FEATURE
Automat - This is a Berlin Affair

Automat - This is a Berlin Affair

1. Introduction

The band Automat formed in 2011 and is the result of common efforts of Jochen Arbeit, the guitarist who came to world prominence with Die Haut and Einstürzende Neubauten; Achim Färber, a sought-after drummer with the likes of Project Pitchfork, Prag or Phillip Boa; and finally the bassist Zeitblom, known from Sovetskoe Foto and through his award winning radio play works, especially in collaboration with author/publisher Michael Farin.

Automat, a constant groooove. An album, as you would imagine flying to be if you have never flown: a steady glide from leaving the apartment to reaching the destination. No waiting, no queuing, no turbulence; a smooth check-in, easy border controls, unhindered boarding.

The Attic met the three German musicians in Bucharest, before their gig in Control Club. During a very nice dinner, we discussed the origins of the band, the debut album released on Bureau B, Berlin and much more. Take a seat and take off.


“Automat is the perfect name for our band, because it has to do a lot with the music. We are playing like a machine; we are the robots.”

2. The Berlin Airports

Dragoș: Hello guys, what have you been up to lately?

Zeitblom: Hello! Fine, really fine, thank you! Well, in the summer, soccer and holidays. And we recorded a new single two or three weeks ago with Max Loderbauer; you know Max Loderbauer, Sun Electric? He works with Ricardo Villalobos, Moritz von Oswald. He has a studio where we record always, so we are neighbors.

Dragoș: Let’s talk a little bit about the debut album that you just released on Bureau B. How was the recording process of the album? How long it took you to record it?

Jochen Arbeit: Long. A long time.

The recordings itself.. we record it really fast, because we always play one take, sometimes we just record two songs and a few months later we record two more songs. Or we did it in the beginning. So it was a two years process, only the recordings.

Dragoș: You formed the band in 2011.

Yes, first gig it was in December 2011.

Dragoș: So it was first the idea of four tracks named after the airports in Berlin and after that also the idea of including guests vocalists (Lydia Lunch, Blixa Bargeld and Genesis P-Orridge)?

Jochen Arbeit: No, it’s the other way around. We had these songs with the vocalists and then we had the instrumentals. And we had to find a way to mix this together. So we had only working titles for the instrumentals, so we had to come up with a system to give them proper titles. We had to come up with something people would understand.

Dragoș: How did you choose the guests to work with?

Jochen Arbeit: Friends. All friends. People who would come to town, we would grab them, kidnap them, put them in the studio (all laughing) and tell them ‘sing now!’. Then we would give them some food and some drinks and bring them back to the airport.

D: Any money? I assume no..

Jochen Arbeit: No, we don’t have any money. We get them free, that is enough. Maybe two bottles of wine for Blixa.

Andrei: What’s the story with the airports from Berlin?

Zeitblom: Well, we had, we have airports, and we are still waiting for the new one. We recorded in Tempelhof, the old one, there’s a studio there, and so the airports were always on our minds. And we have like two functioning airports, waiting for the other one, and two are closed.

Dragoș: Any connection to Brian Eno’s album ‘Music for airports’?

Jochen Arbeit: No, not really.

But we are using airports all the time; we spent a lot of time on airports. We are from Berlin, but we choose also other airports, for the single with Kreidler, to continue this concept. But now we stopped this, airports, we do something else, for the next album. We have another idea, we are not telling you. It’s too early. Not yet. First let’s do it, and then we can talk about it.

D: By the way, how’s it going with the tour promotion of the album? A lot of concerts?

Jochen Arbeit: Not at the moment. Maybe we will play more next year, hopefully. This year was difficult.

D: Why?

Jochen Arbeit: Not telling.

D: You are very mysterious.

Jochen Arbeit: Yes, always.

D: You play more with music and less with words?

Jochen Arbeit: Yes, we don’t have a singer; we don’t even have a microphone to say hello and good bye to the people.

D: Oh, this is not a problem; we can bring a lot of microphones.

(laughing) Only if you insist.

3. The City of Berlin

Andrei: How important is your connection to the local scene in Berlin?

Jochen Arbeit: Which local scene?

Andrei: The music scene.

Jochen Arbeit: There is one. But I don’t know, which one? There are many different small scenes.

Andrei: From post punk to something which is more similar to what’s happening now in electronic music. Do you think there’s something specific from Berlin, in your sound or do you relate to anything that’s happening now there?

Jochen Arbeit: It’s not only Berlin based, it’s all the influences we get from everywhere, from music, and it has nothing to do with Berlin.

Andrei: Because the narrative it’s little about Berlin, like the airports.

Dragoș: It’s a Berlin affair.

Jochen Arbeit: Yes, because what else can we talk about? We have to talk about where we live, right? This is the closest you can get. Of course, you can go to many concerts in Berlin, everybody is playing somewhere there, so if you’re really interested, you can go and watch, to see live things. I don’t really do that so often.

Zeitblom: There are all those people from different scenes, the old scene and the new scene.

Jochen Arbeit: There’s no real new scene anymore, it was 30 years ago, you can say, but not anymore. Not for me, at least. I don’t know…

Dragoș: How do you find the city now?

