Which band would you call a supergroup?

The highest railway

February 24, 2014

"We didn't have a bullshit brake"

Interview conducted by Simon Langemann

The Cologne studio 672 was bursting at the seams in January and it would have been possible to sell twice as many tickets. Rightly so, because with "Schau In Den Lauf Hase" the singer / songwriters Francesco Wilking and Moritz Krämer recorded a wonderful band record with Felix Weigt (bass, keys) and Max Schröder (drums).

The Highest Railway is exhausting, they complain to Wallpaper Records in the press release: 'It takes longer than you have agreed and it always comes too late.'

This was also the case with our interview in the Stadtgarten basement club, which we can cope with very well. Finally, in the waiting time, we experience a sound check that seems more like a boisterous band rehearsal, as well as a spontaneous short interview with supportact Desiree Klaeukens over coffee and beer.

A few minutes later Felix tries to console us for Moritz Kramer's absence. "I don't think he's coming anymore, to be honest. He's doing a nasal shower."A short time later, the singer, who has a cold, joins them.

With a changing line-up, Die Höchste Eisenbahn gives us an amusing interview about their debut album "Schau In Den Lauf Hase", plans for the future and the thieving fun of musical bullshit.

Moritz and Francesco, you met in the Tele-Studio.

Moritz: Exactly, I recorded my album "Wir kann Nix für" there with Patrick and Stefan from Tele. And we saw each other there quite often.

Francesco: I coached him a bit.

Moritz: The album was actually written by Francesco. I just sang that.


Francesco: No, not true.

Thanks, I got it.

Francesco: You never know! (laughs)

Moritz: My booker, Mario Cetti from Kumpels & Friends, has a festival in Dresden. He asked me if I wanted to play there again and said that he wanted to ask Francesco too. Then at some point he got the idea that he would only have to pay us one fee if we just played together on the same stage at the same time. We did that then. And then thought to ourselves that we could play again someday.

Did it ever go downhill again after that, or did you steadily grow together from then on? Have you ever doubted that this is a good thing?

Moritz: Whether that is good or not was not the issue at all. We just made music together. Then at some point we thought we could do this more often, but didn't know exactly whether it was just for two or with others. At first we wanted to go on tour as a couple - and in every city there is a third person. But that's far too time-consuming, it doesn't work.

Francesco: We did that once in Halle with Gisbert [zu Knyphausen, the editor], and Max was there too.

Moritz: But that was just a half-hearted attempt at the idea. Actually, it was already clear then that it wouldn't work.

Francesco: And then there was the concert with Judith [Holofernes]. We already started to write each time, each one a verse. "The Sky Is Blue" with Gisbert and "Past" with Judith. So one thing came to another. Felix came along and then we thought we could record an EP, go on tour and so on.

Did you never argue?

Moritz: We fight all the time. It all runs so parallel that you argue and love each other.

Felix: Sometimes we just quarrel out of boredom. That has nothing to do with hatred.

Francesco: That's not an argument either. You all have to come to my house sometime.

Back then I saw you guys on the EP tour in Cologne. But then it seemed even more as if Moritz and Francesco were each playing their solo songs and allowing themselves to be accompanied. Did the songs "Schau In Den Lauf Hase" already exist back then?

Moritz: No, we developed most of them together afterwards. Either Francesco brought something in or I did. Sometimes just miniature things. You can actually hear it on the record: When we both sing, it's mostly band pieces that the four of us wrote.

Otherwise, whoever wrote the lyrics always sings? That was different with Kid Kopphausen [Nils Kopagh and Gisbert zu Knyphausen], for example.

Felix [also Kid Kopphausen bassist at the time]: That's not necessarily true.

Gisbert told us at the time that he would like to keep it a secret. When asked about "The Lightest in the World" it sounded as if the text came from Nils.

Felix: Fun fact - there is a piece that Gisbert sings in its entirety, but where the lyrics are almost entirely by Nils. But I won't tell you which one. (laughs)

"The lightest in the world"?

