ENTREVUE / INTERVIEW
Poor Genetic Material
WITH: Philipp & Philip
ALBUM REVIEW HERE
Richard Hawey -November 2016
PROFIL - Tell us about your last album 'Absence' and what is the subject matter?
POOR GENETIC MATERIAL - PJ: Thematically Absence is about the experience and feeling of lacking something. People or ways of life that we have got used to, that gave us comfort and security, that have left their mark on us and shaped our characters. Yet, many of them have turned to hardly more than faint memories. That may be so simply because we have changed. Or because whatever or whoever these feelings were attached to is now - for various reasons - beyond our reach. Sounds very dark and melancholic but it really isn’t. It is just unavoidable in anybody’s life, so we all have to learn to live with it. And this is also what the album is about.
Making an album about Absence, you just can’t avoid thinking of that famous album about this topic - Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here. So we payed homage to them with a couple of acoustic and visual hints and allusions. There are some selected Floydish sounds scattered over the album and we, in fact, travelled to Cambridge to take photos for the booklet at historic Floyd places. We were a bit worried to be regarded as just another clone, but thankfully all the critics agree that we have our very own distinctive style and can afford these nods and bows.
PR - Was it a long process?
PG: Pretty long, it’s been three years since the last album. But that’s only because I built a house during that period so that I was busy with other things for a while and just didn’t find the time to go into the studio and record my parts.
PR - This album is all about the songs but also the more obvious presence of your father (Martin) on the last albums of PGM. Do you want to talk about?
PG: Yes, that turned out to be quite an experience for all of us! Dad first joined us to read Shakespeare recitations on our album Island Noises, which is based on 'The Tempest'. We asked him to return on A Day in June, where we share vocal duties for the first time. He did a fantastic job and our vocals blended really well. Now, on Absence, it made perfect sense for us to ask him to join the band as a regular member. We share vocal duties yet again, and I feel that our interaction keeps improving the more time we spend in the studio together. Although we have similar voices, he has a unique style of singing that stands out; he's definitely more theatrical than I am, and I feel that flavour is what makes the whole 'dual singer thing' special. I'm really looking forward to our next effort together - there are still so many avenues waiting to be explored!
PR - You welcomed Pia Darmstaedter as part of the group, personally I see his presence as an asset to the group. You want to add a comment?
PJ: Pia is just fantastic, an incredible musician. She’s been with us since Island Noises and her flute added a new and different colour to our sound. The flute has such a warm sound that creates a fantastic atmosphere and it offers new possibilities and variations: for solos we are no longer restricted to guitar and keyboards. And since Dennis Sturm, our bass player, often has a very melodic approach, too, we have in effect four instruments - apart from the singers - that can play and trade melodies.
PR - Speaking of Pia Darmstaedter, I also want to tell you about Autumnal Blossom, who has just released a second album entitled "Spellbound", the latter reviewed on Profil and another project carried out jointly with Philip Jaehne named Coarberg. You want to tell us about these two groups?
PJ: Autumnal Blossom is Pia’s baby. It’s the band or project she is writing for. And she is a fantastic writer and singer, too. Autumnal Blossom’s music is a fascinating blend of prog, classical and folk … some gothic elements, too. Certainly not an easy listen, both musically and thematically, but very rewarding.
Coarbegh is a Poor Genetic Material side project. It was never meant to be a band with a fixed line-up, but will always depend on the activities in Poor Genetic Material. At present Coarbegh’s original four-piece line-up is down to only Pia and myself, but that may change again in the future. And while the debut album was a somehow song-oriented crossover project, the new album Dark Sky Reserve has clearly found its home in the ambient genre.
PR - The line-up of PGM seems very stable, little or no change in the group, instead you expand with the arrival of Pia and Martin. This isn't what usually happens at some other groups. Is there one or more reasons for this stability according to you?
PJ: Well, I guess it’s our way of working. Stefan and I write the music and lyrics (most of the lyrics, I should say. Martin added some great lines to the new album and Philip is also a fantastic lyricist). But we only provide a frame in which the others have complete freedom. We would never tell any of the others what to play, instead it’s: “this is the structure, within which you can do whatever you feel is right.“ Sometimes this completely changes the character of a passage or a song and it is always a very exciting process. I guess it’s that freedom and the relaxed way of working that everybody enjoys. So whenever we ask who’s on board for the next album, they all come back.
