Interview: ARI MATSUOKA
Date of interview: 27 July, 2020
Globalization is supposed to create a world where national “borders” become increasingly permeable and irrelevant, but, ironically, the world as we see it is crisscrossed with dividing lines. Our world today is full of divisions due to racial, religious, economic, generational and various other factors.
What should the new “border” be treated 31 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall?
The brother duo artist “CEEYS”, who works in Potsdam, Germany, released the album “WÆNDE” in 2018. What you can see and what you can’t see. We and them have a common theme. We talked to them about the “border” that knows about Germany, which is divided into east and west.
Q1. First of all, please introduce yourself (such as your brothers doing music activities).
We are Brueder Selke, Sebastian on cello and Daniel on piano, and we mainly release under the alias CEEYS. Growing up on the streets of Berlin during the last decade of the Communist-era German Democratic Republic we lived behind the Iron Curtain. It’s something we carry with us into our music – through thoughts, atmospheres and architectural references.
Today we are about bringing open-minded, live music formats to our new home of Potsdam near the world-famous film town Babelsberg just less then an hour away from Berlin. Here we invite artists from across the world to not only play with us on stage but also to help create a special bond between their avant-garde, pop music styles and Potsdam’s diverse, historic and diverse architecture from neoclassical palaces to Communist-era Plattenbau. As well as being our new home, we built our new recording space in Potsdam – Klingentha Studio. Driven by our deeply rooted compulsion to improvise, along with experimenting with cello and piano, we also create using traditional instruments from the socialist era. Sebastian recently added a new cello to his setup which came from Klingenthal, one of the four infamous places in the Saxon “Musikwinkel” – German for “musical corner” – of the Vogtlandkreis.
Q2. Please tell me about the origin of the CEEYS name.
It might appear a little cryptic at first, but we actually found it be very organic as long as you understand our way with music and history. The easiest way is to understand that it is the bringing together of cello and the keys.
With cello in the beginning it seems to be spelled like “cheese” but we keep this for photo sessions – just smile. Cello takes its name from the French “violoncelle” and as kids we were very impressed by the French electronic music scene.
Daniel on the other side not only plays the piano but all kinds of keyboard instruments. And Sebastian adds some bass and kick modules too. but here is also another aspect of the name: While growing up we early listened a lot to Reinhard Lakomy´s Der Traumzauberbaum, a record for children.
This inspired us a lot, and soon we noticed East German rock groups like Toni Krahl’s CITY, which was full of violin, and the duo KEY who just used western synthesisers. This then helped us with the name, taking cues from both CITY and KEY.
The music of CS not only reveals an intimate dialogue between artist and instrument but it can, amongst other interpretations, also be seen as a recognition and continuation of those musical experiments that emerged in the former GDR. One of these other interpretations is its communicative moment. Understanding our concept helps like-minded fans discover more than just the music; it can be an essential experience and prove to be more enriching.
Plus, notice that our last name Selke matches with our other five-letter artistic name CEEYS, listen to SEAS or SEES or short cut CEEYS to CS, and just feel inspired by it all.
Q3 When in 1989, the Berlin Wall was torn down, you were still a young kid. In 2018 you released the album “WÆNDE” which means something like “Walls” in German. I somehow got the impression, that it deals with your feelings towards “Borders” during the separation of Berlin in east and west. Could you tell us in detail about the story behind this album?
Walls, or WÆNDE in German, have shaped us from the very day we were born – both historically and musically.
Back then in our Hellersdorf prefab building, we could hear each other practise our instruments through the paper thin walls of our childhood bedrooms. The same was true for the neighbours above and below us. So in these times of walls, they kept on knocking – not exactly with musicality but with all the more passion – in their very own
rhythm onto radiators, their apartment floors or the ceiling.
The sudden fall of the Berlin Wall, or WÆNDE was not only a historic turning point it changed our whole life. Growing up in the last decade of the former GDR, restrictions and the overcoming of material lack were our daily companions. The memories, impressions and feelings, the two sides of one medal – the Wall – help us to understand the present time a little better.
The music helped us to find our way as we always dreamed of making an album about these times.
Q4 In your works, you are not solely relying on music, but also on self-made pictures and images to visualize your expressions. One could say, that you are using a double layered approach in your works. What do you think, we humans can gain from art, music, literature or pictures? How can we grasp something from a uncertain world?
