All paths lead to the same destination. You might hear the expression a lot but I don’t think I’m usually fully aware of the circular nature of life to which it refers. Its small things, like The Space Spectrum that help put everything back into perspective. If it hadn’t been for Electric Moon, a band I was introduced to via Sula Bassanna’s solo career, I would never have heard The Space Spectrum. I was introduced to Electric Moon by another band and so on and so forth, but thanks to the recent interview I managed to track down the mad-scientist behind Space Spectrum, Nico Seel. The atmospheric tone of The Space Spectrum’s sound bubbles and tumbles over itself, unfolding like the edges of the cosmos eternally spreading out in front of you, sparse guitars and crackling keyboards tackle the emptiness head on. Drums and bass intertwine to form a concrete solid foundation for one of the trippiest bands I’ve heard in a long, long time! It’s not often I hear a band this ambient that doesn’t come off sounding like random noise to me so as I love the music, was doubly curious to talk with Nico about The Space Spectrum’s sound and what the future might hold. In preparation for his first physical release with a band following a string of successful one-man band digital only Bandcamp albums, Nico took some time out of his busy schedule to talk about all things Space Spectrum with me including the skinny on those early digital albums as well as the upcoming physical release of The Red Eyed Queen album. So kick back with a Bandcamp link check out the interview and begin buying albums why don’tcha!?!
Was your household musical growing up? Were any of your relatives musicians or really interested in music?
No, I ‘m the first musician in my family but my dad and mum are really interested in music like I am.
How did you first become introduced to music? When did you first get interested in music and when did you first become interested in writing and performing music?
Well, I don’t remember when it was exactly, but I was like ten years old when I really became interested in listening to my dad´s music collection. Stuff like The Rolling Stones, Tom Petty and Metallica. Shortly after that I began playing keyboard. I took lessons for like two years but bored of it really quickly. Then I met one of my best friends, Sebastian, who introduced me to playing guitar. Well actually we were in his room, he just had this 15 watt Vox amp cranked up to the max and he played just a few power-chords, really easy stuff. There was a lot of feedback but it was kinda magical to me at that moment, you know? It was like the guitar got me! So I bought my first guitar for 50 eggs, and also bought my first CD, The Sex Pistols Kiss This! I bought that CD for two Euros at some store and I had never listened to them before, I was really just into buying my first CD and listening to it. So the first time I heard Pretty Vacant I didn`t care about the bad singing, I was just listening to the instruments, the drums, the bass, the guitar, figured how it all worked together and how raw the sound was. Then I started writing my first songs, riffs, etcetera.
Where are you originally from?
I was born in Hamburg, Germany. I lived in Bargteheide until the age six, not that far away from Hamburg until then my parents divorced and I moved to Fockbek.
Where are you currently located?
I am currently living in Rendsburg, a city nearby Fockbek.
How would you describe the local music scene where you are at now?
Well, actually we’ve got a lot of metal, hardcore and punk bands in and around Rendsburg and a lot of People go to gigs. There’s also a big Techno/Electro presence.
Are you very involved with the local scene there?
No, I don´t think so. There was a time when I was really heavily involved but I quickly became bored of just drinking, screaming and partying. That isn´t my scene, it’s okay but everything gets to be kinda the same.
Has it played a large role in the sound, history or evolution of The Space Spectrum?
Yes, I saw negative sides. Lots of Bands broke up, changed bass players a thousand times or just didn’t play anymore because their gig didn’t make them legends or something, a lot of stuff that’s caused by just being selfish and egotistical. I jammed with a lot with friends and relatives at our cosmic jam-room and noticed that the guys just played on a different skill level than I did. I also noticed that I had a lot more fun playing with friends then with relatives. So I came up with the idea of jamming with friends who want to make music but have never played an instrument before, to just really keep it one basic note, as easy as it gets and to make the best of it.
I am absolutely loathed to label or classify music and lord knows I’m no good at describing it, how would you describe Space Spectrum’s sound to our readers that might not have heard of you before?
Well, expect the unexpected! First of all it’s raw ‘cause we never learned to play instruments. Everyone is self-taught. But to me that’s like life, we’re all are trying to express our thoughts, stories and feelings, and those are not always perfect. And to do this via a long jam, where a bass riff can last for ten or twenty minutes makes the whole thing intense. We jam that long to create something people can really concentrate on and get lost in. It’s not radio music but that’s what we want, to do we want the way that we want to. People also call it Headmusic.
