Feisty girl band New Hook and Can Love Be Synth both have a track on the latest Ombra International EP? No! The both unite more than music as they share a preference for art and especially seeing things from a different angle – visually and artistically. And to continue the enumeration of things in common: both pour their hearts into what they do and strive for progress and perfection within a moment while humanly staying humble and appreciating the moments their arts grant them. Humorous and serious do Can Love Be Synth’s Katja and Frank and the New Hook women Ilka, Linda and Jule guide each other through an artist to artist interview in regards to the release of their tracks Lemon Cake and SEXERGY on Curses’ label, reveal some insights or background stories of their creative being and of course the music they produce, before the trio and the duo finally speak about the Fridays for Future movement.
Katja Ruge: We met last year at the Sacred Ground Festival and I took some fun photos after your first live gig from you. Now we appear on the same EP. I must say that I love that. <smiles>
New Hook: Yes, it‘s totally crazy and beautiful how things circle. We had our festival premiere at Sacred Ground Festival and it was such an amazing experience to be part of this. We always look back to it in a joyful and grateful manner.
But as simple as it might sound: we just want to pour our hearts into our performances and have a good time with our audience. (New Hook/ Ilka)
Katja Ruge: What has changed for you since them?
New Hook (Ilka): Let’s say we either progress and grow day by day or gig by gig or – at times – we stumble backwards. We do not follow a plan, which does not mean that we do not have our standards and the urge to fulfill those when we are on stage. But as simple as it might sound: we just want to pour our hearts into our performances and have a good time with our audience. After the Sacred Ground Festival we had some gigs in Dresden, Leipzig and Berlin. In order to be more flexible and play our music with other artists we sometimes play hybrid-sets. In addition we compiled and put together a mix for Uncanny Valley, had a release on Riotvan and dilligently produce tracks. The pandemic ruined any plans for live performances though. We were supposed to play a vernissage for the Museum of Fine Arts in Leipzig, but instead of playing live we did an audiovisual performance, which was streamed.
New Hook (Jule): Despite all the strange things happening at the moment, I believe it’s a good time to pounder about life and focus on new things or to change your focus.
Katja Ruge: And how do you adjust your creativity to it?
New Hook (Ilka): Since everything is a recurring process, our workflow changes too. Our own standards or demands become bigger with every gig but at the same we are happy about this progress. We just keep on shooting for the moon. There is no right or wrong for us, we just want to stay open and curious for everything. Linda is the only bandmember with a musical background and that has helped us over the past three years to initiate some exciting processes. However, it is this diversity and different skills every member has that helps us to profit from each other and develop and progress as a band.
New Hook (Jule): We have the opportunity to present our ideas and approaches to the world. That is thrilling and excites our creative potential. The boundaries of what can be achieved constantly change, thus I’m very excited what the future holds for us.
We ended up hanging out together for a week between 80 synthesizers, drum machines and modulars. (Katja Ruge)
New Hook: Katja and Frank, you guys produce together, how did that come about or how did you find your way to each other?
Katja Ruge: In 2005 I had the job to photograph a series of analogue synthesizers for Groove Magazine. I was sent to Sunny’s and Frank’s synth studio in Hamburg. Then the two invited me to participate at a huge synth exhibition at Kunsthaus Graz with my photos and we ended up hanging out together for a week between 80 synthesizers, drum machines and modulars.
Quite some time later and after I had started my party series “Kann denn Liebe Synthie sein“, which had its little 10th anniversary party in April that came with a fun livestream from the Uebel & Gefährlich in Hamburg, or the Bunker how the location is also called, I had the idea of pumping up older tracks by adding a drum machine to it or exchange the bass line. I asked Frank if he could help me with it. Nicely he did and that was our first time sitting together in the studio. Then my friend Julia from Warner Music asked me: “Hey can you do remixes?” and I then asked Frank if he’d be in and we started to do remixes to later on produce our own music.
You do your Yoga, I go to the Synthesizerstudio with Frank. (Katja Ruge)
New Hook: For a lot of processes in the studio we all work together, exchange our opinions and thoughts, complement and support each other and give immediate feedback, which can be very fruitfull and effective but also straining because there of the clash of three different opinions. How do you proceed or handle the process?
Katja Ruge: We are totally easy going. We inspire each other in a very simple way. I always say to people: “You do your Yoga, I go to the Synthesizerstudio with Frank.“
New Hook : What led to you guys producing own tracks and not just remixes? By the way that’s a neat track, Lemon Cake. Love can be synth!
Katja Ruge: You know it just happened naturaly because we spent time together in the studio.
New Hook: So what’s next for you and can we joyfully look forward to new music from you?
Katja Ruge: Yes, you can. We recently did a remix for Polly Scattergood on Mute Records and we will have a song released on an ambient compilation on Adana Twins’ TAU label. Early 2021 we will release a track on A CLEAN CUT, a label from Hamburg, that comeswith three stunning remixes. We also just shot a video for it.
New Hook: Maybe with own vocals?
