Following the release of his lovely album “Up Up And Astray” on German label Pingipung, we had a chat with Frank Schultge aka F.S.Blumm, whose enchanting experiments on acoustic guitar, toy instruments and a wide selection of acoustic instruments, percussions and circuits recently managed to immediately hit home with many listeners’ hearts. Have a listen!
Chain D.L.K.: Hi Frank. How are you?
F.S.Blumm: Hi Vito. I’m fine, we had a real mild winter and it feels like spring already!
Chain D.L.K.: Compliments for your brand new record on Pingipung. Before speaking about it, would you introduce yourself in your own words?
F.S.Blumm: In the last 6 years I worked on a variety of musical projects and I learned a lot. I developed my bass-playing in the Quasi Dub Development, I learned how to write songs with ‘Bobby And Blumm’, I practiced the classical guitar within ‘Old Splendifolia’ and I tried some “sound-painting” with Nils Frahm & F.S.Blumm. Then I wondered what F.S.Blumm might have to say, after all that. I was just curious what will come out when I do another solo-album. That’s it.
Chain D.L.K.: Do you remember which sonic or musical experience has been the spark for your passion for music?
F.S.Blumm: I remember that my children’s room was under my father’s workroom and there he practiced the accordion from time to time. That sound is really nice when it comes from above, through the walls. Then me and my friends had some playback-shows at home, playing on broomstick-guitars and a card-board-drum-set along with an AC/DC-playback… Yes, I guess that my hard-rock-socialization was the spark that made me pick up the guitar.
Chain D.L.K.: Did you sign your very first tracks as Perdie Blumm rather than F.S.Blumm? How come?
F.S.Blumm: Man, you did good research! As far as I remember that name only appears on my very first tape, oh yes, and as guitar-player of my band DIE AUCH (“them as well”). Well Perdie is my childhood nick-name, my brother gave it to me. I think he was inspired by “101 Dalmatians”; those doggy parents are named Pongo and Perdy, oh what a reference, I never saw that movie… Today there are only 2 people left who call me that: my brother and Harald “Sack” Ziegler. One day I simply replaced Perdie with the initials of my real-name. Perdie became just too childish…
Chain D.L.K.: You collaborated with plenty of musicians. Do you prefer playing by yourself or not? Do you consider collaborations as a limitation to self-expression or not?
F.S.Blumm: Well, I enjoy producing all by myself because -like this- so I can take my time, do whatever I want, be my own dictator: everything I say will be done. But playing live, well, I think it’s actually more fun to be surprised by other musicians, have communication on stage. When I play solo I substitute missing colleagues on stage with my little machines. I feed them and they surprise me because I often work with this phase-shifting-principle: creating two phrases of different lengths and let them playing with both of them against one other, unpredictable, random…
Chain D.L.K.: One of the collaboration I like a lot is the one with Nils Frahm… I imagine there’s a proper friendship besides musical co-working. Is that right?
F.S.Blumm: Well, I met Nils just last week at his place to have some pizza, but the dough didn’t mingle, I mean didn’t roll, so we had pasta, I mean noodles in the end. But these occasions are really rare because Nils is always on tour.
Chain D.L.K.: I cannot help myself but ask you something about “Italian Short Stories”… I mean, aside from the fact I prefer to consider myself as a citizen of the planet, I’m Italian… what can you tell us about that lovely album?
F.S.Blumm: In 2002 I moved to Italy with my family for half a year, it was the longest half-year of my life, positively. We stayed in the countryside near Genoa and founded a rural in community with only Italians. That’s where I did these recordings. I am also a radio-play-author and producer, and maybe that’s why I had the idea to build a little story with these field recordings, a story without words. It’s the day when we were cooking hectolitres of tomato sauce. You can hear how we go to buy the tomatoes, squash the tomatoes, wash the bottles (to store the tomato-sauce) chop wood, light the oven to cook the tomatoes etc. I still have a lot of Italian friends, my dub band is all-Italian -except for me- and is based in Sardinia. I like that specific flow within daily social-life that my Italian friends have. That’s why I also learned to speak Italian.
Chain D.L.K.: Another funny collaboration was the one with Harald Sack Ziegler… do you remember what you had in mind before composing that funny glitchy stuff?
F.S.Blumm: We both come from using toy-instruments live on stage. I think when we recorded we had nothing in mind, just doing our thing, playing with stuff, experimenting with anything we could grab, fiddling around… It started as a mail-project, you know, back in those days when you were recording on tape, so we were sending those tapes, back and forth from Cologne to Berlin. I was always watching out for the post-woman, when I knew that there was something coming from Harald and when the letter arrived it was always like a musical birthday-party.
