Steffen Kirchhoff is a musician throughout. At an early age he learned to play the guitar and performed in his school band. Later, he came in contact with electronic music, which led to the first steps in producing his own music on the computer and performing short live sets. During his years at University, he became friends with Christian Loeffler, co-founder of “Ki-records” and a well known producer renowned for his intense, deep moving sound with melancholic undertones. Inspired by Christian, Steffan has delved into creating his own unique style of deep techno music.
On October 10th both Steffan and Christian will release a split EP ‘Baltic Sea‘ on Ki Records, which we highly recommend for its multi-layered melodies, deep atmospheres and soulful charm. We took the opportunity to find out more about both Christian and Steffan in this exclusive interview, whilst Steffan kindly recorded this stunning mix for us and their friend Timofey Kratts painted the mix cover.
Steffan’s track list is impeccable, featuring the very deepest of tracks from Pigon, Biodub, Christopher Rau, John Roberts, Andre Grant as well as Sandwell District’s remix of Octave One’s ‘I Believe’ and Jacques Greene’s remix of Lotus Flower originally by Radiohead. We warn you that this mix is deeply meditative and will no doubt rack up a lot of plays, we hope you enjoy it.
Where are you each originally from and what 3 things influenced you the most whilst you were growing up?
Steffen: I spent my childhood in a small village near Greifswald at the Baltic Sea. The beach was 5 miles away from home. We spent a lot of time playing outside and hanging out at the beach. As a Teenager I had to move to a village near the Harbour-City Rostock. We still had the Baltic Sea next door. At this time I went to clubs for the first time.
At the age of 15 I was part of a Lofi-Rock-Band where I played guitar. We had our rehearsal room at the school. This was my first serious attempt at music, despite my hopeless efforts on the recorder during elementary school. Later, at the age of 17-18 I got into electronic music. A friend of mine started to DJ at underground parties. Before this I just went to Indie-Rock-Parties and concerts. After I finished my A levels. I came back to Greifswald to study there. And now I am back in Rostock where I live and work.
Christian: Currently I am living in Greifswald, a small town near the Baltic Sea. The countryside here is known for its beauty. Wind and water are my main influences.
Where did the two of you meet and what factors/traits cemented both your working and music relationship?
Steffen: Paul (the co-founder of Ki Records) had been a friend of mine for a long time and it was him who introduced Christian to me during my days at University. At this time I just started producing electronic music. Christian was a great Inspiration for me. I immediately fell in love with his soulful and emotional melodic tracks. I guess we sort of have the same Indie-Rock/Folk-Background which is a huge Influence.
What music did you grow up listening to? Are there any producers or musicians that have directly influenced your current sound and taste of electronic music?
Steffen: Until the Age of 16 I only listened to guitar music like Folk and Indie-Rock. A friend of mine was totally into Warp and Ninja Tune and introduced IDM, Trip-Hop and Breakbeat to me. Another pal was responsable for my first Techno-Record “Berlinette” by Ellen Alien.
Besides Techno and House I still listen a lot of Folk music, I like the simplicity and intimacy about it. Bands and artists which influenced me are Bright Eyes, Cat Power, Coco Rosie, Smog, Songs: Ohia, Tocotronic, Stina Nordenstam, Joy Division, Interpol, and many more. Oh and not to forget Radiohead and Thom Yorke of course.
On the electronic side i would say Lawrence is a huge influence, in fact the whole Dial and Smallville crew, such as Efdemin, Carsten Jost, John Roberts, Pantha du Prince, Pawel and so on. Christopher Rau is also great just as Jacob Korn and Robag Wruhme are (his “Thora Vukk” album is just brilliant) I also love the stuff of Troy Pierce and Louderbach and last but not least Redshape, his sound is just out of this world.
Christian: Like Steffen I was mostly into non-electronic stuff until I was 16. From then I discovered more and more music that was made with machines and computers. Listening to one of the first releases of ‘Lawrence’ was one of those special moments I can remember.
Steffen, you produce music in order to create a specific mood or atmosphere, can you please expand on this notion?
Steffen: When I listen to music I want to feel touched in a way. Music for me is a chance to escape. I can totally get lost in a great piece of music. For me music should not just be entertaining but soothing. It should take me away, my thoughts, my sorrows shall vanish. It`s all about emotion and passion. In my music I try to recreate what I had experienced listening to a great track or mix. I always try to manage the balancing act of creating melodic emotional music for the listener that might as well work on a sophisticated dance floor.
How do each of your philosophies on sound design and aesthetics differ?
Steffen: Basically I believe Christian and I have the same image of sound aesthetics. I guess the main difference would be that Christian likes it more reduced in a way. Christian’s tracks don’t need many elements to develop their full potential. I like to use many layers, chords and pads to emphasise the atmospheric approach to my productions. The use of little melody-lines and fractures is essential for both of us.
In October you are releasing ‘Baltic Sea’ a split EP on Ki Records. What criteria influenced your decision to release a split EP? And do you envisage this project developing into you both performing as a single act?
Christian: Since we know each other, we have been working together musically. We share every track and musical idea to get a feedback from one another.
