Philip Winiger

My very first guest of the inaugural podcast episode is a musician, a songwriter, a communication technology professional, and all around a lovely guy. He is part of the blossoming darkwave band called Inhalt where he plays a variety of synthesizers and also writes and sings. He’s been a music devotee for a long time and educated as an audio engineer. He is also a great friend and someone whose company I always enjoy. Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado – Mister Philip Winiger.

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Interview Transcript

V: So, let’s go right into it and tell me how did you start as a musician?

P: That has been something that I was always fascinated by already as a kid. Technically I would suppose I started by learning the trumpet at the age of nine, forcefully somewhat, and I didn’t like it, but I always appreciated how music was put together. So, I spent then just a lot of time doing research and experimentation, and just finding my way. It was kind of a passion that it got me deeper and deeper into it, just by chance. So, yeah that’s kind of the start of that.

V: And did you consider yourself a musician in the beginning or was it just an organic slow process of becoming one?

P: You know I honestly never considered myself a musician. I just considered myself a person that was interested in this. I guess you can call me a musician, but a musician for me is somebody who has some training in this and a lot of what I do is self-taught.

V: You do have some training, though, related to audio. So tell me about your education and how you made that choice to learn what you did.

P: I was always a big fan of combining music and technology which I believe are two different schools entirely. Technology always fascinated me because I was always in control of what the machine could do. So I technically appreciated the approach to that, but what really got me fascinated me was how to apply the technical knowledge, if you will, to an art form. How to make it descriptive and I was always fascinated by film, by installation art, by music, electronic music in particular, because it marries together technology with art with music. And so I studied audio engineering because I felt that was the closest that I could get to combining an art form, in itself, but with a lot of technical understanding in background with achieving that. Sort of like painting, sculptures and pictures, but using frequencies and sounds. So, that is how I got into that.

V: Very rich picture you painted, but how about a bit more specific. Where did you go to school and what did you study?

P: So I went to school at SAE, the school of audio engineering in Zurich, Switzerland. I am from Switzerland. And I found that school actually through a friend of mine. I finished my mandatory schooling and doing a sort of a gap year and not really sure what I wanted to do in life and all those things that you have as a young person or young adult.

V: As a lost teenager?

P: Not so much a lost… To be honest with you I was never really lost, because I kind of knew exactly what I wanted to do I just did not know how to approach that. And so SAE seemed like the right choice, because it was an institute that was geared for exactly that.

V: If I am not mistaken, you told me that you had sort of an expectation from your father to take a certain route in education and you compromised somehow and got support from your family even though from what I remembered that they didn’t really think that studying audio was the best choice.

P: I guess they expected more of a linear sort of life. My parents do not really come from a very artistic background. They are very logical people, so they didn’t really understand why I would make this choice to learn a profession that is so up and down and is so unclear and maybe you make it and maybe you don’t. They just expected more of a why don’t you study finance and you will have a good job and you will be okay in life. You will be able to carry yourself and all those kind of things. I just wasn’t interested in that. So, I guess the misunderstanding came from my rebellious self, deciding I am going to do something completely different. I am going to follow my passion. I have a dream. I really want to do this. One day I guess I will make it and of course there was a strong amount of support behind that, but initially they just didn’t really understand that I suppose.

V: Were they supportive of your choice?

P: Oh, yes. They were very supportive of my choice.

V: You mentioned about the fact that you grew up in Switzerland. I want to ask you, what was it like to grow up in Switzerland? Not that you are experienced growing up elsewhere. What do you think is different about growing up in Switzerland versus the States or some other part of the world?

