Tag Archives: Swiss pop

Toni Vescoli: A year full of vitality and anniversaries

Toni Vescoli was born on 18th July, 75 years ago. 55 years ago, on 19th September, the musician from Zurich founded the legendary beat music band Les Sauterelles. It is celebrating its anniversary with a tour that starts during the “Beatles week” in Liverpool. At the same time, Toni Vescoli continues to perform with his dialect projects “MacheWasiWill” (dowhatilike), “imDUO” and “Toni VESCOLI&Co”. Text by guest author Markus Ganz

Toni Vescoli: A year full of vitality and anniversaries

Toni Vescoli, SUISA member since 1967 has not only influenced Swiss beat music, but has also been pioneering dialect performances, playing Dylan songs and narrating Pingu radio plays (Photo: Kessler)

Five years ago, during the TV programme “Stars extra”, Toni Vescoli said – with an embarrassed grin on his face – that he did not succumb to the DOG, the delusions of grandeur. The show’s presenter Sandra Studer had asked him what it had been like to have led the Swiss charts in 1968 with Les Sauterelles (“Heavenly Club”), topping even the Beatles (“Hey Jude”). With his statement, the singer, guitarist and songwriter from Zurich has described his own character pretty well. While it is obvious that he is still enjoying to perform at concerts to this day, it is because of the music, and not the limelight.

Toni Vescoli was already “extremely” upset, back in 1964, that their impresario had invented an additional name for Les Sauterelles and even printed it bigger than the original band name on the placards: “The Swiss Beatles”. He did not wish to compare himself to other stars but be a creator in his own right. No later than in during the 1970s did he choose to follow his own path, irrespective of trends and hip places.

The path to beat music

His passion for music had, however, not been triggered by the English beat music artists but by American stars such as Johnny Cash and especially Elvis Presley. Toni Vescoli told the author of this article in a former interview that he had already played such kind of music at the end of the fifties. He did so standing on a table in a hip café in Zurich’s Niederdorf quarter, and on a larger scale, sometimes accompanied by a Dixie band. The changeover to beat music was initiated by the Shadows with their unique sound using electric guitars.

He needed a band to do this which is why he founded Les Sauterelles in 1962 whose entire history has been influenced by many changes in terms of the band members. The single “Heavenly Club” brought about the commercial peak in 1968. It was released in the majority of European countries as well as in the US and in Japan. Sometimes they played up to seven hours, performing in up to 350 concerts per year. Nevertheless the band was facing financial problems which is why Toni Vescoli placed an obituary in 1970 announcing: “Les Sauterelles are dead”.

The legendary Swiss beat music band Les Sauterelles was founded 55 years ago. In 2017, the band is celebrating its anniversary with a tour that starts in Liverpool. (Photo: Gerhard Born)

American influences

It was folk music and especially Bob Dylan which lured Toni Vescoli back to American songwriting and music and influenced his solo career; his album “Bob Dylan Songs” (1993) is a tribute to this, featuring adaptations in the Zurich dialect of Swiss German. Folk music, together with the West Coast music of the 1970s was his entry point to his later mix of Americana music, Toni Vescoli explained in an interview. But his classic hits “Susanne” and “N1” had actually already been country music songs, bordering on bluegrass music.

In the early 1980s, Toni Vescoli returned to rock music, while influenced by Ry Cooder he became a fan of the accordionist Flaco Jimenez who then turned out to play on his album “Tegsass” (1999). Said Tex-Mex reminded him of his youth in Peru (between the age of four and nine), when they listened to Mexican folk songs on the radio. Together with Cajun music, this definitely rubbed off on the Americana album “66” (2008), in particular the lively single track “El Parasito”.

Dialect pioneer

More important than the change in style was Toni Vescoli’s pioneering change to dialect in 1970. He had been instructed by the magazine “Pop” to write a song for the unveiling ceremony of a Wilhelm Tell monument. Instead of writing the lyrics in High German, he felt that Swiss dialect was more apt – and the song hit the right note with the public. He wrote more songs in dialect but his producer felt in 1971 that the time wasn’t right for that yet.

As a consequence, his first album in dialect was not released until 1974 – and Reinhard Mey’s cover version of the song “Susanne” got released before Vescoli’s original. His song “N1” with which he broached the issue of the ambivalent character of the N1 motorway (today’s A1) connecting Switzerland, is also rather striking. “N1 Du bisch e Schtraass wo-n i hass, aber irgendwie han-i Di gern” (N1 you’re a road that I hate but somehow I like you, too); he had already written a popular hit about traffic: “Scho Root” (Red lights again) (1975).

