David Koch from The Great Harry Hillman, wearing Blackfin glasses, shot by Bert Spangemacher

SPOTLIGHT ON THE GREAT HARRY HILLMAN

A post-jazz quartet from Switzerland named after an American Olympic gold medal champion brings together musicians from diverse influences with unexpected results.

Photography BERT SPANGEMACHER
Text F. GONZALEZ

A post-jazz quartet from Switzerland named after an American Olympic gold medal champion may seem atypical but when you consider that Harry Hillman’s greatest athletic achievement was setting the record in a team event the ensemble’s chosen moniker begins to make sense. Just like a high-achieving team, The Great Harry Hillman brings together musicians from diverse influences to achieve and trust each other to create music by intuition rather than predetermined processes.

Live at Donau115, their fourth release in eleven years, shares their not-so expected “post-jazz” sound that weaves in ambient, electronic and rock with their take on modern jazz. Expectations aside, their live shows are a free-evolving experience where a “set list” is just a recommendation. Expect songs to flow into each other with improv moments trusting the band’s intuition.

Interview:  05/2020 with David Koch from the Great Harry Hillman

David Koch from The Great Harry Hillman, wearing Blackfin glasses, shot by Bert Spangemacher
4SEE Spotlight on the Great Harry Hillman / David Koch, Guitar
Eyewear by BLACKFIN Vicksburg

Artist Name The Great Harry Hillman
Genre Post Jazz
Members and Instruments
Nils Fischer: bass clarinet / David Koch: guitar / Samuel Huwyler: bass / Dominik Mahnig: drums
Based in Lucerne, Switzerland
Playing together since 2009
Recent Album Live at Donau 115
Listen on Bandcamp / iTunes / SpotifyWebsite / Instagram / Facebook

Describe your band / music / style in three words.

Hypnotic-noise-wellness.

What did you listen to when growing up?

I grew up in a family of musicians, as did the rest of the band! My father is a classical flute player, so I was surrounded by classical music very early on. That had a huge influenced on me, for sure. My mum listened to classical radio all day long! Literally. So, before I started going to school, I was also forced to endure this compulsion. I think this shaped my musical sensibility, gave me a feeling for melodies and harmonies. When I was ten, I went on the road with an Irish folk band, we toured a lot! That was a lot of fun, being able to play at all these adult pubs out in Ireland, as a kid.

Music icon(s) and the reason why.

I have to start with Gary Moore. I caught him at a Saturday night show when I was a teenager. It’s because of him that I started to save money to buy an electric guitar. There was also John Zorn. During my college years I became a real groupie and a John Zorn addict. I had to know every record that he was on, and there are millions of them! As a result, I really dove into this New York downtown avant-garde jazz scene. I suppose this is what drove me to study Jazz at the university. Along the way, Kurt Rosenwinkel and Mark Turner were also really important to me. At the moment, my hero is the band LOW, with their latest album called Double Negative, produced by B. J. Burton. But I also love Bill Frisell with the Paul Motian Trio, St. Vincent, Dirty Projectors, Cant (the solo project of Chris Taylor from Grizzly Bear), Radiohead, Marc Ribot, Burial, and Danger Mouse.

David Koch from The Great Harry Hillman, wearing Blackfin glasses, shot by Bert Spangemacher
4SEE Spotlight on the Great Harry Hillman / David Koch, Guitar
Eyewear by BLACKFIN Bayou

Who are you listening to right now?

That would be LOW, Sparklehorse, Jenny Hval, Tout Bleu, REA, Borusiade, Big Thief, Suuns…

What is the craziest or funniest thing that’s happened on tour?

Because you guys are a Berlin-based magazine, a show that I played there comes to mind. We were in the car, driving to the gig and there was a total blockade on the autobahn. We were three hours too late, but somehow we still arrived right when we were supposed to go on. The room was packed with people waiting for us, and they clapped when we stepped on stage. Of course, we still set up everything and sound check, all of this in front of the audience, and then float directly into our set.

Favourite performance venues or music festivals? And why?

