Moritz Krämer: A quiet, modest musician based out of the heart of Berlin’s culturally rich neighborhood, Kreuzberg. Krämer walks through life’s everyday moments in his songs, embellishing the difficult and beautiful times of relationships with poetic ease. He’s a German who writes and sings German text that’s absolutely saturated with raw emotion, enabling him to break past language barriers for any prospective international listeners. As he says himself, good music is about evoking the right emotions, with or without a specific language in mind. Krämer has an overall keen eye for aesthetics; he studied audiovisual communication and writing at the University of Arts Berlin, and he’s currently studying film directing while simultaneously composing musical pieces for a German theater company and maintaining a solo career. “Ziemlich stark,” one would say in German. THE BOMBER JACKET spoke with Krämer about his recent album debut that has received positive criticism nation-wide in Germany.
THE BOMBER JACKET: So it was a pretty big year for you…you just released a new album, Wir Können Nix Dafür, or, in English, “We Can’t Do Anything About It”….the press likes you!
Moritz Krämer: If you say so. Sounds good to me.
On your website is another release listed under your discography titled, Ich Kann Nix Dafür. Do you have other songs that aren’t on these two records? You’ve been playing music for years now, right?
There are songs I’ve written after the release of the record…I actually most prefer to play them live. Before I was with a label, there was also a collection of downloadable songs available on the Internet, called Fallsucht. I also play some of those songs live at shows.
You made a name for yourself through your singer/songwriter music, but you also have faster full-band songs. What is the musical process you use when writing new songs?
Some songs start with guitar and vocals and the band is added later on during practice. Some songs start with a riff or a melody and then everything happens in layers, where I can record additional tracks and edit particular parts while mixing. At the moment, it’s much easier for me to go about writing the first way, because I then don’t have to spend so much time sitting in front of a computer and ideas for riffs can come from other places.
What was the process for Wir Können Nix Dafür?
It was actually all finished songs that I had recorded demos of at home. The bass and guitar lines were mostly already done and then we went into the studio and recorded everything together again as a live band.
It’s clear that lyrics are important to you. How do you write your lyrics?
They’re conversations with friends that I can’t let go, or movies I’ve just seen with characters I really like, and then I think about it afterwards and write it all down. Sometimes they’re just parts of sentences that sit around until I rediscover them. Sometimes the songs write themselves and sometimes I don’t have any text and I start the storytelling with guitar, and then record what I have at that point.
You were saying your English isn’t that good and that’s why you write in German. Is that really the case? If your English would be better, would you really write songs in English? I think good German songs are even better because so many Germans want to write in English.
If I could speak English just as good as I can speak German, I might sing songs in English. I don’t think people have to sing in the language of the country where they’re born, but the language that gives people the most comfort in terms of expression. If people tell stories in English because it’s easier for them, then I think that’s good. Which language someone prefers greatly depends on the social and cultural backgrounds of the person–something that is exclusive from a specific country. It would actually be a very nationalistic, negative way of thinking. If the music style of the English language works well and someone feels at home in this regard, why should a person not sing in English, even if the person can’t really manage to sing in English? The more important thing is the song’s emotion, the melodies, the scenes that someone creates with these two things…the music…why shouldn’t people be able to do what they find right?
I agree with what you’re saying, but I guess what I mean is that there seems to be a big pressure for musicians to sing songs in English. It seems like the “cool” thing to do. Is that the case, that a musician in Europe is more successful when he or she has music in English? I worked in a club and many bands from Europe that I saw/heard sang songs in English, but the words didn’t seem that personal. Do you know what I mean? I’m just wondering if there indeed is a pressure to write songs in English so more people will be interested.
Actually, things seem the other way around to me, because there are currently a lot of German-speaking bands that can sell themselves just fine. So people actually ask me if I sing in German because it’s the modern thing to do. Maybe English-speaking bands have it harder because there is more of them that exist?
Okay, interesting. I think you mentioned before that you work for a theater company in Berlin, right? Can you explain exactly what you do?
I compose songs time to time for the Mareike Mikats (a nationally known director) theater shows. That’s always at the theater where the group is performing live. At the moment we’re working at the Munich Folktheater together. Prinz Friedrich von Homburg is the name of the piece. Sometimes I play the songs myself at the shows and sometimes I play with the actors at rehearsal and am done after the practice phase. When Mareike wants to include my music in the shows, then she asks me if I’m interested. She also works with other musicians sometimes who make electronic music.
And does your job influence your music? Is there a relationship between the two because they’re both music-related?
Definitely. I play the songs I’ve written for plays…at concerts sometimes, too.
A lot of Americans see Berlin as a huge techno city. Can you explain what the general music scene is like in Berlin?
I think there is a huge electronic scene, but just like in every city (I assume), there are a lot of different bands that play a lot of different music and have a particular audience for that genre. I think there are different larger musical communities in Berlin…I only know a small percentage of those people. I usually feel as if I’m a guest among them because everyone in those groups seems to have already known each other forever.
Where are you from exactly and why did you choose to live in Berlin?
I grew up in Hochschwarzwald, in a small village. I then graduated high school in Freiburg and afterwards I wanted to go somewhere else. My brother was in Hamburg, so I went to the other big city that interested me, so that I wasn’t copying him. My brother and I are really similar…sometimes I regret that I don’t live in the same city as him, but there are positive parts about it, too.
Does your brother play music too?
He can play various instruments and he also used to have a band.
How did you end up on Tapete Records? They’re in Hamburg, right?
In 2008 I was with Dirk Darmstädter together on tour. He runs Tapete with Gunther Buskies. After the tour, Dirk came to a show that I played in Hamburg, and that led to a conversation about me joining the label.
What’s your fanbase like in other countries of Europe?
There isn’t another fanbase. [Laughs]
We’re now in 2012! You’re touring in Germany til the spring, right? And after that?
Afterwards I want to continue writing my second album and eventually record it…I haven’t gotten into much planning for after that.