I met my good friend Mike to talk to him about music and its meaning to his work. All photographs in this article were made either by Mike or me on the day this interview was held.
What do you do?
I do a lot. I am currently still a student, soon to be finished. But I am also a photographer and filmmaker.
Why are you doing this?
Because it makes me feel really fulfilled and it is so much fun. It is also incredibly challenging.
Do you have high expectations of yourself?
Very high actually.
Do you usually meet them?
No, never actually.
But what is the consequence of this?
I think I'm lucky because I can handle my high demands and expectations of myself very well. It is okay for me if I don't achieve it because I just always find that I learn from it.
That a film can really take you on a journey and captivate you, when you watch it, regardless of what the message is supposed to be. Not only absorb the story, but maybe even experience it a bit.
Does your work mostly express a message or is it (sometimes) just purely about the aesthetics which you seek to express?
It depends. When I look back now, it is mostly just the pure aesthetics of the photos and maybe a feeling or theme, which a photo or a few photos in a row can trigger. Most of the time it is very documentary what I do for myself personally. I simply document what is happening around me or where I am or what I am seeing. I think the possibilities in filming are much wider; you have more options to create a certain sentiment like humor or fear or tension. That's why I'm more concerned about these factors. And then I actually want more emotions to come around. That a film can really take you on a journey and captivate you, when you watch it, regardless of what the message is supposed to be. Not only absorb the story, but maybe even experience it a bit.
Can this attitude also be transferred to your taste in music?
Yes. I love songs that don't have the typical structure of "Verse, Refrain, Verse, Refrain, Bridge, Refrain". I find the songs that have a very different approach and use the music as a stylistic device to tell a story especially exciting. I think the story-telling aspect of songs are very important.
It can be transmitted melodically, but of course also through the lyrics. Do you pay more attention to the lyrics or the melody/rhythm?
I think I pay more attention to the instrumental part. This is due to the fact that I listen to music much more “passively”, so I don't sit down actively to listen to songs. For me it's like two phases. More often because I listen to music more instrumentally and then switch to the lyrics. Where I would say, where I don't do that anymore, is with Mac Miller's last album, because I already knew that he was dead and that it was a post-mortem album and I actively heard it from the beginning. It's the other way around there. I first paid attention to the lyrics and now I'm much more on the music side because I just know what it's about.
How do you consume music? Rather individual songs and playlists or do you listen to entire albums?
I like to hear an album completely in one piece. This also fits into this “story-telling” which I value. But what I started is collecting songs that stand out for me or that stand for a special moment or feeling, chronologically. That means I have a playlist for every month of the year and then sometimes I can look back at the month again. It fits my photography a bit, because I bring out a small collection of photos every month that I can look back on.
When you make these collections and look at both of them side by side, are there sometimes any mutual influences? Do you have the feeling that there is a connection between the music you heard this month and the photos or the films that were made this month?
That’s a great question! I've asked myself the same once or twice. What I actually wanted to do for ages and didn't manage to do is put together these hundreds of photos that I take every month as a collection with the music I listen to this month as a “visual and auditive experience”. I actually wanted to do this for a long time because I am totally interested in identifying these parallels, when I know "I often heard the song in the first week of the month" and accordingly I only photographed certain things during this week.
Then I just land there and that's why I decided to land there only if I want to, so that I go into it more or less prepared.
What exactly does your music consumption look like at work? Do you listen to music while working or rather before and after? If at work, at which work steps or phases?
I am someone who can actually always listen to music. I know it's not necessarily a good thing because I've found that when I'm calm, I'm much more creative, but I can't stop it. I don't want to let it go. I just want to listen to music. Always when photographing. I try to listen to music when I'm preparing for a project or a job, I actually also try to have music on the set while taking pictures, maybe to get a bit of a mood and post-processing anyway.
Does the music serve you as a medium to create a mood or as inspiration or does it help you to be focused? Or is it just simply entertainment?
I would say that it depends a bit on the moment. It could take almost any shape you just said. I also helps me to focus on my work, especially while editing my photos. I also know that I listen to music to create a certain feeling, which I would then transfer to my photos.
Does that mean that you also partly consciously decide which type of music you are listening to because it influences you artistically?
Yes, of course. If a job somehow doesn't motivate me at all, then something motivating must come. I would also just say music is able to change the view on a picture and also that it also affects the editing.
What motivates you?
Rock works quite well for that. But I also know that I can listen to hip-hop or rap. For motivating things, I like to hear Abhi The Nomad, he doesn't have that happy hip-hop but it's a little easier. I also love to listen to Anderson Paak when it has to be motivating. Cage The Elephant is very common, but they actually have songs that can often arouse an emotion in me. I don’t really mean that the songs themselves are so emotional, but simply the moment I heard them back then. Do you have another emotional question, otherwise I would go into it now?
I have a weird tic that I have a few songs that are among my absolute favorite songs that I can never hear because I just have to cry. This is totally blatant because they created such an emotional bond for me at a certain moment, I can never hear them, unless I actively choose to return to this situation and deal with this feeling and maybe also to deal with this situation again.
Why is that?
I can hear the song, but then it'll just pull me in and then I have almost no control over it. Then I just land there and that's why I decided to land there only if I want to, so that I go into it more or less prepared.
No matter when and where?
Doesn’t matter. One of the songs was Moving on by James. I couldn't listen to it until the end without breaking into tears. I think I now also have self-control, self-control to pull myself out of there if necessary, which I also often just don't want because I sometimes need it for some reason to really go through it. Just in a moment when I feel really bad or in such a way that I can dive in again and then maybe I feel worse or maybe it wears me down even more, but that helps me somehow.
Is there any film music that you instinctively regard as a successful example...?
For a successful one? I can immediately think of something. It is not film music, but several stories are only told through pictures, fitting to the music. It's called Ludovico Einaudi - Experience. I actually think that the film or the pictures express a bit what the music tries to express.
At the end I have a few simple questions. Do you have a favorite artist?
I would say I really appreciate Mac Miller's last two albums, not just the last two actually. I also listen a lot to Anderson Paak, it has something to do with the way I find his music. I think it is incredibly interesting through the drums and distinctive beats and the very great voice that I really find unique. Júníus Meyvant is really great to listen to and really pleasant, sometimes a little sad, other times a little uplifting.
Other artists I listen to a lot are The Growlers, Sticky Fingers and Leon Bridges.
If someone has never heard any of the first three artists, which album from each artist would you recommend and why?
With Mac Miller I would probably recommend Swimming. If you know the historical context or the timeline that the album was released shortly before he died, I think the songs convey a lot of meaning.
With Anderson Paak, I personally started at Malibu and thought it was really great, because I had the feeling that he was really good at what he could do and what he wanted to do and because he was incredibly strong on the drums. His things before did not appeal to me so much, but from then on the development, I think there are three albums, is very exciting and actually very nice to see that it gets a bit calmer. On the Malibu album there are songs like Put Me Through and Celebrate and in general quite simple themes and later it's more about love. It's also a little more like pop, which probably speaks to more people. But it gets a little bit more emotional and even a bit political.
With Júníus Meyvant, I think it's the 2016 album, which I really like, it's called Floating Harmonies.
Do you have a music recommendation?
I can think of two. By Odesza feat. Leon Bridges, the song Across the Room is really cool. Then there is the song Time by the Free Nationals feat. Mac Miller, I like them very much right now.
Nice, awesome, thank you.
And I really like the German Beatles versions right now, I think they are very funny.
Music mentioned in this post: