Interview by: Stefan Wyeth
1. Saafi Brothers is has a very distinctive musical style not only in sound but in structure, each track seems to change and transform like a weather pattern over a landscape. What was the inspiration for the concept of this project and how did it come about?
When I travelled India in the late 80ties I discovered the life of the Sadhus, the holy men of India that live a spiritual life following the paths of their god Shiva. This fascination fueled my idea of musicians as a brotherhood of devoted artists with a spiritual sense for music and sound.
In 1994 I started this project with Petro Nikolaidis and George Din and after a release on vinyl and cd on German imprint infraCom! I worked together with Michael Kohlbecker on some remixes for Air Liquide and Camouflage – soon I asked him to join our open brotherhood of the Saafi Brothers. Together with Michael we developed our core sound and improved it on more remixes for Die Fantastischen Vier (no. 1 in German charts for long time) or Bob Marley…
Jam El Mar from Jam&Spoon (who was a good friend and mentor of Michael) infected us with the idea of creating an entire album with “that sound” – our sound – which we did. The result was our debut album “mystic cigarettes” that was released by British TechnoAcidTrance label Blue Room Released.
We had so much inspiration; one of these is also our claim for producing:
Let it happen without planning – because of our different personalities the productions is carrying our energies and along with our handwrite it creates the typical Saafi Brothers sound.
2. The music is very much performance-based and focused on the use of live instruments, what is the creative process and why have you taken this route as opposed to simply using software?
We wanted to take the chance and develop ourselves as band into a different level – after four studio albums that were also recorded in intense sessions, but created in sequence, we took decision to change the method of recording and create a different environment in order to get different results which I think worked pretty well since playing music together in real-time is another story than sculpturing sounds in sequence.
Just like you say…music is music, it is mostly played and not in a software mouse creating style. While playing music it happens by itself, free of the prison of normal thinking and open to the collective mind of the performing musicians in that very moment. Those moments we recorded live, which means in real-time production – the moment we played a new song for the first time also the same song was finished when we stopped playing the song the first time.
3. The Saafi sound has a strong dub influence as well as being psychedelic. Please tell us about your musical influences and your interest in dub music creation.
I must confess: I am strongly influenced by Dub music since I was 15 years old and heard Mad Professor meets Ruts DC on John Peel´s Radio. To me it sounded like music of another planet and very much future and by the time I discovered more Dub music and that is influencing me until today. Together with a bunch of likeminded friends we set up an Electronic Dub Sound System named “Serious Dropout” and released also Saafi Brothers tracks on the compilation albums. On the other hand I always loved the man-machine concepts in electronic music and started collecting dub affected electronic music as well like the infamous Guerrilla In Dub compilation, the Dubtechno sound of Basic Channel, UK digidub like Zion Train, Leftfield or Dread zone and of course original Dub from Jamaica by the likes of King Tubby, Lee Scratch Perry, Scientist or Mad Professor…
On the other hand we are living and working in Frankfurt/Germany so there is an indisputable and obvious influence of Techno music that incorporates also House, Trance and other fruits of the Techno-tree, and I see Psytrance as well as a form of Acid Trance-Techno music…
4. Saafi Brothers are renowned for your live performances; please take us through what preparation goes into this. How much is rehearsed and which aspects are improvised?
It´s at least 50/50 – we got basic grooves and sequences from our tracks running and play drums, bass lines and special effects as well as vocal pieces entirely live along to it – we rehearse only when preparing for tour and got all possible music pieces together that we use to improvise to our tracks live on stage since that is giving us enough tension/suspense in the moment to perform with intense…when developing the tracks we don´t rehearse but improvise completely – that´s how we produced the live album: Each musician using his own sound units, the only information that is necessary is basic keynote and tempo – everything else comes from improvising in the moment – just as Jazz musicians communicate musically in real-time together. The result is a more organic flow of the music than if it would have been recorded in sequence.
5. The music has definite focus on giving the listener an experience, what has inspired you over the years consistently write this material?