Who are some of your major musical influences? Is there anyone you think influences the sound of Space Spectrum beyond the personal influences you talked about?
First of all for The Space Spectrum, Electric Moon, Amon DÜÜL II, The Doors and a lot of Indian sitar music like Nikhil Bannerjee. I also think that my in the past my musical tastes were very basic and primal as I said before. There’s a lot of punk, grunge and noise in it, so it will always be raw and imperfect, because I’m not perfect!
Can you talk a little bit about how the band got started? When was that? Was it originally conceived to be a one-man project or did it just kind of work out that way?
The Space Spectrum started as a full band in January 2013 with my best friends Kevin Klein on drums and Nils Seel, who’s also my cousin on bass. All based around the idea I talked about before. Yeah, originally I thought of it being a one-man project to keep control of every single aspect of everything because of these bad experiences I had had with bands in the past.
Can you tell us how you handle live performances as a one-man act? Do you have any additional musicians that help you out on stage?
I’m afraid I couldn’t tell you that because I haven’t played live as Space Spectrum, yet.
Why a one-man project as opposed to a traditional duo, trio or something?
As I said before, it was the easiest way for me to create music in the past. I’m really interested in recording, mixing, mastering and doing that all in the easiest way possible to get a raw but good finish product. Also, it was really easy to express myself that way and I was finding and creating my own style of writing, record and playing music.
What are the best and worst things about being a one-man show?
The worst thing is maybe the fun factor. It is really not fun when you’re really critical in the writing process. The best thing is that you create everything by yourself but you end up with a complete track that sounds like a full band; many different layers of sound all created by one person. I think that’s kinda special.
Let’s talk about the progression from a one-man project into a full-fledged band. When and how did that happen? Was it an easy transition that just sort of came naturally? What brought about the change? Did you have people in mind when you decided to change it up or did you just happen to find the right people at the right time?
I talked about it before but at the beginning of this year, I had the idea of creating music with friends that wanted to make music but had never played an instrument before. To see what the unexpected would bring. As always, my wish was to do this with my best friends even though I knew it was going to take a lot of work to accomplish what we wanted to, it was going to be a long road. They really were excited about it so we started jamming as soon as possible. It wasn’t on that music level that I had as a one-man project at first but we all had a lot of fun so we practiced a lot and gained a lot of experience. Sebastian sometimes also, who taught me to play guitar, sometimes also join us on drums as a support, so sometimes we get these monster jams! Just walls of sound with the thunderous sound of the two drum sets, tons of fun! But The Space Spectrum as a trio works the best for us, handling two drummers is a really hard job! It wasn’t easy but I’m glad I made the change. I’m basically just having fun with my best friends, enjoying the vibrations of sound, it’s fantastic!
What’s the band’s lineup now? Have you gone through any personnel changes since you started working as a band?
The band’s lineup is Kevin Klein on drums, Nils Seel on bass, and me, Nico Seel, on guitar, we sometimes have a second drummer, Sebastian Ikels, and Jotty (who also makes Drum And Bass, name is Palaido) on bass sometimes as well, but the trio works best.
Are any of you in any other bands? Have you released any material with any other bands? If so can you tell us a little bit about it?
Nils is also doing some electro stuff on YouTube under the alias Nilska. I run a one-man project called Krautwerk which is basically just me making music I want to hear with the same rawness that The Space Spectrum has. But it’s more dance, space/kraut, 60’s influenced songs. I’m currently working on the first digital release of Krautwerk, so stay tuned!
When and how did you all originally meet?
I don’t remember when I first met Nils but we met through my new family after the divorce of my parents. My mum married my stepfather, so the new family showed up with this great guy. Kevin and I met at school when I came into 8th grade. We didn’t hang out for a long time but after the first time we did I knew we were going to be good buddies.
Can you tell us about your songwriting process in the early one-man band days?
Sure. I did the drum track and guitar first usually. I used a drum computer to make all the different rhythms and fills, and then I played guitar along with that track to make a full jam. It’s actually nothing special. Just sitting in front of my laptop with my guitar in my hand and building the drums.
