Since 1993, electronic music trailblazers Andi Toma and Jan St. Werner aka Mouse On Mars have been creating an unparalleled sound universe in which pop, noise, playfulness, and a sense of fun work together hand in hand. During their long, prestigious career they have released records on labels like Too Pure, Thrill Jockey, Domino, Ipecac, and most recently on their new home base label Monkeytown Records. In addition they established their own label, Sonig, and collaborated with musicians like Junior Boys, Moondog and under the moniker Von Südenfed with Mark E. Smith of The Fall. To celebrate their more than two decades together, Mouse On Mars will soon release their new album 21 Again featuring the talent of artists such as Tortoise or Matthew Herbert. For Carhartt WIP Radio this month, for the first time ever they have compiled a collection of new and unreleased tracks, rare edits, remixes and found footage material, all while eating salty nuts in the bathtub! As always, we talked with the creators of our latest show about their work, inspiration, and life on planet earth. Here is what Mouse On Mars told us.
(Jan St. Werner and Andi Toma)
You are celebrating 21 years of Mouse On Mars, can you tell us shortly how it all started back in the days?
Mouse On Mars: Two guys met in an armpit and dug their way up to a giraffe's brain. Found lots of wires to connect. Made friends with other giraffes.
What were your early passions and influences when you began writing/producing music?
Mouse On Mars: Sounds, everything you can hear: tape hiss, street noises, electricity buzz, radio crackle, voices, tv atmospheres, drumcomputers, synths, effects, guitars ...
You are celebrating your anniversary with a double CD that features collaborations with befriended artists such as Tortoise, Atom TM, Laetitia Sadier, Modeselektor, Matthew Herbert or Eric D Clark. Can you tell us a bit about the release and what it means to you personally?
Mouse On Mars: We had a a few unfinished tracks and collaborations which we wanted to finally get mixed. To get motivated we decided to start even more collaborations and thought that our 21st anniversary would be a good reason for that. The song with Eric was the first one in a series of 21.
Mouse On Mars: We produced much slower by then and the music was kind of slower, too and more eerie. The availability of longer sampling time, hard disc recording and software gave us much larger chunks of sound and much more detail. Our skills also changed and so technology and versatility met and made it possible to produce a denser musical language.
What do you personally consider to be the incisive moments in your artistic work and/or career?
Mouse On Mars: Our first signing to Too Pure records of course, our first live show at garage in London, our first samplers (EMU & Akai), the first laptop, being a part of A-Musik, starting our label sonig, discovering drum and bass, meeting Soulis Moustakidis, meeting our ladies, becoming fathers, developing our own software WretchUp which is just a start of more to come, playing foreign countries and hanging with good people.
If you could describe Mouse On Mars in one sentence, what would it be?
Mouse On Mars: Church organs, Hawaii guitars, radio distortion, bird farts, feedbacks of any kind, Espresso.
What is your creative process like and how do you keep your work fresh and continue to evolve?
Mouse On Mars: We're not really aware of what we're doing and why. This keeps us going. Curiosity, wanting to find out what this is all about.
Are you strictly separate improvising and composing?
Mouse On Mars: It's all a matter of how close you are to your work. Shifting the distance makes you aware of different aspects of your music: arrangement, composition, sound, equalizing, choice of sounds, timing etc. Maybe the difference between composing and improvising is just the speed of how fast you can decide on what you want to hear/play next.
What kind of music would you make in a world without electricity?
Mouse On Mars: Body sounds. You name them.
Can you describe the relation between your work and your identity?
Mouse On Mars: They both feed into each other and create chaos.
What do you find most challenging about the work you do?
Mouse On Mars: Keeping an overview, not getting lost in grammar and semicolons. Keeping the necessary in mind but making enough space to get lost and finding new exciting shit.
What do you want to accomplish with music and what can music which all other art forms can not?
Mouse On Mars: Music displays human thinking more elegantly than any other art form. It's never dogmatic and yet so convincing.
How, would you say, could non-mainstream forms of music reach wider audiences?
Mouse On Mars: No one is interested in wider audiences. You want to make sure every single listener can have their very personal encounter with your music. For that you need to keep the balance between visibility and translation and keeping the music a mystery.
Are you cautious about being put into a box?
Mouse On Mars: Yep, wouldn't feel so good in it.
What’s something you’ve learned through music that has helped you in life (and vice versa)?
Mouse On Mars: Patience and not taking things too seriously. Seriously!
How did you select the tracks for your Carhartt WIP Radio show?
Mouse On Mars: Played them by ear.
How does living in Berlin shape your work?
Mouse On Mars: Found a new home with Monkeytown, added another booking agency LittleBig, built our new studio Paraverse 4. Lots of friends already lived here, software friends like Sugar Bytes, Native Instruments, Ableton. Greateste Stadt von der Welt when you have all that and a boat and a view.
How do you think your generation is going to leave its mark on music in general?
Mouse On Mars: Funfuzius said it's all rain drops in a big wide river. To keep the water fresh it needs to continue raining.
What advice would you give to producers who are just starting out?
Mouse On Mars: Stay independent. Don't get caught by your routines.
If you would do a forecast of what is the sound of tomorrow how would it look like?
Mouse On Mars: Direct brain massage. Music will be become more clever and complex but also much more dumb. Music is codes and mysteries. And the balance is what composers have to handle.
Please recommend some artists to our readers which you feel deserve their attention.