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Interview: Brueder Selke

7 December 2020

As the last weeks of a quiet and introspective year roll in, join us for an intimate conversation in long form with brothers Sebastian and Daniel Selke of piano duo CEEYS, now known simply as the Selke Brothers, Brueder Selke. It is fitting as their music also takes on expansive form with their latest release, and as always, reaches into the most delicate parts of our inner world and sets them alight. In addition to their latest release, they have also been busy preparing to put on this year’s Q3Ambientfest in Potsdam, which has been a shifting target with this year’s gathering restrictions, but will be a sigh of relief when it kicks off later this month. It is a pleasure to listen to the musings of these siblings who share a special creative synergy, both through sound and in conversation. 


Celeste: On new release HAUSMUSIK, your signature sound once again comes through in your primary instruments of piano and cello, taking listeners to new places with your musical inquiry. How have you managed to keep a fresh perspective on your work, and have there been any key discoveries in your latest exploration on this album in relation to your musicianship or creative process? 


Bruder Selke: After finishing our trilogy about our childhood during and after the former Communist - era German Democratic Republic we felt the need to on the one hand keep these remembrances  but on the other hand change the perspective. As two brothers we loved the  realisation that our full catalogue could also be divided into a dilogy of two parts starting with The Grunewald Church Session as a first sketchbook of vague remembrances  and Concrete Fields with its grey memories of the early 80s behind the Berlin Wall to finish part one.

Then Wænde focused on the historic turning point in 1989 and Hiddensee appeared as a travel album from the 90s marking the  part two of the dilogy.


Here we were looking for a different aspect of time and history in general. Making music as a two brother duo for more then two decades means a lot to us. That’s when we focused on the musical balance from instruments to players and decided to record an album that appears close and intimate but also rough and pure using just the cello and the piano, or how you fine Piano & Coffee people would say piano & cello in search for balance and harmony in our present day. The tracks are rather minimalist and subtle with the basic compositional idea to limit the setup and avoid all electronic  manipulation. To underline our love of contemporary genres we used tempos that associate with electronic music like 124, 128, 140, and 180 bpm. but played them with a half time feel in binary and  62, 64, 70 and 90 bpm in mind. We gave the tracks the time to breathe by giving them the space to develop and listened closely to each other in conversation. We broke it down to the essentials and started feeling a kind of freedom to re-start the whole creative engine. 

C: At well over an hour total running time, HAUSMUSIK is a very generous offering with a multitude of tracks unfolding in long form. Has 2020 been a particularly prolific time, or are there other forces at play informing the scale of this work? 

BS: For us this experimental character mirrored the work-from-home situation nobody could have expected was to come when the pandemic crisis showed its first dark smile on a global scale back in January. Before we began to record we arranged to meet in Daniel’s music school where he works as a lecturer, to totally forget about the possibilities at Klingenthal Studio with all its gear and focus purely on the sublime pianos and the acoustics of the chamber music rooms. Some days have been very hard to come together even after work and with the first pandemic restrictions but this outward atmosphere helped to let the ideas move our minds. It did not feel like we have to do an album now but that we can enjoy making music without looking to any power adapters and cables.


It was a delicate encounter with just the music. After we spent several weeks just in that empty music school, we went back to our Klingenthal Studio just to start recording the first sketches. We didn’t even listen back and only to return the next day to record even more ideas. One month passed by and the only thing we checked were the fades at the start and finish of the tracks. When we listened back to the final recordings it felt different to all of the albums we have previously done. The tracks were long form and it seemed that we tuned in to a distant performance of somebody else. All the noises and patterns kept our curiosity and felt organic but like an improvised theatre piece.

C: There is a very compelling textural quality to the songs on HAUSMUSIK, which is lushly arranged in stark simplicity and delicate intensity. Can you tell us about some of your sound choices with arrangement and production in mind? I understand this album was recorded using original microphone technology of the German Democratic Republic era, which is obviously a very deliberate conceptual and creative choice. What are some of the subtler details that you would like your listeners to tune their ears into when diving into this album?


BS: The use of our restored microphones in combination with four original preamps by RFZ is the core when it comes to creating this beautiful universe of rhythms and noises. But as you could imagine it is just the tip of the iceberg. For us it is all about textures, and every cello bows horsehair or sudden resonances appearing whilst hitting the piano’s pedals plays its part. Even the breath of the players later became a significant but natural element that emerged organically.  It feels like talking with a different mode of speech and which reminds us of  our favourite sci-fi movie from the eighties, "Close Encounters of the Third Kind"in which a little melody is the only way to communicate with the aliens. We are also lovers of  film, theatre and art in general  and deeply enjoy discovering hidden secrets by watching a director´s cut again and again.. Our aim is to make non-obvious music which takes its main inspiration from the unique live moment it was created.


