From the opening keys of the piano-led intro and first full track ‘Let The Music Play,’ there’s a beautiful and slightly melancholic thread throughout Penner & Muder's Same Monkeys Different Zoo. This is a house album, however, and groove does not suffer as the stripped back drum&vox of ‘All About You’ aptly proves. Whether it be the dubby feel of ‘Sunset Blvd’ or the future soul of ‘Time Has Come,’ the album is bristling with emotion and even in tracks like the decidedly austere ‘Solitary Movement’ (with Muder’s long term friend/label partner Chopstick) there’s a real sense of feeling. This impassioned theme culminates in the stunning ‘Are You Lost,’ a future classic in the making if ever there was one. Balancing melody with groove, melancholy with uplift and dancefloor sensibilities with a home listening vibe is a rare feat, but Penner & Muder have pulled it off and have done so with a heavily song based LP – a true testament to the talent here.
Nils Penner took some time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions for us at Handsomeclub:
When and where were you both born?
John was born in Hamburg, Germany 1979. Nils in Bremen, Germany 1977. Bremen is situated 100 km south of Hamburg.
How long have you all known each other? How did you meet?
We know each other since 2007. I was working for Jan Langer, the labe lmanager of artists like Oliver Huntemann, Stephan Bodzin and Thomas Schumacher, who all come from and still lived in Bremen that time. Jan knew Thien, aka Chopstick, John's partner with Suol and the Chopstick & Johnjon project. Thien and John were looking for a graphic designer and so we met through Jan.
What inspired you to make music together?
Well, inspired sounds a little bit over the top, to be honest. Since we don't really consider ourselves musicians (basically because we cannot read notes or play any instrument), I would always say we are more like people who like to play around with sounds and grooves on a professional level. So what brought us together was more the same basic feelings towards certain sounds, grooves and tracks and a musical background we share.
How would you describe your sound?
Grounded, groovy and always the nice and important bit away from the main street.
What can you tell me about your process in making music together?
Most of the time we exchange ideas in loops via email. That is basically because I live in Munich now and John is in Berlin. Sending the ideas back and forth makes them grow and become small layouts with an arrangement idea in the end. Once we get to that point with one, two or more ideas we always try to have some studio time in Berlin to finish the tracks together. That's the most important part, I guess. You can see that in the fact that sometimes in the studio process we change the whole idea into something completely different. A little anecdote at that point would be that the first track on the album, "Let The Music Play," originally started as a remake / cover version of the original 80s classic from Shannon. :-) And now listen to what came out after 3 days in the studio ...
Listen to "Let The Music Play" here:
What do you like to do when you're not involved in making music?
We share a big interest in riding the bike. I have a bike standing in the studio in Berlin nearly since the first time I came there and we love to just drive through the city to get our heads free. Besides that I have to take of my little business as a graphic designer, which is still serving my food and living and not the music as you can imagine. Most of the rest of our time slips away taking care of our other music projects, especially for John because he is actually living on that. John has his label-project, Suol, with Thien, the musical project Chopstick & Johnjon and some solo output as Johnjon. I am also trying to push and bring my little label project Wazi Wazi (with Sasse from Moodmusic) upfront. And then there is the girlfriends ... so no time left ... :-)
Where have you performed? Favourite venues? Do you have any upcoming shows?
We decided from the beginning that we would only play live shows, no dj-sets. Our first gig was actually at Berghain/Panorama Bar in Berlin, a club many people consider as one of the best or even the best in the world. It was a Moodmusic label night in August 2008 and so we were pretty nervous, but it all worked out fine and we had great night with cool feedback. Other venues we played are Watergate in Berlin and Baalsaal in Hamburg. Not so many, but we only just started to work with the wonderful Wilde Booking Agency here in Berlin and we hope there is more to come now with the album. The official release party is going to take place at Weekend Club in Berlin on Saturday the 31st of July -- you should all come by.. :-)) Things happen and we try not to push it too hard in terms of "marketing" and "sell-out." We'd rather play some gigs less but know people booked us for our sound and attitude and not because we know how to sell it.
What has been your biggest challenge as a production duo?
I would say the biggest challenge is always the finishing of a track. To leave the idea at some point and say for yourself, "I or we did the best we can and got out all the potential that is in there." That is always a crucial point and there is only a few moments where you are a 100% sure of that.
How long did it take to record Same Monkeys Different Zoo?
In the end it took 2 years but not working on that the whole time. As I mentioned, we live in different cities and so there was only time in the studio to finish 1 track a month or sometimes even 1 track in three months. Every time we finished a track we decided whether to put it in the box for the album or send it to a label as a new single. That way it took two years until we had a consistent collection of tracks we wanted to put on the album, so the whole thing is round and makes sense. One could actually say the album is more something like a best of from two years of work and that can be heard in the variety of styles and grooves on the album.
What was the vision for Same Monkeys Different Zoo?
There wasn't really a vision since we did not really work on the album as a conceptual product. Afterward we could say that the vision is simply to be able to put out the stuff you produced in a free way without any restrictions or borders. Big thanks to Sasse at this point, who always had the right tips and ideas but never pushed us anywhere. We were always free in what we put on the album.
Listen to "Are You Lost" here:
What's upcoming for Suol & the newly launched Wazi Wazi labels?
Suol's next EP is from Chopstick & Till Von Sein, called Pure 18 EP, coming by the end of July. In the background the guys are busy preparing the ground for the first artist album on Suol by Fritz Kalkbrenner, coming in October. The next Single on Wazi Wazi is actually be me and called Homage EP. It is the fifth release and after the minor hit Presence of Another Man and the excellent As The Morning Comes by the one and only Freestyle Man, we are really happy about the more and more attention we get.
Listen to "Presence of Another Man" here:
What are you listening to at the moment?
Nils' Top Favourite Albums at the Moment
#1 - Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
#2 - Freddy Cole - The Cole Nobody Knows
#3 - Mark Almond - The Last & Live
#4 - Fugazi - 13 Songs
#5 - Alice Donut - Mule
John's Top Favourite Albums at the Moment
#1 - Aloe Blacc - Good Things
#2 - Efdemin - Chicago
#3 - Guillaume & The Coutu Dumonts - Breaking The Fourth Wall
#4 - Soulphiction - Do You Overstand
#5 - Actress - Splazsh
Any last words?
Keep it real.
Buy Penner & Muder's - Same Monkeys Different Zoo here on Amoeba.com.