Tobias Vethake’s SICKER MAN project sees the Berlin-based cellist and composer combining classical songwriting with lush sonic soundscapes. In response to altered living conditions during the pandemic, he and Kiki Bohemia began a daily series of livestream concerts, entitled Cleansing Drones For Locked Down Homes. Vethake’s latest album as Sicker Man, Dialog, features the artist in conversation with other members of the Berlin experimental scene, and will be released by Blank Records on 12 March.
1: Music is the most interesting way to communicate.
2: ‘Minimalism in content needs maximalism in expression.’ – Tony Conrad
3: ‘Experience is a form of paralysis.’ – Erik Satie
1. What is the biggest inspiration for your music?
I’d say it’s a mix of many things, but experiencing and observing the world in general and around me is a main part.
2. How and when did you get into making music?
I come from a musical family, therefore I had piano and cello lessons, when I was young. Then in my teenager years I got into punk music and to pursue that, I took several jobs to buy me my first electric guitar and an old 4-track-tape-machine.
3. What are 5 of your favourite albums of all time?
Deep Trip – Destruction Unit
Borodin Quartet / Schostakowitsch – String Quartet 8
Charles Mingus – Mingus Ah Um
Godspeed Your Black Emperor – Raise Your Skinny Fists
Apex Twin – Druqks
4. What do you associate with Berlin?
I came here, because I really like this atmosphere, that all claims aren’t taken yet. There’s a place for every music and attitude, no matter how rare and obscure. The city never feels really finished, you can still contribute something individual to it.
5. What’s your favourite place in your town?
At this moment my flat in Wedding.
6. If there was no music in the world, what would you do instead?
If we’re talking about an alternative job, I could imagine myself being a lighthouse keeper.
7. What was the last record/music you bought?
Kim Gordon / No Home Record
8. Who would you most like to collaborate with?
Dälek, Laurie Anderson and P.T. Anderson
9. What was your best gig (as performer or spectator)?
As a performer, I guess, among the best experiences was playing at Floating Gallery in Prag, Open Air on the Moldau River while a thunderstorm was rising above the city. As a spectator the most recent gig I that really impressed me, was seeing the SunRa Arkestra at Festsaal Kreuzberg in 2019.
10. How important is technology to your creative process?
To me analog electronics are something like additional band members, surprising me with sounds I didn’t expect or anticipate. To combine my electric cello with different analog effect pedals is a huge inspiration too. The computer itself is just a recording tool to me.
11. Do you have siblings and how do they feel about your career/art?
I have a brother, with whom I improvised a lot when I was a kid. Him on drums, me on piano. he’s a teacher now. so, he likes, what I am doing, doesn’t quite understand the uncertain lifestyle, I guess.
Photo © Thomas Neukum