Bersarin Quartett has itself wrapped in enough enigma that it can somehow elude all forms of capture. When researching for this interview, I found shreds of obscured pictures that resembled half discarded Polaroids with half-a-chin of some nameless, ambiguous anybody. Who are you looking for? WHAT are you looking for? Certainly I had no answers to these questions as I completed my review of their new album, II. To my surprise, there is no Quartett. Bersarin is an empire of one man: Thomas Bücker. I recently had the opportunity to field questions to Bücker during a recent visit to Seattle’s Space Needle…
Violent Success: II left me dumbfounded. I sort of sat there mouth gaping, and puzzled at how much I felt for an album I had merely heard once. It is a powerful testament to the blunt force required to make such a harrowing and vulnerable record. Can you describe a bit about the process that went into completing this project?
Bersarin Quartett: First of all, thanks a lot for your intense listening and your nice review. It is always good to know that someone takes the time to listen to a whole album. Regarding your question: it is all about the computer, tons of sounds and samples, many plug-ins and my conceptual idea to make imaginary film scores — it is really that trivial.
VS: II also feels very open to interpretation. In my own review, I talk about disgraced Knights fleeing an imaginary kingdom for exile. I had a whole sad tale going on in my head. There were Kings and Queens being brought to slaughter and I can say I truly mourned for them. It feels so in touch with the process of grief that you can paint whatever image you want and come out the other side visibly affected. Was this your intention or did you have a finite message that you wanted to communicate?
BQ: Actually I love the idea very much that every listener has its own movie while listening – there is no wrong or right. but it is different from whateverism – hopefully.
VS: Translating this particular LP to the stage must be an undertaking. I see now that you are not an actual Quartett, just one man. My apologies for thinking you were closer to the Boston Pops Orchestra as far as member numbers go. I repeatedly refer to you as a Quartett. So what does a typical show entail for you?
BQ: Finally not a quartet either. I’m performing album tracks with a drummer and a bassist (who is also playing guitars in some other tracks). For me it’s not important if we are 4, 3 or 2 persons, an ensemble or a huge orchestra. The “Bersarin Quartett” is a construct anyway – not to fool or lie to the audience but rather to construct and preserve “the magic” of my concept. A Bersarin Quartett live performance is about sound that makes you think about your personal movie, if you like. The best gigs were in complete darkness so far …
VS: Seldom is any artist completely happy with his or her own work. They can, however, usually find what they believe to be a perfect moment on the album. What piece of music are you proudest of here?
BQ: It changes from time to time. I like “Keine Angst” very much – it still has sad but hopeful emotional effects on me. In the beginning I really liked “Im Lichte des Anderen” – so, I made the decision to make a little album trailer especially with this track. But actually I’m not listening to this album at the moment at all … I need some time to have more positive distance to enjoy it again.
VS: It was difficult to wrangle any information on you. With the internet now being able to track that we both had salmon for lunch, I figured it would be easy. I produced next to nothing, even after hours of searching. How on earth do you maintain that delicate shroud?
BQ: Haha … sounds good for me. Maybe it’s about that my music was always released into small underground scenes. But via last.fm, YouTube, Facebook, Myspace … all the usual suspects made it very easy to gather some more info, if you like.
VS: One of the few things I did learn was that you are based in Germany. Were you born in Germany, or did you end up there? Any favorite memories from your childhood you would like to share? II feels like a weight you have been personally carrying since learning to ride a bike…
BQ: Yes. I was born in Germany and I’m living in Münster, a small student city somewhere between Hamburg and Cologne. Haha … thanks a lot for your kind interpretation of my music. But at the end, it is really not a story about me. I really love to tell a lot with a drink in my hand when we would meet us personally … but in the “II” context: It’s all about the listener him or herself.
VS: Do you ever see yourself branching out to other forms of the music medium i.e. film or video game scores? Commercials? What about other bands? Are you content enough with Bersarin Quartett?
BQ: Yes. I have some more projects. In my small graphic and media-design office I’m working also on some corporate audio jobs or music for commercials. It’s very briefing-orientated and exactly produced for the target-group. Much more challenging than an artistic task.
VS: Have you ever felt like giving up music and focusing on something completely different? I am trying to finish a degree in mathematics, but would much rather play Street Fighter 2 all day long. I often dream of becoming a tournament player. Is it something similar for you? Did you have a completely different life goal before your self-titled 2008 album?
BQ: I think I will be always interested into music – and producing music is my passion for my lifetime. But the intensity could be different over the years. I’m quite happy that I’m not in the situation that I have to do music for living. I’m working as a graphic-designer to afford some spare-time for making music. This is the best way for me.
VS: I see you have a small number of show dates around Europe later this year. I will not be fortunate enough to attend those shows. Do you have any plans for a U.S. tour in the foreseeable future? I would jump at the chance to see the live interpretation…
BQ: There are no plans for a tour in the U.S. so far … but who knows.
VS: The stark world of Bersarin Quartett looks to leave precious little time for making snowmen or riding ponies. What do you do to cut loose? Seen any good movies lately?
BQ: I’m looking forward to see the new “Batman” or the “Prometheus” movie. Visiting concerts, going to parties, meeting friends, watching trash on tv, reading a book … all the normal things to have a good time.
VS: What immediate plans do you have for Bersarin Quartett? Other than the handful of live performances, are you in the process of recording anything new or do you need time to decompress and get away from music altogether?
BQ: Yes, it’s true that regarding “Bersarin Quartett” I’m a bit drained after this release. There will be 3-4 BQ gigs … that’s all for this year. Actually I love the idea of doing more tracks under my other project-name “Jean-Michel” again – more beats within a contemporary clubmusic-context … who knows what will be the final result.
VS: My thanks to you for giving us the opportunity to talk. II is truly one of the most phenomenal releases of 2012. Do you have any parting words to share with your fans?
BQ: Maybe: “Read less interviews about the artists you like!” – You will definitely destroy all the magic …