multi-instrumentalist and composer Bernward Koch is kind of
a 21st century J.S. Bach. Inspired by the drama and memorable notes
of the timeless classical masters from his native country, Bernward
Koch is also a modern day contemporary instrumental music maestro
in his own right. The legacy of the great German musical masters comes
into play on Bernwards 2017 CD called Filled With Light.
On Filled With Light, Bernward is again assisted by his
family memberswife Christiane Böhm (flute) and brother
Christoph Koch (twelve string guitar, percussion). Even though
that classical music sound of old Germany is never far off in Bernwards
music, on Filled With Light he brings in a range of new musical
influencesfor example on That June Feeling theres
a kind of Americana feel and you can almost hear the folk music influence
of Bob Dylan and, although the track is a New Age instrumental piece,
it's clearly a memorable album highlight. As on his other Real Music
albums, whatever musical inspiration dawns on Bernward, hes
sure to make the most of it with a deep and mysterious twist that
more than connects the musical dots. Those seeking avant garde or
musical shock had better look elsewhere but if youre seeking
a sonic solution to stress or you want to hear a great sounding headphone
album, look no farther than Filled With Light. Bernward Koch
and his New Age instrumental keyboard sound reaches new and intriguing
heights on Filled With Light. www.realmusic.com
mwe3.com presents an interview with
The Filled With Light interview
I hope youve been well over in Germany this past year. I cant
believe the seasons and the entire year is fleeting fast. How have
things been over in the old country and whats new in your life?
Bernward Koch: Yes, time flies, so its important to fill
the time with sense. I think every second counts, actually no matter
what you do. In political things we will have a new and a little changed
administration, like Jamaica, that means the colors of
the parties, we will see. I think one of the most important things
in the world for all creatures is to protect our planet. Its
our home and still we have only one
mwe3: Did Filled With Light give you a chance to try
out some new keyboards and other effects? Last time around you mentioned
some of the early keyboards that were used on your early albums. What
pianos and other keyboards did you feature on Filled With Light?
I remember you saying you were happy with the Yamaha CP4, the
Korg and Omnisphere. Can you mention some of the other keyboards and
effects used on the Filled With Light album?
Bernward Koch: I know I have a unique sound, but I try to change
a little on every new album, so that you can find always new sounds
too, among new tunes of course. This time I played, for the first
time, on a very old and incredible good sample of a Bechstein piano,
on several tracks. It reminds me of my first piano, a Bechstein from
Berlin, constructed in 1923, that was a gift from my father in 1972.
It made a good inspiration for new and exciting tunes, with its very
warm and natural sound too.
On other tracks I used the Korg SG1D piano again, the Yamaha CP4 that
the Rolling Stones Chuck Leavell uses the same on their current
tour, a new Yamaha refaced DX, Nord Electro 4D, microKorg, Roland
D50, alphaJuno2, Korg Triton plus, Yamaha DX7IID, many VST-Plug-Ins
and among other acoustic instruments like very specially chosen percussion,
bells, chimes, cymbals, guitars, drums and more, in addition to the
Muramatsu flute, played by Christiane Böhm.
In addition to an SPL Vitalizer, I have a new effect Lexicon PCM91
reverb, the same model that was also used on my Walking Through
Clouds album already then. It has a very special, pleasant sound,
the only one that perfectly fits the music.
mwe3: Is it the same using the high tech keyboards as it is
using the grand piano you keep in your house? Is it more fun to record
with the high tech Yamaha stage pianos or the traditional pianos from
the old days? Is Bach happy in the after life?
Bernward Koch: Yeah, Bach is probably happy, but he lived from
1685 to 1750! I often use different pianos on one album. The thing
is that every sound must fit well to the composition, but always my
musical handwriting must be recognizable and the music must be expressive.
Your wife Christiane and brother Christoph sound great on Filled
With Light. While making the new album, did you record with them
live or did you add overdubs to fill out the track. Is there a set
process that you use when recording with other musicians?
Bernward Koch: Mostly I compose everything, the flute melody,
the exact guitar and percussion parts and so on. Sometimes I try different
possibilities for the arrangement. Its good to instantly hear
the effect on the track after overdubbing recordings.
mwe3: You also played guitar and bass on Filled With Light.
Are those instruments crafted into the mix to underscore your
keyboards? What guitars do you have in your collection? I saw the
pic with your classical guitar in the Filled With Light CD
booklet. Do you double melodic lines on keyboards and guitar or does
your brother handle most of the guitars on Filled With Light?