There’s Jazz festival Willisau, a renowned festival in Switzerland, for avant-garde music. And then there are several smaller places that I remember because of the vibe there, the people, the energy. That would be Donau115, where our album is recorded. HotClub Gent, we go there at least once a year! It’s actually more like a bar, but with the most incredible people who, over the years, also became our dear friends. I also remember pretty obscure places in Japan, India and Russia. Venues that have something David Lynch thing about them, or feel like they are straight out of trashy nineties cinema experiments. When you enter these places, from soundcheck until you leave, it feels like a trip.

 

Three words to describe your fans.

Open-minded, adventurous, enthusiastic.

David Koch from The Great Harry Hillman, wearing Blackfin glasses, shot by Bert Spangemacher
4SEE Spotlight on the Great Harry Hillman / David Koch, Guitar
Eyewear by BLACKFIN Neptune Beach

Favourite eyewear brand?

The only eyewear I bought in my life were Cutler & Gross sunglasses. They were stolen after a few days. Ever since, I’m enjoying being blinded by the sun and the beauty of life.

What is next for you, an immediately upcoming tour or EP/Album?

In a few weeks, I’ll be going to Switzerland to manufacture 100 pieces of a guitar effect that I developed. It’s called The Pill Pedal. The coolest thing about making this thing is that I get to meet so many musicians and producers from all over the world.

At the moment, due to Corona, there are no concerts planned until September. In autumn, we’ll play in Switzerland and in early 2021 we have a tour planned for Russia. It’ll be our second time there, and I am really looking forward to it. The people there are just so incredibly warm!

Where do you see yourself in ten years‘ time, where would you like to see your band / music and at what scale?

For myself, I hope that I can keep my curiosity, my dedication and the patience to create music and things related to it. I definitely don’t have a ten-year plan, I just want to keep on moving, be kind and let walk this meandering path.

For the band, we’ve been playing together for ten years! And with the same line-up. I guess there will be another 10 more. We’re always searching, experimenting and researching. That keeps us stimulated and, most importantly, challenged. It’s not always the easiest way, but at least we don’t get lazy and this keeps all us and the whole band awake and alive. I see the band evolving, and I am really curious where it will take us.

4SEE Artist Profile 16  – Louise Thomas

Painter Louise Thomas who runs the Burnt Sienna Art School Berlin describes how determination and passion helped her find her happy medium.

Photography BERT SPANGEMACHER
Text JUSTIN ROSS

Berlin-based painter Louise Thomas opens up about her experience as a young artist grappling with the art market and how to make a living as an artist. Persevering through the ups and downs of the economy and surviving the Great Recession, she came out even stronger with new ideas and a renewed sense of community.

Her positivity is a much-needed salve and shows that happiness comes from doing what you love and sharing it with others—life lessons that are profoundly relevant to all of us facing another moment of great upheaval today.

Name Louise Thomas
Age 35
Nationality British
Medium Painting / film
Based in Berlin
Recent/upcoming exhibition (projects)
Residence Inn @ Hjellegjerde gallery Berlin
Find more at www.louisethomas.art

Interview from May 2020

4SEE Artist Profile - Louise Thomas
4SEE Artist Profile – Louise Thomas
Eyewear by ETNIA BARCELONA Moorea

 

Did you always know that you were going to be an artist?

I realised when I was 18 years old when I used oil paint for the first time to copy a John Singer Sargent painting, Madame X. I produced an accurate copy of the painting and knew I should continue since it came so easily to me. I continued to study biology, however I soon focused my intention fully by the age of 23 during my time at Kingston making films and afterwards at Falmouth School of Art starting to paint.

Do you find the art world (creative world) cutthroat and competitive, or is it also supportive and community-minded, or something in between?

Something in between. The artworld is a mirror that reflects the pure horror of the global neo-capitalist state we find ourselves in today. The monopoly of the blue-chip galleries and the desperate fight of so many artists squabbling over contacts, commissions and sales and then getting sucked up into galleries that at the end of the day do not provide a steady fair monthly wage or quality of life. This current state of affairs has been liquidised and catalysed in a crucible in the age of COVID: speeding us forward into more unstable times as the global economic system melts. I have found myself at a happy medium in the last few years and I can tell you a little bit about it.

