PTTRNS – Body Pressure: “The Relationship Between Virtual And Physical Body”
PTTRNS from Cologne moved from a guitar based mathrock sound to an infectious dance-funk hybrid within their two albums, mixing physical/analog with digital/virtual patterns: It’s hot chit by the whitest boys alive! Their new album BODY PRESSURE was released in April and here’s our interview with the guys!
Please tell us something about PTTRNS and the history of the band. Who are you, what is your music about? What were your first steps into music and how did it develop?
PTTRNS first got together as a three-piece in late 2006 as a sort of dance/math rock-outfit. Back then we had known each other from various bands of ours for which we had put shows on, mutually, and since we all found ourselves moving to the greater Cologne area, we were ready for good times. Hendrik joined the band later, when we found him grooving along with a cowbell during a sweaty rehearsal space show in Münster.
A lot of bands that mix funk, electro and dance influences are coming from a alternative/ independent / guitar background like PTTRNS. How do you explain yourself this interest in dance and black music in this scene?
Considering the huge number of bands that stick with the traditional rock schemes they started out with, and so many dance artists that never did play in punk bands, I am not too sure about a general statement on this. Off the top of my head I would say that people who show a genuine interest in different facets and forms of music will at one point or another take steps into all sorts of musical genres; but that is ultimately conditioned by your social environment.
How did your music evolve from a postrocking guitar sound on your last album to the more electronic sound on “Body Pressure”?
We all have been interested in electronic music for a while, and though ‘Science Piñata’ has a specific guitar sound, the tracks on this record had already been written in the spirit of dance music. After the Love Quest 12-inches we decided to expand on this by including synthesizers and electronic drum sounds, not at least to depart from the rock aesthetics associated with our earlier releases.
Do you create “tracks”, set together from musical “patterns”, like in dance and house music? Or are you interested in traditional songwriting?
Yeah, it is very much the former approach. Most of the songs emerge from a jam situation, where parts get re-arranged and sometimes sampled; fragments are shifted into other tracks back and forth, and each of us experiments with his part in the song structure. ‘Traditionalsongwriting’, as you called it, is nothing bad in itself but does not really work for us as a band and as a collective.
“Body Pressure” is a performance art piece by Bruce Naumann. Is PTTRNS music a way to experience your body, as in Naumanns project? How should music affect your body?
What’s interesting to us about Nauman’s Body Pressure is that it engages with a number of things that we were concerned lyrically on the record – the relationship between virtual and physical body, ‘closeness’, intimacy. But what we found striking is the conception of an artwork that is very clearly instructional and asks the spectator to become a part of itself, to complete itself without there being any criteria with which this participation or the functioning of the work could ever be verified. It may become an erotic experience, and it may as well not. Besides the obvious parallel to the way this happens with us our music and as a band, it is an exercise in humility and a way of dealing – broadly speaking – with failure or the possibility thereof as a reference for art. But the record is not about Nauman’s piece. Besides, the title obviously calls to mind a number of other things and we thought it sounded cool.
I always wonder what music means to musicians – what is music to you, what do you need it for?
Music can create a space of experience that is unlike anything else – on several different registers, physical or otherwise. Music is in charge of very many things that can’t (or don’t need to) be said.
There are also a lot of afrobeat influences to be found in the rhythmic and melodic structures of your album. Are there african musicians and bands that influence you?
Considering the amount of information available to us by electronic means, it would – for someone interested in music – be insane not to try to find out about things happening outside of the radar of pop culture in, I don’t know, the Western Hemisphere.
What music, bands and sounds influence you the most? Did this change for your two albums?
I’d say we are mostly influenced by the ways in which we are able to vibe and resonate off each other. Of course we are all very interested in music and bring ideas to the jam, but they are generally more abstract than such direct influences. This hasn’t really changed between the two records, it might be that our means have changed and our scope of what we’d like to do.
Do you feel being part of a specific music scene in cologne? How does your home influence your bandlife?
It doesn’t influence us so much, really. Obviously it plays a part in our being a band, very simply because we live here. There’s a very rich musical history to Cologne and a very specific vibe that’s inevitably had an effect on us, just in terms of things we’ve been exposed to. But we don’t really feel part of a specific scene, neither in Cologne nor anywhere else. There are a number of people, some of them friends, who we feel push towards an interesting place musically, but it’s not something addressable, like a scene.
What do you want to achieve as a band?
It’d be nice to keep challenging ourselves and create something that we feel deserves attention, be it ours or that of others.
What are your favourite five albums?
Talking Heads – Remain in Light
Michael Jackson – Thriller
Arthur Russell –World of Echo
Brian Eno & David Byrne – My Life in the Bush of Ghosts
Rites of Spring–s/t
SOS Band – Sands of Time