C: As many of our readers will know, Piano and Coffee have enjoyed a special connection to both of you, which has been a wonderful outcome of the growing music community we adore being a part of. Together, we helped you present a tour for your 2018 album WÆNDE and more recently produced the video for third single ‘Reunion’ off your latest album HAUSMUSIK. Can you share a little of your own experiences around these projects, and are there any hints you can offer our readers about what to expect in the coming year?


BS: A long time ago when nobody talked about neo-classical music and ambient music seemed to be unprofitable and only for listening to in lifts, we really felt a little bit lost following our intense training of original cello-piano chamber music repertoire. We experimented with our music and different formats but were constantly driven by the hope of a new growing generation of sensible colleagues, a real family that would be closely connected. We saw many of these movements in the electronic and jazz scene while sharing shows, collaborating and supporting each other, even in the darkest club.


When we discovered beautiful platforms like Piano & Coffee we not only liked the overall approach to music and art but its open-minded people and everything was possible again. Even the dualism of its name gave the two of us a peaceful feeling of coming home. 


Since then we worked together for projects from happenings to videos and supported each other. And there are movements again. Few artists who started with neo-classical music today try to find their place even into electronic genres which is totally fine.  But for us this first opening gate appeared as such a freedom that we will keep releasing in this direction. Works like our "Nothing Special" collaboration with songwriter Peter Broderick and soundsmith Daniel O`Sullivan on legendary Thesis Project are our idea of making music these days. And as the world seems to not stop running and nobody but the artists seem to care about culture and music these days, during this crisis there will be the need for a calm feather to balance out all this. And we hope it wont be too late.


That's why we keep on releasing slow experimental minimalist albums in long form and create projects with that antithesis in mind to help people understand these experiences, providing a counterpoint to the fast paced world around us with this slow, calm music. We just put our new webpage online and will soon release a long awaited sample library package for Canadian content provider LandR featuring sounds from our Eastern synthesizers collection. We are planning a rework album from Hausmusik inverting the title to Musikhaus, an arty sheetbook and more exciting info will follow under the new moniker Brueder Selke. That is how we try to continue our daily life as musicians  and with this, make our contribution to a better world.

C: Not only have you been busy releasing consistently excellent full length releases, you’ve been providing a platform for other musicians at annual boutique music festival Q3Ambientfest, held in your current base, Potsdam. How did this idea originate and what did it take to make it a reality? How has 2020 changed things for this year’s festival? How do you expect the ongoing effects of a post-pandemic world will impact the festival experience, and with this in mind what plans do you have for the future of this festival?

BS: When we chose Potsdam for our residency it was from the need for an alternative to the never-sleeping restless city of Berlin. Sebastian already worked at Deutsches Filmorchester Babelsberg and his commute to his ‘day job’ from East Berlin to Studio Babelsberg was a real 100km disaster. We love Berlin and especially the growing music scene in the Eastern part at Funkhaus. We grew up in those uniform grey Concrete Fields and our father once worked at the Funkhaus, but Potsdam with its diverse architecture and beautiful landscape impressed us as well thinking back to when our father worked here as well as working as a radio journalist, close to the old russian colony, “Kolonie Alexandrowka".  So in 2016 we moved to Potsdam and soon founded Klingenthal Studio close to the Schiffbauergasse where Q3Ambientfest took place 3 times. even after receiving requests to do the festival at a different, much cooler place in Berlin, Potsdam as an alternative appeared to be the right place for our new plans.


This year we had to postpone it twice (of course) but now hope that we can realize it in December 2020. It feels a little bit like a Christmas edition but we try this or return in '21. We won’t give up; the music and the community are our impetus..


Q3Ambientfest is a very important colour in Potsdam's growing cultural scene. From avant-garde to pop, Q3A holds a mirror to the eclectic architecture of Potsdam, from neo-classical palaces to prefabricated “Plattenbauten” (panelhouses). These Communist-era buildings gave Q3A its name, which is an abbreviation for “Querwandbau” (cross-wall construction). We not only bring headliners like large-scale festival acts but also our friends and like-minded followers and partners. The future will see more artists that have worked together with us on different projects and give them the platform they deserve to present their art to an attentive audience. It even feels familiar to stay small and unique in the classical underground to try out new forms and formats and not focus only on a money making festival. Of course without the money it is hard to realize any of these dreams but it is definetly not the main aim. We will look for matching partners but in the end it’s all about the musicians that want to share music on a professional stage. We will give that physical stage.


