Collaboration in art is a perplexing venture. The joint pursuit of a single work requires the artists, each with their own intrinsic visions, to set aside pride and form mutual respect in order to amalgamate differing viewpoints together. In the end, the partnership can yield stimulating experiences and powerful results. However, the road is fraught with dangers - the certainty of disagreement can lead to a swift divorce. The potential of collaboration can be positively exemplified by the German duo of Kettenkarussell. At a recent Psychic Driving event hosted by Paul Trafford, the two set the tone for the sweat drenched party by mystifying the crowd in turn, each relinquishing control of the decks to the other in unspoken unison directed only by their shared understanding of music.
Composed of two seemingly mismatched figures, Konstantin and Rafael, Kettenkarussell has established itself as a collaborative force within the influential Giegling collective with their peculiar brand of minimalism. A bearded and talkative Konstantin, stands in stark contrast to Rafael, who is unassuming and quirky. Their work has gained traction worldwide and with many future projects on the horizon, much can be attributed to the duality of their music. After an exhausting performance, they were eager to discuss their approach to collaboration and the lessons learned along the way.
Upon discovering that the duo had spent the past month touring together without a moment's separation, we wanted to peer deeper into their friendship and decided to quiz them about one another. Not surprisingly, they correctly recalled the other's favourite food and other mundane tidbits of information. However, in relation to music, idiosyncrasies became apparent and they were unable to identify the other's favourite piece of equipment or record label. "When you do something together, everyone has different vibes, but it's important to forget your own thing and come together," Konstantin explains, unfazed by his foregoing blunders.
"We knew each other in high school but only as acquaintances. I thought Rafael was a cool guy, but he was in love with nerds - people I had nothing to say to. All I wanted to talk about was girls and skateboarding," says Konstantin. "It was not until I approached him that we became friends. I knew he was creating videos and I needed someone for my hip hop group." While still hazy on the exact details of their initial encounter, the two could agree that they both appreciated the other's character.
Maturing together during their formative years has been paramount for the duo. Talk of the past brings smiles to their weary faces as they reminisce about their mischievous adventures, run-ins with the law and late nights dancing at clubs. During these halcyon days, the two dabbled in genres of music outside of techno, culminating in several performances as a rock band. Konstantin notes, "At first we did not have much respect for DJs. This changed when we were both introduced to electronic music in Hanover at a club after one of the concerts."
However, their professional and personal relationship can not be simply painted as an idyllic landscape. Marred by an estrangement spanning over a year and a half, the two faced numerous challenges that threatened to derail their project. Konstantin explains, "We stopped Kettenkarussell two times and there was a period that we vowed to never do it again." The problems arose when neither had positive feedback to share, and their artistic differences overshadowed the common goal.
"It was about growing up and meeting each other in the middle. This provided the project with a diverse energy and contrary ideas that stimulated each other," Konstantin explains. By setting aside their egos, the two have managed to realize each other's vision within a shared medium. This was plainly evident at Psychic Driving and as Konstantin explains, "We weren't playing our own stuff, we were playing together. One sound."
The interplay of respect and diversity of ideas permeates not only their own partnership as Kettenkarussell, but also lays the foundation for the entire Giegling collective as a whole. With a large roster of artists and a varied sound, Konstantin explains, "There is always going to be someone who is more successful within the group. You just need to balance that back into the collective and believe that everyone is going to get what they need out of the group. Its about putting energy into the system and getting something back out." It is with this supportive mentality that the Giegling collective, and Kettenkarussell, have been able to maintain their authenticity while continuing to produce top quality music.
Take a moment to listen to a live podcast done by Kettenkarussell for Sonotown:
- Anh Nguyen & May Nguyen