Riwaka resurgence by Louise Thomas (2020), 90 x 90 cm, Oil on portrait linen
Riwaka resurgence by Louise Thomas (2020), 90 x 90 cm, Oil on portrait linen

When I graduated from art school in 2007, I was selected for an exhibition and prize with the Saatchi gallery and following with a show in New York and representation in London, lots of paintings were sold for lots of money to people I didn’t really like too much. After the financial crash and following recession, BISCHOFF/WEISS, the gallery representing me, went under. I felt abandoned with the cost of my paintings inflated to reflect the economic situation. However, over the last 7 years, I have become comfortable in my position, running a private art school, Burnt Sienna Art School Berlin and my own art practice. Based in Berlin, the school provides a rich, diverse community of artists alongside which I continue to produce paintings and work towards shows, networking and dealing with galleries and selling paintings at reasonable prices to people I respect. It feels great!

What would you consider to be your biggest accomplishment so far?

Last year I produced two large-scale oil paintings for a museum in Iceland. Afterwards, I received recognition from the president of Iceland for the paintings now in their permanent collection. The paintings were part of a series of commissioned artworks chronicling a historic medieval Icelandic saga text…. Besides that I am so proud of my art school and all the students!

Does art always need to be relevant? Is there a place for aesthetic indulgence, or do politics come into play in your motivation?

Art is always relevant to the person making it whether it is relevant or important to society at large is something else. For me, if an artwork reflects a sentiment or current theme clearly and poetically I am impressed.

I have personally been concerned with the same themes for 15 years now. I enjoy and respect Jeremy Deller’s relevant political working-class pieces as much as I enjoy, for example, Matthew Barney’s indulgently opulent cremaster works.

What topics have got you inspired at the moment?

Water, geometry, sex, the old testament and minerals.

4SEE Artist Profile - Louise Thomas Atelier in Berlin
4SEE Artist Profile – Louise Thomas‘ atelier in Berlin

What is it like to be currently living and working in Berlin?

Berlin is dirty, I speak German, but I am originally from London my English accent is strong. My fiancé from Hamburg gets along with it somehow.

What is next for you, an immediately upcoming project or chance to see your work?

I am working with the stone Lapis Lazuli, producing a new series ‘Great Women of the Bible’. I will host an online preview from my studio. Alongside that I am restructuring Burnt Sienna Art School Berlin with the team for online content as opposed to real-time courses in the school.

Where do you see yourself in ten years‘ time, where would you like to see your artwork and at what scale?

Kunsthalle Hamburg.

4SEE Artist Profile - Louise Thomas, photo by Bert Spangemacher
4SEE Artist Profile – Louise Thomas
Eyewear by ETNIA BARCELONA Guajira Sun

 

4SEE Spotlight on Kush K, Swiss Alternative Band

SPOTLIGHT ON KUSH K

Lotus-eaters, in Greek Mythology, are people living in the land of the Lotus tree that induces a peaceful sleep—as seductive and inviting as Switzerland’s homegrown music collective Kush K.

Text F. GONZALEZ

Lotophagi, is the first full length album; a trippy spiritual journey of multi-instrumental and electronic songs that personify their creative method. A method that starts with a single spark, oftentimes from Catia Lanfranchi, vocalist and key songwriter, that attracts the others of Kush K to join in at their own pace and time, like a collective, building a resonant energy that results in a song mixed with throwback equipment with more pops and fizz than bits and bytes.

Like with most acts in 2020, touring is pushed back a bit but Kush K looks forward to getting out there as soon as possible, maybe through a live streaming show, to share Lotophagi with live audiences around Europe.

Interview:  04/2020 with KushK

4SEESpotlight on Kush K, alternative music band from Switzerland
4SEE Spotlight on Kush K
Catia Lanfranchi, Nicola Habegger, Pascal Eugster, Paul Amereller
Photo by Simon Habegger

 

Artist Name Kush K
Genre Alternative
Members and Instruments
Catia Lanfranchi: voice, organ, synths, writer, arranger // Nicola Habegger: guitar, synths, bass, flugelhorn, voice, arranger // Pascal Eugster: bass, guitar, voice, arranger // Paul Amereller: drums, voice, arranger
Based in Zürich, Switzerland
Playing together since 2018
Recent Album Lotophagi
Listen on Spotify /  YouTube

Describe your band / music / style in three words.

Silk, spirit, space.