Modest and down-to-earth to this day: Toni Vescoli. (Photo: Plain)

New combinations

What was unusual at the time was that Toni Vescoli combined his dialect lyrics with American music and thus broke open songwriter traditions. He did realise at the time that he was able to reach people much more directly by singing his songs in dialect. As a consequence, he developed his music into a style where the lyrics can be followed better. This led him to folk music which he could also perform on his own.

When he was consequently hired by a small theatre once, he realised that he no longer needed amplifiers and that an acoustic guitar was enough. He thus landed in a music environment which he had not been looking for but where he felt at ease: He continued to play without an amplifying system for nearly 18 years. At some point, however, he felt that this environment where people were “hanging on to his every word”, became too imposing for his liking. He wanted to play electric guitar again, and that’s what the song “Wäge Dir” (because of you) is about.

Words for a love song

The changeover to dialect had not been easy. If you sing in dialect, you have to be very careful about what you wish to sing, Toni Vescoli mentioned in an interview. It was not that easy to sing “ich liebe Dich” (I love you) – even if nowadays these words are not as embarrassing anymore, as the current world of dialect music shows.

Toni Vescoli broached the issue of the difficulty to find words for a love song with the title “Lady Lo” where he sings himself to the conclusion that: “öisi Schprach isch unbruchbar” (our language is useless). It was meant to be a love song for his wife, Toni Vescoli explained, but turned into a confession of failing with regards to finding the right lyrics. It all sounded kitschy and plump – and that is why he turned it into the theme of the song. Where words become useless for the purpose of expressing feelings, the question could be asked whether playing pure instrumental music might be the solution. Toni Vescoli replies to this and laughs that he simply wasn’t good enough as a solo guitarist to do just that.

Indeed, Toni Vescoli has not succumbed to any delusion of grandeur to this day. And he has continued to show that he does not have any fear of being in touch with young musicians or other styles such as hip-hop. In 2012, for example, he presented his interpretation of Baba Uslender’s “Baustellsong” (construction site song) in a show of the “Cover me” series on SRF television. Toni Vescoli has remained young in terms of his music – and may that be so in future!

Information and live dates: www.vescoli.ch (e.g. Performances with Les Sauterelles in Liverpool during the “Beatles week” from 25-28 August).

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  1. Ich lernte Toni in den frühen 80er Jahren kennen, als ich der lead Gittarist der Windows war. Toni präsentierte eine TV Show, in der wir auftraten. Ich erinnere mich ganz besonders an ein Konzert im Kongresshaus für die Neubürger Feier, an der Toni präsentierte. Zuerst spielte das Hazi Osterwald Orchester, dann wir. Während wir spielten, standen plötzlich Reihen von Gästen auf und gingen zum Ausgang. Wir hatten keine Erklärung dafür. . . bis wir das Tränengas ‘witterten’, welches ein Idiot in der Mitte des Kongresshauses abgelassen hatte. Toni, mit Tränen in den Augen, steckte seinen Kopf aus dem Vorhang und rief uns zu, “Mached witer, mached witer”. Der Anlass war dann leider zu Ende, da sich niemand dem Tränengas aussetzen wollten.

    Ich war lange zuvor auch mal mit dem Sauterelles Bassisten Freddy Mangili befreundet. Auch ein sehr netter Typ.

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Toni Vescoli was born on 18th July, 75 years ago. 55 years ago, on 19th September, the musician from Zurich founded the legendary beat music band Les Sauterelles. It is celebrating its anniversary with a tour that starts during the “Beatles week” in Liverpool. At the same time, Toni Vescoli continues to perform with his dialect projects “MacheWasiWill” (dowhatilike), “imDUO” and “Toni VESCOLI&Co”. Text by guest author Markus Ganz

Toni Vescoli: A year full of vitality and anniversaries

Toni Vescoli, SUISA member since 1967 has not only influenced Swiss beat music, but has also been pioneering dialect performances, playing Dylan songs and narrating Pingu radio plays (Photo: Kessler)

Five years ago, during the TV programme “Stars extra”, Toni Vescoli said – with an embarrassed grin on his face – that he did not succumb to the DOG, the delusions of grandeur. The...read more

