The Berlin Group Meystersinger (which translates as Master Singers) recently released their new album Haifischweide. Fans of Meystersinger’s Roman Shamov and Luci van Org can look forward to a good dose of comforting techno and heartfelt lyrics, presented live at WABE – the cultural institution in Pankow. Station to Station met up with the two Meystersinger to talk not only about their inspirations and style but also about their archeological process in creating songs that contain meaningful messages.
S2S: How did Meystersinger come about?
Luci: The first time we met was because of an ensuing wedding between two of our common female friends. For this occasion we formed a wedding choir. So, Roman showed up right in the center of my living room. It was almost like “love at first sight. ” We didn’t hesitate very long, as we immediately started singing and liking each other right away.
Roman: Later, Luci reached out to me because she and her husband had written a series called “Heim, Herd, Hund” (Home, Stove, Dog). In this series Luci and I play a couple, owning a human dog with elf ears. So this was our first project together, a film!
After this project my boyfriend and I travelled around Australia and met up with his best friend, vocalist Marcia Hinis (she is mega-famous in Australia!) and I ask her for advice on a singing partner. She recommended that I seek someone in whom I could recognize that his or her doing would truthfully suit a stage. So this brought me back to Luci and our singing sessions. I asked her if she could recommend someone – and she actually suggested herself!
S2S: How did your first official singing sessions work out?
Roman: Vocal training has aspects of self-disclosure and was kind of a hellacious experience for me. It also has some aspects of psychotherapy. You can’t do it without emotional feelings and without an attitude. It brought us even closer together and we were able to discover further commonalities: our roots, the same Russian background and a certain type of “madness.”
Once I showed Luci my own written songs, I also got to listen to her personal unpublished songs. Thus we converged and hit the stage for the first time as a band at a reading of one of her friends. While the both of them were reciting their work, we gave Meystersinger a go, half acoustic and a bit improvised, but it actually worked out amazingly together!
Luci: We often collaborated with the readings hosted by our dear colleague Thomas Sabottka. I was with him on this reading tour and always sung something to his essays from my repertoire – quite huge after 25 years – and eventually also brought Meystersinger up on the stage. In the beginning we only had three songs, but our way of music and our way of combining it was perceived so well by the audience that our first album, a tour, many concerts and finally our second album came out of it.
S2S: After that you decided for the name “Meystersinger”?
Roman: If we would sing and write English songs, we would have had to name ourselves “The Fine Art of Singing.” As a logical consequence to our profession we named ourselves “Meystersinger.” The name itself was found totally spontaneously. It came about in reference to the past and we retained the name despite some difficulties with some humorless artist agencies.
S2S: How did your develop your style, how do you come up with a typical Meystersinger song?
Luci: We are constantly on the lookout and have now slowly become more confident as things proceed and we have recognized the special aspects which constitute the characteristic Meystersinger song and sound. The 80s influenced us, needless to say, in a very strong way, especially me – The Cure, Einstürzende Neubauten and many others have had an impact.
Roman: We receive inspiration through life itself, what flows through us. We use a bass line, a sound, noises, a beginning and start to build up on it with what suits us best. Musically, the 80s still have a big impact on us – we are kids of the 80s. Especially the music of our youth, like Depeche Mode, Yazoo, etc. have had an impact on us. Also, it affects how we listen to music, how we want it to sound. That’s even more obvious on our second record. And of course, Berghain, my place of work on the weekend influences me. Just the vibe you get there and the strong beats you hear. For example the vocal line of “Schläfst du schon” (Are you asleep yet) from the new record completely came about in the artist dressing room. All of a sudden I heard this beat and spontaneously I started recording a song on my phone. We later mixed that into the track. We both spend a lot of time thinking about our compositions and lyrics. But all the technical aspects are Luci’s domain – she will work on the minute details for hours on the computer. When we are on tour a lot of inspiration comes from discussions we are having on very very long car rides. We are like sculptors who piece by piece uncover text from a big piece of marble. The lyrics develop through this process and if they are ripe we will write the music but certain text need more time and for a while will exist only on paper.
Luci: We are working with many strange electro sounds, screw around with it but don’t produce just some cold techno, but the truth, which we literally extract from the music and the text. We approach it from two extreme positions – I am the cool analytical type, logical and scientific – Roman is impulsive, experienced and engulfed in feelings – but at the end we always get results.
A fan of ours hit the nail on the head – he calls it Lyrophonic. We basically sing Poetry.
S2S: What kind of influence does your earlier music you have made have on you?
Luci: All music you make comes from the music you have made before. Inspiration comes from your personality and character developes through experience. Übermutter, my prior band, had a big influence on Meystersinger since it was the polar opposite to it. We are not some light pop music but somebody who aware of the darkness comes to hug you when you are not feeling well. Or even if you are happy – with the awareness that happiness is precious and fleeting.
S2S: What is your connection to New York?
Roman: I have been there many times, had an acting agency represent me and personally very much feel connected to the US, especially New York. I also came out in New York, went to some wild parties, met many interesting people and experienced a pretty heavy time. In those years, Berlin felt like a village in comparison. Today, however, for me, Berlin is what New York was in the 1990s. But there is still a part of Roman waiting at the airport to return. Of course I have also changed and so did New York, that’s why I am very curious to visit again. I can definetely see Meystersinger in New York. But at the same time, I can see us in Japan, and that is what we are working on at the moment. I think we are a great fit, our style and our music is a glowing and gloomy experience at the same time. Especially the German language is very popular and so are the Germans.