The guys are just coming back from the road as Guestlist meets up with them for a one on one at the Oval Space. RY X and Frank Wiedermann gave us nothing but rawness and honesty when speaking about their passion for music, how they started the group ‘Howling’ and much more!
How are you guys? Life treating you good?
Frank Wiedemann: Yeah we are both really lucky people! We are happy.
How did you get to know each other?
Frank Wiedemann: We had a mutual friend, she kind of brought us together. We started talking, we actually met in Los Angeles for the first time in person. We figured out that we have a lot in common actually! Regarding music and life. But doing this in different styles individually, we thought that it would be interesting to put this together.
RY X: Actually we did not talk about music when we started to get to know each other.
Frank: But we knew from before that both of us were doing music. And then we secretly checked what the other person was doing.
RY X: Yeah a little bit! We did not live in each other’s musical world, but there was trust there automatically because I sent him material before I sent it to anybody else! It was interesting because I was in L.A and could have sent it to anybody but I actually just sent them to Frank. And then Frank just produced around what I have done and that became Howling, and that’s when we put it out! It was not really a thought out process, I actually did not want to put any music out. We found a way to move with each other and it felt safe. I got to realise music in Berlin to the club community. I did not know anything about it. And Frank got to bring something from the outside of the house community. It was a nice way of doing things. It was very fresh.
How long have you known each other?
RY X: For about 3, 4 years. Not for a long time, but we sort of got forced into closeness.
Frank Wiedemann: Actually it’s 3 years and 6 months.
RY X: OK.. German answer haha.
How did you guys get into music?
Frank: I actually started really early. I took piano lessons when I was 8. Don’t remember so much but I can still play keys. My father was a role model for me because he used to make music all day. It was not his profession but he would always play the trumpet. I was into music since day one I guess. He was definitely my biggest influence.
RY X: Yeah mine too, your dad...no just kidding haha. My dad was a big influence on me for sure! My dad loved music. He had a lot of records and used to play guitar. He always used to put instruments in front of me and played music for me. That’s why I started, for sure.
Frank: Funnily enough we never talked about it. There are a lot of people who I know that have a bad relationship with their parents. Or don’t have any connection at all. And we both have a really good relationship with our parents.
What albums did you grow up listening to?
Frank: Ha my favourite question. I am actually blessed to have a fine selection of jazz and soul since my early years because I had a cassette player. My first cassettes were by Harvey Hancock, Steve Wonder and Miles Davidson. That was the beginning for me.
RY X: For me it was more folk music, my dad played a lot of records and had a record collection. I used to go through the records and put stuff on. He had some pretty avant-garde stuff that I could not get into when I was kid. It did not make sense yet. For me the stuff that made sense was Bob Dylan, James Tayler, just simple beautiful story telling. And then Motown stuff really hit me over the head: Earl Green, Marvin Gay, Steve Wonder. The Motown era was like the blues, it was like a community where they had their say.
How would you describe yourselves as artists?
RY X: Very honest. Speaking for myself, I am very raw and very honest. I like to challenge the industry quite a bit, I don’t like to do the traditional route with labels and billboards and stuff like that. I am a bit anti that. The art has to lead. If you want to be an artist you better be a good artist otherwise you are not doing your job. A friend of mine that is a producer said to me “If you are an artist but you are not creating, you are not an artist” I guess it is constant creation and constant growth. Not having any filters but allowing it to end up anywhere.
Frank: I agree!
RY X: So that’s for both of us than haha.
How did you come up with the name Howling?
RY X: Well it was really hard!
Frank: No, we already had one song out with the title ‘Howling’ without intently having a bigger project in mind. We figured out that we liked to play and create music together. And then we said that we should have a name for the whole thing, but we already had the single out. And we thought that it would be nice to have a connection to it. So that’s why we named the group after our first single ‘Howling’. Correct?
RY X: Yeah correct haha.
What would be your dream collaboration?
RY X: Frank Wiederman haha! Björk would be great.
Frank: Bryan Eno.
RY X: That’s two good ones. Bryan Eno and Björk meets Howling for an album.
Frank: Peter Gabriel.
RY X: I think Björk would be higher.
How do you separate yourselves from other artists?
RY X: We don’t try to. You have your own instincts, you like certain photographs, video content, you like certain music, that what defines you.
