Transformation in Blues-Excerpts from an interview with Tilmann Höhn

Q: After a few records with ambient and avantgardistic music you are now a member of an established Blues Band. What´s the reason for that?
A: Every guitar player who plays Jazz or Rock or Heavy Metal has a connection to the Blues. There´s no doubt about this. I always had an image of myself in a Blues-Band and now it´s the right time and the right band. My connection to the Blues is not a search for some kind of roots or authenticity, it´s about a specific emotional content. It´s about phrasing, tone and improvisation in a more or less defined enviroment. From an emotional standpoint I´m interested in finding freedom in this relatively limited setting. Let´s face it: the chord progressions are more than predictable, the rhythm isn´t overcomplicated, the lyrics are more than often a kind of stereotype, but it´s a challenge to express yourself in this setting, saying more with less. It´s like painting in a cubist style: express yourself within some given ´rules´. From an intellectual standpoint it´s interesting to question this rules, to find your own interpretation of the Blues, to give a personal meaning to the word Blues.

Q: But to question the rules of Blues is not what an average Blues-fan usually wants.
A: See, some Blues-Guys don´t like the FCBB because in their opinion we are to far away from traditional Blues. Blues is a conservative style. But for me it´s about culture. Blues was a cry for freedom, it had a living spirit. But if you sit down today you cannot play the Blues the same way it was played half a century ago and try to recreate this feeling today. Today´s players never worked on a cotton field and I would feel ridiculous to play in a style and recreate the feeling of the old cotton-picking Blues guys. It doesn´t relate to me as a musician.

Q: But tradition and old songs could still have a meaning today.
A: Sure, but you could hear the originals on record. You must have a connection to the present and the future even if you are playing old songs. I hear more Blues-spirit in some of today´s Hip-Hop music than in many so called traditional Blues Bands, because some Hip-Hop guys have really something to tell about their life, their social miseries, they are connected to their enviroment and they have a message. A living culture can only survive if there is a transformation. Nature explores by transformation. That´s what I´m interested in: Transformation in Blues. I want to be part of a living tradition and culture and not perform for an imaginary museum.

Q: What is your relation to the Blues tradition?
A: I have deep respect for that tradition, because it was and still is a culture, more than just a musical style. I listen to old Blues stuff. I enjoy this and it´s inspiring. But recreating this tradition is not my issue. It´s a standpoint from where I want to create my own statement. And FCBB is a good vehicle for that.

Q: What´s special about this band?
A: August used to say that we are the chameleon of the Blues. We had gigs with a lot of high tech gear, samples and loop delays, next time we played the same songs in an unplugged version but it´s improvised to high percentage. Every member is busy with a lot of other projects. But coming together with FCBB we´re in a `let´s celebrate the Blues` kind of mood. And it´s a unique celebration. We want to create our vision of the 21st century Blues. And I can do things that are fun. I guess there are not too many guitarists in a Blues Band using Roland`s Virtual Guitar System or guitar-synthesizer. I feel a little anarchistic doing this and I like that. And we´re bringing some Blues to our other projects like Duo-Bizarre or The Cocktail Lounge, these projects are also connected to the FCBB-Gang, like a family thing.

(March 2002)