Felix: No. But I don't say no more often. With Kid Kopphausen it was actually a little different.

With you it sometimes seems as if there is a feature part by Moritz on a Francesco song at the end and vice versa. With "No matter where", for example.

Felix: Even though it's actually a piece together. The only difference is that the verses don't alternate, instead Moritz sings half of the song.

Francesco: Actually it doesn't matter who writes what. You hang out a lot and talk - about the songs, where it could go, also about the music. A musical exchange takes place in which certain things come out.

But then there are also moments when you lock yourself in the studio alone and do a verse or play a keyboard. But this is followed by the dialogue again. The other might say: I think that's really cool, but it doesn't fit. And then you do something different. There was also a lot of text that didn't land on the record. But the other way around, there wasn't a lot of music that didn't make it.

Felix: Well.

Francesco: Everything we recorded is actually on it, isn't it?

Felix: Right. But we did a lot of botch before that.

Many still perceive the railroad as a duo of Krämer / Wilking, which no longer does you justice. Max and Felix, do you also take notes on the lyrics?

Felix: No.

Max: There was never a spark of an idea that we wanted to have a say.

Francesco: Not with the lyrics, but with the music. It's a band. For example, today we are announced as singer / songwriters. Somehow that doesn't really fit.

Some also refer to you as a supergroup.

Francesco: Yes, to be honest, that term got on our nerves a bit. (laughs).

Your album emancipates itself quite clearly from the EP. At least for the fact that there is only a year in between.

Felix: The pieces have all gone through a certain process.

A conscious concept: 'Let's get the old synths out now'? Or did that just happen?

Felix: Actually zero.

Max: It just happened. I remember we were making music and then all of a sudden this Yamaha DX7 thing was there. That was always connected.

Felix: But somehow everyone was in the mood to do something like that. It was never an issue that it should sound so singer / songwriter-wise in terms of sound. Actually, everyone wanted to hit the shit a bit.

Francesco: You could also say: The "Dissatisfied" EP consists on the one hand of "The Past" and "The Sky Is Blue". They're a little bit cranky, a little bit of backbeat and bass. But then there is also "Jan Is Unhappy" and "The Night Overdrives", which actually go in the direction of the album. We already started a little with our sound. We then continued on the way.

Felix: Right. When we play "Die Nacht Exerteits" or "Jan Is Unsatisfied", it never feels old school or different to me. For "heaven" and "past" ...

Francesco: Yes, the old songs. No more buck. (laughs)

Felix: But they were perceived a bit like this: Oh, look, the singer / songwriters, now everyone is singing together.

"Where do we get the fucking money to make the record?"

Did you actually have a producer in the studio for the album?

Felix: We actually recorded everything ourselves. Sometimes we had Kilian with us, who now also mixes us live. He then took care of the technology. But not as a producer. Perhaps in retrospect this is also important for the sound image: That no one was there as a bullshit brake. We then gave it to Peter Schmidt to mix it, who added a little more contour.

Francesco: It's a do-it-yourself record. That extends to the cover.

Felix: It's really interesting. Sometimes I hear from colleagues that even indie labels are talking a lot now. But we really did it alone until the end. Well, the people just didn't have a choice, given our restlessness.

In the end you only handed in your master's degree?

Francesco: Actually, yes.

"Schau In Den Lauf Hase" is your first album - and I caught myself thinking: How long will it go on now? Maybe that's because of this supergroup perception. But now it sounds a lot more like that you feel like a band.

Francesco: I think so too. We feel like a normal band. And if we were actually a supergroup, let's say: Nena, Xavier Naidoo ...

Felix:… Rea Garvey and the guys from BossHoss. (laughs)

Francesco:… make a band. Then you could already imagine that it won't take long. Because it's a supergroup and they're all too busy with their solo careers.

I don't think anyone took the term supergroup that 100 percent seriously. Are you really that annoyed?