Zeitblom: Changing..

Jochen Arbeit: Different, very different than 20 years ago. Or 30 years ago. Very different. I don’t know.. sometimes I ask myself, ‘is it my town still or it is not anymore?’ Can I relate with this town anymore? Is it so different than it’s not even I feel at home anymore. I don’t have an answer for this question, but I ask myself..

Dragoș: It’s the least German city from Germany.

Jochen Arbeit: Yes, of course. This is good. But it’s not like it was, it’s changing and I don’t know where it goes. Maybe, in 10 years, I won’t live there anymore, because I can not afford it anymore. It’s so expensive.

Achim: Yes, in the last 2-3 years it has exploded.

Zeitblom: It was so cheap 10 years ago, but now…

Jochen Arbeit: So I have my doubts about what will happen in the next 10 years, maybe I will have to move.

Dragoș: Maybe move to Dusseldorf?

Jochen Arbeit: (laughing) Neah… Maybe I’ll move to Bucharest!

Dragoș: That’s actually a good idea! Life is very cheap here, compared to Berlin.

Jochen Arbeit: Yes, I’ve heard a lot of artists move here because of this. You can work here, pay low rent, and work here, properly, and then they move of course from here as a base, they work somewhere else.

Dragoș: It is similar to how it was Berlin 10 years ago.

Andrei: Except the infrastructure.

4. Music background

Dragoș: How did you come up with the name Automat?

Jochen Arbeit: Research. Because nowadays, every name you can possible imagine already exists.

Dragoș: Even Automat. I found an italo/space disco project from the ‘70s, and some project from France.

Jochen Arbeit: We even got invited to play for a gig, but it was a confusion, they wanted someone else actually. And the promoters were like ‘oh, there’s so much money you want for only one person, for one guy? We can not do this.‘ But it was the other guy. The problem is all the names are gone, probably, so we have to find one, which is still working, so we used a lot the Internet to find out. In the old days, you could choose a name and that was it, you know? But now, everything is gone, because you do research, you find somebody in Australia with that name, so what you do? So yes, choosing the name took us a long time, at least a year. Many sleepless nights, drinking, many nights.

Zeitblom: The first show was without a name.

Jochen Arbeit: Oh yes. So it’s getting more and more complicated to find a name, because everything is gone, taken.

Zeitblom: I think it’s the perfect name for our band, because it has to do a lot with the music. We are playing like a machine; we are the robots (all laughing)

Jochen Arbeit: Sometimes.

Andrei: Regarding the rich music background that all of you have, what brought you together in this formula?

Jochen Arbeit: I insist on at least 30 years of studio experience, otherwise I don’t play with people anymore. So I know these guys have 30 years; each of us has 30 years studio experience.

Zeitblom: 29. (laughing)

Jochen Arbeit: So it is a good feeling in the studio.

Zeitblom: Yes, you don’t have to talk about…things. Just set up and play. It’s very easy. No discussion.

Dragoș: But you know each other for… ?

Jochen Arbeit: 4, 5 years… Not so long..

Zeitblom: We just met right before we started playing.

Jochen Arbeit:I brought them together. Mafia style (laughing)

Dragoș: Were you aware of the music projects each one of you was involved in?

Jochen Arbeit: More or less. It’s more important to know the taste of the people, not what they do or in which bands they play. This is not so important, but to know the individual and personal taste of everybody, this is important. And then you can say, ‘oh yeah, I know what he likes, maybe this fits.’

Dragoș: Yes, but to know the taste, you must know the person.

Jochen Arbeit: Oh yes, definitely. You have to be personal.

Zeitblom: We have a lot of taste that we just crossed, what we meet.

Jochen Arbeit: We grew up on the same things. We have a common musical universe.

Achim: 35 years ago, we had the same records.

Dragoș: Sound wise, the album is a combination of dub, experimental and other suff. Can we still call it a dance album?

Jochen Arbeit: If you want. It’s danceable, yes.

Dragoș: Does it have any certain purpose?

Jochen Arbeit: People to enjoy it, of course.

Zeitblom: We are happy when people are dancing and having a good time.

Jochen Arbeit: Yes. It’s very simple actually. I come from a background where I did, for many years, a lot of improvised concerts, without drums and grooves, so I said at some point that a bit of grooves and a bit of drums would be good. So I had a face without, and now I have a face very groovy, so it’s like this. And I like it a lot. Because I was missing, I was missing the groove.

Andrei: Tell us a little bit about the EP released with Kreidler.

Jochen Arbeit: The record company asked us to do some songs. It was the Record Store Day, I never heard about it before, it was new to me. We recorded some songs and it just happened.

Dragoș: I’ve heard that Einstürzende Neubauten is planning to release a new album.

Jochen Arbeit: Yes, soon. Pretty soon. But I don’t want to talk about this, let’s talk about Automat.

Meanwhile I found out that the new album from Einstürzende Neubauten is called ‘’Lament’’ and features 14 tracks. The album version of LAMENT should be heard as a studio reconstruction of a work primarily designed to be performed live, rather than an official new Einstürzende Neubauten LP proper. More on the official website.

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