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Bonaparte on retiring from touring ahead of Berlin show

INTERVIEW! Before his show at Festsaal Kreuzberg on Dec 1, Bonaparte aka Tobias Jundt talks 3D scanners, virtual reality, Rock Am Ring and why he's calling time on touring.

Image for Bonaparte on retiring from touring ahead of Berlin show

Photo by Dadi Thierry Kouame. Catch Bonaparte at Festsaal Kreuzberg on Dec 1. Starts 19:00.

After 13 years of rocking all over the world, Tobias Jundt will bring his raucous live show to the stage for one last time.

If you want to know why Tobias Jundt has been on the road for the last decade and a half, the answer is straightforward. He’ll tell you that “the only real thing is to meet people because that’s the only thing that can halt the madness of the world”. If you want to know why he is retiring, that’s an easy one too because like so many before him, Jundt has found scant shelter in the throes of fame. 

Jundt insists that his love for the stage is undying, and yet over the last two years, a few peculiar things have started to happen. His band – or rather his rolling village of musicians, dancers and bright-eyed co-conspirators has been whittled down from 20 or so to a humble cadre of three. While his music, forever pogoing between electroclash, blog house, and punk rock agitprop, has made a markedly contemplative turn in what seems like a defence mechanism to this coming period of self-imposed rehabilitation from touring. 

If you want to know what compels Jundt to do what he does, the evidence is somewhat obfuscating because, in his early retirement, Jundt is hardly winding down. The question is, why not? We sat down with Tobias Jundt to hear Bonaparte’s final words.

Is this really the end for Bonaparte?

Nah, of course not. I love playing live, I loved it before, I still love it now, and I always will love it, but this will be the final tour. I’m making music, and I’m thinking about music 24/7, and that’s never going to stop. When I first started Bonaparte, I didn’t even want to make records. I didn’t mix the first album at all; I just released the demos. It was straight from my Fabriketage in Görlitzer Park and into the world. I wanted to say here are the songs and let’s meet on stage. That’s different now, I still want to release Bonaparte music, but I don’t know when or what. Maybe I’ll do theatre pieces. Maybe I’ll do a film; I might score a movie. I’m not stopping. I can’t! I mean listen to me blabbering away.

What changed?

My girls are five and nine that’s a bit of a reason, I don’t want to be on tour all the time. For example, when my energy was at 100 percent, I always wanted to perform with loads of musicians and dancers. This year, I only wanted to play as a trio, and even though the trio is the most punk and most raw form of a band, I haven’t really done it before. It has been interesting because the energy has changed, and I feel like I want to spend more time making music in the studio.

You have certainly played a lot of shows in the last thirteen years. Do you know how many it has been?

I think it is around 700.

Seven hundred and four. Fifty-four shows per year, just over one per week for 13 years.

That’s not even that much! If you think about all the years when I didn’t tour so heavily. I used to play way over 100 shows a year.

The question is, how?

No, the question is, why not anymore! The world has changed, not just me, and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat if things were like they used to be. This is a weird sentence, but it’s essential if you want to know why I announced my early retirement. When it was over 100 shows in a year, I loved it. But, when you get a bit bigger, and you play Rock Am Ring, and that’s the only show that you’re allowed to play all summer, it isn’t the same. Sure it’s a big show, and that might be a dream come true for some people, but I liked it way more when it was really intense. 

Travel means a lot of different things to different people. For some, it is work, for some, pleasure, and for some, it is a necessity. Where do you fall on that scale?

It’s a necessity. But, it’s weird because I’m very much a home bird and yet, at the same time I always need to go places. Funnily enough, I was going to go to South Africa this week, and we wouldn’t have been able to do the interview, but then, my mind changed. It was the first time that I ever decided that I didn’t want to go to a place.

Your “mind changed, or you changed your mind?

I changed it, and honestly, it was an environmental thing. I can’t be playing a concert for Extinction Rebellion one day and flying to South Africa the next. It’s like when you’re on tour, even if you’re travelling with the Nightliner, you still watch all the gas getting pumped into the bus and it makes you stop and think. I’m not exactly sure how to get around this question of touring and also trying to be environmentally friendly. I’m hoping it’s not going to be with virtual reality. 

That would be pretty drastic.

It would be terrible. But, you know. We might do it. The good thing about this is that you could do a gig and anyone could come — people in Siberia or whatever. I know for a fact that a lot of people in Mexico want Bonaparte to go and I’ve only ever made it as far as San Diego and Texas. Imagine this, we could meet here in Berlin, all the musicians and all the dancers and be 3D scanned and people could interact with us. Ha! I don’t know. I would do it.

Many people would say that Bonaparte is not Bonaparte without live shows.

I disagree. There is also the music, I love playing shows, but I spend more time making music. You can approach the music in many ways, not just live. If you look on Spotify right now, the two songs that have the most plays are “White Noise and “Melody X, they’re slow, political songs that don’t reflect live energy at all. These songs are still fun, but they don’t have the same feeling as “Anti Anti” in a concert. On the first two albums, all I cared about was music that you could dance to, and now my music has shifted away from that. It’s funny; the third album was a concept album about not wanting to make an album. I think I needed a break back then. I should have done this ten years ago.

The last two albums seem notably different. How has that sound changed?

You know, when I play live, I have so many songs that are good for that. So, I wanted to open up the spectrum a little bit. Take “White Noise” and “Melody X”, both are softer songs that are easier to listen to in everyday life. We still have way too many songs to play live, and it is nice to make something different for a change. Even “Anti Anti”, if I’m honest, has never been a song that I truly liked. I love playing it, but I have no feelings for the song itself. Now, “Too Much, I love that song, and it has a very personal story.

Tell me about the new album, Was Mir Passiert — it’s German afrobeat?

I thought it didn’t exist, so why not make it. I know its a weird album, but I think it has its place and I think it will have a long life. It seemed impossible at one point to make a German record in the Ivory Coast, but I think it will be discovered in a few years. It’s a bit of a headfuck, but I like doing that kind of stuff.

It’s your first album in German. There’s even a little bit of Swiss German in there. Is this a homecoming?

Nah. I’ve just been living here for 13 years now, and I thought why not do something that people can actually understand.

What is home to you, is it Berlin? Is it Switzerland? Is it on the road?

That is a complicated question, and I’ve been thinking about this a lot. It can be many things; it can be a place, a person, it can be nature itself. I know that for me, being Swiss, every time I go to Switzerland it has an impact on me. At the same time, there is a reason that I’m not living there, and there is a reason that I left. Switzerland is heimat, and it will always be, but I will never truly fit in there, and Berlin was the place for the odd ones out like me.

Let’s flip the question. What is a vacation to someone whose home is everywhere and whose passport reads like a stamp collection?

I could go to Sicily, and I could play a show, I have fun there, but the focus is still to create the show. If I go to Sicily and I don’t have a show, then it is obviously a holiday. Sometimes though, those lines get blurred. I can’t stop my brain from having ideas and creating music, I have tried, but it is just as bad to try to force yourself to relax. I have had to really learn how to do holidays. If inspiration comes to me, I write it down and then what I usually do is play a gig. Honestly, pretty much everywhere I go, I play.  

What drives you to make music constantly?

It is straightforward in the end. I think it is love, politics, or the need to communicate something.

Do you have something special planned for the last show?

Actually no. I’m not going to do a big fucking gala or anything. I just want to have a nice tour. I don’t want to stress myself, that’s really the whole point of this retirement. We can all be together in fucking Festsaal Kreuzberg and play together, and that’s special enough. 

Bonaparte | Festsaal Kreuzberg, Dec 1, starts 19:00.