Frank: I think it’s the industry that has created everyone to think that they need to have a unique selling point. I think everyone influences of each other. Of course we have elements that you might have heard from other artists.
What has been the biggest struggle in your lives?
RY X: Being human. Just dealing with your own self is a big thing. Your own ego, your own mentality, if you can take that away it’s pretty beautiful. You can channel that, you can be a great family person, you can be a good friend etc. you can be all these things. Getting yourself out of the way is of the hardest things sometimes.
Frank: For me it’s pretty much the same. You have to find the right balance in your life. That’s the biggest challenge in your life. You have to be a friendly person and stay positive. I have to say that am pretty lucky for being able to do this as a living at the moment.
What is your definition of success?
RY X: Doing what you love and continue doing what you love. And being a loving person through that process. Success is also when someone brings you food, like right now during this interview as we speak haha. And coffee. Good food and coffee.
What is your favourite food?
Frank: Saumagen with sauerkraut!
RY X: Italian is probably my favourite.
How would you describe your album Sacred Ground?
Frank: A story about us. A story on how we met and got together. How we experience ourselves together. It’s pretty much a diary for me. Every song has a story and a different place that I have in memory. I asked the same question with a very rude answer in another interview: I said it is like asking a father who his favourite child is. It’s hard to say. Like I said there is a story for each song. For example 'Lullaby' is a song that I listen to before going to sleep. Each song has a lot of memories.
Why did you pick ‘Signs’ as your debut song for the album?
RY X: It’s beautiful. It is a very beautiful song. It is kind of indicative, it’s very organic but still harsh. So you are getting this very organic house sound with these raw elements with a really nice striving rhythm. It is kind of what we play around with quite a lot I guess. This balance between what’s organic house music and electronic music. It just spoke to both of us I guess.
What was the inspiration behind the video?
RY X: I like to make the videos, it’s not an egotistical thing just because a director will call you and say “Hey I would love to do something with you”, it will always be something that they are related to, not something that you are particularly related to. And if you are the artist and you created the work than you should create something visual for it. It was really going in a performance art direction. I wanted to go a little bit more avant-garde in that. A friend of ours, Coco, had designed the crystals and the album artwork. He went to an island, I can’t remember the name of it, but he gave it the nickname King Kong Island because it seemed like a place where King Kong would be. Like this wild island and he filmed all this beautiful nature. And I thought because the album is called Sacred Ground, how beautiful would this concept be to include for the video. So I just called some friends in L.A and we got together one night, not really planned, just some cameras and projectors, some visual art pieces and that’s what came out. Just covered in clay and this idea that we are a part of our environment, we build these crazy cities so that we don’t have to deal with the difficult part of it but we are also missing the beauty of waking up next to a river or ocean. Just connecting with nature.
What song of yours captures the true essence of Howling?
RY X: I don’t think there is one. Maybe in 10 years we can turn around and go "that’s the one!". This is like a first step and I think that good artists develop through time and not singular moments.
Frank: What’s important for us is that we are not really definable. The album is filled with a whole spectrum of what we love. I would say that it’s not only one particular style.
RY X: This is just the beginning, we want the freedom to be able to do a lot of different things and not have to live in a box.
Which ingredient do you think is most essential in making your sound and style the way it is?
Frank: A good place, a very special place. I have just lately figured out that the most important thing about building a studio is not the acoustics, it’s just the vibe of the room. You have to be looking forward of spending time in that room for hours.
RY X: For us we just need to have stuff plugged in so that we can create with them. We just like to pick up a synth or a drum and start creating.
What aspect of the music making process excites you guys the most?
Frank: Playing together!
RY X: And the freedom. The process is freedom as long as you don’t create boundaries.
Your house is burning down, what item would you bring with you?
RY X: My family! Or whoever is in there. The people, everything else does not matter.
Frank: The same for me. Ehem... and a couple of synths haha!
A private jet is waiting outside to take you to any destination, where would you go?
RY X: He (Frank) would go to south of Germany, I would drop him off and go to Bali or something like that. Somewhere with waves.
Frank: That’s one aspect that we are indifferent with. He is definitely the surfer guys but I love mountains. So maybe we can find in island with some mountains haha.
RY X: it’s called Hawaii!
What does the future hold for Howling?
RY X: Some touring and festivals this year. We just launched our own festival called Sacred Ground. We invited some friends of ours to play in north of Berlin. We are maybe going down to Australia and the end of the year and probably make some more music.