Timo C Engel is the man behind Bleedingblackwood. He recently released an excellent album ‘Record Full Of Last Songs’ and is about to present it at Orange Bar (Berlin, Germany), on June 17th.
I won’t bother to define the sound of Bleedingblackwood under any certain genres. Let’s just keep it to experimental, but above all this one a unique recording, that should attract you. So, well guessed, a few questions for Timo… And some really in-depth answers that you should find intriguing to read!
So Timo, what’s the story behind Bleedingblackwood project? An introduction to our readers?
Hey Christos, in 2010 I needed a chance in my life. I moved to Berlin, quit my previous band and decided to stop making music. But it’s like breathing – you can hold your breath for some time, but you can’t really stop completely.
I started to record very, very rough demos and sketches of songs, really just fragments. There is this free and very simple soft wear (Audacity). I never learned to play an instrument, but singing in bands since ages, I know what I wanted (and also what not…haha), not really knowing how to get there, though. So mainly I sang, looped the vocals, added layer upon layer, played melodies. I collect instruments and love to try them out and see what they can do.
There was always the idea to present the music live, but as I didn’t want to play with pre-recordings and Loop-Machines, I asked friends of mine, to sing the songs, I sang for the recordings. It was a huge step to present my little bedroom-recordings to a bunch of friends. So in the end, for almost 3 years, I played with this choir of friends. Some of them made it onto the record. Check out ‘Apple Tree Garden’.
But there was always a lot of planning involved. We were up to 9 people and in the end we decided to call it a day.
Recently, through mutual friends, I met this brilliant cello Player called Martina Bertoni. She is beyond words and used to play with the likes of Blixa Bargeld/Theo Teardo and Alexander Balanescu. I am blessed to have her to play with me.
‘Record Full Of Last Songs’ was released a few days ago. An idiosyncratic recording to the least. Which were the main influences for this one?
Main Influences…that’s a tricky one. I can tell you which artists I love. I love everything Björk ever did, Kate Bush – I think, ‘Hounds Of Love’ and ‘The Dreaming’ are two of the most brilliant records ever made. I am a huge admirer of Einstürzende Neubauten, Tuxedomoon, The Legendary Pink Dots, Arvo Pärt, Nina Simone – I love good pop too. new wave, post punk, ….there is too much good music to mention all of it.
Also I had HUGE support from my friends, who recorded and produced the album with me. After I demo-ed the songs, my friend Björn “Bodi” Petersen helped me with further recordings. Bodi and me played in a band called Eschberg for several years, so this was kind of easy as we spoke the same musical language.
When it came to do the mixing and production, my friends Tina Sanudakura and Andy Schwarz, of ‘No More’ (Suicide Commando) did the perfect job and put everything on the next level. They make music since the late 70s, but instead of telling me what to do and what not, they went along with all of my ideas and made them blossom.
Continuing on ‘Record Full Of Last Songs’ I can listen from experimental to neoclassical and from baroque-pop to dada. Is this deliberate or your genuine artistic universe?
Hm…a friend told me: “I don’t know what it is and this is meant as a compliment”. I guess, I don’t know what it is neither – still don’t know if I like it or not, though…haha. It may sound like a cheap escape from this question, but I tried to make, what I wanted to, with the possibilities (and limitations) I had.
‘Venus Flytrap Eyes’ is among my favorite ones. A haunting song balancing between Smog and Mecano. Would you like to talk about it?
‘Venus Flytrap Eyes’ – It’s about these people with long eye lashes and if you look at them too long, you are trapped. You know how venus flytraps work, right? Funny, looking back on it now, the title could also be one by The Cure. The song has a Greek background.
Is nudity or if you prefer ‘nakedness’ part of your art?
The cover was painted by my dear friend Daniel J. Skråmestø. I was on holidays in Oslo and I have to say, his regular paintings are way more sexual, so I kind of sneaked out first time and it was only on the next Oslo trip, that he managed to persuade me to undress and pose for him. When I started to look for a right cover he just wrote me “Listen, you’ve got a cover already.”
So nudity or nakedness is not really part of my art…though coming back to the video of ‘Venus Flytrap Eyes’ – in the end of the filming I was naked and had a shaved head…haha.
What about the instruments you use for your recordings? I have noticed a wide range of them used for your recording. Are you self-taught?
As I said before, I collect all sorts of instruments. For example, a few years ago I asked friends to give me their old unused instruments as a birthday present. I also find instruments in the streets. I never learned to play them, but I remember where I put my fingers and what sounds nice. When I ask friends to play stuff for me, I usually sing the parts to them, or use a keyboard to play them the parts.
Any interesting experimental bands/acts in Berlin at the moment?
If you got the chance, check out my friend Mary Ocher, she just released her record ‘The West Against The People’. I love her. I don’t know, where she got all her energy from and she is a true inspiration.
On the more poppy side, my “up and coming” friend Tumulto (feat Lady Maru) just released his first song ‘Concrete Talk’ as a download and video. It is a real “Ohrwurm”, as we say in german.
There is also the Dada-Group ‘ΦΥΤΙΝΗ/FYTINI’, that is partly based in Greece and Berlin, that is constantly releasing great stuff. I played my first solo-gig at one of their parties in support of their first vinyl release.
Also worth checking out is the Icelandic Goth-Girl-Group (they might kill me for this) Kælan Mikla , members of them just recently moved here. They also have a label that brings out great, mainly Icelandic, stuff and some of them do solo stuff too.
And last, but not least, my friend Sascha of The Surreal Funfair – a crazy professor lost in his electronic universe full of bleeps and klings and klangs.
That’s the good thing about Berlin. Compared to other cities it is still relatively cheap and musicians come from all over the world.
What should the audience expect from your forthcoming June 17 live appearance at Orange Ear?
Sad, sad, sad music. After one of our last gigs, Martina said to me: “We sucked away all the colors.”
I am super happy about the gig. I love Orange Ear and I love the people behind it.
Finish this one the way you wish…
Famous last words…
Support musicians and buy music. Go to concerts. Listen to albums. Be interested. Be curious. Make music yourself. Try out things. Don’t be scared.
Photo credits: Giovanni Libracub (1st one), Khan Of Finland (2nd one)