There’s hardly anyone in the German-speaking region who does not know the refrain to the song “Geiles Leben” by Glasperlenspiel – a bittersweet goodbye to a former lover, wishing them “an awesome life with champagne parties, fame, money, mansions, and shades”. A total of 125 million audio and video streams, 900,000 sold albums and double platinum.
And in April of 2018 the electro-pop duo that is Carolin Niemczyk and Daniel Grunenberg finally published a new album. In his interview with La Loupe Daniel Grunenberg speaks about the concept behind “Licht & Schatten”, about how to deal with personal setbacks and the legendary show in Garmisch-Partenkirchen’s Olympic ice stadium.
L.L. / In 2015 your top hit “Geiles Leben” was published – and it was extremely well-received. Did you find that great success to be intimidating while you were working on your new album Licht & Schatten?
D.G. / It would be great to not care at all about something like this. Sometimes it really is very hard to block all of it out, but we do try to not let it drive us crazy and to not try and compare ourselves with past successes. I think real creativity can only come from a place where one is free of such thoughts. Of course, there are many voices that try and nudge you in a certain direction. But we focused on writing songs that felt right and that came from us. In the end this can only be the only right way. Sometimes it would be really great to be able to turn off those voices – at times it’s easier, other times it’s more difficult. But together, Carolin and I always find a good way.
L.L. / In 2017 you played far fewer shows and really made good use of your time to work on the new album. How do you approach a new project and what’s the concept behind it?
D.G. / This time we really had a very structured approach to the album. We’d had the idea of publishing an album on two sides for a long time. When we play live we remix a lot and make club remixes of our own songs. Which is why Licht & Schatten (= light & shadow) has a black and a white side. The white album is the pop album with the usual sound. The black side has the same songs but in completely different versions. They are danceable and more suitable for the nights. And our motto behind the album was that we’d never know just how lucky we are if we didn’t fall on our faces every once in a while. That’s just part of it. And this thought runs through the album like a red thread. The light and the shady side belong together and in an ideal situation there’s balance. And every bad situation, no matter how terrible, can always lead to something good and make you feel stronger afterwards. Not everything has always gone smoothly for us but in retrospect it all makes sense now.
L.L. / You and Carolin Niemczyk are a duo. Who does what?
D.G. / I’m more responsible for the technical component, I do music and production. Caro takes care of the lyrics but is also involved in the music, of course. That’s the result of a development that took years, we really understand one another blindly and as a consequence we can work very freely when we’re in the studio. We really jive well together, and we influence one another. Aside from that we often meet up with friends in Berlin, where we live at the moment, and around Lake Constance, where we’re from. And we enjoy writing songs together, especially with our friends from the hip-hop scene. It helps us expand our horizon. In hip-hop, lyrics are extremely important, which lends the music its own attitude. And that’s good for us!
L.L. / Your new album shows strong influences from other genres which makes it more experimental than the previous ones. What musicians inspire you?
D.G. / For me, personally, it’s music that is very technical. Everything that goes in the direction of EDM (= electronic dance music) and electro, be it Depeche Mode, Skrillex or Martin Garrix. So, it’s produced music that inspires me a lot. Caro is more into the singer/songwriter genre and many German artists and especially German hip-hop are fascinating for us. And, of course, everything we find appealing will be reflected in our music and end up characterising Glasperlenspiel’s sound. Everything we hear, feel, and perceive finds its way into our music.
L.L. / You say that on Licht & Schatten you sound, for the first time, exactly the way you’ve always wanted to sound. Would you say you were more independent on the new album?
D.G. / It’s a bit of a paradox but with increasing success you become more relaxed about certain decisions. When you have a certain status it’s easier to block out all the voices. We know our fans like our sound. We sound the way we want to, and we won’t let anyone influence that anymore. But it’s not like we sound completely different on the new album. I’d rather say it’s a logical, musical, and personal development. Licht & Schatten certainly is the most independent album we’ve made so far. We really sound the way we want to sound. Which does not mean, however, that we didn’t sound like Glasperlenspiel on our former albums, but we weren’t quite as free and courageous.
L.L. / The album is very personal – and you two are not just colleagues, you’re a couple off-stage, too. How many private stories end up in your lyrics?