Swiss music lives thanks to SRG’s special interest stations

The Transport and Telecommunications Committee of the National Council has moved to close down six SRG special interest stations and has filed a motion in this sense. For Swiss music creators the consequences would be devastating. These stations are precisely those that play and promote local Swiss music. Sign the online petition “Hands off special interest stations” now! Text by Giorgio Tebaldi and Manu Leuenberger

Swiss music lives thanks to SRG's special interest stations

From the streets of Berne to the stage of the Kulturfabrik in Lyss: The band Troubas Kater performing in dialect appears during the 14th edition of “8×15.” in November 2015. At each of these concert evenings of SRF Virus, 8 Swiss bands can present their talent, and be discovered by the audience in a 15-minute slot. (Photo: SRF)

At the Swiss Music Awards in February 2017, the Zurich duo Dabu Fantastic and their co-composer Gianluca Giger were awarded prizes for the best hit and best composition. The Zurich band is currently one of Switzerland’s most successful pop acts. According to singer Dabu Bucher in a recent interview with SRG (Swiss Broadcasting Company), the band owes its popularity in great part to the SRG radio stations. SRF Virus first played its songs over 10 years’ ago, actively encouraging the band’s career.

The SRG youth station is important for other Swiss artists too. It serves as a springboard for young and (still) unknown musicians. The station provides an important platform for newcomers, through its “8×15.” concert broadcasts for example. 50% of the music broadcast by SRF Virus is Swiss music. Hardly any other station offers its audience so large a proportion of local music.

But if the Transport and Telecommunications Committee of the National Council has its way, that will soon be over. In Motion 17.3010 for a “Reduction in special interest radio stations”, the Committee asks for six SRG radio broadcasting stations to be closed: SRF Virus, SRF Musikwelle, Radio Swiss Classic, Radio Swiss Jazz, Radio Swiss Pop and the French-speaking station Option Musique. According to the motion, these stations “do not perform any true public service mission”.

Public service also means promoting Swiss cultural creation

In its “Report on the revision of the definition and provision of the SRG public service taking into account private digital media”, the Federal Council reviewed the meaning of public service in radio and television broadcasting. In its report, the Federal Council pointed out that the SRG provides “numerous unprofitable services in the interest of society”. These services include promoting Swiss films, Swiss music and Swiss literature. This would hardly be possible without reception fee revenues.

Special interest stations extensively promote Swiss music – pop and rock as well as jazz on SRF Virus, and classical and especially folk music on SRF Musikwelle. As SUISA claims on its website, altogether 22% of the music played on the six special interest stations is Swiss, as against 20% overall for all the SRG stations. By comparison, Swiss private broadcasters play less than 10% of Swiss music on average.

Special interest stations discover and promote Swiss music

Special interest stations are instrumental in discovering and promoting Swiss music. Their reporting about the current Swiss music scene is irreplaceable. It is difficult to imagine private broadcasters throwing themselves into the breach left by closing the special interest stations. Private broadcasters are guided by profit-making principles and are primarily financed by advertising. Therefore, they have to gear most of their programming to an audience which wants to hear hits. Swiss musicians hear this all the time in statements like:  “we don’t make the hits, we just play them”, says singer-songwriter Christoph Trummer, President of the association Musikschaffende Schweiz (Swiss Musicians), in an interview with Musikmarkt, the music magazine.

Closing down the special interest stations would also affect Swiss music creators financially. Between them, the six stations played about 550,000 minutes of music by Swiss authors in 2015. According to SUISA’s 2015 annual report, the licence fees for SRG radio stations average CHF 2.70 per minute of playing time. Thus, broadcasting royalties for the works of Swiss composers, lyricists and publishers on the six SRG special interest stations totalled about CHF 1.5 million. This money does not only go to well-established stars, it also goes to unknown Swiss artists.

Favorable framework conditions for Swiss culture

The motion of the Transport and Telecommunications Committee if accepted would have serious implications for the Swiss music scene. Not only would Switzerland lose these important platforms for showcasing the broad diversity of Swiss musical creation, closing down the special interest stations would have significant financial consequences for artists.

Moreover, one substantive question remains to be answered: is it truly Parliament’s role to decide on broadcasting content? Should the legislative not confine itself to setting the framework conditions for radio and television broadcasters? The proposed motion seeks to decide the fate of individual SRG stations. This goes far beyond setting framework conditions. Swiss music creators have more than deserved favorable framework conditions in their own country.

