Focus On Markus Guentner

It’s been more than 5 years now since Markus and I exchanged ideas in my interview series “Focus On”. Since then a lot has happened… In the last few years Markus has released a concept series of albums with Theia, Empire and Extropy on the US label “A Strangely Isolated Place”. Together we launched our first collaboration tracks on Affin and the Pop Ambient compilation series, and Markus is also responsible for the new label logo designed for the 15th anniversary of the label as well as the graphic design of all Affin records and CDs released since then. Not to mention that May 5, 2023 will see the release of his second Affin album to date, Onda. It follows the Crystal Castle released more than a decade ago.

JS: Your upcoming album Onda is again in a new context after your trilogy for the ASIP label. How would you describe a major difference of the past working phase and the one in which Onda was created?

MG: ONDA was basically born out of a loose approach. With concept albums, everything is concentrated on the concept itself and you build everything on it. ONDA was completely detached from this way of working. The pieces were composed and produced without the thought of necessarily having to press them into an album form in the end. But since they were also created in a certain period of time and phase, you can naturally hear a big connection in the pieces and it results in an overall picture in the end. Partly even very surprising for myself. You listen to the pieces, change the order, adjust something here and there. And it’s an album that makes complete sense just because of the time period in which it was created and conveys a very independent basic mood.

JS: Also away from Onda some musical projects have come up for you in the last months, can you outline that?

MG: The last months were indeed very creative, productive and constructive. After more than 10 years there was a Stareaway remix ep with remixes by Rafael Anton Irisarri and Thomas Fehlmann among others. Recently the collaboration album “Pyramiden” by zaké, James Bernard and me was released. A new collaboration piece was also featured on the last album “Family Harmony” by Pepo Galán. In the course of this there was also a remix for a piece by Galán/Vogt from the album “The Sweet Wait” released in 2021. Pepo also invited me to produce a piece for the compilation “sLOW sketch vol.3 ” which is a tribute to the recently deceased Mimi Parker from LOW. Also to mention is the “The Paper Room” remix for the British band Sneaker Pimps … and last but not least the remix for Joachim Spieth’s “Reshape” album on Affin. There will also be another collaboration album this year. Currently i’m in the final stages for my upcoming album on ASIP. This will probably be a very surprising album, as i also conceived this one completely detached from all previous albums. It took me almost a whole year to get everything together the way it was intended. But it was definitely worth it for the result.

JS: Without giving away too much information already, what impressions or insights have come up on your side in the last 1-2 years in terms of collaborations with other artists?

MG: Collaborations are a completely different approach than solo projects. At first, it’s always a little “overcoming” to hand things over. But then it’s incredibly exciting and thrilling to see how your own ideas are put into dialogue and something emerges that you wouldn’t have thought of at all. It’s the same the other way around. You get fresh, new and different inspirations as soon as an idea comes from your collaboration partner. It’s completely different from remixing, for example. The idea and the pressure of having to work in a more “recognizable” way and having to use things is gone. You can approach the matter completely freely. In the past, collaborations were a bit more difficult and awkward, because the exchange couldn’t take place immediately if you weren’t sitting together in the studio. But since the communication possibilities have developed a lot (especially in the last three years), it has become a lot easier and more “normal” to have a more intimate exchange and communication even over long distances. Of course, it has been possible to communicate with each other with Skype, Zoom etc. for a long time, but we (or rather i) didn’t really use and exploit that. The last few years have shown me even more that it doesn’t matter where you are. It’s always possible to communicate and interact with the world. Somehow, for me, everything is no longer as “anonymous” as it is with emails or phone calls. Visual communication is an insane enrichment for me and also for certain collaborations.

JS: Apart from your musical activities you are professionally engaged in communication design, you have your own company… Are there any similarities between your two art forms?

MG: There are definitely certain similarities between acoustic and visual work. a lot of things develop in the mind, a lot during the process of creating. With graphics, however, it’s the case with me that i mainly work for clients and that i have to “serve” them in a certain way, or rather, always keep their target audience in mind. It’s not primarily my own taste that counts (although this can of course be taken into account). But that’s of course absolutely nothing negative, it’s just that the approach is different. With music, it’s more free, without guidelines. Here i don’t have to please anyone or serve anything. I compose and produce purely out of my own feelings without having to think about how it might be received or liked. There is no pressure here. however, apart from that, there is of course a certain demand of one’s own and one doesn’t want to give anything to the public that doesn’t meet it. And of course there are also graphic projects where one can really “let off steam” and give free rein to one’s creativity (e.g. the work for Affin). Then the working methods and approaches are very similar again.

Onda CD pre-order from 7th April 2023 on Bandcamp. Distributed by Space Cadets.

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