Alexander Hacke and Danielle de Picciotto discuss their new hackedepicciotto album “The Current”

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The Current is the new album from hackedepicciotto, a collaboration between Alexander Hacke (Einsturzende Neubauten) and Danielle de Picciotto (Crime & The City Solution, co-founder of the Berlin Love Parade). Recorded over a short period in Blackpool, England, The Current sees the married duo bringing their combined musical talents into new directions.  The sound is very experimental but tends to be more energetic and rhythmic than their past work together.  Both members contribute vocals, which vary stylistically from track to track.  Sometimes there are sung lead vocals, sometimes spoken word, and sometimes the voice is just another part of the soundscape. Over a Skype interview, the duo discussed the making of The Current.  

What were the reasons behind recording the album in Blackpool?

Alex: We were kind of taken by the place when we first visited it. We have an affinity for decrepit, coastal amusement park towns, like the Coney Island kind of thing. But then also Blackpool—there’s something special about it because it is completely untouched from wealth, gentrification, liberal kind of longings and business opportunities. It is a completely real place in that sense.

Danielle: It’s always been a worker’s holiday place. I think it’s the only worker’s holiday place in England [that has been that way]  from the very start. It never had the rich crowd going there. From the very start, it has been a different kind of place than Brighton or Hastings or the other coastal towns more in the South. It has always been a worker’s holiday space. So, it has a different kind of atmosphere.

Did you go there intending to record an album, or did you visit and find yourselves inspired?

Danielle: We definitely knew that we were going to record an album there because we only had four weeks to compose, record, mix and master the whole thing. We had been working in film music previously, and Einstürzende Neubauten had been recording, so we only had those very four weeks to work. It was an incredibly tight schedule. It was kind of crazy.

What impact did the timeframe have?

Alex: Well, our aim was to infuse the album with a sense of energy and power, as opposed to the two previous albums that were meditative or contemplative in a way. We wanted to create something that has a punch to it, that moves you in a different direction than the previous albums did. I suppose the tight schedule and the close deadline actually worked very well in that sense. We had to be very effective with what we were doing, and we had to channel our energies very consciously onto the product.

What is your collaborative process like?

Danielle: Very explosive. [Laughs.] I tend to be somebody who kind of always likes to have a certain theme for myself, to be able to circle it in so that it has a certain kind of map. I don’t know if this is correct, but I would say that Alex likes working instinctively a lot. He’s so incredibly varied; he can do anything. I cannot play as many instruments as he can. Basically, I play with what I have in my mind, and then Alex reacts to it, because then he can do anything. It’s kind of exactly 50/ 50; my part is more of the controlled, planned part, and Alex is the more instinctive and intuitive part. That’s the way I feel it. Maybe you feel it’s differently, Alex?

Alex: I often see myself a bit like the guy who builds the backdrops in a theater play or something. I would be the guy who builds the set. I like grand theoretical concepts, and I like diving into researching those concepts just as well. I liked the way that Danielle used her voice in this; her contribution in this is so fragile. I see her as a protagonist within the picture that we create together, more than myself.

What dictates or inspires where a song will have vocals, and what type?

Danielle: The last two albums we did only had either choirs or spoken word. There was no solo voice. Hitman’s Heel, which we did in 2010, was more ballady. Alex said this time, he would like to sing a solo voice on two songs. That was like one of the things he really wanted to do on this album. In general, I always love singing harmonies. So whenever we had the feeling that harmonies were needed, we added them. The spoken word kind of happened instinctively. There were these two pieces where we thought spoken word would be nice, and the throat singing is also always an important part of our work. That happens instinctively though. We do something and then it’s like, ah, it would be nice to have something there, or this piece is perfect without it.

You’ve both been involved in many different projects. Did any of them influence what you did together with this album?

Alex: Just before we started recording this, we scored for a German television cop show together, like a German version of CSI about forensics and all that kind of stuff. I think that commissioned work influenced how we proceeded with this. That was the first time Danielle and I did a commissioned work together. We learned a lot about how we can utilize our respective abilities in creating something, particularly under the time pressure that we’re in. I suppose that kind of influenced the project.

Danielle: I think one thing that I definitely felt was that during our last shows, we did a lot of touring last year. I always kind of felt that I really loved the slow kind of scenic soundscapes that we do, but I somehow felt that I wanted to do something a little bit faster too. I always felt I wanted one or two more songs or pieces that we could play that were faster. That definitely influenced it in that way that I was like, let’s do some things that are a little bit faster because we have plenty of slow things.

The Current is out January 31, 2020 on Einsturzende Neubauten’s label Potomak . For more info, visit: https://www.hackedepicciotto.de/. Also, check out an interview with did Danielle about her more recent solo album.

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I also currently contribute to the Please Kill Me website (based on the book of the same name.) Below are some of my recent interviews from there.

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