SRG has been operating «mx3 – The Swiss Music Portal» since 2006. Musicians can use the portal www.mx3.ch to present their music to the public; the SRG stations use the portal for their programming. SRF 3, SRF Virus, Couleur 3, Rete Tre and Radio Rumantsch include songs that musicians have uploaded onto mx3 in their broadcast programming. In 2015, about 22,900 bands showcased their music on the mx3 portal.

Petition: Hands off special interest radios!

The purpose of this petition is to ask the competent parliamentary bodies not to close SRG’s special interest stations.

Sign the online petition “Hands off special interest stations” at www.petitionen24.com

Sie können die Petition auch auf dem Unterschriftenbogen unterzeichnen (PDF).

The petition is sponsored by a broad interest group representing the Swiss music scene. Among others, the following stakeholders support the petition: Schweizer Musikrat, Musikschaffende Schweiz, Schweizer Musiksyndikat, Schweizer Tonkünstlerverein, Schweizerischer Musikerverband SMV, Helvetia Rockt, IndieSuisse, IFPI, Schweizer Interpretengenossenschaft SIG, Orchester.ch, Eidgenössischer Jodlerverband EJV, Schweizerischer Blasmusikverband SBV, Schweizerische Chorvereinigung SCV, Verband Schweizer Volksmusik VSV.

Every single signature counts and is important to ensure that radio stations like Radio Swiss Pop, Radio Swiss Classic, Radio Swiss Jazz, Radio SRF Virus, Radio SRF Musikwelle and Radio RTS Option Musique can continue to broadcast and help audiences discover Swiss music. Further information is available on the petition initiators’ website: www.prospartenradio.ch

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The Transport and Telecommunications Committee of the National Council has moved to close down six SRG special interest stations and has filed a motion in this sense. For Swiss music creators the consequences would be devastating. These stations are precisely those that play and promote local Swiss music. Sign the online petition “Hands off special interest stations” now! Text by Giorgio Tebaldi and Manu Leuenberger

Swiss music lives thanks to SRG's special interest stations

From the streets of Berne to the stage of the Kulturfabrik in Lyss: The band Troubas Kater performing in dialect appears during the 14th edition of “8×15.” in November 2015. At each of these concert evenings of SRF Virus, 8 Swiss bands can present their talent, and be discovered by the audience in a 15-minute slot. (Photo: SRF)

At the Swiss Music Awards in February 2017, the Zurich...read more

La Tessinoise: Much ado about the Ticino

Over the Easter period, it’s not just the palm trees and nice weather that make the Ticino attractive: Over a three-day period, you can get a good impression of what the Indie-Pop-/Rock scene has on offer in the Ticino. Text by Erika Weibel

La Tessinoise: Much ado about the Ticino

Barbara Lehnhoff (left) and Aris Bassetti (right) are mainly music creators and known for their projects Peter Kernel and Camilla Sparksss. Apart from that, they have their own label, On the Camper Records, and organise the festival La Tessinoise. (Photo: Robert Huber)

Last year, Ticino label On the Camper Records celebrated its tenth anniversary with a festival. For the celebrations, label founders Aris Bassetti und Barbara Lehnhoff invited music professionals from across Europe and organised several concerts in the Lugano area. The festival and the get together of music business and artists proved to be so successful that the organisers decided to continue the event under the name “La Tessinoise”.

As a consequence, many bands will enter the stages at various event venues around Lugano again this year, between 14 and 16 April 2017. While music creation in the Ticino takes the ‘centre stage’ in terms of focus, acts from other Swiss regions and from abroad are also set to perform. One thing that distinguishes this festival is that all bands will play new repertoire. Every evening, the audience will thus be able to listen to the première of new songs.

If you wish to enjoy some Indie music in Switzerland’s ‘sunny parlour’ and also want to meet people from the music business from all across Europe on an informal basis, you will have an excellent opportunity to do so in Lugano.

Further information:
Concert programme, tickets etc.: www.latessinoise.com, festival website
Website of the On the Camper Records label: www.onthecamper.com

SUISA and FONDATION SUISA, SUISA’s foundation for music promotion, support the Festival La Tessinoise. On Saturday, 15 April 2017, at 10:30, SUISA holds a brunch during the festival – access is by invitation only.