It is an interpersonal affair since our different members at Saafi Brothers all have their unique history and roots and we all are bringing that into our sessions – the result is our sound, that differs from what we do as individual artists in our solo works, If it is Michael Kohlbecker with his projects Seelenfarbe or Eternal Basement, Or Luca Anzilotti with his project Snap! (I’ve got the power), Petro Nikolaidis aka Groovetitan with his solo works, or my own collaborations for example with South-African artists like Busy Mhlongo, Amampondo or Love Parade founder Dr. Motte – all this gathers together in our creative pool and leaves it´s traces in our music.
6. The most recent Saafi album “Live On The Roadblog” was released this year on Iboga Records, Denmark. Please tell us about the creation of this album, the music videos and your choice of label for the release?
After coming back from a live performance at Ozora Festival 2012 in Hungary that we played first time with our new Saafi Brother Luca Anzilotti we were inspired by the idea of creating a live recorded album just as our live show and experiment with the suspense of creating real-time recorded music for our new album. We met over a time period of a month and recorded 60 tracks out of we picked the fitting tunes for our album.
After we did some decent post-production on the tuners where we fitted in the vocals and had the mastering done by Gaetano at Perla Audio Mastering. Then we sent our music to Simon Ghahary (our former A+R manager and designer at Blue Room Released) and he developed a design with images, covers artworks and a special logotype.
Once the album was mastered we started working on videos for the tunes. One concept was to use animated photo and graphic artworks that show images taken “on the road” and traveling since that has been our overall concept idea on the music and lyrics and we wanted to see that in the visuals as well. I used my own photography’s for “ghost in the tree”, and received great images by my friend and photo artist Sandhan Freeart who shot fresh images this year in India for “infinity is reality” that he sent me to do the artworks and video edit – every single picture is an individual artwork in these clips.
The video for “at the crossroads” is the result of a cooperation with film makers from Los Angeles Joe Shapiro and Yaque Silva-Doyle who travelled to the Himalayas and shot a documentary movie “Le Doc” and they allow us to use their images to create this clip.
Since we´ve always been connected to and with the Psytrance scene even if our sound never clearly was psytrance but rather our special mix of Techno, Dub and Electronica we wanted to keep in touch with our roots since we constantly been in tune with our fans and Iboga Records seemed to us a real good label releasing versatile music. After getting in touch with Michael and Alexander from Iboga we all had the feeling that this co-op could fit well together and we are very happy Iboga welcomed us to their family 🙂
7. Both of the Saafi band members, Gabriel and Michael have various other solo projects and record labels. Please tell us briefly about some of them and whether we can expect more musical offerings from you in future?
Saafi Brothers is actually an “open” brotherhood of likeminded artists and our new member Luca Anzilotti is also very active in his own projects like Snap! For example, Petro Nikolaidis works on his own music as Groovetitan,
Michael runs his own projects Eternal Basement and Seelenfarbe. I do continue working on my own releases as Gabriel Le Mar and Dublocation where I worked together with George Din and Markie J. on vocal concepts and Techno Tech House with a clear Dub approach in sound and style, and since many years I work together with Dr. Motte (founder of the Love Parade) – our new EP is called “Fever” (Praxxiz Rec) – we also have finished a concept album called RCO which stands for Radical Chill Out.
Actually I am celebrating my 25th anniversary of producing since releasing my first record in 1989. “END OF TIME” is the name of my new LP which is coming in JUNE 2014 on EBR Eternal Basement Recordings. The concept of the album – timelessness – this statement fits 100% to the reality of me as an artist and the electronic dance world.
Electronic dance music of all kind – one of the best ways to freeze time! “End of time” reflects the signature of Michael Kohlbecker in all kind of styles. Remember: Definition is Limitation. Real techno from dark and deep to open air to deep house and electro pop. The concept of the LP also shows itself in the very special videos that were made to the key tracks. The END OF TIME MIX of the legendary song of EXTRABREIT “DIE POLIZISTEN” is switching on the light on that LP!
8. The Saafi Brothers are what I would regard as very successful artists as you consistently deliver high quality art which carries a message to your audience without following musical trends. What has helped you along the way and do you have any advice to artists out there looking to follow in your footsteps?
Passion for “it” is the most important thing! If you really really want to create music there is no way stopping you – don´t be in it for the money, your music shows you naked – it undresses parts of your soul and personality anyway, there is no way hiding anything so your intentions should be right since everything becomes more or less obvious and audible…