Felix: No, that's kind of flattering. It is as charged as the term Hamburg School. When young bands are included in the group, they find it cool on the one hand, but on the other hand feel over-intellectualized in a drawer. I actually find it rather funny because none of us are particularly super-mediocre.

Francesco: That's just the pale taste of success: You listen to Supergroup once and think it's awesome. And the second time you think: Wow, ey. (laughs)

Felix: We see ourselves as a band and we do it as long as we enjoy it. We don't intend to limit this in time. On the other hand, we also have no career planning like: Hey, we have to top it up now because the guys are hot! Each of us does something different, whether it's music or not. And that's healthy for a band too.

That was never an issue at the Höchst Railway: How many people are coming? How much do we earn there? Shit, we gotta do a gig so we can get some cash. When it came to money, it was always about: Where do we get the fucking money to make our record? It was never an issue to get started with in any way.

Is that why it went on for so long? The press text says that you are exhausting and always late.

Francesco: Oh, you always have to think up a story. (laughs)

Felix: You also have to think about who is writing these texts. Namely the people who have to work with you.

Did it actually go longer than expected?

Francesco: Everything was normal for us. The people who always call us and ask when the record is ready, it might be like that for them. But I think it's funny again when someone writes a text about it.

Felix: On the other hand, you say that the sound is in just has changed so much a year. So maybe it was just right.

Francesco: The 'later than expected' comes from the fact that we actually wanted to make a record when we made the EP.

Felix: It's good for something like that when everyone has other things to do in between. Maybe that was the reason for this looseness. The Kid Kopphausen production phase, for example, was much straighter. The time from the first rehearsal to writing to recording was much shorter. But then it was also more Nils and Gisbert.

In the case of the railways, things are now perceived differently because they work more together. But I don't want to compare it so clearly now, because everything is written down. Every way of working has its own quality. A certain quality of the railroad is probably this eternal process and this three times chewing through.

It sounds like you're having fun.

Max: Yes, we have too. That's exactly how I feel. The songs are so colorful because we were in one room without this constant feeling of having to come here and there with a project. Instead, we laughed at every stupid idea. We took some of them to extremes so much that they had to go away again at some point. But if it was good, we took it somewhere where it was fun. That's how it was for me.

Felix: It was just this thieving fun doing bullshit. There are a lot of such moments on the record, also musically. I sometimes played it to some colleagues, they even thought it was almost bold.

Did you already have the feeling that you were offending some people with the record?

Felix: Yes, but that's actually really awesome.

Just the beginning, with "No matter where" ...

Felix: Yes, of course! Although a friend said something relative to me, he said: If you start the record with "Egal Wohin" and then listen to it to the end, it seems much more progressive than if you skip straight to the second song at the beginning. Because "No matter where" is just a blueprint with maximum bullshit. It's kind of the primordial soup of the railway album, because everything shows up there. This is then done in the rest of the album.

The album cover and album title each refer to a song: the "sweater" as a photo and "Schau In Den Lauf Hase" as the lettering. It almost seems like you couldn't have made up your mind.

Francesco: That's cool.

Would you like to leave it like that?

Francesco: Well, that's not true. But I think it's great. (laughs) It wasn't that we couldn't make up our minds. But that's a nice interpretation. The only important thing is always what people see in it anyway. And not what you make up. I think it's nice to have a sweater on the cover and not a rabbit.

Felix: If there was a rabbit and the record was called "Pullover", that would be great too.

Francesco: Yes. But if there was a sweater on it and the record would be called "Pullover", that wouldn't be so cool.

Will it ever be available as merch?

Felix: We're working on it. At the moment there is at least a t-shirt with the sweater on it.

"Making music is cooler than writing books."

The song "Raus Aufs Land" had been known for a long time from concerts and YouTube recordings. Why did you change the arrangement for the album version so much?

Moritz: I think I just moaned long enough that I didn't like the rock ballad.

Max: You suggested trying other things.

Francesco: We even recorded it in several versions.

Moritz: That's right, also as a rock ballad, if you can call it that. Just like we played it live.