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Over the Easter period, it’s not just the palm trees and nice weather that make the Ticino attractive: Over a three-day period, you can get a good impression of what the Indie-Pop-/Rock scene has on offer in the Ticino. Text by Erika Weibel

La Tessinoise: Much ado about the Ticino

Barbara Lehnhoff (left) and Aris Bassetti (right) are mainly music creators and known for their projects Peter Kernel and Camilla Sparksss. Apart from that, they have their own label, On the Camper Records, and organise the festival La Tessinoise. (Photo: Robert Huber)

Last year, Ticino label On the Camper Records celebrated its tenth anniversary with a festival. For the celebrations, label founders Aris Bassetti und Barbara Lehnhoff invited music professionals from across Europe and organised several concerts in the Lugano area. The festival and the get together of music business...read more

20 years M4music – with SUISA in the midst of it

Over the last 20 years, the M4music festival has become an important get-together of the Swiss Pop music sector. In 2017, its anniversary, the festival offers numerous networking opportunities, information events, evening concerts as well as a showcase stage for young Swiss talents. Such a variety of activities enables the audience to catch a broader, sophisticated glimpse into current music affairs. Text by Erika Weibel

20 years M4music – with SUISA in the midst of it

More than 700 songs were sent in for the Demotape Clinic 2016. Veronice Fusaro (picture) were awarded the main prize “Demo of the Year”, and the “FONDATION SUISA Award” in the category Pop for the song “Come To Naught”. (Photo: Alessandro Della Bella)

SUISA has been involved in the M4music festival for years now. 2017 marks another year where music creators can benefit directly from the expert knowledge of SUISA staff members, and network during the annual ‘Professional-Apéro’ drinks. On top of that, SUISA supports the ‘Showcase Stage’ where Swiss newcomers can present their music to the festival audience.

FONDATION SUISA, SUISA’s charitable foundation for music promotion, is the main partner of the well-established Demotape Clinic, which takes place in the course of the M4music festival. The “FONDATION SUISA Awards” are granted to the best Rock, Pop, Urban and Electronic songs from among the submitted demos. Furthermore, the main prize “Demo of the Year” is awarded together with the Migros-Kulturprozent [Migros ‘Culture Percentage’]. The award show takes place on Saturday, 1 April 2017 at 7.00 pm in the ‘Box im Schiffbau’. At the same event, FONDATION SUISA, the Solothurn Filmtage (‘Film days’), and M4music jointly award prizes for Best Swiss Video Clips 2017.

All information events and performances on the Showcase Stage are free of charge for the audience.

Panels at M4music 2017 with SUISA participation

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Blockchain: More than a hype?

Blockchain is the technology watchword of the day. No other topic inspires the imagination of entrepreneurs, investors and IT strategists more than the concept borrowed from Bitcoin, the digital currency. The financial sector attributes the potential to the Blockchain that it could fundamentally change entire commercial sectors. The Blockchain allows for tamper-proof transactions at cyberspeed without intermediaries. This topic has also caused ripples in the music industry: Income could then be distributed automatically among rights owners and the balance of power in the music industry could shift dramatically. But how exactly does Blockchain work? At the event entry-level knowledge will be conveyed and discussions will be held about the opportunities and challenges for musicians and collective management organisations. Andreas Wegelin, CEO of SUISA, will be a contributor to this discussion at the event.

www.m4music.ch

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Over the last 20 years, the M4music festival has become an important get-together of the Swiss Pop music sector. In 2017, its anniversary, the festival offers numerous networking opportunities, information events, evening concerts as well as a showcase stage for young Swiss talents. Such a variety of activities enables the audience to catch a broader, sophisticated glimpse into current music affairs. Text by Erika Weibel

20 years M4music – with SUISA in the midst of it

More than 700 songs were sent in for the Demotape Clinic 2016. Veronice Fusaro (picture) were awarded the main prize “Demo of the Year”, and the “FONDATION SUISA Award” in the category Pop for the song “Come To Naught”. (Photo: Alessandro Della Bella)

SUISA has been involved in the M4music festival for years now. 2017 marks another year where music creators can benefit directly from the expert knowledge...read more

Camilla Sparksss: “A lovely Christmas present” | plus video

A former monk’s hermitage serves as the birthplace for new songs by Camilla Sparksss. To this day, the view over the lake landscape from there seems rather idyllic. Looking more closely, however, you realise that the landscape is cut in half by the motorway’s north-south axis and the runway of the Lugano-Agno airport. The same applies to Camilla Sparksss: things are not all as they seem at first glance. Text: guest author Markus Ganz; Video: Manu Leuenberger

The musician, born in 1983, shows a mellow and affectionate side during the interview – not her wild side we know from her stage appearances. She grew up in Canada, and her real name is Barbara Lehnhoff. When she turned 17, she moved to Ticino, where her mother has her roots, in order to study. Soon, she got to know and love the Ticino rock guitarist and songwriter Aris Bassetti, and started to play music with him under the band name Peter Kernel. Due to the rather favourable development of their musical activities, she gave up her long-term position as a film-maker with the Ticino television in 2012 in order to fully concentrate on music.

