Luis Ake, a musician and former techno producer turned Neue Deutsche Welle meets Russian New Wave with a splash of Detroit club attitude and contemporary pop vulnerability, chats to us ahead of his debut LP drop for “Bitte Lass Mich Frei” (Please let me go, I’m lonely). A man who is self professedly making music for young hipsters with Apple AirPods who wear big white sneakers but also for the 40 year old Goths who are still listening to El Deux. “Bitte Lass Mich Frei” was recorded one cold winter in his hometown of Stuttgart after a break-up. “I’m only making music when I’m sad”, he says “I put the sorrow in the music and preserve it this way”.
“A strong emotion can write an arrangement practically by itself and it constitutes the core of a song“, Luis says. In this particular case some of the basics of the tracks were written in 20 minutes without a computer, only with a sequencer, a few synthesizers and here and there you will hear a real saxophone or a guitar. Equipment he has collected over the years, using it all to record everything by himself. The results are reduced arrangements in which he chases his own voice up and down, from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs like on “Rotmilan” or the single “Schillerndes Mädchen”.
We had a chat with him ahead of his Berlin release show to find out what inspires him about Schlager, the nicest compliment he’s ever received, and the importance of creating a true connecting with your audience.
Hi Luis, what’s the most rebellious thing that you ever did as a teenager?
Probably ripping of all the Mercedes-Benz stars from the engine hoods in our part of town with my best friend at that time. I think we had 34 at the end. I grew up in Stuttgart, the home to the factories of Mercedes-Benz and Porsche.
Aside from that we generally liked to destroy stuff and throw it on the streets, sometimes we would also burn it there.
Besides your own songs what’s one song that you know all the lyrics to?
Neil Young – “Midnight on the Bay” is the first song that comes to my mind, but actually I know every Neil Young song by heart. Same for the Beatles, Frank Zappa, early Genesis and a lot of classic 70s stuff I used to listened to in my childhood due to my father. I feel like I listened to music differently back then.
You have a background as a techno music producer and now in your solo music you can really hear undertones of Schlager mixed with contemporary pop and house sounds. Is that a good representation of you as a person too? Or is the Schlager element a tongue in cheek reference?
Not at all! I really like the voice melodies of Schlager and the fact that the main subject is “love”, just like in my music. I do listen to a lot of different stuff from different countries. My favourite singers are Marianne Rosenberg and Juliane Werding. Back in the 70s and 80s Schlager was really well produced music and I think I refer to this era when I talk about it. I dont know too much of the newer stuff, but I think it is bullshit. Mainly because contemporary Schlager is just really “charty” pop stripped down to its most primitive elements. So that’s a good mirror of what goes on in the big industry I guess.
What’s one of the nicest compliments you’ve ever received after a gig?
Once a girl said to me that she had an orgasm while I was performing on stage. I didn’t believe her, but I like when people do get this “live moment”. In the sense that they are aware that they have just been a part of something special and unique and can express that to me. That’s always my goal since my performance is really different from what my “studio” songs sound like. I find that really important too, because I stopped going to concerts a few years ago, since everybody was just playing the same shit that they have on their record. Like note for note with huge laptop kind of constructions, which really killed the vibe for me. How are you supposed to create a connection to the audience, when you are looking at the same screen you just jerked off next to or checked your mails with?
Which song on the album did you have the toughest time completing?
Probably “Rotmilan”. It was one of the first songs I wrote and the hook was super good and somewhat set. Then I somehow lost connection with it because also the situation I was in had changed. The situation I am referring to in this song. When I finished it I really hated it and I wrote like 10 different verses for it. Now it is full of different melodies and directions. I guess when this happens, you have to take a more theoretical approach since you can’t let your feelings make the decisions anymore.
Where was the music video for “Bitte Lass Mich Frei” shot? And were scenes like the guy walking passed you with his dog, who stops to take a leak on the fence next to you something that you were hoping would happen or was it an accident that worked?
The video was shot in Italy, I won’t tell you the city though. That’s a little riddle for you guys… But I am really bad at being a tourist, you know. I feel very uncomfortable especially in very touristic places. I was staying in Russia before I went to Italy and had the nicest time ever there because no one recognized me as a tourist. Then I jumped right into this touristic Disneyland full of old catholic ruins. The scene you are talking about is like the perfect mirror of my mind at this exact moment, so I guess it had to happen.
What’s one weird or defining thing that only where you live has?
No late night shops haha
What’s one thing that you hate that everybody else loves?
I guess going to the cinema. I hate it. Last time I went to the cinema was in India, when i was 18 and I went to a Bollywood movie. I’m generally not into movies so much. I can’t take them emotionally, it’s just too much for me. It is somewhat ironic because my studio is wall to wall to the iconic “Schauburg” cinema in Karlsruhe. I think they are one of the few who still have 70mm projections. Also, the projectionist is my neighbour. Sometimes he gives me free tickets but I never go.