It’s not about a sexual act of love with another person, it’s more about the love for yourself. (New Hook/ Linda)
Katja Ruge: I tried singing but I don’t feel comfortable at all doing it. However, back to your track SEXERGY, is there a meaning behind the name of the title of your track? If so I’d like to hear the story.
New Hook (Ilka): The idea for this track dates back to the Atlantis Festival in 2017. After the festival we jammed together and the result was SEXERGY, one of our first tracks that we did to perform it live. After about 1,5 years we reworked the track completely and this process totally portrays the development we underwent as a band, because as much as SEXERGY became more and more appealing (to us) with each version the more we did grow as a band.
New Hook (Linda): The meaning of SEXERGY is super power. For us this means to have self-confidence but also to respect yourself with all your strenghts and weaknesses. This has a mojo and sets off a lot of energy. And latter we call SEXERGY. It’s not about a sexual act of love with another person, it’s more about the love for yourself. Only if you love yourself it is possible to unfold your own potentials and change things and consequently become happy. So as beforementioned it’s about your own power and living up. According to the motto: I am a super power and I have SEXERGY.
Especially the idea of uttering social criticism aesthethically has left an impression on me. (New Hook/ Jule)
Katja Ruge: Right on! I had to steal a question from my Electric Lights Photo Project for you. Please name female artists without whose music you wouldn‘t be producing music, and why?
New Hook (Ilka): Definitely Roisin Murphy, she embodies everything a superstar should. She’s a piece of art. My musical super hero. She has full SEXERGY. I love her style, her tendency to exaggerate things in such a charming, proud and energetic manner. She’s a beauty and as versatile as her music and voice. It’s always a highlight to see and hear her. She never bores me and she has shaped my perception of music.
New Hook (Linda): A lot of artists have influenced and inspired me musically. A defining moment was when I was 14 and my boyfriend at that time played Pixies’ track Hey to me. I was so overwhelmed and fascinated by those four guys. I could identify with Kim Deal, the bass player of the Pixies, right away. She was so cool on stage and was so full of power while wearing a loose shirt and jeans. As a result we, my three best friends and I, founded the band The Plectrons and I played the bass guitar for four years and sung.
New Hook (Jule): I don’t make music because of having had a musical idol or role model. I think a woman though who has inspired my creative being is Rej Kawabbuko. When I was 17 fashion shows were aired on tv at night. The internet as we know it today did not exist. I watched a show called Body Meets Dress, Dress Meets Body by Comme Des Garcons and its fashion designer Rej Kawabuko. That was basically my first encounter with an avant-garde world of the arts. The way how something ordinary like clothing can change models in such a bizarre manner and challenge one’s own perception has explored new horizons to me. Especially the idea of uttering social criticism aesthethically has left an impression on me.
New Hook: Katja, you mentioned your Electric Lights Photo Project, can you tell us something about that?
Katja Ruge: My photo project Ladyflash was the inspiration for it. I showed over 100 portraits of female artists in anexhibition at a time where the whole music industry really had to wake up. It wasn’t easy or an easy path I went. When I started that project in 2009 women such as Beth Ditto or Robyn loved it, but it was 2014 when I found an open mind, Christine from the Art Department at Reeperbahn Festival, to host this exhibition.
Out of this I teamed up with my friend Thomas Venker, who runs Kaput Magazine, and we started the series Electric Lights which focuses on women from the electronic music world. It also includes interviews with the artists. Showing the beautiful creative minds and energy in my photography goes also back to women like Alison Moyet, Kate Bush and Madonna.
New Hook: Is there someone who deeply inspired you, and if so in what way?
Katja Ruge: I always loved the beforementioned Alison Moyet, Kate Bush and, of course, Madonna as those are all women who shaped my grow up. All three really do their own thing. That totally depicts me and resonates with my personality. Another woman who will always have a special place in my heart is Kim Gordon from Sonic Youth, who I photographed with the band. Also when I did my book Fotoreportage 23 – in search of Ian Curtis, it was Anja Huwe (from Xmal Deutschland) who helped me so much to understand the attitude of the late 70’s and early 80’s in music.
New Hook: What about you Frank, what women have inspired you?
Frank Husemann: Indeed it’s rather women who inspire me than men. I actually notice this when working on remixes because I have way more ideas when I hear a woman’s voice than when listening to an instrumental track. Then I must admit that we have not had any requests from male singers. I feel that a female voice and synth-sounds make a perfect match. Ehhh… what was the question again? I found Alison Goldfrapp and her musical companion Will Gregory quite impressive and especially their LP Felt Mountain. That is some proper Film Noir music. Sophie Hunger is my present hero, she is multitalented and her concerts are quite an experience. Another female artist long time favorite of mine is Kate Bush.
Frank Husemann: Please describe your rehearsal situation, do you play as a band in a sticky and humid bunker cave like I did 20 years ago in Hamburg?