P: I would say Switzerland is a very wealthy country, so we had access to things. We had access to material things. We had television, we had Mtv. We had all of those things, but there was a strong sort of disconnect into letting yourself go with that. I kind of appreciated that a lot especially now looking back. You limit your amount of tv you consume. Half hour a day or something like that. There is a lot of emphasis on going outside, going outdoors, doing things, going skiing, going for a hike, enjoying nature and so I spent a lot of time outside being active and doing things. I think, however, though, Switzerland is a society that is very very logical, very precise, very very sort of pragmatic in that approach and me, my character is more of free living, kind of a free-willed person. So as I grew older I felt more and more in this cage and I need to break free and I need to get out of this logical, “linearness” of life. You grow up, you learn a good profession, you have a good job, you settle down, you have a family and these are the logical steps that the average person would take. I grew up outside of a city. I suppose if I would have grown up in a big city there might have been a different emphasis on how to cover your life.

V: So, I guess what is interesting for me here is that you live in San Francisco right now and you have lived in California for several years now and a lot of people who were not born here choose to come here. They do it because they look for a significant improvement in most of the areas in their life, especially financial. It is a job market that is more fruitful, more promising here for people who come form third world or something like that, but you have come for something different and also some of the same things that this country can offer and that is being free in your search, in your path, and being a little bit entrepreneurial about your life. Is it fair to say that you have come for that?

P: It is fair to say that, yes. You are completely right. I didn’t come here to make a lot of money and get good a job in a specific field. I came here because I wanted to break away. I wanted to see how is it on the other side. Sometimes growing up in Switzerland, we are somewhat a little bit in a bubble that we have it extremely good and sometimes we don’t realize how good we actually have it. So, I sort of wanted to go out into in the world and see a different perspective on that. And I chose San Francisco because I have been here a few times and from historically coming from here. San Francisco was so widely different in its approach in every single way. You can walk outside, you can be crazy, you can be naked, you can scream and yell and nobody really says anything against that and for me that was such a refreshing, welcoming difference coming from a very strict sort of linear society that I felt, wow, I can do anything that I want here. Like I am young, I have aspirations, I have a huge passion. I guess I am somewhat smart, I can figure things out. But, I felt sort of okay I am now in a totally different environment where it is up and down and crazy and you can do whatever you want to do and now is your chance. Now try to do that and run after that.

V: I can see how you retain your culture and applied it onto your framework. You kind of mix those together, because both places are Western. You grow up in the West, so to speak, and here is also the West, but very different versions of it. Like I have known you for a while and you definitely remain being Swiss in many of your private ways, but you also enjoy being outgoing in an American way.

P: Exactly. I think that is the point, because by leaving my home and what I was used to and everything, by going away from that I started to realize that I actually kind of missed that. I kind of found myself in that sense where I identified that I do like certain things this way and I like it like that and that is interesting. So, for me it was a very personal. I got to know myself really really well. So, you are right it is both West. We all have products. We can buy jeans. We can do all these things that we do, but I think here it is in a more loud and crazy way and I think that is what fascinated me so much about that where I could be vocal about these things. Sometimes I felt at home I couldn’t – I was restricted.

V: Speaking of being vocal, so what is INHALT?

P: INHALT is a band that I got together with a good friend of mine, as well my music partner and we formed a band.

V: What is his name?

P: Matia.

V: So you met at San Francisco?

P: That is right.

V: And you formed a band, that how would you describe?

P: Musically?

V: Yes.

P: INHALT is I would say kind of a cross between new wave synth pop, a lot of darkwave influence in there, electronic dance music in a sense, but with a very strong emphasis on vocal performance.

V: So what the hell is darkwave?

P: Darkwave is kind of a derivative of new wave. Darkwave, correct me if I am wrong, has its history in the late 70s, early 80s, but it kind of was born out of Goth. Darker approaches to new wave music which was generally more pop driven. And I think INHALT kind of combines those two together in a somewhat playful, but also in a more of a thought after way.

P: In my impression, the word dark in the style sort of implies that it is more serious, not sinister, but it is more minor chords and a little bit maybe politically charged because there is like dark clouds above us. Where new wave was a bit more happy and a bit more easier to digest for just anyone. Darkwave was a little bit more niche.

V: That’s correct. Yes. I mean it comes a lot from punk. If you combine anarchy, punk… That was kind of the approach to anti- establishment. Let’s break everything down and destroy. Punk was a very strong sort of antidote to the boy-meets-girl sort of themed music that you would hear on the radio and I think darkwave is kind of a continuation of that.