What did you listen to when growing up?

I grew up in household where we wouldn’t really listen to music, and there was no internet so my main access to music then was through classical—Brahms, Bach, Chopin—and playing piano. But I always thought that there must be more! It was super random, how I found the artists and the genres that I liked. I was attracted to rough and dirty music and the whole accompanying lifestyle. I didn’t meet the people nor find the right channels for it till I was sixteen / eighteen, and moved to a bigger city.

Up until then searching through mainstream record stores was just not satisfying, but I did find Joan Jett, which then led me to Sonic Youth, Patti Smith, synth and lo-fi music.

Music icon(s) and the reason why.

They were mostly women. I was attracted to their character and how they carried themselves. Their attitude, musical output, audio-visual concepts, the interesting sounds they made. Éliane Radigue and Björk inspired me heavily and opened my mind. Thanks to them, I felt entitled to choose this unusual lifestyle and to make radical decisions in my life.

Who are you listening to right now?

A lot of synth music, lo-fi, world, mixed genres, what I would call sensation-seeking sounds. I like to discover extraordinary personalities, they can make the meaning of a single song much stronger. Cindy Lee, who has an ability to create unique atmospheres. Mega Bog is another one, I identify with her lyrics a lot and love listening to her voice. There is also the Bitchin Bajas, who I love for their long stretched out dynamics and organic sounds.

What is the craziest or funniest thing that’s happened on tour?

A lot happened for sure, but what should I share? Maybe the first time that our audience requested specific songs for us to play, these were the songs from our first EP. This happened after the show, and we didn’t play any of their favourite songs because we enjoyed the new stuff and improvising so much. We really forgot that people love to hear the songs they know already. We had a good time and great conversations afterwards, though, and we learned a lot from them.

Kush K Music
4SEE Spotlight -Kush K
Lotophagi Album Cover

Favourite performance venues or music festivals? And why?

There are a few where we feel at home and like their philosophy. Helsinki in Zürich, Fri-Son in Fribourg. It doesn’t matter if a venue is big or small because it’s the audience and the people who work there that make it what it is. Running a venue requires a lot dedication, and it’s more about creating platforms and bringing culture to people than it is about programming and making money.

Three words to describe your fans.

Coolular. Awesomnistic. Amazingnitis. (CAA)

Favourite eyewear brand?

We love to wear glasses and mostly pick vintage no-brands. But Nicola is really into Cazal.

What is next for you, an immediately upcoming tour or EP/Album?

The next record will be out end of April. We would have played a lot now, but as is the case with all musicians, we had to postpone everything till autumn.
Hopefully, we’ll be playing festivals in the summer!

Where do you see yourself in ten years‘ time, where would you like to see your band / music and at what scale?

In a spacious garden, writing music and words.

4SEE Spotlight on Jan Wagner, photo by Bert Spangemacher

SPOTLIGHT ON JAN WAGNER

4SEE meets up with Jan Wagner: pianist, composer, producer and all the musical spaces in-between.

Photography BERT SPANGEMACHER
Text F. GONZALEZ

As the offspring of a music teacher with his own home music school, Jan Wagner’s musical influence were deep-seated at an early age. He developed an affinity for the process of composing music that would lead him to develop his skills as a producer and sound engineer. In his formative years, Jan worked at the lauded Faust Studio in Scheer, Germany, where he furthered his production education by working in close contact with many artists.

Taking to the piano since the age of 5, Jan is a triple threat of musician, composer, producer and instrumentalist that would lead him to produce his own music that could be characterised as: neo-classical, ambient, electronica. Since 2017 Jan has been writing and composing his own music to release in his own name for his debut album Nummern (Numbers) in 2018.

With a lifetime of musical education and studio experience, Jan Wagner’s music doesn’t stay within the traditional instrumental expectations but rather explores minimalism that let’s the listener engage with what is and what is not there rather than “wall of sound” that needs to fill every space.

In March, 2020, Jan had released his second album Kapitel (Chapters) but the global pandemic has hit pause on all public activities.

Interview:  04/2020 with Jan Wagner4SEE Spotlight on Jan Wagner, photo by Bert Spangemacher

Artist Name Jan Wagner
Genre Ambient / Electronica
Based in Berlin
Playing together since ever
Recent Album Kapitel (Chapters)
Listen on bandcamp /  YouTubewww.quietloverecords.com

Describe your band / music / style in three words.

