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Music

At long last, pop poet Clueso lets the music speak

With several hit albums and singles behind him, German pop poet Clueso went into overtime to make his fifth album, 'An und für sich' ('In and of itself'). The collection of stand-alone tunes was released March 25.

Clueso singing

An artist of many styles: Clueso

At 15 he gave up hairdressing for hip-hop. Now 30, Thomas Hübner, better known as pop star Clueso, has rapped, reggaed and softly crooned his way into the hearts of fans across Germany and beyond. He’s a musician of many styles. March 2011 marked the release of his fifth hit album. Clueso sat down with us to talk about his new record, having conversations with songs and his unusual collective home that unites the talents of many artists.

DW: You spent more time producing your latest album than usual. Why?

Clueso: When you're up to your fifth album, you've already said and done things. You don't want to simply repeat yourself. I tried to push those limits. At first I thought I'd have to invent a new style but in the end I took a journey through time, through all my records. That’s why this album is so playful and varied. I worked with all kinds of musicians and each song occupies its own space, tells its own story and has its own hue. That’s great. There are 17 songs, that's quite a lot.

What else surprised you about this record?

The vision you have when creating something is always different than the result. That’s a good thing. I thought I’d make an album that tells one long story. Instead it’s many short stories. That surprised me, but I don’t mind letting go of my vision and creating a different one along the way.

Before buckling down to work you told your band: "The song's the boss." What does that mean?

Clueso on stage

The singer lives in a communal artists' space

Previously I made music exclusively for myself. I also decided when a song was finished and that's when I stopped working on it. Sometimes, however, it wasn’t really complete. I think when you give things more time they become more objective, livelier, but perhaps also more vulnerable if you stop sooner because the song says, "I'm already finished" or if you keep at it because the song says, "I'm not yet finished." You have to settle down and listen, let the feeling inside the song come out. I think that's more authentic and alive.

So you're a song whisperer! But the boss made you work overtime. Tell us more about the creative process. After all, you even postponed a planned tour because the record wasn't yet finished….

I spent two years on this album, one continuously, and before that a phase of sketches and ideas. I had to postpone the tour because a song said it wasn't ready yet, and the whole album screamed "We aren't finished!"

I'm the sort of person who, when I'm eating, likes to push the stuff I like to the side. People ask, "Don't you like it?" and I say "Yes I do!" I'll eat that last because I want the taste to linger in my mouth. In the same way I actually did the best songs last and couldn't make compromises. I had to postpone the tour. It was tragic and I felt bad about it. But you can't plan music. At least I can't.

Why did you choose a dry, dusty part of Spain for some of the recording process?

I wanted to remove people from their comfort zone and to some extent get ourselves out of the line of fire. I thought it was cool that when people go outside they hear another language. Then you know you're in a different place. It forces you to go inside yourself. That's good for the music. And it was cloudy for just half a day out of four weeks. We were in the studio most of the time, but still, when you go outside you see sunshine. I think the album's very sunny. If you listen to it now it may sound contemplative. But when the sun is shining, it fits.

Here in Germany you live in an unusual community known as "Zughafen" in your hometown of Erfurt. What’s life like there? Zughafen is my home and a commune where everyone does their own thing. It's a formation of many creative people who've all become pros in their fields. Many of them have several different jobs at the same time, including in the Clueso project. One guy does our photography and is the lighting man when we go on tour. Another has a recording studio at Zughafen and is our monitor man on tour. There’s a band who rehearse downstairs and they’re our roadies. But it's not just people involved in Clueso. There are several other bands and solo artists there as well. Max Prosa, Ryo, Norm Sinn are some of my colleagues, friends and musicians there. We also try to conduct label work and help other artists. Zughafen also has photo studios, you name it. I could go on about it for hours. It's its own cosmos. We're growing from experience and can suddenly make a living from it.

Interview: Cristoph Schrag / df
Editor: Jennifer Abramsohn

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