What about the recording process? Did you do the recording yourself or did you have help? Can you tell us about a typical recording session for you? Do you have any particular places that you like to record? What kind of equipment do you usually use?
I always did recording on my own. I had help via the internet, articles, videos, anything that gives information about recording that I could cram into my brain. Through a lot of research I came up with a basic formula. First of all I have the drum part done from writing process. I recorded the bass track, running it through effect pedals and then into the mix, then the keys and effects track get added. Those run through effect pedals and guitar amp and then into the mix and the same thing with the guitar. Mixing was mostly done with an old 4-track cassette recorder from the 90s, but I also did some digital recording with an audio-interface running some recording software, mostly Fruity Loops, on the laptop. Cosmic Sounds and the Self-Titled release were both recorded that way. Every release so far, from Comic Sounds, to Cosmic Mother Hash has been recorded at my home where I grew up in Fockbek.
You have self-released five albums via Bandcamp! Let’s start by talking about your first release Cosmic Sounds, which came out in October of 2011. Was that exclusively released via Bandcamp? How did that album come about?
It was the first release from The Space Spectrum and also my first recording. It was digitally recorded with some drum-patterns because I didn’t have a drum computer at that time. I also used Magix Music Maker a really easy beginner’s level recording-software. I think I released it on the Bandcamp site the beginning of 2012; much later than the recording date.
You followed up Cosmic Sounds with the self-titled Space Spectrum album in December of 2012, was that recorded in the same fashion as Cosmic Sounds?
Basically, yes. But I changed the recording-software to Fruity Loops and also bought a drum computer, so I was able to write real drum parts for the first time! It also features my first really long jam, a thirty minute end track.
Then in January of 2013 there was II. What about that album, was there any kind of progression in songwriting or recording from Cosmic Sounds at that point?
Yeah, there were a lot of changes! I switched to analog tape recording here. Not to get a better quality of sound, but a warmer sound. You know the tape will never play at the exact same tempo you recorded at, there’s always this really easy chorus that gives everything this warm, bright sound. I also think that II is a lot heavier than the Self-Titled album, but that was just part of the process of me finding my sound.
March of this year saw the release of your fourth Bandcamp release ironically titled, III. Can you tell us a little bit about that album?
He-he! Yeah it’s the fourth release but my third album, I see Cosmic Sounds as an EP. I think by this point I had found my own way of creating sound, it’s a lot spacier than II. PS III also features the song Komet Lulu, a tribute to the female bass player of Electric Moon.
Your latest Bandcamp release is Cosmic Mother Hash which came out in March. Were you still working on your own for this release or had you started to collaborate with the band by this point? If so did that affect your composition for Cosmic Mother Hash?
I was still working on my own here. I tried to make the best release I could. We’ve been recording jams as a full band since the end of January but Cosmic Mother Hash is just me playing. For me it’s my best release as a one-man-project. It also features a tribute, the last jam is a cover of The Cosmic Dead`s Anatta, one of my favorite jams of theirs.
Your first physical album is coming out in October. Does that feature the entire band or did you record that material alone? What can our readers expect from the album? Did you try anything radically different with songwriting or recording for this album from your early Bandcamp albums?
The vinyl will feature The Space Spectrum as a full band, and as I said, expect the unexpected! Our jams will be different but the past basic structure of The Space Spectrum will still be there. Also I wouldn’t really say “songwriting” ‘cause as a full band we really just jam on a basic structure, but every change possible will appear here.
What was the recording process like? Who recorded it? Where was it recorded? When was it recorded? What kind of equipment was used?
The recording was basically the same. The drums were recorded with two overheads in Recorderman position and one mic EQ`ed just with bass recording the bassdrum. The bass went directly into the analog-mixer and the guitar amp was recorded by a cheap amp-mic. I recorded it and we are recording at our Cosmic Jam-room in Rendsburg, we’re still recording jams. Just to get a wide range of different jams to choose from for our vinyl.
The last time I talked to you the name of the new album hadn’t been decided on, is that still the case or have you settled on something? Who’s going to be releasing the album?
It will be named The Red Eyed Queen and is going to be released by Cosmic Eye Records, a Greek Space/Headmusic label that’s released a ton of other great Spaceband´s music on vinyl.
Are there any plans to release any of the early material on physical formats in the future?