Ambient. Piano. Electronica.

What did you listen to when growing up?

I was listening to a lot of rap music. I have a big brother and I always wanted to hang out with him and his friends. They listened to Eminem, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, so I, by default, was also listening to these artists. Later on, I got more into stuff like Ben Howard or Bon Iver.

Music icon(s) and the reason why.

I don’t really have a music icon, but if I had to name a single artist that has influenced me a lot I would say it was Bruce Hornsby. When I was a child I wanted to learn the song “Changes“ from Tupac. I went to my piano teacher and told him about this track. He started laughing and told me about the original track which is “The Way It Is” by Bruce Hornsby. I was astonished by his piano playing. He has a very unique technique, in how he mixes chords with melodies and does it with just one hand. That influenced me a lot. I try to always keep it as simple and meaningful as possible.

Who are you listening to right now?

It really depends on the mood that I’m in. But definitely a lot of Kendrick Lamar. He is a genius and mastermind. His producing and writing is beyond everything and stands for itself. The narrative scope and the metaphorical layers, and how he is constantly developing as an artist. Right now, I’m listening to the new record from Roger and Brian Eno. It´s a beautiful piece of music and you really can get lost in it! I highly recommend it!

What is the craziest or funniest thing that’s happened on tour?

The craziest thing happened two weeks ago when I had to postpone my tour because of the Corona epidemic. It was such a weird situation. Nobody was on the streets anymore. All the clubs and bars were empty, so I gave the crew at the venue where we were supposed to play a little, private concert. It felt super surreal, sitting in front of all these empty chairs and only the crew watching.

4SEE Spotlight on Jan Wagner, photo by Bert Spangemacher
4SEE Spotlight on Jan Wagner
Eyewear by SALT. Spencer

Favourite performance venues or music festivals? And why?

There was a tiny festival near my hometown called ‘No Stress’. It was such a lovely place. The stage was located deep inside the woods. The capacity was 2,000 people maximum, so quite approachable and intimate. It was always at the beginning of summer. The mixture between the festival vibe and then being in the woods was just magical. I had a lot of great moments there. In the evening, they lit up the woods and the cornfields. It was beautiful and surreal.

Three words to describe your fans.

Polite, Gentle and Honest!

Favourite eyewear brand?

My favourite eyewear brand is “Lunettes”. For a couple of years now, I am wearing the “Noblesse oblige” glasses. I’m truly in love with them. Last year I lost them while hiking. They slipped out of my pocket and I only noticed it when we were back at the parking lot. I felt so dumb, and I decided to go back to the top of the mountain because I really wanted them back. And I found them!

What is next for you, an immediately upcoming tour or EP/Album?

My second album “Kapitel“ came out this March and I just finished an album together with Dimitri Käch. He´s an excellent guitar player and makes stunning dark ambient music. The album is called “Porto Do Son“. Named after a region in Galicia, Spain where Dimi and I used to go surfing. Last year we spent some time down there and decided to capture this beautiful energy in the music. So we went straight to the studio, didn’t waste words conceptualising the project, and just pressed record. On May 1st, we will release the first single called “Faro”!

Where do you see yourself in ten years‘ time, where would you like to see your band / music and at what scale?

That’s a difficult question. Before the corona epidemic the answer would be much simpler, but now we have to reconstruct ourselves, so to speak. It’s hard to tell what will come next in these strange days. I just hope we’ll all make it through this crisis and reconnect to our beautiful earth and culture, in a sustainable way. Now we have the chance to change from a wasteful society into a more responsible one. Endless consumption is over. We have to focus on what we really need, and I think we understand now how important it is to have a thriving culture because we all miss it right now! And, of course, going on tour again, and playing live in front of real people.