Steffen: In a way every track I make is influenced and monitored by Christian and vice versa. If I hadn’t met Christian, my music would sound totally different. We also did a track together on my “Inside” EP which was released on Ki. So it was just a logical step for us to make a record together. We both plan to expand our musical collaboration and would like to make some tracks together, but at the moment we don’t have the time for this. We are both busy working on an album and both have a lot going on besides making music. Christian is busy doing his Art studies and I have a full-time-job as a social worker.
Christian: It’s always fun for us, when we are booked for the same venues and maybe some time in the future we will do a Live-Project as a duo.
What other types of music and hobbies are you both into and do they directly influence your sound and music?
Steffen: I developed a growing interest for Scotch single malt whisky lately. A good whisky can be quite an experience if celebrated. I started a little collection of exquisite bottles and share them with good friends from time to time. I don’t want to encourage people to drink alcohol, but a Malt-Moment can be very inspirational. I also find it quite inspirational to take pictures of the beautiful landscape that surrounds us.
Christian: Besides music I am also into painting and photography. I love to work visually. The art work for the ‘Baltic Sea’ EP was made by me. It features a drawing of Steffen and me in front of a photo I took at the coast.
In terms of production, do you delve into software or eschew to traditional hardware environments to achieve your sound?
Christian: At the moment my production environment consists of a fine selection of analogue synthesizers and drum computers. Besides that I am working a lot with field recordings.
Steffen: I like to combine the analog with the digital world. I prefer twisting knobs and pushing buttons on the hardware equipment but I also love to use modern software synthesizers for textures and pads.
What environments do both feel most comfortable in to create music?
Steffen: I prefer my home studio, but if the urge to make music is em enough, it doesn’t matter where I am. As long as I have my laptop and headphones with me I can start anywhere.
Christian: I’m most creative when I am in the studio for my self, spending the whole day discovering new sounds and melodies, while the windows are opened.
Steffen you’ve stated that you make music that transmits a certain kind of atmosphere. When creating music do you start working on a track knowing that you have to achieve a specific atmosphere to achieve, or is it a more organic approach?
Steffen: My approach to production is not conceptual. It’s more about playing and experimenting with sounds. I usually begin with a pad and some chords and see where this will take me. I don’t know which mood I am in or which atmosphere I want to create until the music tells me. It’s a constant process and always the capturing of a moment. The feel for the loops and fractures changes every day and I always have many different versions of one track idea. Finally I have to make a decision and get to the point where I start the arrangement of the track.
What unique qualities do you each bring to the table when working on a project together?
Christian: Concerning the music we both have very clear visions of how the sound should be like.
Steffen: While I am responsible for first ideas and rough sketches, Christian works out the details. Christian is also responsible for all the arty stuff like covers, pictures, design etc. I am the guy who reads the manuals and who watches the tutorials which helps concerning technical issues.
Christian, you co-founded Ki Records, how long have you been working on the imprint and what major challenges have you faced during this time period?
Christian: Ki was born in 2009 and there have been many struggles and I am sure there are a lot more to come. But it’s our passion and the label is growing every day and for every single positive feedback it is worth the effort.
What defines the Ki Records sound and forthcoming release schedule?
Christian: The Ki sound is defined by that there is no typical trademark sound or genre, we publish what we like and what we believe others will like too. But there is one thing we stand for, what we all love are emotive songs and tracks that spread big atmospheres and reach the souls of the listeners.
What do you each hope to achieve over the next 5 years?
Steffen: I am not a big fan of planning my future. Like every artist/musician I will welcome the day when I can make a living simply out of being an artist to have more time for making music.
Christian: 5 years is a long time. Right now I am focusing on my next releases on Ki. There is a 10″ with two remixes of me coming out soon. And of course I am still working on my album, that is planned to be released in the beginning of 2012.
Steffen can you please explain the inspiration behind the mix you recorded, what was your thought process behind the track selection and what overall mood were you conducting throughout the mix?
Steffen: The first thing I do, when preparing a mix, is to go through my track-collection and choose an intro-track and a track with which I want to end the mix with. It sort of builds up a frame for the mix. Afterwards I create a playlist with potential tracks, that I’d like to use in the mix. The next step would be to play a bit with the tracks and see which one go well together with another.
When it comes to the actual process of mixing, it’s all about the feeling. I just concentrate on how a certain combination of tracks trigger my emotions. The whole process is very intuitive and subliminal. When I’ve made my final decision, I try to put it all together. Concerning the dramaturgy, I try to keep the mix balanced in suspense and I attempt to capture different emotions and contrast associations like melancholy, euphoria, comfort, tension and relaxation.
I finished this particular mix on a Sunday. The weather was quite alternative, in fact the whole summer was a mix of sun and rain. I guess this subconsciously influenced my mood as well.
Finally, what words of wisdom do you each have to share with our readers?
Steffen: We think we are too young to answer this question!
1. Pigon – Dirty Float
2. Biodub – This one 17
3. Christopher Rau – A Line
4. John Roberts – Lesser
5. Andrew Grant – Telirimper
6. Kaap De Goede Hoop – Girl
7. Limacon – Catch (Sten Remix)
8. Octave One – I Believe (Sandwell District Remix)
9. Christian Löffler – William
10. Radiohead – Lotus Flower (Jacques Greene Remix)
11. Robag Wruhme – Tulpa Ovi