V: So who listens to darkwave? Are there big groups around the world? Big scenes?

P: There is a fairly large scene around the world. I would probably have to say early 2000s there was a resurrection of this sort of music and it was kind of the more combined synthesizer-driven approaches. But, I would say the past 15 years certainly has generated a large following of young generations who are searching for something different.

V: So, tell me about the music production process in the studio.

P: My music partner and I are very fascinated by equipment, by technology, and we have sort of identified with using more software-driven instruments such as computers and laptops and we are missing a lot of the playfulness. We are missing a lot of the organic real approach. Not to say anything negative about using computers and software. By all means, we use computers as well, but just in a very different way. We just didn’t like the interface of sitting in front of a screen and moving your mouse and interfacing with it that way. Also being connoisseurs of vintage synthesizers. We have a large collection since both of us were teenagers we have had huge inspiration of synthesizer X, Moog, or Arp, to name a couple of names. So, we tried to approach it in that way where we are very fortunate enough to have a lot of these instruments at our disposal. We have actually just completed building another studio not far away from here where we have everything connected and ready to go. The approach is, every different synthesizer has a different sound. Much like a Yamaha violin will sound very different to a Stradivarius or a Taylor guitar will sound different to a Fender. So we’ve kind of identified which instrument gives us the sound that we like and put our attention into using those and we use a lot of different flavors of these instruments in our sound. But to come back to how we approach making music… We do everything sort of on the fly. We will get together and say I have an idea for a melody which I think is great. I have a chord progression which I think is interesting. Then one of us will say play that on a Jupiter 8 synthesizer because I like the sound of the filter, the oscillators and what not. My partner will bring up another synth and play a baseline and we kind of go from there. A lot of that has to do with playing. That is kind of our emphasis.

V: If you could wave a magic wand and transform a synthesizer into a girlfriend, which one would it be?

P: Let me get this right. You are asking me if I could wave a magic wand and one of the synthesizers would become a girlfriend. Is that what you are saying?

V: Which one of them would you marry?

P: That is a very good question. I would probably have to say a synthesizer called the Prophet 5 made by a company called Sequential.

V: Prophet 5 by Sequential would make the perfect girlfriend?

P: Yes. That would make the perfect girlfriend.

V: She would have to learn how to cook though.

P: That is okay.

V: She doesn’t need to. As long as she makes those sweet sounds.

P: Yes, that is exactly. That is the approach. With the Prophet 5 which was a classic analogue synthesizer. It was actually the first polyphonic synthesizer with memory, widely used of course. But the Prophet has a certain silkiness to its sound that no other synthesizer really gives you. And you can really suddenly play with that. And, so I guess that’s the traits that I would be looking for in a partner.

V: Silky and playful.

P: Silky and playful, yes exactly. Just beautiful.

V: Just beautiful. That is not a lot to ask. But, I guess in the world of synthesizers that’s…

P: The key is there is an off button.

V: Yes, so it is an analgue one, it is not a digital one.

P: Yes, it is analogue. With digital memory. It was the first instrument to have what was called the Z80 processor made by Motorola in the late 70s.

V: Awesome. So you sing in your band and you write lyrics as well for the songs. So how do you write your lyrics and you sing in German. So tell me about the process of coming up with the words and whether you can try to put some message in there and why do you choose German over English? That is a bit of a loaded question.

P: Well, we can maybe take this into different segments here. But you know INHALT means content in German like the contents of a book or the contents in a bottle or something like that. And we believe in our modern society that we are in and how we are all living is that we are putting a lot of emphasis on how everything looks like around us, but not what is in the core. One perfect example is that when you post pictures on Facebook. It all looks glamorous and beautiful and everybody is jealous and you have such a fantastic life, but in reality you are sitting at home and just making it look very nice. And that to me is a message of saying there is no content. So, INHALT is kind of an answer to that.