D.G. / Songwriting is a kind of therapy where we process a lot of interpersonal stuff and of course that means we reveal quite a bit of our soul. In general, we find inspiration in everything and in 90% of the cases they really are our personal stories. But sometimes it’s also a sentence on a poster or a story you read somewhere, or something a friend tells you. Caro always has a little notebook with her and she’ll write down sentences and ideas. A lot of this ends up in our songs…
L.L. / Licht & Schatten is about contrast – without which we’d often not be able to distinguish life’s many different facets. Was there a particular experience where this yin & yang principle applied particularly well?
D.G. / There are many. In 2011 we published our debut album and, of course, we were not prepared for what happened after. All of a sudden there is a huge audience and many people enjoy what you make, and others think it’s shit. And you get all of that at once. That’s part of the deal, and you know that not everyone of the general public will love your songs. I mean, it’s the same for me, too, I don’t like every kind of music either. But it’s quite different when you’re the one who’s personally affected by this. Which means you have to find your own way of dealing with it. And even if the media always make everything look amazing that does not mean everything always works out the way you want it to. You publish a song, for example, that’s not so well-received initially, like with “Geiles Leben”. It’s these situations that can be quite the reality check – which is good, but you also need to find a way to deal with these events – in song form, for example. That’s part of the deal and it teaches you to maybe approach some situations differently. Maybe it’ll even open new doors for you. And I’m also the kind of person who, in a situation like this, thinks: “Now more than ever!” I don’t retreat into my shell.
L.L. / The first single off of your new album, “Royals & Kings” came out in March 2018 and the lyrics say something along the lines of: “we’re no royals or kings but at least we’re free.” Do you feel like material possessions quickly make us dependent? What are the essential things in life for you?
D.G. / We live in a time where especially social media show us all the things we need to own in order to be able to play a role in this world. And it is hard to withstand that pressure and we’ve caught ourselves in these situations before. And that’s not such a big deal because it is important to indulge every once in a while. But if you end up only defining yourself by material standards then you go in a direction that I don’t think is healthy. And that was the idea behind “Royals & Kings”: Yes, it is important to indulge but at the end of the day it’s all about the people we love. That’s what it’s all about, that’s what’s really important.
L.L. / You have played two shows in Garmisch-Partenkirchen before: in 2016’s Fernsehgarten and on New Year’s Day 2016 in the Olympic ice stadium. What memories do you have of Garmisch-Partenkirchen?
D.G. / I’m a passionate skier and I just loved the skiing area. I’ve been trying to teach Caro how to ski for a long time but she’s not quite warmed up to it yet. But she’s done a ski course in Garmisch-Partenkirchen which means there are fun memories of the place. Okay, maybe for Caro they weren’t that much fun (laughs).
Back then we made the conscious decisions to stay in Garmisch-Partenkirchen for 3-4 days after our shows. That’s not something we can do every time, but we find the region extremely beautiful and we like to stay and enjoy ourselves.
L.L. / Back then you played in the ice stadium, directly on the ice.
D.G. / Yes, that was crazy. In spite of the mats on the ice it was incredibly cold and I’m sure our performance was twice as energetic as usual to keep the cold from crawling up and into our bones. That really was crazy because we were playing at the centre of the hall and the audience was seated all around us. The audience was relatively far away but they partied anyway. Before the show we’d actually joked and said we should try and slide across the ice during the show (laughs).
We played a full concert in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and took the people on a journey and partied with them. I’m sure that was one of the most atypical and fun gigs we ever had!
L.L. / You play at many open-air festivals. Why do you enjoy playing outdoors, under the open sky?
D.G. / Each year the open-air shows are our highlights. It always means that there are big stages and lots of acts – many of which have become our friends, no matter if that’s Max Giesinger or Vincent Weiss. The concerts always remind me of a family reunion, somehow, the audience is in a great mood and the atmosphere is simply amazing. It’s a bit like a barbeque with friends which simply is more fun that cooking together indoors (laughs).
Wordrap with Daniel Grunenberg:
Studio or stage?
The best compliment:
You’re a cool guy!
When one of our songs is playing on the radio…
we turn it up and enjoy.
Lake Constance or Berlin?
Lake Constance. We enjoy the quiet, especially when we’re on the road a lot.
What I like about Caro is…
her sense of humour, her happiness and that she makes me laugh.
In our private lives we like to listen to...
Depeche Mode the most.
Our tip for aspiring musicians:
Keep on going and find your own style.
What’s annoying about success…
is that you have to take selfies with people at the breakfast buffet with your piece of bread with Nutella in your mouth.