Music & clubs

From here to Pakistan and back: Gebrüder Teichmann

INTERVIEW! Globe-hopping electro duo Gebrüder Teichmann takes to HAU’s stage with a group of Pakistani and Maldivian musicians to release "Karachi Files" as part of the festival "From Inside to Way Out" on May 14.

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Photo by Viktor Richardsson

Globe-hopping electro duo Gebrüder Teichmann takes to HAU’s stage with a group of Pakistani and Maldivian musicians to release Karachi Files.

After helping their hometown’s electro scene blossom in the 1990s, the Regensburg-born and Berlin-based brothers Andi (photo, right) and Hannes (left) set out to explore music beyond their European comfort zone. In 2004, they accepted a tour invitation from Goethe Institute Moscow. They have collaborated with the global culture network ever since, most prominently in BLNRB, a cross-cultural project between musicians from Nairobi and Germany; and Ten Cities, featuring 50 DJs from across the globe.

Last year, their endeavours brought them to the Pakistani capital of Karachi, where they worked with musicians from Pakistan, Germany and the Maldives to record the album Karachi Files. As part of the Pakistan-focused From Inside to Way Out festival at Hebbel am Ufer, the project’s 12 performers will take the stage at HAU2 on May 14 to celebrate the record’s release on the Teichmanns’ new label, Noland.

How did Karachi Files take shape?

ANDI TEICHMANN: We first travelled to Pakistan three years ago. We played a gig, met a few locals and checked out the scenes in Karachi and Lahore to prepare for this project. Then, on location, we worked with the local label collective Forever South, which bundles all the exciting music trends we find interesting there. All musicians we worked with were loosely associated with this label.

How did you choose the local musicians?

HANNES TEICHMANN: The two guys running the collective, Bilal Khan and Haamid Rahim, also co-curated the project and suggested all the Pakistani musicians. In India, many producers look towards bass music in the UK; some minimal producers have their eye on Germany. In Pakistan, however, it was a very refreshing mixture of all this and a love for experiments. You have these off-beat rhythms you find in Indian music, plus the musicians’ parents had also played in jazz or soul bands in the 1970s, in hotels and clubs, when Pakistan was much more liberal; much different than you’d imagine if you look at Pakistan right now.

How did current politics influence the project?

AT: There were always security concerns. The Goethe Institute can always cancel projects quickly if it’s too unsafe. That was something we had to anticipate. When we went to Pakistan the first time, we were probably lucky. We went to Lahore and travelled around very freely and nothing happened. This time, unfortunately, two attacks took place. They didn’t involve us directly, but they affected the project.

HT: A bus with 50 Ismailites onboard was attacked; no one survived. We were supposed to play a gig on the same day, at a university which is sponsored by Ismailites. The concert was cancelled, of course. We talked a lot afterwards. It all got very personal. For example, one of our musicians is Christian and lives under constant threat. It was an intense and political exchange which we might not have had otherwise, because we were so focused on our music the entire time.

Was there a chance to react to those events in Karachi Files, a mostly instrumental album?

AT: The project is a political statement in itself. It’s an interaction of musicians with each other and their surroundings. Of course, it’s not as evident and easily comprehensible as lyrics, but I think you can definitely hear it in the music.

HT: In all our projects, we gather a group of people to just see what happens. It wasn’t our goal to make this album. Who’s involved is always more important than a given task. In Karachi, we almost never left our studio. Our hosts were very protective because of safety reasons. Sealing ourselves off for almost two weeks was an intense experience. From time to time, we went to the busy market across the street, but as soon as we went back to our house, we only thought about creating music.

Did everyone involved in the project bring their own instruments?

AT: Because of our last projects, we already had a sort of ‘suitcase studio’ to take on the road, which we could easily set up and start producing.

HT: We also rented equipment on location. Everyone else brought their own instruments. The great thing was that instruments circulated. All of us played with everything we had. Yet, there’s one sound aesthetic throughout the album. It’s really fascinating what we carried to this house together and what emerged from it afterwards.

How was the album produced?

HT: Everyone had produced electronic music before, which really influenced the creative process. However, the way we created music was through jam sessions which we cut afterwards. This was a bit overwhelming to some, but everyone adopted this method pretty quickly, and the results were great. Usually we try to finish tracks on location, but in Pakistan, it was such a musical outpour. Only back home did we begin to grasp the amount of music we recorded; and not just rough sketches, but really good material. The constellations of who mixed and produced music were very diverse. More or less everyone handed in tracks.

How would you describe club culture in Pakistan?

AT: There’s still a strong frame of reference towards the UK, through university studies and, of course, colonial history. Germany and Berlin are less on their radar. A few of the musicians we worked with have their eye on Detroit, others on Warp. However, there’s no club scene like there is in Germany. When artists gather, they play totally diverse 30-minute sets. 

Working with music from Africa and the Middle East has been trending for a few years now.

HT: We eye this critically, because we do something different. A lot of these projects work on a basic remix level, imposing their own standard on the music. We don’t take African music samples and use them just like another ingredient. The social aspect is very important to us. Both parties have to be interested in each other.

AT: But there’s a lot of cool stuff out there, too. For us, the Berlin underground scene was a big influence. We don’t just carry 4/4 beats with us, but the social aspects of the DIY club culture too, and we try to merge with like-minded scenes in other countries. Just like the techno scene, it is about creating a social space, even though our sound is different.

Distribution can also become political – did you bear that in mind in founding Noland?

AT: We came up with this pun that we went from an underground to an ‘interground’ label. We want the album to be available in the countries we visit. Otherwise it doesn’t make any sense.

HT: A digital album will be sold on Bandcamp, not just iTunes. In many countries, you can’t use a credit card or Paypal. From our experience, Bandcamp is the only distribution platform that works. We did spend some money on producing a vinyl double album, though. I’m super happy to hand those over to all the musicians in May, as much as I’m happy about having found ways to make the album accessible online.

KARACHI FILES RECORD RELEASE & NOLANDLABEL LAUNCH Sat, May 14, 21:00 | HAU2, Hallesches Ufer 32, Kreuzberg, U-Bhf Möckernbrücke