P: So a lot of our songs have to do with this alienation of being disconnected from what is reality. For example, we have one song called Panopticon. A panopticon is kind of an inverted jail. Where if you look at a traditional jail, you have a jail cell and the inmate is in the cell and the warden goes by. But you are relatively private in there. No one is really watching you. So psychologically you can kind of run away into yourself. The panopticon is the opposite of that where the inmate is put into the center and is constantly being watched, but the difference is the inmate does not know that you are being watched. So psychologically you are in a constant state of fear. And we believe that, and not that just currently, but in the last 50, 60, 70, maybe 80 years we have all been living in a panopticon of not knowing – are we being watched or are we not being watched? So we are all psychologically tense about that. So that is one example. There is a lot of elements in that song that I have kind of put together for that.

There is another tune that we have composed which is coming out in a couple of months. It is called Alles and that means everything. So in that song I kind of talk a lot about how you can have everything, but you can have nothing. What do you really have? What is really you? What makes you? I don’t want to look at you on your social media profiles, I want to talk to you and figure out who you really are as a person. So that is kind of the backstory to a lot of our methodology that goes behind that. But we don’t do that in a shouting sinister anarchist approach. We do it more in a playful way. A gentle reminder of put your smartphone away when you go to a bar and talk to your friend. There is a cute girl sitting over there that you like, walk up to her, say a few things. That is what we are trying to imply a lot with our tunes. To come back to your last part of that question, why in German? I grew up in Switzerland. I grew up in the German part of Switzerland. So German is kind of my native language and that kind of just came up in a whim. Matia and I got together, we made a song and quite remarkably we could make a song instantaneously. Within an hour we had a whole tune ready. I have never experienced that before with a music partner. So I just tended to hum along melodies in my head that I would just kind of whistle and then so eventually he was like Philip you sing. Try it, you know, give it a shot. So, it was really my music partner that brought it out of me.

V: So it was decided on the spot. You never had an aspiration to be a stage performer with a microphone?

P: No, not at all. That was the last thing that was in my head. It was really my partner that said no you should to this. You should go out and sing in German. So I decided to do it in a language that is the easiest for me to do. I mean imagine you are American, you grew up in California and now you live in South America somewhere and your Spanish is okay and now suddenly someone says you sing. You would naturally then say you will sing in English because that is my easiest language that will come to me. I am still learning Spanish. So, standing on stage and singing in broken poor Spanish is somewhat embarrassing.

V: Right. It is like you put yourself in a position of strength when you use what you know best. And, you stand out when you sing in English as a native speaker in let us say Columbia or something like that people will look at you and will not question whether or not your English is good, because it is going to be pure perfection from their perspective at least. You can handle, you can command, your native language, German, masterfully like no one else could in California on stage while playing darkwave. So, you are definitely playing to your strength. But I also think it adds a flavor. I think there is something about the German language. It is not a part of everyday pop music. I think we hear especially in the States we hear a lot more Spanish as a second language. Maybe we’ll occasionally hear a French song, like Edith Piaf or something like that, but there are very few German songs that people could randomly hear at a cafe. Not that your music would be played at a cafe which would be nice. But I think there is a sub-text from recognizing the language. Most people would not know what you are singing about especially here. But there is something about it, I don’t know how to describe it, that makes it all the more serious in the music.

P: I think German is a very edgy sort of language. There is a lot of corners and 90 degree turning points and I think that works really well with this kind of synthesizer minimal, edgy kind of sounds. A lot of it has to do with it is another instrument on to

P: of it to sort of complement this edgy grooves, rhythms, very short baselines and stuff like that. But, yes, correct. It is very unique. Funnily enough, for example, in Germany from my experience it is extremely hard to produce music in German and become recognized and famous in German. There are very few people that have gotten to do that. So in Germany a lot of early bands people would not even think to sing in German. They would naturally gravitate to English or something else that is more appealing to the ear. So, it is daring I would say.

