I recently had a nice conversation with Bertram Denzel and Erik Huhn, better known as Denzel+Huhn, a couple of Berlin-based sound artists whose music is really outstanding. An adjective they also used to define some of the collaborative tracks they put on their recent album “Brom”, which came out with Marsen Jules’ imprint Oktaf. I warmly recommend listening to this remarkably elegant declension of electronics, featuring the touch of well-known German drummer Ronald Lippok (Tarwater, To Rococo Rot), Ralf Bokelberg (who plays guitar in two of my favorite moments of the whole album, “Demuth Johnson” and “Asid Trei”), flutist Sascha Friedl, trombonist Florian Juncker, Sebastian Vogel (piano), Thomas Kurstner (vibraphone), Bettina Bruns (alto), Naftali (hang + violin), Manuel Miethe (guffinette, soprano saxophone) and Brad Hwang (nose + gramophone).
Chain D.L.K.: Hi guys! How are you?
Denzel + Huhn: Fine, thanks for asking. Hope you’re also good!
Chain D.L.K.: I’ve known you since the times of “Time is a Good Thing”.
Denzel + Huhn: Congratulations!
Chain D.L.K.: I don’t know why I matched that record to the carefreeness that someone experiences when he/she’s an university student and really doesn’t care about future. The first two years of university – let’s leave it like that! Besides that great debut release, would you say that time is a good thing?
Denzel + Huhn: Definitely, because we take our time and make something out of it. Music and kids for example. So, yes, time is a good thing.
Chain D.L.K.: Do you like to give a shape to the present, past or future in sound?
Denzel + Huhn: We don´t know exactly what you want to hear from us. If it´s about the musical background, here`s the rough story: We tried making almost all sorts of improvised music. Influenced by nearly every style of music, we realized that the only way to “survive” was the reduction in the number of sounds we made.
Chain D.L.K.: Can you tell us something more about the birth of your musical/artistic/human friendship?
Denzel + Huhn: Yes we can. The birth of our human and, as a consequence, artistic friendship too, happened because we were introduced to each other in a Café at Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin, in the early nineties. Bertram was a friendly crockery cleansing operative on his way from rags to riches and Erik was a self-conscious makeup artist who survived the GDR.
Because we both still had no clue about why and how to get onto the escalator going up, we spent time playing instruments. Now, we´re almost married and sometimes we can even see ourselves in an Italian theatre box – like these two old guys from the muppet show.
You know; we´ve seen it all. And we still like ourselves.
Chain D.L.K.: Why did you call your project “Denzel + Huhn” instead of “Bertram + Erik”?
Denzel + Huhn: Gee! We have much cooler last names, don´t you think?
Chain D.L.K.:How would you describe your relationship with sound in your everyday life?
Denzel + Huhn: Together we have four ears and go through everyday life in double-stereo or quadraphonic. That’s why we recorded the sounds of nearly all of our kitchen tools and all objects you can find in a household. Lots of sounds find their way to our work.
Chain D.L.K.: I guess you know the artistic side of Berlin very well. Many Berliners consider it the real capital of musical innovation and the ideal habitat for music innovators. I share their view. Would you say that something changed in Berlin over the years?
Denzel + Huhn: Sure, quite a bit. Lots of things are changing, especially since Berlin had so many empty spaces to be filled with creative people, since the early seventies.
We feel pretty touched by some of the multiple changes and sometimes we feel like right in the middle of the cyclone´s eye.
Chain D.L.K.: Do you agree with those who label your music as “abstract” or “minimalist”?
Denzel + Huhn: Well, we´re fine with being labelled that way, what the hell. But in our latest work, we also see a lot of concreteness and opulence.
Chain D.L.K.:Compliments for your new album “Brom”. You offered a very good musical experience to all those who listen to it.
Denzel + Huhn: Thank you, glad you liked it.
Chain D.L.K.: Any piece of advice for them before pressing the play button in order to enjoy it at the max?
Denzel + Huhn: Take some time and a seat. Get a drink. Place the sign “do not disturb” or “sorry! we are closed” clearly visible on your door. No gadgets on, no social media, switch off your mobile. Or put your best headphones on and listen to Brom while you take a walk on the pedestrian area in Dortmund.
Chain D.L.K.: Why “Brom”?
Denzel + Huhn: We simply like the mellow sound of the spoken word “Brom” and maybe we`re kind of distantly related to it. The special thing about Brom is that it is a chemical element which cannot exist on its own. It always needs to be connected with other elements. Beside this, it is healthy to speak the word “brom” because the yoga-om in it lets your body to vibrate smoothly.
Chain D.L.K.: I’ve read the introduction of your album by Thaddeus Herrmann. Very nice, but have you asked some clarification regarding the match with human bottom outputs?
Denzel + Huhn: What the heck? We don´t see the point. No, we never asked Thaddi for clarification about the match with THE REAL SHIT. We are really sorry, but for a satisfying answer we have to refer you to Mr. Herrmann in person.
Chain D.L.K.: What’s the connection between the lovely opening track “Wilhelmshöhe” and the homonymous lovely park near Kassel?
Denzel + Huhn: Sorry again, but there is no noteworthy connection. Erik once saw an open air NENA show in that lovely park near Kassel and Bertram only knows the lower-in-taste rail station from driving past it.
Chain D.L.K.: The musical marks of some of your guests on “Brom” is clear, but they managed to measure their tracks without altering the sound. Is it intentional or not?
Denzel + Huhn: Well, the album “Brom” did not come to existence by accident, so most of what you hear on it is intentional. Our guests were recorded by us during massive sessions in Bertram’s supersonic kitchen, before we laboriously extracted and filtered out all the wonderful sounds we got.
Chain D.L.K.: Is there any collaborative track that you liked more than others or you feel it was a real masterpiece? If so, why?
Denzel + Huhn: We think they´re all outstanding!
Chain D.L.K.: I’ve seen a couple of videos of tracks taken from your album – the above mentioned “Wilhelmshöhe” and “Demuth Johnson” -both of them are somehow related to means of transportation. Why this kind of match?
Denzel + Huhn: Transportation and movement in motion and a kind of repetitive music get along quite well. There was no concept at all. We simply liked the pictures, even if the Chemical Brothers made their famous video a few decades ago.
Chain D.L.K.: Any funny moment during the release you held on 20th September in the Berghain Kantine?
Denzel + Huhn: Yes. Our guest drummer, Ronald Lippok, didn’t show after we begged him to come on stage for five minutes. Foolishly, we announced him while playing pretty loud, so he couldn’t hear us. Finally somebody found him backstage talking to our other guest musician, Manuel Miethe. They both got lost in time and space and the absent voice of Bettina Bruns, our guest who was terribly sick in bed instead of on stage with us. We felt so funnily helpless and alone out there.
Chain D.L.K.: According to some voices, Mr Jules is somehow picky. Maybe for his strong sense of aesthetics. Is it true? 🙂
Denzel + Huhn: We`re not really sure about that rumour, but we are quite choosy, too. So it fitted pretty well.
Chain D.L.K.: Any work in progress?
Denzel + Huhn: Yes, our requiem. It’s called Bertram + Erik. Future unfinished classic.
Visit Denzel + Huhn’s Soundcloud online at: soundcloud.com/denzelundhuhn
All photos are courtesy of Denzel + Huhn.