PR - Do you have a planned promotional tour? Do you have future projects?
PG: Up to now playing live has not been an option for us. We always had to choose between playing live OR writing and recording a new album. As all the members of the band are also busy with other projects, there is simply not the time for both. And so far we’ve always been more attracted by the creative process of making a new album.
PJ: As we speak we are already in the middle of writing material for the next PGM-album - we don’t want it to take three years again. Apart from that we’re looking at the possibility of releasing some of our back-catalogue on vinyl. In fact, we are working on a new mix of our album Spring Tidings, which is a fantastic album, but the mix is not quite up to the standard we have now. So this is something we’ve always wanted to have in better audio-quality and we hope we will be able to release it as a limited vinyl-edition next year.
PR - Was there a turning point in the band's career?
PJ: THE turning point was, no doubt, when Phil joined us in 2001. Until then Stefan and I were making instrumental ambient-like music, writing music for theatre productions etc. We always had plenty of ideas for prog-song-oriented music, but none of us could sing. Then we met Philip and everything changed. From then on things just kept moving, with every new member binging a new element to our music. The most recent great change was, of course, when Philip’s father Martin joined us. I mean, he was the singer of Beggars Opera, one of the legendary seventies-prog-bands, and now he is with us - amazing.
PR - Is there a PGM album you would recommend to a new fan?
PG: Definitely the new one. I know that any artist thinks his current work is his best. But in our case … it’s just a great package - music, production, lyrics and theme, artwork … everything comes together so well.
Apart from Absence we already mentioned Spring Tidings, but maybe you’ll want to wait for the new mix and vinyl release. And we should also mention Island Noises, which is our best selling album to date. When a concept double album sells that well, there must be a reason for it.
PR - What are your musical influences? Do you have groups or favorite artists?
PJ: The exciting thing in that band is that we are very different personalities and, in fact, three generations of musicians. Martin grew up with The Beatles and the Sixties. For Stefan and me the main influences are the great Seventies bands Genesis, Yes, Van Der Graaf, Camel (with their emphasis on melody probably one of the biggest influences). Our rhythm section - Dennis and Dominik - are much younger so they, although they share our love in the Sixties and Seventies, are also more in what is around today. It’s a pretty exciting mix of influences.
PR - How do you see the future of progressive rock and music in General?
PG: In general it seems music has just lost a lot of its cultural relevance. For us music was the soundtrack for our formative years and helped us through them. It really meant something to us and continues to do so. For the kids of today music just doesn’t have that relevance. And at the same time there is so much music around, it has become more or less exchangeable.
PJ: Progressive Music in particular? Well, it’s great to see that there are so many good bands playing that kind of music again. And at the same time the old heroes are being rehabilitated - after decades of getting bashed because they could play their instruments, were creative and had innovative ideas. Now even the main stream press acknowledges their achievements. Does that mean the future looks bright for progressive rock? I’m not sure - it’s still mainly our generation that listens to prog and I doubt we can really reach a wider younger audience.
PR - Is it possible to live of your music today?
PG: Not for us. And I’m quite happy we don’t have to make a living from it. The way it is means complete musical and artistic freedom for us. We can just do what we want without having to think about sales. For us the best part is the writing and recording anyway. It’s great to get all this positive feedback after an album release, but that really comes as a bonus. Once that stops and it doesn't make sense to release the music we make, we will definitely continue making it.
PR - What is your best memory? Do you have a dream that you would like to achieve?
PJ: Well, Stefan and I have played and recorded together for a very long time and there were countless moments when we were just playing, improvising, testing ideas with nothing particular in mind … and suddenly out of thin air some piece of music took shape. It’s these moments - when you can feel this “creative spark“ - that we are really making music for.
A dream? .. Hmm … What about selling enough CDs so that we can afford to take the time to record AND play live. A tour of Canada would be nice.
PR - You have the last word...
PG: Thank you very much for the interesting questions. It was great fun. And even more thanks for helping to spread the word about us.
PR - Hope to see you in Quebec…
PG/PJ: We hope so, too
PR - Thank you very much for your cooperation.