V: I know you have some introverted tendencies as a person. I mean you are outgoing, you are very social when you want to be, but you also value your private time and space. So, when you are put up on stage under spotlight to perform, does it feel like a natural place to be? Did you have to work towards getting used to it? Or, do you separate the acting on stage from your actual character?

P: Yeah, that’s very well put, Vasily. I like to be alone. I like to have my time. I like to sort of tinker around with music. That is usually done privately and not in much contact with other people. But, yes, you are right. For me going on stage is more like I flip a switch in my head. Now I am acting. Now I have a character and this character I have to portray and run with it. And for me it is just pure fun. I have a lot of fun doing this. I remember the first time I did it and maybe I have had some experience. I was touring with a comedy duo in the early part of my life, but I was the front of house engineer. I was doing more technical stuff, but I had a big approach to how to act on stage. So, I learned a lot that way on how to switch yourself. You go now it is performance time. I remember the first time with INHALT and we had a show and we are playing the first gig and we are all nervous. For me, that nervousness never really surfaced, because I was okay – stage – cool, perfect lights. You go into your character and you just hope for the best. But it takes a lot of energy and a lot of preparation beforehand to get to that level. So that involves a lot of meditation, going into yourself, calmness and fitness. A lot of this for me is also a workout. So you have to eat the right foods, drink a lot of water, go for a swim, do some sport or whatever clear your mind and then you are at your fullest and ready to perform and then you just form into this character and you go out and you present it.

V: That makes sense. You have to. You jump at it fairly readily, but it requires preparation and adjustment. I am sure you get better with time, but it is not something you necessarily want to recover from. Do you take a recovery time after a performance? Do you just want to hide away or do you feel energised that you have just had a show?

P: When you play a show like that there is a lot of adrenaline that goes through your body and so I naturally get high on that. That is my natural high. I am very energised; I am very alert. It sort of puts me into a spot after playing a show a couple of days later I have an immense amount of energy. So yes, it certainly does energise me.

V: You also make your own music as a sole producer. What is your take on collaboration versus working on your own? Music styles differ quite drastically when you are in a band versus by yourself. Is that fair to say?

P: Well, I think the biggest fear about making electronic music, or the biggest downside, is that you can have five musicians that are fantastic, but they will never play together. They will always do it themselves, because with the technology, synthesizers, recording interface and all that kind of stuff it is geared and sort of made for you to do it individually, to do it yourself. You can stop whenever you want, you can start it, you can change it, you can move it, you can make the instrument take you into space. But you always do it for yourself. In my early career, I never understood how to make music with other people, because I accepted that that was the norm. That you just make it yourself. You have a studio, a couple of synthesizers, recording machines, but you would never do it with anybody else. And that broke when I met my music partner who kind of taught me and said you take that approach where you are focused on creating the sound you want, putting together the cords that you like, but how about if I am next to you playing a baseline with you. And that sort of blew my mind. That is when I realized, yes, of course that is the key, because music traditionally is always done together. It is always done with various musicians. And the reason being is because each instrument is designed and built for what it does. A trumpet does not sound like a bass guitar and a bass guitar you cannot get it to sound like a flute. So you need somebody who… you play bass, you play drums, you play flute, you play this, you play that. And then you all practise and have your segments that you play.

The difference is the piano in that constellation, because the piano allows you to write every single component of the song. You can write the bass, you can write the melody, you can write the chorus. You have all of the frequencies in the spectrum in one instrument. With synthesizers that is totally different, because there you can have one synthesizer that can basically do everything. It can sound like the trumpet part or it can do the guitar. It can do the bass. It can do the drums. So, you never are forced to find people where you go… I need a drummer, I need to find some drums, I can’t do it with my instrument that I have here. You never really have that sort of approach with electronic music or at least that is what I thought until I met my music partner and I started to realize that you can take this approach of you are very good at this instrument and you are very good at that instrument. Now program the synthesizer to do that. I will program it to do a melody line and we will play together. That just adds a completely different dynamic, but it is very very hard to find that.

V: You will never be alone as long as you have your Prophet 5 as your girlfriend.

