For our first ever artist interview on the blog, Lars sits down with German ambient artist Scarless Arms (A.K.A. Tyves Oben) to discuss his methods, influences and love of collaboration with others.
LH: Hello Tyves! Thanks so much for giving us an interview.
SA: Thank you for asking me to do one. I’m really glad you did because it’s been a while since I gave one. It’s nice to give the past a short review again.
LH: Looking at your catalog, you look to be quite prolific - 54 releases since you began making music under the moniker of Scarless Arms. So, when did Scarless Arms begin and were there any musical projects that preceded?
SA: I started Scarless Arms mid-2012. So next year, it will have been 10 years ago already (holy cow). But I started recording my creations much earlier. I actually started making "music" (although I wouldn’t call it that anymore) in the late 80's. My uncle liked to play keyboard and he bought one shortly after the German wall fell in 1989. In the end, I actually used the instrument more than he did.
I recorded first musical sketches with my trusty RFT SKR 701.This was an East German stereo radio tape recorder with a built-in microphone, which costs me 1400 (East German) Mark. It’s still alive but only the radio still works. I tried lots of dark-wave stuff, deep heavy organ sounds, cello, deep warm pads, and of course lots of unwanted noise from my surroundings.
In 1994, I founded my first band with a school mate of mine. The project was called Kälteeinbruch (Cold Snap). German and English lyrics, bass, guitar, an old polish tape delay, and a drum computer were our friends for this. Later, we had two more guys join us on our travel and we renamed the band to Wält.
In 2002, the band started to slowly break up into pieces. My friend from school joined another project, which still exists as Reinhard Cooper, and one of the other guys constantly had to work on weekends. This made meeting up to rehearse a difficult task. So, the last remaining bandmate and I formed a new project called "Blurred Lipstick". We recorded an album which focused on gothic dark-wave and two female singers joined us before the project was renamed to place4tears. We recorded another album together as place4tears before life hit again and broke the band into pieces. The final album as place4tears was released and the band officially broke up in 2013. From then on, I focused solely on my solo project as Scarless Arms.
LH: You mentioned that your dad bought a keyboard shortly after the wall fell. I’m assuming you were just a kid at the time, but did this event have an impact on you? And what was the keyboard, is it that RFT SKR 701 you mentioned?
SA: It was actually my uncle, not my dad. My dad was musical as well though as he played trumpet, harmonica (mouth organ) and accordion — Yes, I’m very much an East German boy. This is unfortunately one of the reasons my English is self-taught. The event of the German reunification had a massive impact on my life. I actually played with the thought leaving the GDR with a classmate when we turned 18 and were “old enough” to be on our own. In the end, I‘m glad that it happened and I never would have the GDR back although there swings always a bit of "Eastalgy", as we used to call it over here.
Well, the keyboard was just a cheap one. I don’t remember the brand name, but it was something like a Casio with premade rhythms and melodies you can play with the push of a button. Basically, just backing tracks that you can play your own melodies over.
LH: When you began making music, did you have any mentors or inspirations that drove you in the musical direction you pursued? And how would you personally define the type of music you make?
SA: I never professionally learned any instrument. It was always kind of learning by doing. At first, I was heavily inspired by dark wave and goth music from the early 90's. I was listening to compilations all day and found much my inspiration there. I don’t want to mention too many bands that influenced me, or the list would never end. But like in everyone’s life, there were a handful of artists who really changed my life: Elvis Presley, Robert Smith, Kurt Cobain, Brian Molko. These four artists moved me quite significantly in my younger years. Nowadays, it’s a bit different. Everyone gets an adult and I didn’t change also my outfit anymore because I loved any hero. Today I love to listen to the soundtracks by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for example and learned really a LOT about their music.
I would define my own music as cinematic ambient score. I just love soundtracks! I don’t mean the epic kinds like those created by amazing composers like Hans Zimmer and the like. More like the weird ones. The one that sound like they just simply happen to be scores. I view my own music in a similar way – it just kind of happens.
LH: Your music is extremely varied and you’re able to create an impressive range of sounds. What is the setup that you prefer to use when you create? Does it change constantly, and do you prefer a hardware or software setup?
SA: Well, I don’t focus too much on hardware anymore. though I still have lots of my old hardware. Guitars, bass, pedals, synths (Yamaha W5 v2 and Roland Fantom-S); The only thing that I sold was the big drum set that I had. I create my music exclusively on
computers now. I started in 2001/2002 with Cubase and hated it. I even wasn’t able to get any sound out of it. I recorded everything with hardware recorders back in the day so it was difficult at first. I started really producing on computers in 2012 after trying again to really get in touch with music software on PC. First I had to get familiar recording music on the computer (previous recording experience was all hardware) and then started working with FL Studio. FL Studio is not only a neat tool to create music, it’s also super easy to learn. Today, I record my creations with Logic Pro X and I now also love it more than FL.
Very rarely, I’ll use something like a guitar, bass, or something like that. I love creating things from field recordings and I always have my trusty field recorder with me. I really don’t know how much money I already put into music software, but I prefer not to calculate it at this point. Most of it is various synths and effects. There’s even some expensive ones which I really love to use like the Fabfilter and Sound Toys plug-ins.
LH: You’re well-known for collaborating with many other artists. In fact, roughly half of your releases over the past year are collaborations with other artists. What is your process when collaborating? Do you usually start the process? How many times does a collaboration go back and forth until it is complete?
SA: True. Creating with others is actually the most fun I have musically. It’s just so different every time. Sometimes I ask for a collab and sometimes I get asked by others. Also, the way we work varies from collaborator to collaborator. With some artists you feel kind of a "connection" and there’s much less to say since your collaborator knows exactly what you meant when you've sent a demo over. I just had this with Tommy Orza (King Weapon) and it was just so fun to collab with him. Our work just came together fluidly and there was no need for a big discussion of what we should create and how we should create it. I sent him a demo, he sent me one of his ideas, and in a very short time we had a pretty neat 2-tracker. Sometimes a little bit more time is needed to get something finished. Not because I would not harmonize with people, but sometimes its just that life hits you again and you have to re-prioritize things... It’s sad but true.
LH: Though ambient music doesn’t always lend itself easily toward it, do you perform your music live (excluding this terrible past year, of course). If so, do you plan to get back to it once the world opens again?
SA: Well, I had the opportunity to play live before, but I'm shy. I also don’t see much sense in playing ambient music in a live set but that is only my personal opinion. I always would be afraid that people would fall asleep, as I sometimes do while creating my music. When people say, "I listened to your latest work yesterday and fell right to sleep!" I see it as the best compliment I can get. To me, that means I did a good job, but I wouldn't feel like that when the same thing happens to a live audience.
LH: Is there anything new in the works that we can look forward to? Are there any other artists that you would like to collaborate with in the future?
SA: Of course, there is always something new in the pipes. My release schedule is already full until December and it was great that I had the time put that much work into my music. For now, I unfortunately have to focus to some circumstances in life again. Despite this, I'm always open for new collaborations. I don’t currently have any special wishes in this regard, but I'm open for requests. It's a lot of fun for me and I always learn new things when doing collaborations.
LH: Sounds like you’ve got quite a bit going on. I’m looking forward to hearing what you come out with through out the rest of the year. Thanks again for giving us a moment of your time
SA: Of course, thank you very much again for asking. Thanks to the readers as well for taking a couple of minutes to get to know me a little better.
Scarless Arms recently released a track as a part of the Audionautic Records Hope compilation and his next release is Mellow Tea Time, a two track single that will be released on stores and streaming portals on June 25.