“Ticino, compared to Canada, is a really good strategic place to make music and go on tour”, Barbara Lehnhoff explains. “You don’t have to jump on a plane to get from A to B, as is the case in North America”. She also loves the considerably warmer climate which is important to her, not just for her physical comfort. “You can simply go outside at any time of the year and make a video or a photo-shooting.” Her old home country does, however, still influence her artistic vision to this day. “I grew up in a kind of Indian reserve, having a really strong contact with nature – rather different from Europe.”

Peter Kernel – electronic

It may sound confusing that Camilla Sparksss is “not so much a solo but rather a side project of Peter Kernel”. Barbara Lehnhoff emphasises that she co-composes the works for Camilla Sparksss together with Aris Bassetti. “We do everything together, 24 hours a day, and we also complement each other well when writing songs”. Aris follows a more melodic Italian style and is in charge of the arrangements. I’m more direct and my style is more punky”. This aspect can be felt more with Camilla Sparksss. The project was born out of the need to create some kind of an electronic version of Peter Kernel; not least in order to have to carry less equipment from concert to concert. “With Camilla Sparksss, the music is more playful and more fun-oriented. If we have an idea, we can immediately try it out on the computer.”

The source of a song is usually within Aris Bassetti’s guitar play, if he is looking for a melody. “We only decide during the songwriting process, for which project we will use the piece. If it is for Camilla Sparksss, we transpose it into an electronic song.” As soon as they want to try out any arrangements, they switch their apartment for a nearby rehearsal room. “We can make a lot of noise there, as it is in the basement”, Barbara Lehnhoff laughs. “When we write the vocal parts, we must be able to scream.” She describes the Camilla Sparksss style as hyper pop. “With regards to melodies and arrangements, these songs can be counted among pop. But to push the envelope like we do, that’s hyper – and that’s part of our punk approach.”

Girl power on stage

The songs really come into their own during their concerts. “The live performance is the reason for everything we do with the two projects. It’s only live on stage where our artistic performance can be fully achieved.” Camilla Sparksss offers a real performance which reminds you of a shrill show by a girl power project. Barbara Lehnhoff sings at the top of her voice and plays synthesizers to the rhythms of a drum machine while another woman dances to the beats. “The dancer represents the physical aspect of the drum machine – and is therefore sweating just like a drummer.”

Not least because of the many concerts Barbara Lehnhoff and Aris Bassetti have been able to live from their music since 2012. For some of their tours which led them as far as Canada and North America, they received support from the FONDATION SUISA. “It’s still tough to live off music”, Barbara Lehnhoff adds rather dryly. “And it’s really only possible because we do everything ourselves: videos, graphics, management, and our label On The Camper Records.” Since the two musicians don’t make pop in the commercial sense, they don’t get a lot of airplay and therefore don’t get a lot of money. “The SUISA settlements are usually like a lovely Christmas present to us”, says Barbara Lehnhoff with a smile.

www.camillasparksss.com, official website

“Where the music is new”

The value of the ideas of music creators is the centrepiece of SUISA’s work. For the brochure “Where the music is new”, five personalities and bands from various musical genres and Swiss language regions provide insights into their artistic creation process and their musical activities. Apart from Barbara Lehnhoff aka Camilla Sparksss, Carrousel and Marcel Oetiker have already been presented on the SUISAblog.ch (plus videos) and in in the brochure, edition 2015 (PDF, 8.17 MB). Barbara Lehnhoff and Aris Bassetti were, as the duo Peter Kernel, among the nominees for the Swiss Music Prize 2016.