P: Yes, that is right. I’ll never be alone. Yes. But again there is an on and off switch. So sometimes I can be just like okay off.

V: ‘Cause it is absolutely necessary once in a while. So, do you have any stories about a positive impact that your music made on people, on fans, listeners?

P: Oh, yes. I mean that is one of the biggest inspirations or resonances that I’ve got. For example, there was one guy. We played a show in LA just recently. It was a great show; we had a great time. We love playing down there, by the way. It is a great environment. I like being there. And, this younger kid (maybe 20, 19, 21, something like that), he comes up to me after this show and he goes, I have found what I want to do in life. And, I thought okay, that’s wonderful, congratulations. And he goes I want to be a German teacher. I have brought my German teacher with me and she was there too. I bought your music in the store and I fell in love with German, the language, and I started to learn it and now I want to go pursue a career in being a German teacher. And for me that was a moment of wow.

V: An unexpected turn.

P: Completely unexpected! I had no idea. Music for me is just something that I like doing. It is a normal. It is what I love to do. Some people love to go for walks, or do art. But to have somebody come back to you and say what you love to do has inspired me to become what I want to do. Which is a beautiful moment, I think.

V: How do you combine your day job and your music career? Would you prefer to change the balance in your music versus day job? And maybe tell us a little bit about what you do for a living.

P: Not at all actually. In music it is such an up and down industry. I highly recommend anybody and aspiring musicians to have a day job, to have another form of income, because it will make your life so much easier if you know bills are paid. You can live properly. Sometimes people in music get kind of stuck in this sort of rhythm of I hate my job and only if I could become rich and famous, I want to make it. Not everybody, but there are a lot of people who could get stuck into that. And so what I did myself, I sort of looked at that and said early on how do I marry that? How do I bridge that together?

I never want to be in a position where I have a day job, and I really don’t like the term day job, because I find that it is a little derogatory. But, how do I translate my passion into what I do for a living outside of music? And so having a degree in audio engineering, I fell into an IT work in my mid-20s through a friend of mine and it was highly beneficial for me, because I started to learn about business and how business works and how corporations operate and how things work. And being fascinated by technology in itself, computers seemed very close, because it is kind of the same thing. It is signal flow that goes back and forth.

So, I sort of fell in love with handling that and saw the similarities with creating electronic music as opposed to managing servers and databases and all that kind of stuff. It is maybe a little bit drier. It is not as creative, but it is a very similar. But through that I fell into audiovisual integration work, designing conferencing systems and managing that and project management and running into that field. And being in San Francisco, there is a high emphasis on tech companies here and where that is needed and that is a skill that is required. And, I was quite honored and I was like this is great. Let’s try it.

So, my day job, in parenthesis, is I’m an audiovisual systems engineer for a tech company and I get to go everywhere in the world to all of our remote sites. I get to work with our IT project management team and deciding and building what conferencing systems are we going to use. On top of that, there is a lot of events that happen with these companies, talks, which is kind of a theatre performance. It is very dry and non-performatory, but on a technical level it is still mics. It is still broadcasting. It is still mixing boards. So, I get to work with that on a daily basis. So, for me I have kind of made my hobby into my job where I love what I do, but when I wake up in the morning I am very inspired and I go through my calendar and I go great. We are going to work on this, designing a new profile for a new processor, or there is an event at 4 o’clock where they need microphones. They need it recorded. Awesome.

Brilliant. Let’s go to this conference. There is a new VC technology that is coming out and those kind of things. And, I can then marry that together. For me personally, I am very very very happy with how I have set that up for myself.

V: So, it doesn’t have any adverse effect on your creative output?