New Hook: Unfortunately the situation in Leipzig is that there is barely living space, so for musicans, who tend to be a bit louder, it is even worse to find something suitable. We practice and work in a former 90’s office building with the typical ingrain wallpaper, those huge office overlights and heaters below the windows, that have never been properly installed. So it’s quite cold there as you can imagine. It’s a bit shady and the ambience of the building reminds one of a tear-down with a rubble-pile placed in the stairway and a car cemetery in front of our doors. Still, we do love our studio and we can be as loud as we want to be. We also have our own (house) community with other artists. Probably our rehearsal room is similar to what you described in the question. However, we’ve turned the place to a cosy spot to practice and play our music and we even exchanged that ingrain wallpaper with a Blueberry Wall and the sticky carpet was removed too and replaced by a fancy one with a checkerboard pattern. Lovely, huh?
I played the bass, drunk a lot of canned beer and got to know my wife. (Frank Husemann)
New Hook: Round about 20 years ago the music scene in Hamburg was blossoming. Frank, what was the band project you practiced with in one of these “sticky and humid bunker caves“?
Frank Husemann: At first it was that trashy pop band called Cute – that must have been around the 2000’s. I played the bass, drunk a lot of canned beer and got to know my wife, who played the organ. The bunker was at Borstelmannsweg and I even do remember the way into the rehearsal room: basement, firstly right then to the left, lastly after the second door to the right – you only had to follow that musty smell. Even MySpace existed at that time, if I remember correctly. But the word wide web was nothing we were involved with, so luckily you cannot find any proof of what I just briefly described. I can recall a really disastrous performance at Meanie Bar in January 2000. After that and until 2004 I played in a band called Heinz Erhardt Erotik Raum. That was technically probably not the best music but the song lyrics from our leadsinger Mantex were quite impressive. However, you cannot find anything about that on the internet but maybe I’ll do a remix one day, so watch out! In 2004 I started playing the synth in a band called Glacier with Benny Rüss, Sunny Vollherbst und Rick McPhail (from Tocotronic). We had a gig at Weltbühne in 2006 with some lasers and all that. That was pretty cool.
Frank Husemann: How computerized is your workflow? Apple or Punk Rock? Ableton or jam session?
New Hook (Linda): Apple and Punk Rock! Logic and jam sessions. We love digital tools but they do not replace the analogue ones. It’s the combination of both that does the trick for us. In order to produce we use programms and enrich those digital sounds with live instrumennts or field recordings. To us it is important to create music at an emotional and compulsive level, which we can later edit and influence. For that purpose Logic is just perfect since it allows us to compose music in our own tempo, but also to try out and learn new things – to progress so to say musically and personally. It does not even matter if we do this alone at home or together when practicing. Even when playing live this routine works just fine for us. We play instruments and sing while the rest is digitally created and added. We evenn use the same principle when working on our visuals and music videos/ films.
It’s rather the analogue machines with all their irks and quirks and unpredictablity that are in the foreground and not the computer. (Frank Husemann)
New Hook: This is an interesting question, so we would like to give it back to you.
Frank Husemann: We basically use our computer only for recordings and partly as a tool to either put or move audio tracks. When working on a remix we usually delete everything but the vocals to then use the analogue equipment to create something entirely new around them. Those jam sessions are something that the gear or the machines usually do to around 80% on their own as they sync themselves over MIDI or the controlling panel. So you just need to press record in the right moment and then Katja either cheers and asks “Wow, did you just hit the record button?“ or she is more like “nope, that’s to 90’s“ or reminds her of the partly bad taste from the 80’s. So as you can see it’s rather the analogue machines with all their irks and quirks and unpredictablity that are in the foreground and not the computer. Fun fact: our computer is 18 years old, has Cubase SX installed and has never been connected to the internet – you could say it’s almost Punk Rock equipment. It would be sweet to have an analogue multitrack and a big analogue console but we do not have space for that.
These kids or the people involved try to rescue the foundation of our lives. (New Hook/ Jule)
Frank Husemann: Off the music topic:What do you think about the Fridays for Future movement? Do they have a chance to change the world, or have they already changed something in your lives?
New Hook (Linda): That’s a demanding topic, which is difficult to discuss in short. I think we, speaking of New Hook, try to live without using too many resources and engage in a societal change. It’s probably more important than ever to position onself and to also to become an active part. The Fridays for Future movement managed to put the climate crisis into the spotlight so people become aware of it. Due to people being well connected and active politics as well as societies and basically any individual cannot ignore the topic. The youth should have the right to be able to decide on their future rather than gagging them or impute them a lack of responsibilities or the competences to change something. In order to make that change those revolutionary forces of the youth are needed to start a change and serves as an example for adults to finally finalize the transition into a brighter future.
New Hook (Jule): It’s quite impressive how kids connect and organize themselves to act globally. It’s about time people tackle this problem, over and over again without letting go. These kids or the people involved try to rescue the foundation of our lives. It’s great to give the world a wake up call but that demanded change surely has to be put into practice by adults. There are a lot of exciting ideas and concepts that are on its way, hence I have hope.
New Hook: Each of you has granted a wish, what would that be?
Frank Husemann: Simply a world with people respecting themselves and nature more.
Katja Runge: I totally agree with Frank’s answer. However, after the election in the US I had the following vision in my mind: What if no one could ever lie again?
© all pictures of Can Love Be Synth by Katja Ruge
© pictures of New Hook by Felix Adler and Stephanie Winkler
Translation by Holger Breuer