Bernward Koch: The basic sound of my music accrues in my
head. Then I write some chords and melodies on a paper of the new
idea, no notes, in note form. Later I record it on my computer. I
use Steinberg Cubase, like a tape recorder first. Then I arrange it
with other instruments. I play concert guitara Takamine and/or
an old Höfner like the photo in the booklet of Filled With
Lightas melody and chords, synthesizer bass or I use my
Music Man Stingray bass guitar.
Everything must fit to the song. I add synthesizer and other instruments.
Then my brother plays different percussion instruments and drums,
and if necessary, his 12 string Takamine mini-jumbo acoustic guitar
as rhythm guitar too. Its interesting that on the new Filled
With Light album, for the first time, there's a duo. The piece
is called Provence, and its only an old piano and
mwe3: How do you feel about comparisons of your music with
other famous German composers and musicians? I heard that the famous
German drummer Jaki Liebzeit also passed away last year too. So many
great musicians are leaving now so whats the key to longevity?
I guess people asked Bach that question too.
Bernward Koch: I met Jaki Liebezeit about 3 years ago at a
concert at my hometown. It was experimental and funny, he was a nice
guy. Otherwise, most of my contacts with the German music scene are
many jazz musicians - Sigi Busch, Jo Thönes, Christoph Spendel.
They all work as professors today. The jazz-rock band Kraan and I
played a few gigs together as keyboard player and many young people
attended. I think we all live longer when our music does
I visited San Francisco last September, met my label, the Real Music
staff. I played a little gig at the Steinway piano gallery and met
friendly musicians, especially the bass player of the Grateful Dead,
Phil Lesh, in his famous place Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael.
(see pic below) It was such a great experience to talk with him and
hear and see Phil live on the stage. He has a new liver since 1998!
How soon after your best of CD Touched By Love did you start
recording and planning your 2017 album Filled With Light? I
remember you saying that last year you already had several new songs
written that I guess are now on the Filled With Light album.
What did you set out to achieve with Filled With Light and
how do you feel the album stands next to your other titles?
Bernward Koch: Sometimes I have many ideas for a new album
or two within a few weeks, and sometimes no ideas for a while, so
Im happy with the new album. Its a new record with new
tracks. I think it sounds like Bernward Koch and that you can discover
mwe3: Do some of the tracks on Filled With Light offer
a kind of Deja Vu type experience. I was thinking that about the tracks
Summer Anthem and also track three which is just called
Free. Is Free a kind of plea to become free
from what ever is enslaving us? Is Summer Anthem a happy
song or more deep considering the short summers in much of Northern
Bernward Koch: Free means for me to feel free,
just free. Its a special moment for me and also perhaps for
the audience, too. Like walking alone through a quiet and vast landscape
Summer Anthem is for me being grateful to experience a
wonderful and pleasant summer, its like a gift. Well, this summer
we had mostly rain, too much rain, with only very few days with sunshine,
but those days were worth it.
mwe3: What gave you the idea for That June Feeling?
For some reason, I hear a Bob Dylan influence in that track! Is that
the most Americana flavored song on Filled With Light? Does
that track also pay tribute to summer itself.?
Bernward Koch: Oh, thank you. Well, you can probably find that
chord sequence in That June Feeling in many songs, too,
its a good basis. But I composed that song through improvising
on an old Fender Rhodes piano, building a melody and different parts
in the verse, chorus and bridge. Yes, it has a warm feeling like a
mwe3: Crystal Light is very Bach / Procol Harum
influenced wouldnt you say? For some reason, those chords and
key changes seem bring up the spirit of Bach its impact on rock musicians
Bernward Koch: Bach is like an ocean, an unending great and
ever-flowing river. Of course his music influenced every musician
in almost all music styles in the world, from Beethoven to Bartók
and jazz, and rock music, too. Many come from his Air,
especially for Procol Harum, and for example the Bach/Baroque trumpet
in the Beatles' song Penny Lane, too.
mwe3: Are there folk elements used in Filled With Light?
Some of the tracks have a bit of folk music themes in them. Germany
has a lot of traditional folk music and lots of classical music to
draw on. I mention that because Treetop Glide, which is
followed by Elfin Dance sounds very much influenced by
folk music themes.
Koch: Honestly, I usually dont know where the ideas come
from, but Im always very open for many styles of music. But
after hearing it I forget it, and later a new tune accrues anyway.
On a melody like Elfin Dance, I produce the arrangement
to get the feeling in the track, this time a little folk feeling.