Chain D.L.K.: Let’s talk about your new album… first of all, what is the meaning of the title “Up, Up and Astray”?
F.S.Blumm: Well, it refers to myself, it means that FSBUMM saw the light on CD and LP and because of this he grew up, step by step, got bigger, then he scattered himself, on purpose, in a variety of new projects and it was difficult to follow him. Of course it’s also quoting that beautiful 60es pop-song “Up Up And Away” and then I found out about the meaning I didn’t know at all: it’s also a superman-quote. It also follows Don Van Vliets slogan : ” Stand up To Be Discontinued ” or as Marcel Duchamp said something similar: “If you repeat things again and again, it becomes taste . ” and that’s boring to me. I hope my music remains fresh, maybe naive, because I do different styles within my projects and because I do not want to understand how the market works, what the market wants. Oh, Yes, and I felt like I wanted to make a happy album, that was a great risk to me, cause deep inside I’m a rather melancholic person. Melancholic music comes naturally to me. In the end a lot of critics punished me by saying: “This is banal, this is trivial, this is flat…”. I don’t know, seems like, sad music is automatically perceived as deep music and happy music is automatically flat-music. But I tell you, I had to dig deep for this album, it was a big effort for me and I felt really brave in the end.
Chain D.L.K.: I very much enjoyed the clip of “Tonne Takt” where you show a part of your sonic equipment! How did you collect all those toys?
F.S.Blumm: Oh, they just accumulated over the years of traveling etc. Things come and go, I’m not a collector, I use things and when I don’t use them anymore, well they slowly lose their life, or they simply break, sometimes I repair things, but I also I like the fact that things break, that they have their own lifetime, the friction of life, that’s analogue.
Chain D.L.K.: Is there any of them you liked the most?
F.S.Blumm: I bought these picking birds on a wooden plate in India, it’s a toy. You rotate it slowly and they start picking. I can do that for hours. The sound is really wonderful.
Chain D.L.K.: What’s the role of improvisation in your music?
F.S.Blumm: Depends on the project. The most improvisation is in my project with Nils and the least in all my song-oriented projects. I like improvising a lot, it’s a very big challenge and it’s very vivid.
Chain D.L.K.: There are some echoes of so-called Japanese pop as well I think. I’m referring to that sense of balanced delicacy which belongs to some stuff coming from Japan which I also find in your music, would you agree?
F.S.Blumm: True, I didn’t think about that, but you’re right. I like Kama Aina for example. And I like the Japanese way to care for little things, broaden Your horizon while going into details using a higher resolution on things. When it comes to pop, I actually have other preferences, I like female vocalists Stina Nordenstam’s “People are strange”, Emiliana Torrini’s “Me And Armini”, Simone White’s “I am the man”…
Chain D.L.K.: Another possible influence that some listeners might recognize is Stereolab-like electronic pop… do you see that too?
F.S.Blumm: Oh wow I haven’t listened to them in ages, but yeah, why not! Funny thing is that they are influenced by Kraut-Rock which should come naturally to me then, ha ha…
Chain D.L.K.: What about lyrics?
F.S.Blumm: I tried to write political lyrics, that’s “Pull The Plug”, but I think I will not try it again. I’m a political person, but it’s damn hard to write political lyrics. I also tried to come up with a political album title that was “Limousine to the Guillotine” with a subtitle that was “richness is obscene”, but I think that’s just not my talent. I prefer to juggle with words freely when I’m writing.
Chain D.L.K.: The general mood of “Up, Up and Astray” is attractively serene and saccharine… do you think that such an emotional mood might sound somehow un-trendy these days?
F.S.Blumm: You might be right.
Chain D.L.K.: Have you performed “Up, Up And Astray” on stage? If so, what was people’s reaction?
F.S.Blumm: It’s funny, I think 10 years ago my music was much more delicate and fragile and my live shows needed a lot of attention, but a lot of times people talked and didn’t care that much. Then I wrote some pieces which were more ‘in-your-face’ and some clearly structured songs for example. But now people are super-attentive when I play those old delicate tunes and they rather talk when I play these other structured songs, because maybe they think: “Ah OK this is a song, I understand”.
Chain D.L.K.: Any forthcoming project?
F.S.Blumm: Yes, a Japan tour with Springintgut in April and May and a new record with the QDD.
visit F.S.Blumm on the web at: fsblumm.free.fr