Interview Yogi Lang

“The album is all about communication and its limits”

(November 2010, text by Henri Strik, edited by Peter Willemsen, live pictures by Arthur Haggenburg)

After RPWL released their latest studio album The RPWL Experience in 2008, the musicians decided to do some solo material. So far albums from guitarist Kalle Wallner and bass player Chris Postl were released. The band released 'a best of' album entitled The Gentle Art Of Music (review), just before singer Yogi Lang released his album No Decoder (review). That was just the right time for Background Magazine to talk with Yogi Lang about his solo effort and RPWL.

Who came with the idea to give RPWL a rest in order to do some solo stuff?

Yogi Lang: “We all had the idea of solo works in 2005/2006 after the World Through My Eyes-tour. If you have a look at the album 9 from 2006, there are four songs written separately by each member of RPWL and performed by the band. Then in 2007 our guitarist Kalle Wallner started with his solo side project called Blind Ego and in 2009, after the second album of Blind Ego, I did Parzivals Eye with Chris Postl, our bassist at the time. It wasn't easy drawing the line between 'me' and the other guys, because I produced these three albums. So, after all this is the fourth solo album I was working on.”

When did you start working on your solo album? Did you write new material for this album or did you use some old RPWL- songs that gathered dust upon the shelf?

“I started to write new material a couple of years ago, but my first ideas were taken from The RPWL Experience-album. So in 2009, I started completely afresh and wrote new material. However, some ideas were just fragments I had in mind for a very long time. The material I wrote for my solo album is too personal for RPWL. With RPWL we're always having certain topics to work on as a band, but this time the only topic was simply me.”

Has the album title No Decoder a special meaning?

“Yes, it has. The album is all about communication and its limits. The words we daily use have a different meaning for each of us. For example, a word like 'home' has a certain meaning to us all. If I sing about 'home', I activate a picture in your mind. That picture is most likely different to mine and to everyone else. So, in everything we say there is a pre-programmed misunderstanding. There is no decoder for the worlds between us as individuals. Knowing that, it's the first part of 'trying' to understand each other. However most of the time, we simply expect our counterparts using the same pictures than we do. This is one of the basic errors in understanding each other. That is what No Decoder is about. But it's no concept album or anything like that.”

How did you manage to have Guy Pratt of Pink Floyd fame playing the bass guitar on your album?

“That was very simple. I knew him by a good friend of mine and I sent him some of the demo recordings. He said yes, came to the studio and we recorded. It was cool because he not only did a fabulous job on his bass, but he also gave a great input for some songs.”

Most band members release a solo album to do something different music wise. No Decoder definitely has a Pink Floyd and RPWL-sound. How important are Pink Floyd for you?

“Well, it's the music I grew up with. So I think it will always be part of my life. This time the difference is in the lyrical content rather than in the music. In fact, I think it's quite different, but with the same singer it will always tend to have similarities.”

Would you please introduce your fabulous guitarist Thorsten Weber?

“I saw Thorsten playing guitar with a band called The Doors Of Perception, a huge German Doors tribute band. I completely fell in love with his way of playing. I was the engineer of the festival on which he played and so I had the chance to ask him if he would join my solo project. After listening to the demos he said yes and we had a good time in the studio. With his way of playing guitar he wonderfully coloured the music of the whole record.” 

Ex-RPWL member Manni Müller played the drums on No Decoder. Why did he leave the band and what was the reason you asked him again for this album?

“I asked Manni in a very early state of the production. I started to record the first demos and gave him a call. I knew it was perfect for his style of playing drums. I love his way to make a song groove. He never tries to show his drumming like many other drummers do; he just wants to be part of a song. This was the musical ability I needed for my songs. He left the band after The RPWL Experience, because he no longer could make enough time for the band. He introduced his friend Marc, who became our new drummer.”

Another surprise is the voice of Lazuli's lead singer Dominique Leonetti. He did a wonderful job on Alison. Why did he sing in the French language? What's the song about?