C: As brothers, you’ve enjoyed a number of years collaborating as CEEYS with a number of releases now under your belt. This close creative bond is now taking on a new life as a new collaborative project, Brueder Selke. What has driven this shift, and how do you hope this new musical identity will set itself apart from your earlier work? Are there any underpinning conceptual or aesthetic distinctions with this new chapter? What are you leaving behind?

For your english-speaking readers, Brueder is German for ‘brothers’ and for us it is not really new since we always heard friends call us Brothers Selke. in the artwork from our latest releases you will even find the first thoughts to shift in the liner notes with a mixture from CEEYS and Brothers Selke. CEEYS was and still is our "Tarnkappe" (camouflage cap) when we feel hiding is the better option to try out things. We like that underground approach but we also love to be like we are to focus on the music then on a new alias.Working under our real name simply feels more organic.

We are very familiar with "Wændepunkten" (turning points), we made an album out of it back in 2018 where we focus on the year 1989. It's the topic of the mentioned trilogy or dilogy you name it to that topic. With HAUSMUSIK we tried to open a new chapter musically to leave the past a little bit behind us to find a way to our present day. But after this new Wændepunkt with the pandemic we felt the need to make a more drastic change. With the fine handmade label Oscarson we released our solo debut called Q3A and so now it feels right to release as a duo but finally under our real name. So CEEYS is not dead at all but after 4 full-length albums and one double LP and a pandemic outlook that is difficult to predict, Brueder Selke helps us to reach wider and release with different approaches depending on the different surroundings and situations to come.


 C: Going a little deeper, your early experiences in Communist-era East Berlin in the final decade of the country’s turning point in the 80s have no doubt heavily informed the aesthetic and intellectual themes that you’ve explored through your music. Tell us more about the architectural and societal landscapes that shaped you and in turn your music, and how this plays out in the sound we hear. 


BS: These concrete stories are personal and connected with us forever but they are also open thoughts for others to share their memories with us. Every upcoming album will see us rediscover some little snippets from these remembrances and the reduced exploration of experimental noises and pattern we make it tangible for the listener and funny German track names help to take everything not too serious. It is never our intention to only reflect a heavy dark nostalgic zone, these are the old sometimes paradoxical surroundings that helped us at least start talking about our buried thoughts and emotions. And they find its parallels to our actual world.


Of course we have been children back in these times but even 30 years after the fall of the regime many things and stories exist until today.

 Creativity helped our parents to overcome the material lack and had an early introduction to improvisation and which you will hear in our simple, limited structures. They became a contemporary signature sound and are based on historic happenings.For us the answers of the present lie in the past and fortunately our generation did not experienc a hot war but these former times living in anonymous concrete buildings before and after the Fall of the Berlin Wall had a lasting impact on our life and music.


C: Finally, how has your collaboration as brothers grown or changed over the years? Do you feel you have complementary strengths and weaknesses, or do you both allow each other to excel in all domains with a bit of give and take? Have you ever had to negotiate tough differences of opinion, and what are some of the most exciting creative sparks you’ve had while making music together over the years?


"Without black, no white" - it is as simple as this rule. We need the contrast from each other's character to appear. We listen, discuss and sometimes even fight over different ideas. But that still feels very natural and many things from our normal lives have been taken to our performances. What makes our brother's long-term collaboration special is that we both had almost the same training and happenings in our past. We shared many remarkable moments and still share emotions on stages as people all around the globe should share with us, too.  With Brueder Selke we now start with a blank piece of paper.


Lets see us soon back in real life!

Alles Liebe

Brueder Selke




Much love to both of you and thank you for taking the time to share some insight into your latest work and give us a really wonderful perspective on some of the finer details. Congratulations on the recent release of HAUSMUSIK, which is now available to listeners and seems to captivate more and more with each listen. When Q3Ambienfest hits Potsdam in just over a week, on Saturday 19 December, we will look forward to seeing how it connects with an audience who is no doubt thirsty for music and sharing a live concert experience together after all this time. What a poignant way to come together now then, with hand picked, deeply stirring music played live. 

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