None of us really know why we are here on this little planet. It seems to be more about a feeling and our reflections.
For us art, literature, pictures, and music are part of our universal language to show our impressions and emotions while living in this one cosmos, in this one moment. We hope that one part of our puzzled language will reach people and helps them to understand their world a little better as well. We were encouraged to play from a preschool age by our parents, Gabriele Selke – an actress and Harald Selke – a radio presenter. We went on to formally study music, with Sebastian graduating from ‘Hanns Eisler’ Berlin and Daniel from ‘Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy’ Leipzig. We still remember the one sentence by Hanns Eisler printed in the foyer of the Hochschule: “Wer nur etwas von Musik versteht, versteht auch von Musik nichts.“ (Who only knows something about music, also knows nothing about music.)
We’re also planning an exhibition of our album-accompanying photographs. The cover and inside artwork of our album sleeves, for the most part, introduce images from our photo session in 2015.
It’s a short series of a typical prefab building that were very common during that time. Convoluted, contorted, anonymous, including not only a vast number of balconies but also enormous mosaics on the buildings’ sides.
The images were shot present day, using – with some professional guidance – original cameras from that time.
The cover of our LP “HIDDENSEE”, a sort of travel album, presents the same apartment block from an ambiguous perspective, such that it resembles both a ship’s bow and a mountain.
The special edition, limited to 100 vinyl copies, was released with a silkscreen-printed collection of 12 postcards – to match the number of tracks on the album. These cards were produced using a Risograph printer and show motifs of the island of Hiddensee from a home video from 1986.
While the video was filmed on an original AG8 handheld camera from the then CSSR, the ecologically friendly Risography was taken from Japan (the Far East).
Q5 Could you tell us about your newest project or future plans? Are currently working on something?
Thank you for this question, as we love to talk about future projects. Here our dreams can fly with hope as the main inspirational motor.
This chapter starts with the impact COVID-19 has had on our ideas, projects and formats. Earlier this year we wanted to celebrate the fourth edition of “Q3Ambientfest” with a special lineup that would have seen us collaborating with Peter Broderick´s duo project Constant Presence, alongside Daniel O’Sullivan. We released a beautiful handmade 10-inch vinyl via Gregory Euclide`s beautiful Thesis Project called Thesis 17. The plan was to share the stage at this year’s festival and later present the record personally to the audience.
We also invited 18 other beautiful artists and friends but due to
the worldwide pandemic many had to cancel their flights. But this is no time for resignation. As mentioned above we already learned to work with limitations and restrictions and soon we started with the reschedule. Q3Ambientfest has been postponed to 2021 and we already started to love the constellation of year numbers.
As two brothers and with the concept of a dividing Wall, we love everything about the number two. Our acoustic cello-piano double album is announced for fall 2020. We are also about to release for the first time under our own name, as Brueder Selke. There are many different projects we would love to present and this step seems obvious for us to spread the word even a little bit more.
One example is our upcoming collaboration with LANDR, a Canadian platform for unique music services. They invited us to release some
individual sample packs based on our restored East European synthesisers we‘ve collected for over 20 years. We are more then proud and have always wanted to make packs to share with musicians of all genres.
We love to share our whole work from samples, to reworks, to the stage. It is our main focus for what music should stand for today and after the first devastating images of COVID-19 going across Italy, it was by no accident that you saw Italian people sharing music from balcony to balcony. It is the very essence of music.
Q6 Up until now, the year 2020 was a year with lots of news and changes. Especially artists now face a strong conflict between society and themselves or their position and influence in it, while constantly trying to find new ways of “art” by trails and error. In midst of this difficult situation, what do you think is the most important thing artists should do in the next generation to “break through to the future”?
Music will remain the very essence for many aspects in life. It is the only thing we as Brueder Selke can do to express our ideas and to connect with people around the world. With our music we are still in touch with many friends around the globe planning new shows and collaborations, and using the free time to recalibrate our creative engines. And to be honest, before the crisis we sometimes had a feeling of a collapsing world. For us it just was a question of time. Everything went faster and faster, more and more, louder and even louder. It sucked a little bit-yes. We had to postpone our boutique festival and it hurts our soul. But we now used the time to record our new record HAUSMUSIK and to discover a new release perspective. Just take the limitations as they come and you will find to your essence.
There is a time where the best thing you could do from running is to stop.
New Single “Im Fenster”
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