photo by Christoph Neumann
photo by Christoph Neumann

A few months ago the Berlin-based band UNMAP released their debut record Pressures. UNMAP‘s sound is a greatly interesting and unique compostion of art and music which fascinated us from the beginning on. Soon the absorbing group will be touring through Germany – a good reason for NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION to talk with the initiators Mariechen Danz and Alex Stolze about the story behind their debut album, why they don’t like to be put into one single music genre and of course hope and passion.


As you’re a pretty new musical project and some of our readers might not know you, could you please introduce yourself and the band?
Mariechen: I work as an artist and initially Alex and I began collaborating on music for my performances – that process progressed into the band UNMAP – we’re now a quartet with Matthias Geserick and Thomas Fietz.
Alex:I met Mariechen in 2005 when I was performing with BODI BILL and she did some guest vocals on our releases in 2008. Mariechen asked me for music for her art performances and then we began working a bit together – but at that point she was still living in Los Angeles. UNMAP grew from our collaboration and began properly when we started producing an album, about three years ago. We were a duo starting out , Matthias joined a bit later- we brought him in to play the bass. After that we’d been looking for a drummer who play our beats, live with an electronic drum set. And suddenly we were a quartet with a –in my opinion- unique instrumentation. Mariechen as the vocalist, the electronic drum sets , the violin, the electronics and the bass.


Your debut record ‘Pressures’ has been released about three months ago. Is there a special story behind it? What do you want to declare with it?
M: Some of the songs originally emerged from the context of my performances. they deal with misunderstandings in communication, history and the approach to history,- subjectivity, objectivity, and how to claim a position. That’s how the project started. . When the level of collaboration grew and we had shared visions, then the whole process grew and the constraints or aims of it became more relaxed.. When we began to we used the structure of – like chorus versus chorus, melody, rhymes and repetition – because it was trying to take advantage of the accessibility of the pop song format. The familiarity of it. The album Pressures is about a feeling, as well as a theme which includes all kinds of pressures- from subjective, social and political pressures to personal pressures.
A: Maybe we could add, that the whole topic – viewed textually and musically- is about how can you re-define captured territories. Or how can you change them in terms of the cognition from the outside. For that reason we’re trying to bring such widely separated musical stylistic devices together. And in terms of lyrics a lot is about social behaviour and how you can form that differently nowadays. That’s how I’ve always experienced it. The actual pressure which comes from the outside also includes that there are so few alternatives and you need to question that. Trying to find out whether alternatives exist at all.
M: I’d say it’s about bringing different things together- things which affect us- to tell a story which is also about how to find your own way and asking how to position yourself in different contexts of pressure. No, It’s not a statement album but I would definitely say its dealing with a lot of situations and emotions that occur when you have reached your limit …or things have crossed way over borders and at that point there’s a lot of trying to reconcile yourself with your world and the world. Within that process there’s tilting between real aggression, desperateness and forgiveness or maybe tolerance. I am aware that its ridiculous , sometimes embarrassing and probably futile but there was a concrete aim for some of the songs: to take on social and political topics but to articulate the concern in a completely subjective way – the language of pop songs, of love songs – I think/ I feel / I suffer etc. Like in the song Pirates, As a tourist, I don’t travel, I colonise etc.


You already mentioned that you’re unifying various musical styles on your record. For example trip-hop, R’n’B and soul. How would you describe your music?
M: I wouldn’t name a music genre-I don’t think that this would help anyone-besides the people who don’t listen to it. (laughs) Our concern was never to try to reinvent the wheel -Of course you can hear obvious things and influences, from chamber-pop to trip -hop. For me the hip hop and the R’n’B influence is pretty huge – and POP! And for Alex electronic music – and he plays violin so there’s very different genres automatically coming together. And Madze pays a lot of attention to textures and the flow overall … Everyone just brings his own thing and inspires the sound with it. And that just comes together by the collaboration. But I wouldn’t state a term because I don’t think that it would be helpful-
A: I’m struggling with such a thing as well. I did this all the while with BODI BILL and then someone just dropped a term like electro-folk. And this has also been really hard to understand, I think. Electronic-chamber-pop would probably be the genre I would most likely connect with it, but what does that evoke?
M: But I don’t like stating a name for it.
A: Yes, it’s not good, you’re principally right.
M: You can say what you’d like to say but we won’t cut it down onto two terms. It’s just not helpful. I think a reason for something like that is a simplification and that you’re belonging to something, but actually you’re not. I think that’s just an illusion. And to follow that is just perpetuating the need to box up everything.
A: I’ve read some JAMES BLAKE interviews lately and he’s always advised of his dub step references, because London and dub step .. And he always has to help himself with that and needs to describe how he noticed the different scenes which exist.
M: Yes but which scenes exist there? Unless you do radical techno or any other genre radically. That doesn’t exist. Actual popular music is a mixture of everything. It could be anything. It’s not working anymore to name one term- at least for most of the people. Because there is such a great hybridity.
A: That’s clear. The terms are getting more and more diversified. That’s self-evident. Nevertheless- I’m from the electro scene in Berlin and also from a chamber-musical scene, accordingly these are my roots. So to say, I’m not from guitar-pop and I’m not deep into classic music and insofar the electronic music world is the base for the things that I do.