Felix: It's not a rock ballad.

Francesco: Let's say: Regina Spektor version.

How do you play it live?

Moritz: Now it's a Regina Spektor version.

Francesco: Nah. Before that it was Regina Spektor. Now it's Fleetwood Mac.

Moritz: Before that it was a little Grönemeyer.

Francesco: Grönemeyer ?!

Felix: A lot of pieces work very well live, then you record them and somehow find them bland.

Moritz: Besides, I couldn't play in the beginning tightly.

For me it was mainly the effect of getting used to it: you got to know it differently, but it can also be nice in this version.

Felix: That's always the sad phenomenon. If you already know things, it's actually unbearable to hear them again. You feel betrayed. Text changes are even worse.

Moritz: Did you notice that there was a change in the text?

I never listened to the old version again so I could get used to the new one.

Moritz: There is one word different.

Francesco: Oh, Bernd Begemann.

Moritz: Instead of "excavated"I sing"excavated"At some point, Bernd arrived and said: Absolutely great, but you can't dig the pit.

Francesco: That is technically wrong.

Moritz: Because you don't dig pits, you dig them. Then I thought ...

Francesco: Foxes are not pack animals at all!

Moritz: ... then I sing it differently.

Francesco: But the Rhyme is fat.

Moritz: And alliteration is still there: digging.

Francesco: Bernd Begemann is just the kind of guy who says: great record, guys. But there are a few mistakes on it.

Moritz: But he didn't notice that you can't pour cement into pits? This is actually concrete. Cement is the powder, you have to mix it first so that it becomes concrete.

Francesco: The people who know that don't even hear our record.

So, are you fooling people? We like to write it down like that.

Francesco: No, that is specialist knowledge.

Do you all already have plans for the future? Do you know what happens to you after this tour?

Felix: It actually fills up quite well over the summer. A couple of festivals. The tendency is rather that it does not stay with this tour. We are now playing happily to ourselves.

Francesco, are there any plans for Tele? I have to ask that, of course.

Francesco: No. No time to make plans. (laughs)

But do you already have contact?

Francesco: Yes, we see each other often. Funnily enough, three people from Tele play together in a band. At New Found Land. A Swedish singer, they're her band, so to speak. They tour too, and have even been to Japan. I make film music with Patrick, the tele keyboardist. We have the same studio in which the railway record was made. We see each other often.

Are further solo records planned?

Moritz: Not with me yet. As always, I collect things at home. But we have no railway planning and nothing else specific. Anyway, at some point I want to record something.

Francesco, how are you doing with the book?

Francesco: (laughs) What kind of book ?! I think I actually trumpeted it out every now and then to put myself under pressure.

A bit like Olli Schulz, he likes to do it too.

Francesco: But Olli wrote a novel. That horse thing.

Felix: No, no. That never got out.

Francesco: "Horseworld".

Max: It's been around for years.

Felix: That’s a freak, isn't it?

Francesco: Really? I always thought it really existed.

Max: He actually wrote. But it's not outside. I don't know, maybe this will come out soon.

Francesco: This book in which he works as a stage hand. And at the very end he falls into a well, into a world that consists only of horses.

Felix: There is no such thing. That's just a freak from Olli.

Max: Anyway, he wrote something. But I don't know when this will be finished.

Francesco: (back to the question) I have a lot and I also have someone with whom I want to do that and who sends me an email every month: How's it going? But I don't get around to it. Making music is kind of cooler than writing books.

Felix: Music also goes faster and is not so lonely.

And Moritz, how are you doing with your films?

Moritz: I'm still at the film school, but not all the time. I want to be finished with it sometime, of course. We shot a documentary like this in Israel, which is now being finished. And a long feature film in the Black Forest that we have just edited for a long time. It takes place in Schönenberg, the small village where I grew up.

Then the conversation slowly dissolves. A short time later, the band went on stage to delight the Cologne audience with an extremely playful live set. Michael Schröder and Simon Langemann spoke to the Höchst Railway.