How did you end up moving from Germany to Austria?
I remember hiking in Austria as a teenager, on a high mountain with skis. I had just finished school and suddenly I had a vision of what I wanted to do – to make music. The Austrian music scene inspired me to come here – not the classical music of the past but the vibrant electronic music scene, artists like Kruder & Dorfmeister… And then later, when I moved to Vienna, I discovered the music of the Balkans, of Austria’s neighbours, and the music from the former lands of the Austro-Hungarian empire. I learnt the piano as a child and my background is jazz. I started to mix elements of swing and ragtime with the sounds of the Balkans. There were so many musicians I could work with here.
15 years on, how have things changed?
I now have a worldwide network of musicians I work with, but when I’m in Vienna I’m very much based at home with my wife and two children. The introduction of broadband internet had a huge influence on how I work now, suddenly I could search for new music and was constantly finding new sounds within minutes. Promoters and bookers find my music online and book me for concerts – so my music is really my travel and adventure agency – taking me all over the world. But I still love the flair of Vienna and it’s a great place to live and raise a family. It also has so much to offer in terms of music.
Cooking and spices are also a big part of your life, tell us more about that.
I learnt a lot about spices travelling around the world with my music. I began to create my own blends and recipes and when I release an EP or LP I create a special spice blend which is included with the CD or album. When I first arrived in Vienna the wonderful spice range at the Naschmarkt was a big inspiration for me. I use at least five different spices in every dish I cook, and sometimes as many as 30. It’s all about being creative and the taste experience – similar to when I make music. I always cook seasonal foods and quality is important for me. When I was in Spain I created a spice blend inspired by the local flavours and smells – including almonds, lavender and orange peel.
So we can look forward to a new spice blend with your new album?
Yes, Mountain Jumper. I’ve been working on it for the past six months and it’s a reflection of all the places I’ve visited in the past few years. It mixes so many sounds and cultures. One new element for me is Chinese music – fusing the Chinese lute and violin with the banjo and the Greek bouzouki. It’s like a huge melting pot with lots of different cultures coming together. I’m always looking for new colours and flavours for my music – the same as when I cook – something to make it more interesting and satisfying. It’s very important for me that I don’t get stuck in one genre, or pigeon-holed, I need to keep moving forward. Every song is recorded in a different studio, with different microphones and different musicians. For me, the album is like a big kitchen with lots of different dishes being created – it’s definitely not minimal!
And what’s next for you?
I’m working on a CD for children, it’s about a blackbird who sings in a tree every morning and then meets a gypsy boy who inspires her to travel the world, meeting different people and animals. Every single song will have a different style – and it will be music that parents can enjoy as well! I want to release it in German, English and Spanish.