If you haven’t already had the pleasure, now is the time to get into Kaskadeur. They are an established German four-piece who recently rebooted their identity and released a fantastic new album. They pride themselves on their ability to fuse stoner rock, jazz, prog, krautrock, and much more into an ever-changing blend of sounds, guaranteed to keep listeners on their toes. Everything Is Noise is therefore honoured to have caught up with the band’s bassist, Michael Paukner about Kaskadeur‘s history and creative processes.
Just to clear up any outright confusion, the band were originally called Stonehenge, and made many records under that name. The decision to change their name to Kaskadeur (which is the French word for ‘stunt-double’ as well as being used in the former German Democratic Republic and in Russia) came about when the band broadened their musical horizons beyond the genres of doom, stoner, and psychedelic which heavily inspired their early records. The band have existed for ten years now, and, by the release of their third record, Mild Thing, the opportunity for a change was finally upon them. ‘We think it apt, because our music has those ‘action-loaded’ moments. Also a focus is put on the craftmanship behind the arts.’
Jump back to present day and the ultimate opus of the newly-dubbed Kaskadeur is available for all to hear. Uncanny Valley is a slick roller coaster of rocking sounds from many a different place, but they mash it altogether and make it their own with extreme class. Originally, the record came off the back of Stonehenge‘s last album, Mild Thing, from 2017, and some additional inspired themes from their organist, Johannes Walenta, who also works as a visual artist.
After some experimentation with CGI from Johannes, the band became aware of the eerie replication of human features in robotics and computer effects known as ‘uncanny valley’ (see above). With some songs already in the bag, this helped to solidify the identity and themes of their latest album. As a result, those very concepts and underlying messages contained in the finished product then went a whole lot deeper. As it turns out, the uncanny valley effect of when imitations of life and reality reach a point where the distinction is disconcertingly blurry, is a good analogy for the world we currently live in, as observed by the band themselves.
‘We saw this as a metaphor of sorts for recent world events, but also a general state of mind, where lies become collective truths. There is this famous quote by Theodor W Adorno: ‘There is no right life in the wrong one’, that eerily corresponds to the theme, especially from a ‘German’ perspective. The generation of our grandparents committed the worst crimes in the history of our species, and today Germany celebrates its so-called ‘Erinnerungskultur’ in symbolism only and for propaganda purposes exclusively.
‘Today, all over the ‘civilized world’ which loves to call itself that, laws are put into place that kill and devastate the poorest among us, while we ourselves live in wealth and splendor. It’s often by those countries that proclaim to hold so-called Christian values, but seem to never have heard about The Sermon on the Mount or the story of The Good Samaritan. Just an atheist’s observation.
‘All of these disconnects are influencing our daily lives and, so of course, find their way into our work as well.’
Musically, there is no doubt that the album is a triumph. In one regard, it is a familiar addition to the Kaskadeur/Stonehenge catalog, with many of the band’s older traits carried over. However, it places greater emphasis on the varying synth sounds and the power-pop hooks. It also takes pride in decluttering the song structures used in previous compositions in a bid to not overwhelm the listener and therefore let the subtleties emerge from the chaos. From general sound, all the way to rhythm and composition, this more efficient process is clear.
Another enjoyable factor of Uncanny Valley are the 30-to-60-second skits in between each songs, which were again conceived by Johannes Walenta and also Kaskadeur drummer, Ole Fisher. These quirky moments create cohesion for the album by re-jigging elements of the previous or upcoming songs to add distortion or providing an emotional twist before taking listeners into the next track.
With so much to behold in this new record, some might say that it’s broken down into numerous segments. Or is the reality a little more complicated than that?
‘This might sound conceited, but the real challenge for us was to limit the amount of ‘segments’ and submit the length of the songs to its ‘functionality’. By that I mean, while sometimes long and winding excursions are necessary to portray a long struggle or ongoing effort, sometimes there is precision and decisiveness in brevity.
I guess the challenge we see is also that we don’t want to end up with something that is effectively two or more songs just glued together. On the other hand, we don’t want to repeat ourselves endlessly.’
There is little or no concern of that. Of all the accomplishments across the album, Michael cites many as proud achievements. Among these are drummer, Ole’s beat work following a study of Afro-Cuban beats, the increased regularity of vocalist Enrico Semler’s voice, and the unifying organ sounds of Johannes. The album’s short excursions into hip-hop also gave Michael a lot of pleasure.
In terms of influence for Kaskadeur, the list is sprawling. From books such as Der Untertan by Heinrich Mann and The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin, to TV shows like The Wire and The Sopranos – not to mention comedians such as Dylan Moran, Sarah Silverman and Dave Chappelle – there is a whole range of source material which inspired the band during their crafting of music… and more beyond.
‘Aside from music, we take our inspiration from our daily lives. They consist, like most people’s, of work and pleasure, our relations, and our thoughts and inner lives. We have been greatly influenced by concern for local and global political trends, and think the best way for us to process all of this is to create some sort of escapism into self-awareness. We also get inspiration with positive connotations from pictures, both historical and in art exhibitions.’
Current global restrictions can often insinuate that music and the arts are often viewed as luxurious hobbies in modern society. Luckily, in spite of the strictures, Kaskadeur were able to play a small 200-strong outdoor show in their home setting of Potsdam, Germany. This was due in part to the underground Brausehaus musical collective, who ensured that safe musical events in the Potsdam/Berlin area are still, in some form, possible.
Provided the right measures are introduced, this is hopefully an encouraging taster of things to come. Indeed the future for Kaskadeur is etched with enthusiasm. Now that they are working with Noisolution Records and La Chunga Music Publishing, the band are in their best ever position, from an organisational standpoint. As well as reaching a wider audience, it means that they have access to a creative haven where a lot of art and not necessarily a lot of money is the ultimate goal of everyone involved. In such an environment, their music is sure to thrive. On top of this, they already have more videos and brand new tracks in the making.
‘We’d also like to intensify touring into France, where we had some very nice shows in 2018/19, and to other countries in Europe and elsewhere. And finally we’d really love to support a great international band when they tour in Germany… Someone like Thee Oh Sees, or Nick Cave, or Björk. We shall see what the future holds for us.’
Anyone with connections to those artists are implored to get in touch. In the meantime, you can check out all things Kaskadeur on their Bandcamp and Spotify pages. For all other news and info on the band, visit their website and Facebook page.