Beatenberg just released their debut album, a groundbreaking production that takes recording to the next level. The Pretorian had a chat with them about drum sounds, people who don't offer music, Chelsea Blakemore and maybe sitting around a Karoo bonfire with them one day.
I am going to jump right in and ask about the album’s production. How the hell did you pull of such an amazing sound?
Thanks! Firstly, we worked with an amazing engineer: Jurgen von Wechmar at Sunset Studios, Stellenbosch. We were really lucky to meet Jurgen because he is a master. Working together we were able to do some amazing guitar, bass, piano and drum tracking. Jurgen has an exceedingly good recording technique and he is open to experiments which helps suits us! Secondly, we produced the album ourselves. Much of the unique character comes from Matt’s demo recordings at home working with Logic Pro and some unusual sound banks. After working on Matt’s demos and tracking parts with Jurgen, Ross took the lead from a sound design and post-production angle, and pushed the sound world as far as possible. Lastly, the album was mixed by Ross Cullum and his team in London, and the album was mastered at Sterling in the US.
I am obsessed with drum recording and your drum sound is like nothing I’ve ever heard. It so warm and sort of wet. Tell me a bit about that?
Again, this is thanks to Jurgen and his midas touch. We all love the character of 60s Blue Note Jazz recordings, and the drumming on those albums, then we also love The Police and some of the 80s sound. We’re also fans of Kanye West, Outkast, D’Angelo’s production. There’s almost too much to name. The character of being at once warm and wet probably arises from the fusion of our live drum sound with some digital percussion and post production treatments.
What are the tools/instruments you use to create your sounds?
Matt played Guitar, Piano, Random Percussion (ie. Pots and Pans). Ross played Bass and Rob played Drums. The demos were made in Logic Pro. The sessions were tracked in Samplitude. Rob made some contributions from Ableton Live. Ross produced the album in Logic Pro. The album was mixed in Pro Tools.
Tell me a bit about the title of your album?
Matt says that it’s a long story he can tell you one night beside a fire in the Karoo.
Does the name Beatenberg have anything to do with a place in Switzerland?
Yes. The German artist Paul Klee drew a sketch of the Swiss mountain village St. Beatenberg. Matt saw this picture and loved it. We all like the sound of Beatenberg because it sounds like it could be South African (Drakensberg, Muizenberg, Wynberg) and it reminds us of beats in rhythm and the beat generation in literature.
Who is “Chelsea Blakemore” and would I want to meet her?
Chelsea is Ross’s ex-girlfriend. Yes, you would want to meet her. We’re all friends. She’s great!
Your music is quite positive and uplifting. Are there any negative things out there that concern you?
We’re concerned about the dying heritage of Jazz and Classical music. World music is also being eclipsed by commercial music. We’re concerned about the niche position of literature and the fact that people don’t read as they used to.
Who are your local influences?
Ray Phiri, Bheki Mseleku, Sipho Hotstix Mabuse, Black Coffee, DJ Clock, Okmalumkoolkat.
Are there any musician types that annoy you?
People who do not offer music.
If there were only two story genres, comedy and tragedy. Which would you be?
You know when the weather changes from sunny to stormy and back again all within one day? That’s what our temperaments are like, and so we would be the emodiment of a turbulent imbalance between both comedy and tragedy. Matt is now going to chip in about Aristotle’s “Poetics” and Rob is going to argue that the two ‘genres’ might in fact be one.
The lyrics sometimes feel random. Is that part of your vibe or am I not listening properly?
Matt’s always said that he’s going for a bit of a random vibe so perhaps you’ve hit the nail on the noggin.
You make some Facebook references. What’s your opinion on social media and its effects on our relationships with each other?
Rob thinks social media sucks, but he’s good at it. Ross sees the benefits, but the cons far outweight the pros. Matt is illiterate, he’s just making strange muffled noises.
I am the worst at social media. Any advice?
Don’t use it.
Do you come from a musical upbringing?
Yes. All of our dads play(ed) music.
Do you think music suffers today because it’s so easily available?
You’re from Cape Town. Do you think there’s such a thing as a Cape Town Sound?
Do you think Cape Town has influenced the music you make?
The natural beauty has influenced our sensibilities.
Why do you think music is so important to people?
The emotional quality of music is a conduit for catharsis. Also, dancing is very healthy and it is an ancient impulse.
What would you say is the weirdest thing that has happened to you this past year and you can’t say this interview?
People liking our songs has been pretty weird in the best way.
QUESTIONS|Ivan Serfontein PHOTOS|Ross Garret