The krautrock guerillas’ keyboardist Timm Brockmann talks improvisational skills and busking in Berlin.
Upon the release of their 2012 debut album Radiate!, Berlin trio Camera announced themselves the latest flag-bearers for the grand tradition of German experimental music. The group’s blend of burbling synthesizers, hypnotic rhythms and brittle, atmospheric guitar echoes everything from classic Kraftwerk to the chilliest post-rock, a sound both utopian and dystopian in mesmerising turns.
“We met on the street,” says keyboardist Timm Brockmann, of those early days. “After a quite a long period of time where we jammed and tried with different people – and different styles of music – the final band was peeled out of the egg.”
It didn’t take long before band were attracting controversy by performing in public without permission, most notably in local railway stations. “There was some trouble when we argued with the station security guys,” says Brockmann coolly. “The police came and brought us home. But that didn’t really happen that often. Berlin is a cool place for doing these things. You are kicked out a lot for sure, but then you just go somewhere else!”
As with much music in this vein, improvisation plays a key role. “The approach is different for live or recording sessions,” explains Brockmann. “When we play live, most of the time, the start is clear but the landing is without a pilot, and it could go anywhere in the middle. At concerts, we’re really improvising the whole piece – we just talk about the key or the mood. But when recording, we use the different approaches that come up; we might start with just
a drum track and lay something over it, or jam together and later cut the best parts and edit them to a certain structure and do some overdubs.”
Expanding upon their debut, the band’s latest album Remember I Was Carbon Dioxide extends still further their emphasis on trancelike repetition. “This approach to making music is very primal,” Brockmann concludes, “and you can find it in many different styles. I don’t think this repetitive approach to music will ever end or bore people, because it just triggers something very deep inside human nature.”