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A former monk’s hermitage serves as the birthplace for new songs by Camilla Sparksss. To this day, the view over the lake landscape from there seems rather idyllic. Looking more closely, however, you realise that the landscape is cut in half by the motorway’s north-south axis and the runway of the Lugano-Agno airport. The same applies to Camilla Sparksss: things are not all as they seem at first glance. Text: guest author Markus Ganz; Video: Manu Leuenberger

The musician, born in 1983, shows a mellow and affectionate side during the interview – not her wild side we know from her stage appearances. She grew up in Canada, and her real name is Barbara Lehnhoff. When she turned 17, she moved to Ticino, where her mother has her roots, in order to study....read more

“Nothing, nothing at all beats a well-written song”

The international success with Bonaparte is the current highlight of the long-term songwriter career of Tobias Jundt. He penned several hundred titles, spanning a wide stylistic variety, even for or together with other artists. Born in Berne, and now living in Berlin, the composer passes on his knowledge and experience as a guest lecturer at the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste (Zurich University of the Arts) in the subject “songwriting”. An interview with the SUISA member who has been nominated for the Grand Prix Musik in 2016 and performs with his new formation, Mule & Man, at the Festival Label Suisse in Lausanne.

“Nothing, nothing at all beats a well-written song”

With his new project, Mule & Man, Tobias Jundt (lying down) can be enjoyed together with Kid Simius (standing up) during their live concert at Les Docks during the Festival Label Suisse on Saturday, 17 September 2016. (Photo: Melissa Jundt)

What does the nomination for the music award of the Federal Office of Culture (BAK)?
Tobias Jundt: I am, of course, honoured that my art is recognised and appreciated as such. Especially when you create something that is usually neither here nor there and thus cannot be squeezed into a pigeon-hole, it takes quite some time until you will be recognised as an artist with your own language. With such a huge variety on offer, it is basically impossible to compare or rate the creations of some with the works of others. But after 30 years as a songwriter, I am rather flattered that I am given the opportunity to be a representative of the cultural language of my country as one of the possible musical parts.

The BAK presents the music award 2016 in the run-up to the Festival Label Suisse. The Festival in Lausanne attracts mainly Swiss music from various genres to the stages over a three-day period. Access to the concerts is free. Why does Swiss music need a music award from the BAK and a Festival like the Label Suisse?
I think we should consider ourselves grateful to live in a country where the government takes time to honour the arts and luckily has the necessary change in the pocket to temporarily and considerably simplify the creativity of the prize winners with this award. All of the nominees would continue to relentlessly do what they do anyway, in order to face the high seas of life, even without the award. We should thankfully accept the fact that the BAK supports us with this and provides a silver-lined breeze for our sails.
Festivals are places where you can discover things. The audience discovers music bands, artists meet other artists, collaborations are forged and, somewhere, a Schwyzeroergeli fan falls in love with a Stockhausen follower. Festivals, do, however, never replace an artist’s concert experience a whole evening provides, but they are very important as events where expression can be exchanged and even collide. It is always the right choice to campaign for a broad and liberal-minded culture.

“You need stamina, a tireless will to attack and a stoic persistence when it comes to realise your artistic drive.”

You once said in an NZZ interview that it was only possible to survive in Switzerland with mainstream pop music or in one of the heavily subsidised genres such as jazz or classical music. What has to change so that the diversity of Swiss music creations will attract more listeners, both at home and abroad?
It’s a problem that a musical niche related only to Switzerland is indeed rather small, so that it cannot really be exercised as a main profession but only ‘on the side’. You therefore either have to be active in a genre where you can generate a lot of turnover, or in a subsidised sector, or tackle a bigger territory. The latter requires a lot of stamina, a tireless will to attack and a stoic persistence when it comes to realise your artistic drive. Unless the motivation for this artistic insanity comes from deep within yourself, there is no real driver for the majority of Swiss people to risk their existing quality of life. You do actually have to be a little bit crazy to want to renounce on it at least temporarily in order to plough this rather tough musical field. During my travels, I repeatedly meet very active Swiss expats. It isn’t the talent that is lacking, it is the attitude.

You have been living in Berlin since 2006 and are now settled in there. How can you ‘be’ as a Swiss songwriter abroad and how is Swiss music, in your opinion, perceived abroad?
Most people of this solar system fall in love with Switzerland and what it represents. You often forget about that when you sit on the mountain too long. If I write music for other artists in Berlin or New York, nobody ever asks me where I grew up. The aim is always the same: to write the right work for a specific phase of an artist. That involves either aspects of commercial success or artistic reinvention. And when I perform my songs as a soloist appearing as Bonaparte from Beijing to Wellington, nobody asks me where I am from either – even though I do quite like to add that I am Swiss – especially as it distinguishes me from those out there and because it is an important part of my being. In order to prevail, you need to have an alert mind and soak in and apply the various parameters of the different cultures. Everyone can do that, irrespective of where they’re from.

