Published Apr 03, 2014Unlike many of the artists that prowl in the trenches of house and techno, Phillip Sollmann (a.k.a. Efdemin) is not an easy one to pin down. Perhaps his instinctive musicianship, educated palette, technical prestige, or visual endeavours help keep the Berliner one step ahead. Whatever the reason, a commitment to putting himself first, in an industry so reliant on generated momentum, keeps the rest of us following his work in eager pursuit. As Sollmann preps for the release of Decay, his third full-length record, and a packed performance schedule (including two recent stops in Canada), he's never seemed more relaxed, or focused on his creative goals.
This album is quite different than both your previous full-length efforts. It feels almost like a third chapter in an overall expression of Efdemin. Does it feel that way for you?
I do like the idea of describing my musical output as chapters, and yes, this is a very different chapter than my last one. The story continues I suppose. It's four years later and many things have changed. I'm older and wiser (hopefully!), but I still try to make music that's interesting to me. Different circumstances and experiences will naturally produce new music.
Your MUTEK performance was much heavier and techno-oriented than a lot of people had anticipated. Looking back on that, how much have your recent touring/performances influenced the making of this album?
That performance was a good example of how I've developed over the last years. I've always been buying and playing techno music for my sets, but it has recently become more important. I still try to keep it open and bring in everything I like, whether it's classic minimal music, drone, or a Prince edit, but I try to focus more on the sonic side of techno because that's what I have always listened to back in the day in the late '90s. Maybe it's something outside of me, or inside of me, that made me want to go back to the Detroit/futuristic side of things and explore it a bit further.
So it was more your earlier influences that helped shape this record, rather than what you've been exposed to recently.
It feels that way. Like going back into my private archive of memories and experiences to remind myself what made me interested in the music in the first place. Now, after more than seven years of constantly travelling and playing music, I've finally had the chance to sit back a little bit and think about where I've come from and where I'd like to be. The album represents more of the type of music I play in my sets now, but it's not like I've completely changed. It's more like shining a different light on the same person, on the same stage.
The album is being dubbed as some of your more coherent work. Is that a result of you just taking a more refined approach to the album process?
No, I wouldn't say so. I think it's more about the state of mind I was in while making the record in Kyoto. I was quite relaxed, I didn't have to travel. I was staying in this very nice artist residency surrounded my good people and good food. My girlfriend was there with me and we were both very relaxed. I had all the material that I recorded in Berlin and I just had to choose what I liked and put it together. It was quite a quick process and I had a lot of fun doing it.
That material was recorded at your Berlin studio "The Meadow." Is that your own studio, or a joint project?
It's my own studio in a building from the '50s that a group of people now rent, but I have my own acoustical space. It looks beautiful and sounds amazing. We call it "The Meadow" as a joke because there is a tiny strip of green grass in the back where we sit and have lunch. We've been trying to get the grass to grow, but it's the furthest thing from a meadow. I could only wish it was in the countryside, but it's still very beautiful here.
Can you tell us a bit more about the artistic residency in Kyoto? How did that opportunity come about?
It's a German artist residency program for writers, filmmakers and musicians. They give about 12 people a year the chance to go there for three months. My girlfriend and I applied together with a film project that we're still in the process of making. We intend to go back this year to finish it. Hopefully you'll hear about it sometime next year, I'm still working on the music for it.
What was the biggest influence your time in Japan had on the record?
There were two experiences in Japan that were really outstanding. One was our trip to a Southern island in Japan called Yakushima. This was such a mind-blowing place. It's a volcanic island with high mountains and very few people. You can drive around on one road and the rest is jungle forest. We were there for a week hiking in the forest. There are trees there that are said to be over four thousand years old, some of the oldest trees in the world. It had a really fairy-tale feeling.
The other was my trip to Ohara. It's a little village north of Kyoto in the mountains. I went there for two weeks straight nearly every day to see the monks celebrating one thousand years of their temple. They were singing/chanting in a monophonic sutra. It was accompanied by a small variety of instruments, some percussion and flutes. It was very intense to listen to. We were treated very well. After a few days, they realized how often we were coming. We were the only Western people there, surrounded by monks. I asked if I could film and they said yes of course. We have a lot of material of this temple in the middle of the forest. It was really great.
There are some remix plans for the album, are you able to provide a few more details on that?
Yes, there are two EPs following the album release. Some great artists are coming on board this time, but not all of them have handed in final products yet. I can tell you that I've already received an excellent remix from Staffan Linzatti, one of the top techno producers in my mind right now. Johannes Volk and Prince of Denmark will also feature remixes of Parallaxis.
Last time we chatted you mentioned the possibility of some new Pigon material, your project with Oliver Kargl. Is that still going to happen?
I hope that is going to happen. He recently became a father and is pretty absorbed taking care of the baby. I haven't seen him in awhile. We still talk, but it's rare to find time to meet. He's not coming to clubs and I'm travelling a lot. I think there will be some new stuff coming, but I couldn't tell you when. We have to continue our work, it was too much fun working together. Not just on the musical side, but personally too. I think we both miss it.