Alison stands for all the dreams, needs or longings we have and how they are facing us in many ways or, of course, in many people. I chose the French language here, because there's for me so much desire in it, more than in any other language. It's a wonderful trip through the world of longings with Dominique's way of singing the song. We played many times with his band Lazuli and so it was easy to get in contact with him.” 

Ian Salmon (Arena) didn't play a single note on No Decoder, but instead he's the narrator on A Million Miles Away. Would you explain this?

“Well, this was more by chance. He was in the studio and after listening to his voice I asked him to narrate the song on the album. This part is very important because it's the vehicle of the story of the song. I was so happy that he would accept it; he just did a great job.”

Did all guest musicians record their parts at the Farm Studios or somewhere else and sent it by use of the internet?

“Everything was recorded in the Farm Studios except the vocal part of Alison. Dominique recorded that in his own studio. They were quite busy with Lazuli at the time and the tracks he sent me were so cool that there was absolutely no need to re-record them. He did an awesome job indeed!”

Did you ask other musicians to play on your album?

“No. I really had my dream team in the studio.”

In the album credits it says that you also played guitar on the album. Which parts you played yourself?

“This time I wrote the entire album on guitar, so I did some of the rhythm guitars and on a couple of songs the effect guitars. However, the main guitar playing was the splendid work of Torsten. I'm definitely no guitar player.”

On many RPWL-tunes and on some of your solo pieces either your tasteful synthesizer solos reminded me of Manfred Mann. Do you know him and has he inspired you?

“He definitely is one of the reasons I started to play music. I remember being fifteen years old and buying my first Moog. I only had a bike then, so I had to transport the Moog Prodigy over 30 kilometers without having a case on the bike rack. Well, that must have been a wonderful sight.”

You still use the Memory Moog for solos or do you also use other keyboards?

“Yes, for the solos I love to use my Memory Moog. The filter is pretty much distorted and for some parts a MiniMoog can possibly do a better job because the sound is much cleaner. If the sound is too bright, the Moog Liberation or even the Rouge both have great sounds, too. The Memory Moog can do much more. I love the pad sounds and the fantastic linntronic stereo brightness. I also got a Solina, some Roland and Korg stuff and a Hammond-organ that I often use. The only sound I really love from the computer is the electric piano.”

Many keyboard players who record a solo album are showing off how good they are by playing keyboard orientated songs. I didn't hear that on No Decoder. Why didn't you do so because the album's got a real band sound with sometimes a leading role for the guitarist?

“I'm more a songwriter than a keyboard player. I never had the interest to play as fast as whoever. I've always been more into producing than into playing. I love to have different musicians playing and if there's a chance to have a good keyboard player I'd have no problem to let him play.”

The art work of Judith Reichardt reminded me of the work of painters as Jeroen Bosch and Pieter Bruegel. Do you agree and how did you find Judith?

“The art work might be similar, but having no backgrounds the pictures nearly falling apart. The parts are caught between being connected and lost in lack of understanding. I think it's more about playing with different worlds in our minds than the heavy symbolism of Bosch. Judith did already the artwork for The RPWL Experience. At that time she did the paintings in the studio while producing the album. I love the way she works and how she sees the world. The compositions of the pictures on this album, her idea to put the booklet into a pure data form is great and simple at the same time. It fits the album perfectly.”

How many labels were interested in releasing your album? Or was it planned to release it on your own label?

“Indeed, it was planned for our own Gentle Art Of Music-label. After the crash of SPV we built our label with a new structure. It gives us the freedom to be creative and doing whatever we want to do. We're very happy about that and we're already planning forthcoming releases.”

Can we expect more solo efforts? What are the future plans?

“Next will be the new RPWL-album that should be released in autumn 2011. Maybe there will be a couple of gigs in spring 2011 to present No Decoder. We'll see.”

Thanks for releasing a wonderful solo album and answering my questions!

“You're welcome.”   

More info about Yogi Lang on the Internet:
- Website Yogi Lang
- Website RPWL
- Review 'No Decoder'
- Review RPWL album 'Gentle Art Of Music'

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