Constance is a rarely seen thing these days, especially in the ever-changing landscape of the music business. As many artists are often caught in a race against irrelevance they tend to forget about the essence of their art. When it comes to continuity German songwriter MAXIMILIAN HECKER is something like a solid rock of the music scene. His tender and spherical melancholic pop songs refuse to follow specific trends and commercial expectations. It almost seems like he’s doomed to remain an eternal hidden treasure of Europe’s vital music scene. Spellbound Scenes Of My Cure is his already eighth longplayer since his praised 2001 debut Infinite Love Songs. And although it’s still packed with dreamy little love songs of lust and despair it also represents a change in the spirit of the musician. He found acceptance of his own character by facing special places. A man on the search.
Over the past decade MAXIMILIAN HECKER became a traveller between different worlds, a restless artist who somehow managed to gather a huge following in countries like China and Korea. Way more than in his home country. Still, he might have played in far more countries than most of Germany’s really popular artists. Still, he’s actually not really a fan of travelling as he confesses to NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION. ‘The worst of all is staying at a foreign city,’ he tells us. During his tours HECKER really hates the state of being ‘alone, not knowing a single soul there, and with no business purpose.’ How did he spend his days so far? ‘Either staying at my hotel room, curling up in the fetal position, or vagabonding in shopping malls,’ he furthermore adds. But that new record and the concept surrounding it changed a few things.
Your new album is accompanied by fourteen little self-directed films based on these special places. In which way did it change your feelings towards the whole travelling aspect of your tours?
Maximilian Hecker: Indeed, suddenly everything seemed to fall into place. With the camera as my partner, it’s not me as an outsider anymore, because the filming makes the before experienced painful feeling of being separated from a city’s community obsolete. My camera protects me from the nastiness of travelling, and I’m able to enjoy my journeys, even make spontaneous trips to cities and places just to indulge in my new hobby.
But do you, besides that new gained hobby, still feel that you are on the search for something special?
MH: Of course I am. Hopefully that’s quite a normal activity, but I guess that most of the time, I’m too much of a restless and unsatisfied human being to understand that instead of searching for salvation in the outside world (a partner, attention and appreciation from others, goods etc.), I can only find it inside of me. Creating music so far has been the only real and mature thing I have done in my life. It allows me to perceive my soul, my true self. I write songs, because, to emotionally survive, I need to unblock the channel to my soul with the help of music to finally be able feel and to finally be able to express my deepest longing.
Could that search also be one for the feeling of ‘home?’ I wonder, with all that travelling, if that term ‘even applies to you anymore?
MH: Of course it does. I think it has become some kind of »urban myth«, so to speak, that I’m constantly on tour and travelling, especially to Asia. 80 percent of the time, I’m at home in Berlin and enjoy that very much. I even prefer to stay at my apartment most of the time and don’t go out too often. In other words: My home is Berlin where I know my way around pretty well and where my friends live, and it’s vital for me to have this sanctuary.
So, MAXIMILIAN HECKER is not suffering from a lack of a personal place called ‘home.’ But another disease has infected him. The cure he is looking for in those special places is one for a – how he likes to call it – ‘Love Bulimia’, an, of course, ‘exaggerated and slightly ironic expression for treating the topic of romantic love’ how he explains. ‘Love is longed for and dreaded at the same time’ he sums it up. The new record is dedicated to ten special places all over the world where HECKER found solace and a solution for his inner struggle.
From New York’s Battery Park to the small village Henningsdorf, north of Berlin. Places, people and explicit passion influenced the sensitive songwriter, the songs on Spellbound Scenes Of My Cure are gentle love songs, easily floating over a tender piano or sweet acoustic guitar. The artist’s delicate voice remains the compass of the ten songs that manage to create a hypnotic flow. Although being in his late 30s MAXIMILIAN HECKER‘s voice still has something boyish. It’s honest, fragile and pure as his songs. He literally lives though his music. ‘So far, compared to my flesh-and-blood self, my lyrical self has done the better job living that kind of love that I long for,’ he tells us. His songs work as a catalyser for his soul. Or in his eclectic words: ‘a longing for disembodiment, a longing for an unsubstantial infinity, a longing for reunification with a lost entirety.’
Tell us a bit about the places of the album. Which one of them means the most to you and why?
