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