P&C interview: Markus Sieber / by Sergio Díaz De Rojas

By Blake Parker

Markus Sieber, better known as Aukai, is so active in today’s music scene that we were lucky to catch him, between his tour in South America and working on his debut film score for The Tale by Jennifer Fox. Fortunately, Piano & Coffee was able to chat with Markus about everything from childhood counter-culture to the interplay between physical places and emotional experiences.

What kind of musical history do you have? How much of this history has shaped the music you make today?

I started playing guitar when I was 14. Growing up in East Germany art and music had always served as a voice to speak up against the suppression of the system in a disguised way. Many singer/songwriters and bands were walking the fine line of risking a prohibition for expressing their free thoughts and as a teenager this can be very attractive. I think this was my original drive for starting to make music. What’s left of this today is maybe simply the fact that music indeed is a wonderful form of personal expression and participation without having to use any words.

What draws you to the "unfinished" sound of your music? Do you have a reason for seeking a less "produced" sound? 

Technology gives us now stunning possibilities to produce music in such a perfect way, every little mistake and failure we can adjust with great tools. On this latest record it was one of my priorities to aim for a sound that is tangible, accessible, that picks up the listener because it’s human in all the sense of natural imperfection. I wanted the listener to be able to fill in with his own imagination and be part of the process of the musicians rather than getting served a perfect sounding piece of result. With Martyn Heyne as sound engineer and musician with a similar vision and a studio equipped with wonderful analogue gear I had found the right partner.

When creating a piece of music, do you intend for it to be paired with a particular kind of art (film, theater, visual art, etc.), or do you write music strictly as its own creation and allow those pairings to form themselves after?

It depends, on the album for instance each piece has been made as its own creation. Inspired by different kind of situations these pieces are like musical drawings. They may go along nicely with film, theater or dance as they are somehow open spaces and allow the listeners to create their own imagination. 

I know that people have used this music for dance, films, etc. and I love it when music inspires the performing arts. Currently I am writing/producing my first major film score and obviously here it is kind of the other way around – the music is inspired by the images, and it’s particularly made to serve and support the emotional quality of a scene. 

How has extensive travel and being connected to many countries shaped the sound of your music?

I think traveling is one of the major influences. Being away from home outside of your comfort zone stirs up your inner world and new thoughts and sensations can arise. Besides, it demands you to listen to your intuition which I think is the most important thing for finding your own music. 

I find myself reacting to your music both emotively and imaginatively, as if it makes me feel something but also takes me somewhere. Do you think your songs speak more to physical spaces and landscapes or emotions and experiences?

Landscapes can strongly relate to our emotional world, what we experience outside reflects inside. If I am on a 5000 meter volcano summit in Mexico I certainly have very intense emotions of space, freedom, maybe fear or fragility. I feel my experience as a human being expanded. I think music and the arts are an attempt to transmit these personal experiences and describing the indescribable. And to answer your question, I think a landscape is just a landscape, a space, but it’s our emotion which makes it what we want from it. 

Would you say that your music has an underlying message or purpose? If so, what are you trying to convey through your music?

Not really, or intentionally…but having this said, I would be glad if my music can be an invitation to slow down the pace of daily life in the busy computerized world and to listen again in a deeper sense.

What can fans of Aukai look forward to hearing from you in the future?

As mentioned before I am writing currently the score for The Tale by Jennifer Fox, starring Laura Dern and Elizabeth Debicki, etc. The film will be out in 2017. Further I will release a collaboration I did with soundscape genius Abul Mogard, and I am planning to have my second album ready next fall. 

Listen to Aukai on Bandcamp and Spotify.