P: No, I would not say that is has an effect. What it does is… for a lot of people that is their career and when they go home they stop. They relax or they go to the gym. And so the only thing that I can kind of add to that is that it fatigues me, because when my day job ends I go to my other job and sometimes finding energy to go back to another eight hours of straight on work at 6 o’clock when you come home where normally everybody is watching Netflix. That sometimes gets draining where I just find myself… lack of sleep… and sometimes fatigued on that level. But again what I have learned by doing this is having a good balance in life, because what you do then is you start to realize what your body and mind is capable of doing and how far you can go with it. For example, if you decide to come home and have a beer every night, not implying getting drunk, but drinking that slows you down and fatigues you. Maybe that is a luxury that I can’t do, because my output is not guaranteed.

V: So, if you could switch career paths and become anything else. What would you go for?

P: I would become a pilot.

V: I know you have interests in aviation. So…

P: Yes.

V: What is it about aviation that fascinates you?

P: Well, as a kid we travelled a lot with my family. We went everywhere around the globe. We went to the United States a lot as kids. The first time I was in an aeroplane, I was three weeks old and ever since then I have always been around airports and traveling everywhere, getting on planes, going here, going there. I think that goes back to my childhood fascination again with technology. With aviation, what I loved about it was I could go anywhere I want with this medium. It is not a car, it is not a train, it is not a boat that has limitations. I can fly anywhere in the globe with this beautifully crafted machine that is beautiful itself as it takes off and flies away. So I think in my passion for music and art and creating and going out and doing things, the aircraft has been my vehicle that has brought me there. So every time I interface with an aircraft I get that sort of sense of relieve and re-energizing and you can do whatever you want. You can achieve it. So, on that level that fascinates me and of course the technology behind it. How does it work? How does it fly? How is it being controlled? What’s its maximum range? Payload? How much can it carry? And, yes.

V: Are there any fun facts that you could share? Is it possible to make one full circle around the world in the Boeing 747?

P: No, they are modifying it. The main concern is fuel. I would probably have to say that you probably could not have enough fuel to stay airborne around the entire globe. But I think there are some people who have done that before using commercial aircraft by having additional payload of fuel on board, but it is transportation so it has to be lucrative. So, you would rather have more paying passengers or cargo on board at a lesser distance that makes more money.

V: I always find it suspicious when I see a direct flight like San Francisco to maybe like Moscow. That seems like half of the planet needs to be covered. But I think it is probably far as they can go.

P: It’s probably. With modern aircraft that has increased tremendously. Fuel consumption has gone down, aerodynamically they have been modified, less drag. Much like a car. You get more mileage; it is more aerodynamic. So, the range certainly has increased tremendously, but on the other hand who wants to be on a plane for 24 hours. You would maybe want to break it halfway.

V: That is true. Good thing to keep in mind is that not everyone enjoys being on a plane as much as you do.

P: Yeah, that’s right.

V: You could go for a couple of days just keep them bringing those drinks and delicious food that they have on the plane.

P: Well, I mean I would have to say it depends on the airline that you would take. But yes, if it is a good airline.

V: What are your top three airlines?

P: My top three airlines? Emirates, Singapore they are definitely up there. Swiss Airlines of course. Swiss Airlines for me, because it’s home. Every time I get on board on a Swiss aircraft I feel like I am already at home. So, it is more of a connection that way. But there certainly other airlines that are much better than Swiss is. But, yeah, I would probably have to say that those are my three top.

V: So what song would be the anthem of your life?

P: What song would be the anthem of my life?

V: If someone made a short documentary, a four-minute long documentary about you with some cuts, some out-takes of your life, highlights. What song would you play in the background?

P: I would have to say it is a song called Ron’s Piece that is performed by Jean-Michel Jarre.

V: Ron’s Piece.

P: Yes.

V: Are you working on anything in terms of personal development? What would you like to improve with your lifestyle?

P: Well, I think a lot of it has to do with balancing myself a little bit more. Maybe I am a little bit harsh with myself, but I don’t have much free time for myself. And in the past couple of years, by doing this, by having day work and music and all that kind of stuff. I kind of want to spend a little bit more time on having free time, doing things. I think that it is something I would like to explore a little bit more.

