it’s all just happening live or we could do ten records at the same time. I don’t know.

As a Chicagoan it’s always exciting to hear Kahil El Zabar in a setting with you guys, like he was at the show in Amsterdam. He just lends himself to that world and it would be great to hear more of it. Selfishly I want you all to do a record together.  
Ok cool, I’m talking with Henrik and Kahil. (laughs)

Our Interview with HOWLING first aired on Abstract Science. Listen back and download the show to hear that and more of HOWLING's music.

DOWNLOAD | Abstract Science 0906 + HOWLING Interview


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The machine device might not detect the collision or the slipping, so for example the device should now be at 210mm on the X-axis, but is, actually, at 32mm where it hit the obstruction and kept slipping. All of the following device motions shall be off by −178mm on the X-axis, and all future motions second are|are actually} invalid, which can result in further collisions with clamps, vises, or the machine itself. This is common in open-loop stepper techniques but isn't possible in closed-loop techniques unless mechanical slippage between the motor and drive mechanism has occurred. Instead, Puffer Jackets in a closed-loop system, the machine will proceed to attempt to maneuver in opposition to the load till either the drive motor goes into an overload condition or a servo motor fails to get to the specified place.


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