“I claim that Switzerland has one of the best collective management organisations in the world. SUISA is where I belong as a composer.”

You live in Germany, but you are a member of the Swiss SUISA. Why?
I claim that Switzerland has one of the best collective management organisations in the world – and that’s an opinion shared by quite a few international authors. I say this with a clear conscience and out of my own free will. I was a member of BMI in the USA in the past, and I also run a publishing company which is a member of GEMA. All well and good but SUISA is the place where I belong as a composer. I really enjoyed the time under Poto Wegener and, due to his support, I began looking into copyright more intensively. The good relations to SUISA have stayed in place and I really appreciate the mutual exchange and respect.

You lecture the subject “songwriting” at the Zurich University of the Arts. Can you learn how to write a hit? Which tips do you give students for composing on their way?
I usually advise them to forget everything they think they know. I like to ask them to write songs as humans and not as musicians. Of course, analytical and theoretical knowledge and practical techniques help us to find a quicker way out of musical cul-de-sacs. But at the core of finding ideas, there isn’t much difference between us and Mrs Mountainvalley who whistles a little melody while having a shower in the morning. You can, of course, just like in every situation in life, learn a technique – whether it’s holding a club as a golfer or using Kamasutra positions as a lover – which allows you to write good songs at any old day of the week. But there are many and enough good songs already – you need to rather try to write songs with a certain je-ne-sais-quoi: songs which still have a raison d’etre even to be let loose onto mankind in their genre, even after the life work of a, Lennon-McCartney an Udo Jürgens, an Igor Strawinsky or Daft Punk. This doesn’t always work, but that’s what the songwriter has to get up for each morning – for the attempt to write a song which, in its own way, enriches the world.

“The most important thing that still exists, especially today, is the musical idea.”

A musician on a concert stage is not necessarily at the same time the songwriter, who is often forgotten in comparison with the star in the limelight. How can composers step out of the artists’ shadow when it comes to public perception?
The question is, do they have to. I only sing the songs that I cannot expect others to perform. The psychological pressure that a front man and artists have to sustain, can – in the long run – be rather exhausting. A songwriter, however, can act in the background, sit in front of their piano somewhere, unnoticed, and simply focus on the core of the music. And believe me, the most important thing that still exists, especially today, is the musical idea. Nothing, and nothing at all beats a really well-written song which cleverly combines craft and original ideas. There may be hope for all who thought that there had been too much speak of the devil. I am rather glad that I have a dozen pseudonyms at SUISA – these are songwriter roles into which I can morph depending on the style, genre or mood and that aren’t even known to my closest friends. I like it that professional songwriting sometimes simply remains a secret between the piece of paper and myself. If a musician does something odd on stage, everybody will talk about it the next day. If a composer creates a little string quartet, naked, while eating two spoons of peanut butter, nobody cares two hoots about it. I really like that. It’s important that we as composers exchange our views and that our rights are well represented through the change of the times.

Composing music for third parties or performing with Mule & Man on stage – what’s the thrill for you of these two activities?
I did have some elitist phases in my life, where I only considered this kind of free jazz or that type of soul to be worth listening to. But at the end of the day, I am suffering from musically inflicted polyamory, and love all kinds of music with a passion, but also have to co-invent. I get satisfaction from composing string or wind arrangements, protest songs, punk chansons, film score, electronic music, experimental fiddling about with noise or country music for the deaf. I like it that you can take from this bottomless cornucopia of combinations and possibilities between the composer and the listener.

Links
Bonaparte, official website
Mule & Man, official Facebook fan page
Label Suisse, website of the Festival
Schweizer Musikpreis (Swiss music award), website of the Swiss Federal Office for Culture (BAK)

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The international success with Bonaparte is the current highlight of the long-term songwriter career of Tobias Jundt. He penned several hundred titles, spanning a wide stylistic variety, even for or together with other artists. Born in Berne, and now living in Berlin, the composer passes on his knowledge and experience as a guest lecturer at the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste (Zurich University of the Arts) in the subject “songwriting”. An interview with the SUISA member who has been nominated for the Grand Prix Musik in 2016 and performs with his new formation, Mule & Man, at the Festival Label Suisse in Lausanne.

“Nothing, nothing at all beats a well-written song”

With his new project, Mule & Man, Tobias Jundt (lying down) can be enjoyed together with Kid Simius (standing up) during their live concert at Les Docks during the Festival...read more

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