Thursday, November 20, 2008

Johannes Hofbauer : Inventing Music For Cycling

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.

- Victor Hug

Meet Johannes Hofbauer, a 26 year old musician who hails from Karlsruhe, Germany. He's quite passionate about the sport of cycling. However, differentiating himself from the typical serious cyclist who would do nothing but ride his bike all day, this young guy spends more time away from the saddle in his studio, seeking to translate his emotions for the sport into interesting pieces of electronic music. When I say interesting, I mean very interesting. The stuff he makes probably has little in common with what you mostly chill out to on your mp3 player.

In the sport of procycling, where huge, memorable battles are fought at the finish line or in the premises of high Alpine slopes, you'd imagine they all could use the same sort of epic musical theme of almost cheesy proportions. But is challenge, pain, fear and joy all there is to cycling? What about the other emotions? How do you express that?

I guess Johannes believes in letting the music talk for itself as he creates some really cool, unique music to narrate the rhythmic, pedal powered lifestyle. Its really a step away from some of the cheesy retro tunes that commonly accompanied race commentary.

So far, he has created three albums, and here's a preview from one of them called Cycling World :

I recently had a small chat with him across the Atlantic to further understand his drive to create music for cycling. Some of his work is also featured between my questions.

Q : Hello Johannes. Tell our Cozy Beehive readers a little about yourself, where you are from, and what your hobbies and passion in life are?

Johannes : Hello America!!! Thanks for letting me be part of this interview! I'm Johannes Hofbauer and a 26 year old musician from Germany. I live in the city which created the first bicycle in history! The city is Karlsruhe and the inventor's name was Freiherr Karl Drais. He invented the first bicycle called Draisine in 1817. And when I was at Drais High School in my younger days, I saw every day a Draisine in a showcase at the entrance of the school. That made for a perfect conversation that I could initiate with anybody - why I love that bike! :) And yes, its true that cycling is my passion and my hobby.

Q. That's what I thought, that you would be a big cycling fan. So I'm curious. How much do you ride your bike?

Johannes : Well, unfortunately not very day, because I'm often at studio for my work. But if I really want to ride, all I have to do is drive to France to do it. Actually, this is quite easy since I live near to the border to France. Frankly, here in Germany we have bad roads and too much traffic. But if I were to rank myself somewhere, I would say I'm an average cyclist.

Q. Right. Riding in traffic is one of the big problems we have here in the U.S. And I'm nothing more than an average cyclist, like you. Switching topics, tell us how you got involved in music.

Johannes : I have music in my blood. Everyone in my family is a musician. In my childhood days, growing up, I heard a lot of songs on the radio. I love the music from Falco, you know.. the crazy guy from Austria, who was number one in USA charts back in 1985. And so many other tunes come to mind. When I was 16, I finally decided to make this passion serious and so built my own studio. Hence, I'm a self-made music producer and I learn through self experimentation or through reading audio magazines. I'd say my knowledge about music and producing took 10 years to develop before I started making the music you're hearing. For a year, I even worked in a radio station and that was a great experience as well.

Q. Very interesting. May I ask you, what inspires you to create these tunes? Is there emotion, you think, that can be expressed through such music?

Johannes : The inspiration for me was the whole atmosphere of cycling. It was great. Through that inspiration, I found that I could combine my work in the studio with my personal passion for this sport. To be honest, I think cycling is like a movie. The riders are the actors, the races are their stories. Its that simple. And I think the task of a composer in this picture is to give a sound to this adventure on wheels. He must be like a reporter, speaking and describing through music. And yeah, you're right, I create music for the emotion. That's what its all about.

Q. So how does an idea for an album come about?

Johannes : For the Cycling World music album, it was very easy. I wanted to make a music album for the big name races on the pro tour calender. In the next step, I sought to give an international touch to the music. That means variety of cycling music for different countries, which explains why I created a track in the album called Tour of Britain or Japan Cup. My opinion is that if the music encompasses many parts of the world, it becomes unique. If you'll remember, Kraftwerk made their Tour de France album in 2003. I too made a Tour de France album in 2008. But after that experience, I thought an album with other cycling races will be more unique. That was my idea.

Q : Wow. I heard some of your work. I have to say the music sounds very different from some of the mainstream electronica that's out there. How would you classify your music, like a genre for it if you will? And whats with the characteristic periodic beats and patterns? Do you believe it should be cyclical, like the nature of cycling itself? I wonder if that was your idea.

Johannes : Sure! My music is a new kind, I know that. The beat is totally off and very progressive. That's what I love about it. You know, I'm a self-made musician and I have an innovative procession with samples and sounds. I can experiment with a lot of variations to create a new touch of music. You can consider me an inventor of music, not really a composer like the old way. Hence, I created the word "cycling composer", because I specialize in creating music for only for cycling. But who knows, maybe I'll end up making music for the moon landing or some other international event in future (laughs).

Johannes in his studio

Q. Well, I'll bet you the astronauts would love to hear something to get them going on that dead planet! Anyway, so you talked about how your ideas before creation. Now, give us an understanding of the tools you use to create that music. What instruments do you use at the studio?

Johannes : Well, I have a studio in a one room flat. The studio is built by me and I use many old electronic instruments from Korg, Yamaha, Roland and many more. I believe I can create unique music due to the nature of the equipment I use. The secret is the fact that, here, in my studio, you must combine old analog instruments with the more modern digital equipment for recording. I don't use computer programs like Ejay for example. I compose and play everything from the scratch, without using any templates made by software applications.

That was an interesting conversation. And after hearing some of his music, I tell you that you must approach it with the same open mindedness as you would to just about anything you experience in cycling such as being on a saddle for 5-8 hours, wearing Lycra in public or even shaving your legs! Music is really in the ears of the beholder, and there's always a right tune for your tastes!

To visit Johannes Hofbauer's website and to get more information on how to download his album through iTunes, click here. Some of his work is also featured on his Youtube page.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for another nice interview. Good wishes to Johan!!

Manchester UK

Ryan J said...

I honestly tell you that I'm very much digging this music! Very cool.