I can actually imagine Cosmic Mother Hash getting a physical release but I don’t know for sure, only the future will tell.
How has performing with the band changed your songwriting and or composition for songs, if at all?
Well as a one-man band I always planned the entire track, the drums, guitar, etcetera. Now it’s really just jamming in the moment enjoying the vibe for as long as we feel like and then changing to something different. That’s a great thing! If you do that you´ll never get bored of playing!
Other than the upcoming album are there any other planned releases from The Space Spectrum?
Yeah I can’t say the release date or name of it but there will be a digital album showing up featuring The Space Spectrum’s early full-band jams. It might also get a physical release, again only time will tell.
Where’s the best place for our US readers to purchase your music from with the recent international postage increases? What about overseas and international readers?
The easiest, and momentarily only, way is our Bandcamp site www.thespacespectrum.bandcamp.com. When our vinyl album comes out you’ll be able to buy it from Cosmic Eye Records site.
What do you have planned as far as touring goes for the rest of the year?
I’m afraid there’s no tour planned. But we have the chance to play our first gigs this year and next in Germany. It’s really hard to find a place to play in and around Rendsburg, so future will show but we can’t wait to play live for sure!
Do you have any interesting or funny stories from live shows that you’d like to share with our readers?
I think the funniest thing is probably that we never played live. But we want to really badly!
I must admit that I do love having digital copies of my albums since I can’t carry my turntables around with me all the time ha-ha! But there’s something inescapably magic about physical releases for me. Having something to hold in my hands, artwork to look at and liner notes to read, they all serve to make the listening experience more complete; at least for me. Do you have any such connection with physical releases?
Yeah it’s the same connection you talked about. I love vinyl. There’s something really awesome to look at and the sound is unique, and audio-cassettes… Putting spacemusic on such a small thing seems kinda perverted, heihe!
Do you have a music collection at all? If so can you tell us a little bit about it?
Well, as I said, I love vinyl. I think I began collecting about two years ago, so not that long, but I have to say that I buy more vinyl than CDs! My collection includes Credence Clearwater Revival, The Doors, Pink Floyd, Radio Moscow, The Black Angels, Jimi Hendrix, Amon DÜÜL II, Rotor, Indian Stuff, Electric Wizard and a lot of rock´n´roll stuff like Elvis and Little Richard.
As an artist during the reign of the digital age I’m curious to hear your opinion on digital music and distribution? There’s a lot of damage being done to the infrastructure of the preexisting industry but it seems to be leveling the playing field for a lot of independent bands that are willing to go the extra mile and work a little harder to promote and distribute themselves. What’s your take on the situation?
I think that sites like Bandcamp and iTunes are great for an independent musician. They’re a great chance to show everyone what kind of music you create, as a one-man or full-band or whatever. But there’s also a lot of musical chaos. Lots of trash, sometimes just shit really. But that shows the chance of getting someone’s attention is much higher than in the past without the internet. So do your thing.
I ask everyone I talk to about bands, I try to keep up with as much good music as is humanly possible. Who should I be listening to from your local area or scene that I might not have heard of before?
The Space Spectrum is a good one. Ever heard of those hipsters? Ha-ha.
What about nationally and internationally?
You should give those bands a listen: The Cosmic Dead, Electric Moon, Radar Men From The Moon, Wooden Shijips, Radio Moscow, Eearthless, Kadavar, The Flying Eyes, Electric Wizard, Coogans Bluff, Black Mountain, The Dead Weather, Katla, Colour Haze, Krautwerk and The Black Angels.
Is there anything that I missed or that you’d just like to talk about?
I wanna thank you Roman, for asking me so many questions, it was really a great first interview. I hope my English wasn’t too bad he-he! And thank you for taking the time to make this real and greetings to Komet Lulu from Eelectric Moon who introduced Roman to The Space Spectrum’s music. What an intense Interview, that was like our music! Thanks again and all the best, PEACE!
(2011) The Space Spectrum – Cosmic Sounds – digital – Self-Released
(2012) The Space Spectrum – The Space Spectrum – digital – Self-Released
(2012) The Space Spectrum – II – digital – Self-Released
(2012) The Space Spectrum – III – digital – Self-Released
(2013) The Space Spectrum – Cosmic Mother Hash – digital – Self-Released
Interview made by Roman Rathert/2013
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