Interview: Five Minutes with KOMFORTRAUSCHEN
Three precision-obsessed control freaks have come together to create KOMFORTRAUSCHEN, a live techno act hailing from the historic city of Berlin. Comprised of Tim Sarhan, Laurenz Karsten and Phillip Oertel, the trio have just released their latest singles, ‘Mechatronik I’ and ‘Mechatronik II’.
With each of them sitting at over ten years of experience in the industry, it’s clear to see they’ve taken their time to refine their talents. With unrestrained, hedonistic techno meeting the attitude of a garage rock band, KOMFORTRAUSCHEN burst forth with dark basslines and pulsing guitar rifts. Using traditional instruments in untraditional ways, this German outfit is not one to be missed.
Set the tone for us. Why the arts?
We are into music because we want to express ourselves. We play techno because we like repetitive grooves, love aggressive sounds as well as lush and soft ambient pads. Music like techno gives us the possibility to layer soundscapes on top of each other and, at the same time, repeat riffs and melodies like a mantra over and over again. It is also a big challenge for us, as instrumentalists, to get close to the sound ideals of techno. We love this challenge!
Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?
It could be both: Sometimes it is a melody or a riff, not tied to a specific sound. Sometimes it is a new piece of gear we just bought that creates new sounds and fuels us with new ideas… Fooling around with new equipment and exploring its possibilities often brings new ideas.
Does your material feature any collaborations?
We love to collaborate with other musicians or projects. We featured Inéz (Ätna) on our track ‘Astray’ and worked together with artists like Kassian Troyer (Dial) and Jacob Korn (Uncanny Valley) with whom we will play a special show in February. We also plan to release a collaboration with Rocko Garoni (Second State, Sisyphon) who worked with us on four of our tracks. The Mechatronik EP was mixed by Wanja Hüffel, who has been our live sound guy for a long time and who also works with David August a lot.
What’s on your current playlist?
At the moment we dig a lot of harder Techno. Artists such as Schacke, Regal or La Fraicheur really inspire us. When we recorded Mechatronik we were also strongly influenced by more minimalist artists like for example Jan Jelinek or Robert Hood, for example, whose stringency we admire. However, we are not only into Techno, we also love bands like Queens of the Stone Age, King Gizzard and the Lizzard Wizard, or Kurt Vile. On Mechatronik we kind of combined our love for techno with our love for garage rock.
Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.
We perform like a band, not like a DJ or an electronic live act. That means the fans can actually see how the music is being created in real-time. If Tim, our drummer, is not hitting the kick drum, for instance, the crowd will not only hear no kick drum, they may also see him hit it again after a few bars. The audience can see how the riffs are actually being played on electric guitar and bass, and we can directly interact with them. The level of energy is high (almost like a rock show – except that we play techno and not rock music).
What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?
We like to extend our instruments with effects pedals and stompboxes. We try to emulate the sound of a synthesizer with a guitar which leads us to sounds that are perhaps reminiscent of a synth but definitiely don’t sound like guitar at all. We also work a lot with sequencing and triggering certain stompboxes with sequencers. For instance, the main guitar riff on Mechatronik I is played with an E-Bow but sliced by a tremolo kind of effect which is triggered by a sequencer. On the other hand, we love simple solutions like stacking cymbals on top of a snare drum to emulate the sound of a 909 type clap.
Take us through a day in the recording studio.
Since we don’t have the opportunity to make coffee anymore we start right away with recording / composing or rehearsing new material. After two hours we take a break and normally buy some stuff at the local grocery store. Lately, we have developed an addiction to nachos and chilli beans. Nasty but nutritious, that keeps us going. After two hours of work, we also need to buy some coffee. Usually, we start at 10 o’clock in the morning and leave the studio 4-6 hours later.
Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?
After playing an improvised electronic set together for the first time at a local club and making people dance for about 2 hours straight we knew: this is super fun, we can do even better and if we do it in a smart way, we might even be able to make a living out of it!
What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?
Frustrating answer: a smartphone to check what time it is. Almost every time we play our stage time is limited and we need to know when to finish.
Any emerging artists on your radar?
La Fraicheur just announced a live cooperation with Leonard DeLeonard. This is going to be intense for sure!
What gets your creative juices flowing?
Live sets from other live acts and bands. Nights at clubs like Sisyphos or the Fusion Festival. New gear. Fresh pots of coffee. Non-alcoholic beer. Long walks in the rain. Baking your own bread.
Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.
The Elektron Octatrack is the heart of our setup. It’s the master clock, the sequencer, and it works as an effects processor and controller for the Clavia Nord Drum 3 which might afterwards get embellished or destroyed by the Elektron Analog Heat. The origin of almost all of the sounds is a real audio signal coming from the drum set, the guitar or the bass guitar. The latter two are then sent through a large number of stompboxes. For example, we use the Pigtronix Philosopher King to put an ADSR envelope on the patterns we play, plus several synth and filter pedals like the Meris ENZO or the Iron Ether Subterranea and Xerograph Deluxe. Put some delays on top (we use Boss DD-500 and TC Electronic Flashback), some sub bass on the bottom and add the magic of our sound engineer. This is our setup!
Any side projects you’re working on?
We play in different projects as sidemen, for example with Studnitzky or Seraleez. But mainly we focus on KOMFORTRAUSCHEN.
How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?
We have always received tips from producers and help from colleagues and friends, we have been confronted with new challenges and have definitely grown from them. We are also permanently working on our playing and our setup to overcome the challenges we have to face as instrumentalists who play techno live. So the answer is yes! But the journey is far from over.
Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you next year?
Within the next 12 months there will be at least one bigger release, a tour and lots of festivals to be played. We’re going to start working on an album soon, too. There are big things ahead!
Famous last words?
For us, Mechatronik means adding a mechanical vibe to the music we play on guitars, bass and drums. We use gates, lots of electronic devices, we compress and we distort signals. We re-engineer synths in real time, we use more cables than strings, electricity is more important to us than to any other band. We are an electronic band. We are KOMFORTRAUSCHEN.