MH: The songs Untouchable (Kastrup Part II), Hennigsdorf and Kastrup – that could be seen as metaphors for a voluntary isolation – portray the conclusion of the album and the end of my search. In the context of my regular, escapist trips to the bleak and deserted villages Hennigsdorf and Kastrup (the small village where Copenhagen airport is located), I am surprisingly able to find salvation and deliverance. Deliverance from the ghosts of my past, deliverance from my mirror image that I see reflected in the eyes of my fellow beings, deliverance from all social restraints. Because nobody is able to reach, look at, judge and touch me at these sites, and I feel sheltered and embraced by Kastrup’s and Hennigsdorf’s solitude, am finally able to accept myself and discover the ability to feel a – previously hidden – love for myself. My favourite place of these two, however, is Kastrup.
And you even compared Henningsdorf to Venice in the past. What’s so special about this place?
MH: It’s where I have spent the last three New Year’s Eves – all by myself at a cheap and functional hotel in Hennigsdorf’s industrial area – and where I experienced an ‘Indian summer’, a newfound love for myself.
Asia is, of course, also represented on the record. You sing about the Beijing-based hotel ‘The Opposite House’ and Seoul‘s district Gangnam. You are famous for your big following in those countries. Any explanation for this?
MH: This might be just a thesis… I think that my music and East Asian pop music has quite a similar approach: It’s all about the longing to free oneself from restraints and about intense emotions. Emotions that, living in an East Asian patriarchal and stern environment, can almost only run free in dream worlds and art. The more the narcissistic and individual needs are suppressed in everyday life, the more a necessity for a valve, a parallel universe becomes. This valve for emotions – particularly in East Asia – is art. Most of the East Asian movies, the pop music and even the TV commercials are hyper-romantic and hyper-melodramatic and deal almost solely with man’s great longings, especially the longing for romantic love.
And although being located in the real world all those places on Spellbound Scenes Of My Cure feel almost like surreal ones; every song is a dream of its own. From the floating delicacy of Gangnam Misery to the wonderfully reduced Untouchable (Kastrup Part II). The ten tracks on HECKER‘s new record are little fantasy worlds on their own, musical fairy tales from a timeless land of pure and uncorrupted fairy tales. Whether its the piano-driven melancholia of Battery Park or the sweet guitar sounds of Pearly River Gates which make it almost sound like a lullaby – you can call it naivety or kitsch but in the artistic microcosm of MAXIMILIAN HECKER it’s the purest form of honesty that can be.
There’s even room for a noisy rock final at the end of Henningsdorf, following a more reduced intro. Right here you’ll get the point that it is now about expectations anymore for the musician. ‘I have never been interested in changing my style or the ways of production,’ the likeable maverick explains, ‘I’m only interested in the songs and their, in my eyes, best approach.’ He doesn’t really care about stereotypes or cynical criticism towards his romantic fantasy world.
‘People should just try to listen to it without any Maximilian-Hecker-is-the-German-James-Blunt-ish prejudices and should know that – contrary to some people’s belief– I am in fact serious about my songs; no irony or self-staging there.’
But the key question remains. Is romance dead? Well, it depends on how you define it. ‘The modern view on romance, characterised by Hollywood, where a candlelight dinner, champagne, a sunset or just the city Paris by itself is seen as romantic, doesn’t mean anything to me,’ MAXIMILIAN HECKER makes clear. He’s more into a ‘good old German view on romance, characterised by Kleist, Hölderlin and Rilke for example, where the protagonists suffer from a nostalgic personality disorder.’ The songwriter is trying to keep the fire of that old-school appealing sort of romance alive in this accelerating times.
MAXIMILIAN HECKER might not be the most eccentric and innovative artist of our time but he’s a constant in a sea of an eroding society and increasing insubstantiality. ‘I’m glad that in the context of disastrous situations I still seem to be able to regain hope after a while,’ the singer answers our question about the element of hope in his life. Spellbound Scenes Of My Cure is an ode to love and a another twist on its originate concept. He will continue his unique path even if it might be a lonely one from time to time. The prospect of final healing isn’t the worst motor to keep you running.
Spellbound Scenes Of My Cure
Label: Blue Soldier Records/Rough Trade
01. To Liu Wen, The Opposite House, 3 a.m.
02. Love Hotel Hill
03. Gangnam Misery
04. Untouchable (Kastrup Part II)
06. Pearly River Gates
07. Battery Park
08. Aoyama’s Glow