D//E Interviews: Paul Haslinger

Paul Haslinger, composer of many film scores, once a member of Tangerine Dream, master collaborator and all round forward thinking musician, has had a very productive time recently, first with Neuland, his project alongside a fellow Tangerine Dream alum, Peter Baumann, and lately with his first solo album in quite a while, Exit Ghost.

The acclaimed musician discusses both his recent works and more in the interview with D//E.

Does Neuland differ much from your other projects? What makes this project stand out in such a large body of work as yours? 

Certainly, any collaboration is defined by the particular interaction between the partners. i.e. Peter and I have a certain way to work on music together that’s quite different from our respective solo works. So this is the original justification for doing this. How it stands out against our other work, the audience will have to decide.

How different did Neuland end up being, compared to its initial conception as Blue Room? 

Any new project is about exploration and Neuland is no different. We went down quite a few paths with it and ended up with the balance and mix that was eventually released as a double-LP. Blue Room by the way was NOT the blueprint for Neuland, quite the opposite. Different times, different projects.

What made you shelve those sessions back then, and why did you keep them postponed for so long? 

Blue Room was an effort to branch out, work with a singer and various other musicians. Neuland, in contrast, was started as an electronic project, with only Peter and myself involved. Yes, both projects have Peter and me at the core, but with a completely different focus.

About your new solo album, Exit Ghost; how would you describe it? 

Exit Ghost is the piano record I’ve been thinking about making for 20 years. As such, it was always intended to be a personal statement. It took a while to figure out and to make it representative of both my starting points and my path as a musician and composer over the years.

For this new album you cite influence from John Fowles’ novel The Magus. In what way is the record inspired by that book? 

The book is set in Greece, a place which I have visited often and always felt a special connection with. The story is about our questioning of reality, a book of mirrors. Which is how I perceive life, as a series of questions and perspectives which keep shifting. One of the book’s central plot points, The Waiting Room, was the working title for this album for a long time.

Are there any other non-musical influences which have had an impact on your work or you as a musician? 

I don’t think I’ve ever made a distinction between musical and non-musical influences. I was born with a curious mind and I spend my life exploring and discovering. Books, of course, have always played a big role, authors like Haruki Murakami, David Mitchel, Siri Hustvedt, Harry Kunzru have been a major source of inspiration. In the visual arts, I would single out Anselm Kiefer, Christian Marclay and Chris Marker as artists who made me see the world in a different light.

Why did it take eight whole years for Exit Ghost to be completed? 

Doing a piano album had a lot to do with finding and coming to terms with my own roots. To go back to my start as a musician (which was piano-based) and try to connect it with who I have become as a composer. This process was not a straight line - it simply demanded more space and reflection than other projects.

We hear Neuland coming through as a well constructed juxtaposition between an archetypal new age sound and contemporary electronica. Do you see it more like a modern or a traditional-bent record? 

As the name implies, our target was to explore new territory. We are who we are, and we are not denying our past. Our home turf will always be electronic music, but we carry this legacy lightly. It was more fun to just say: we’re going to make an electronic record together and we shall see where the day/night takes us. Which was exactly our approach.

Does the creative process for Neuland begin through experimentation or is it based on more tightly structured ideas? How different is it compared to working on a solo project such as Exit Ghost

In Neuland, we simply send ideas back and forth. Adding new parts, restructuring pieces, there are many, many renditions to each piece, until a final shape emerges. For solo work, it’s a similar process, except that you don’t send your material to a collaborator, but to yourself. What I mean by this, is that it takes time, I have to leave a track for a few weeks and then listen to it with fresh ears, to achieve a similar effect: allowing the composition to emerge and find its most authentic shape.

The videos and visual art which come with the music seem quite corresponding with the overall mood. How important is the visual component? 

Both Peter and I have always looked beyond the traditional formatting of music. It is not just the recording, but also the noise in the room. And it is not just the sound, but also the visuals that define a project. As such, it was important for us to let the visuals grow out of the music. Finding a complementary element, that felt like a natural fit for us.

What is your most fond memory of your time in Tangerine Dream? 

There are so many great memories. Meeting Edgar and Chris for the first time. Coming to Berlin. Playing the first live show (in Sheffield, of all places). Of all the projects we did, there are two that stick out for me: Underwater Sunlight, which was the first album I worked on with them, and which has all the innocence and energy of a fresh start. The other being the soundtrack for Miracle Mile, which I consider to be the best work Edgar and I did after Chris had left the band.

You have been deeply involved with film music. Is film scoring something you'd be interested to do with Neuland too? 

That is certainly an option we will consider IF the right project comes along.

What are you currently listening to mostly? 

I am a bit of a musical omnivore, so my listening habits are expansive and varied and it would be a daunting task to list everything I've listened to, even just in the last couple of weeks. That being said, just from the top of my memory, I really enjoyed the soundtracks for Euphoria, Hanna, and The King, as well as albums/tracks by Anna Meredith, Caroline Shaw, and The Acid.

Do you think of Neuland as a one-off project or something that will continue to create and evolve? 

We don’t have a set plan in mind. We’re happy to let the project take us where it takes us - leave room for the unexpected.

Are there more solo projects or collaborations planned in your near future? 

At the moment, my main focus is on Exit Ghost and potential additional releases in connection with this album, as well as the plans for some live shows later and into next year. In connection with this, I am also involved in co-curating this new label, Artificial Instinct, which Exit Ghost is getting released on. There is certainly the chance of other collaborative projects, and I also have some very exciting scoring projects coming up.

Photos courtesy of Terrorbird Media

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