Jan Wagner, German musician, photo by Bert Spangemacher
4SEE Spotlight on Jan Wagner
Eyewear by SALT. Henderson
4SEE's Foremost - Isabel Vollrath's atelier in Berlin

4SEE’s Foremost – Isabel Vollrath: Fashion Design as Objects of Art and Why Conscious Consumerism Will Be Even More Important after COVID-19

Isabel Vollrath is a Berlin-based fashion designer who works at the intersection of fine art and couture, and runs her own label, I’VR Isabel Vollrath, since 2015. Born in Freiburg, Vollrath studied fashion at Berlin-Weissensee School of Art, and has received a number of awards, both nationally and internationally, for her designs. Vollrath’s background in tailoring and long-held interest in sculpture combine to form wearable art objects—‘three-dimensional drawings’—in sync with the body, yet precisely structured. Both forward-looking and anchored in craft and historical perspective, Vollrath’s limited-edition designs speak to her desire to steer away from the demands of consumer culture. Her label is featured at Berlin Fashion Week and also operates as a made-to-measure atelier. With expressive forms and materials—from airy yet structural cottons, layered tulle, to textural corduroys and denim—Vollrath’s finely tailored, abstract pieces inevitably display a concern for the figure.

4SEE Foremost spoke with Isabel Vollrath and got some insight into what is behind her current philosophy, and uncertainty in the time of Covid-19.

Interview from March 2020.

Name Isabel Vollrath
Age 40
Nationality German
Based in Berlin
Website www.isabelvollrath.com
Instagram @ivr_isabelvollrath

4SEE's Foremost - Isabel Vollrath
4SEE’s Foremost – Berlin-based fashion designer, Isabel Vollrath
Photography by Det Nissen

Describe yourself in three words.
Passionate. Sophisticated. Visionary.

Style Icon(s) and the reason why.
My style icons are authentic and individual, showing a strong vision of their own personality. Current female icons: Vivienne Westwood, Tilda Swinton, Björk. Regarding the past: Coco Chanel, Frida Kahlo, Marlene Dietrich. Male icons: Rudolf Nurejew, Karl Lagerfeld.

Favorite eyewear brand?
My father is an optician, so I grew up with glasses and many eyewear brands. I like the style of Dior, Balenciaga and Versace women’s eyewear—as the „big classics“—but also the filigree Lindberg, Silhouettes , not to forget Ferragamo, Cartier and Bulgari.

What would you consider to be your biggest accomplishment so far?
I followed my childhood dream and became a fashion designer.

4SEE's Foremost - Isabel Vollrath's atelier in Berlin
4SEE’s Foremost – Isabel Vollrath

What is next for you, an immediately upcoming project?
Well, a few days ago my answers would have been completely different. Currently, we are all paralised by Covid-19—with no certitude as to how the next weeks and months will change our lives.
On January 10, 2020 I was turning 40 and I thought: „Great! What numerology! What a date! Let’s start the new decade!“ I was full of energy, open to new perspectives and changes—in general, not only regarding my fashion label.
For months I’ve felt a strong need for reflection and have questioned the direction in which society is heading… It is insane to produce and buy large amounts of „everything“; it is insane to feed the world with millions of offers, news, posts, technical innovations; it is insane when your iPhone becomes your best friend. Look into your neighbour’s eyes, not onto your screen! And please keep your app out of the gym!
Why don’t big companies STOP inciting consumerism??

I tried to find peace and answers in my frequent yoga and ballet practice.
I tried to find out where my creativity is really needed and welcome.
I decided to „manifest“ my fashion label as „couture and made-to-measure atelier“, away from the pressure of seasonable products that are already considered „waste“ when they are on the market.
I decided to „cool down“ instead of getting ready for the next Fashion Week.
I decided to open my mind and eyes to what is going on „out there“.
And what happened?

Unexpected projects arrived. I was asked to create the costumes for a theatre production in Vienna.
A film director, two artists and a ballet company wanted me to collaborate.
I felt happy, looking forward to new edges—beyond the struggles of the fashion market.
Too soon. Covid-19 appeared.
Last week: the cultural collapse.
This week: no yoga and ballet classes.
What now?

It is nature’s revenge.
We now have to rethink, stick together, help each other where possible, and find solutions for a common future—far away from what we were used to.
…if we need Covid-19 to let the atmosphere exhale and to clean the canals in Venice, then it is more than urgent to act and react.

Your fashion philosophy / Styling tips.
Buy less, buy better. Buy local.

Three words to describe your customer.
Self-confident. Determined. Avant-garde.

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