And if you listen to instrumental music you have plenty of room for
mwe3: Evening Calm is more New Age in scope while
sounding both modern and timeless at the same time. Do you like contrasting
the new, cutting edge with that mix of folk and classical so to speak?
Bernward Koch: Well, first Evening Calm was a typical
track to calm me down. While in the arranging process I discovered
new possibilities, especially the long outro. This is a complete improvisation.
You can hear the first take, and still it fits so good with the track
and opens new spaces! In such a moment I think of nothing like a musical
style or so, but only of the expression of the music alone. It has
to stay exciting.
mwe3: Quiet Day is another very relaxing track
with a nice mix of piano and synths. In that track are the more traditional
melodic elements enhanced by your modern synth sound? Where did the
main melody of Quiet Day come from? Its very smooth
sounding but deep.
Bernward Koch: Quiet Day is an idea and a composition
that came instantly on the piano, at the right moment. For me its
always important telling a story, so it is a story in musical notes
for me. And a kind of traveling in the center section, which is an
improvisation at first playing. Yes I think so, the track is smooth
sounding but deep, a good assessment.
mwe3: What inspired Tidal Flow? Is that one of
the more rhythmic tracks on Filled With Light? The key changes
again, make it one of the most interesting tracks on the new album.
Bernward Koch: On this track you can hear the waves, the tides,
again and again, its sweeping. I use a piano (Korg SG1-D) with
an echo, and a tempo-delay that fits to the rhythm. On this track
I use the most instruments: piano with delay, all my synthesizers,
the Yamaha reface DX for the melody, a Rhodes from Nord Electro 4D,
many VST-plugins like Retrologue and Groove Agent (from Cubase), different
guitars, percussion, shaker, drums, and cajón with brushes.
All of it was mixed with any number of electronic sounds to get the
right dramatic feeling, which comes from the echo melody and the chords,
mwe3: Does In Her Eyes come back to the more Bach-like
or neoclassical style? What about In Her Eyes and its
origins and possible influences?
Koch: This track is like sitting in a room with dimmed light,
or a few candles. Let the music flow, thinking about good things and
reading a good book with wisdom
The influence is more classical
mwe3: Underwater Sunbeams is an intriguing title
to end the Filled With Light album. Its very airy sounding,
almost like a feather. You wanted to close Filled With Light with
a track that floats the album off into the horizon?
Bernward Koch: Why not? When the track was finished, I had
no title for the music, like I do for almost for all tracks, so first
I use working titles. But if I hear that track now with a little distance,
I imagined Underwater Sunbeams and remembered a holiday
in the mid 1980s when I visited the Maldives island. The colors underwater
were magnificent, because through the sunbeams, there were underwater
sunbeams, making an unforgettable impression.
mwe3: Do you consider your music to be always a kind of film
score? If not to an actual movie but more to the movie of life, in
your minds eye? While were on it, can you mention a couple
of your favorite film soundtracks and your favorite soundtrack composers?
Bernward Koch: Yes, I think instrumental music is often like
a kind of film score in the minds eye, which is good for the
fantasy. I very much like the all-time greats among soundtrack composers
like Bernard Herrmann, John Williams, Ennio Morricone, John Barry,
Alan Silvestri, Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner, Dimitri Tiomkin, Max
Steiner and more, and the younger ones like Hans Zimmer, Cliff Martinez
and Reinhold Heil, too. John Williams has composed such great catchy
tunes, but many styles of music can work very well, like Johann Strauss
and Richard Strauss in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
mwe3: Are you still hopeful that the world will find one
day find peace through music? Is music still a valid type of peaceful
form of global unification in your mind?
Bernward Koch: Well, I think music can be both, making the
world make a little better and more bearable. And like a reaction,
like a kind of free jazz for example from Peter Brötzmann or
hard rock and so on, it can be a way to endure this crazy world. Yes,
Im hopeful and I think music can help to make the world a little
better. What would the world be without music?
You are like a well that keeps bringing forth fresh musical waters
with each new release. How will you recharge or renew your musical
/ compositional batteries for the next round of musical inspiration
while seeking to make your finest music yet?
Bernward Koch: Good question. But actually this situation of
composing and recording new tracks for a whole album is, in the meantime,
like a normal process. Yes, I relax a little, but having a really
good idea for a new song is always a magical moment. Sometimes I have
no ideas, but suddenly there comes enough for an whole album in a
few weeks! For my last records I had on average 40 or 50 new ideas,
and then I select the best of the best tunes. Its a good thing,
and always hard work.