In terms of personal development, life is always personal development. I am a big fan of the term permanent education. So, something new will fascinate me or something more interesting will come my way and I will want to do it. I think my biggest problem is that I do not have enough time during the day to achieve that. So, maybe I need to get a little bit better on my time management skills where I say enough of that now. Now let’s focus on something else. But it is kind of difficult to do when you do something creative, because sometimes you get into a notion of this great baseline, I like this, this is interesting. And then you can spend hours and hours on end and suddenly you realize it is 2 o’clock in the morning and I need to go to sleep now, because I need to wake up and continue the next day.

V: Yeah, I can say that in my personal experience that getting to the state of delirium, staying up late and being super tired sometimes can get your creative juices flowing in a different way. You may discover something and be inspired and get a second wind on the lack of sleep and that’s when you know that some of more interesting works were born out of this. You are okay with it, you accept that non-conventional approach to your routine. Is that something you have experienced yourself?

P: Absolutely! I think that it is a key ingredient especially when you make electronic music is that you limit yourself. With synthesizers you can tend to let the machine take over you where you can spend hours and hours on noodling around. But it goes nowhere. And one thing that I have learned with my music partner, Matia, and with INHALT is because we have limited amount of time to focus on this, we have to come to a point where we say okay, great, stop. Great sound, good baseline, now let’s continue. Not to say that we rush through things, but we do keep things at a fast pace, especially when write the songs in our studio and record it there. But then we go to a recording studio and mix it to the vocals and there already you are limited in time, because you are paying for the time that you there. So, you know we only have 12 hours to do this. How can we manage this efficiently where we are not wasting time by noodling around? That delay effect sounds really great, so let’s spend three hours figuring out if it should go from left to right, or right to left, or up and down or no. You listen, okay, it’s good, it’s perfect, continue, go on. I have developed that which might be sometimes a little bit negative, especially in electronic music. A lot of people like to let themselves go and spend a couple of hours doing this. But I am not a fan of that. I want to be efficient and fast.

V: I think maybe part of it is innate, because the famous Swiss/German efficiency really helps.

P: Maybe, yes. I am sure that comes to shine.

V: You have got to play to your positive stereotypes. Take advantage of what people perceive you as. I don’t think you are typical Swiss. I have met some other Swiss people in my life. While you may share some traits with them, you don’t strike me as most of other Swiss people that I have met. But it is good to know your strengths.

P: I am going to take that as a compliment, Vasily.

V: It was supposed to be an insult.

P: Exactly, it is all about perception.

V: See again you are playing to your strengths. You are a positive thinker. In closing, I would like to ask you something that is impossible. But, if it were possible… If you could give a phone call to an 18-year-old version of yourself and give him advice or any message you could send from the future. What would you tell him?

P: Do less drugs. I would probably have to say be healthy, be fit, look at your capabilities of what your body and mind can do. Many times, or at least for me, when I was a young kid, rebellious and running around. Maybe this is just natural or normal. I would go to a lot of parties and techno parties and sometimes they would derail and I would do things that I am not really too proud of today which might have slowed me down in many ways, in opportunities. So, I would have to say to my 18- year-old self, if I could, be focused and listen to your body.

V: And listen to good music, but that you would not need to hear, because you were already listening to good music.

P: I should hope so. Yes.

V: Well, thank you so much for spending this time with me.

P: Absolutely.

V: I think this was an awesome inaugural introduction episode. And, your passion for the things you do in life shines through and I hope you would be an inspiration not only to those who would want to make music and live in San Francisco, but also to those who want to teach German.

P: Yes.

V: And, whatever inspiration people may get out of this. The idea behind this series is to show that you don’t need to be inspired only by extremely successful people who are celebrities and to

P: performers. I think we have people who have interesting lives and interesting lifestyles all around us and you are a shining example of that. I appreciate you giving me the time.

P: I thank you very much, Vasily. That is very kind of you to put that together and giving me the opportunity to record this podcast. I hope I could inspire maybe somebody else to run with whatever inspires them. So, thank you very much, Vasily.

V: Till the next time.

Photo credit: Geoffrey Smith

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