Eight albums into their career Austrian downtempo dons Richard Dorfmeister and Rupert Huber of Tosca felt a desire to embrace their past in order to move forward. Their new album, Going Going Going, is a gallant return to the dub sound they’ve embraced from the beginning but had cast aside on later albums. In the process, they’ve put the kibosh on the vocal collaborations that were prevalent on 2014’s Outta Here and are in a new groove. As Richard Dorfmeister tells us, “Somehow we found out that we are more into instrumental-based music at the moment.”
Revisiting dub and making their musical world a little smaller has resulted in one of 2017’s most enjoyable downtempo albums. We chatted with the duo via email and got down to brass tacks about how they got here from there and what a career-defining Tosca box set might look like.
You’ve known each other for a long time. How does your friendship inform how you make music these days?
Richard Dorfmeister: Having known each other for such a long time — we were school friends in fact — is definitely something special. We’ve had a lot of mutual experiences over the years, and because we both developed our musical tastes at around the same time there’s a lot that we share. It’s good to have a partner in the studio who gets your kind of silly jokes, even if nobody else would understand them. It’s just good to not take things too seriously.
Rupert Huber: We have been playing, creating music and making jokes together since we were kids so there is definitely a dimension of (musical) trust between us and that also includes our view on life in general. This dimension of trust helps a lot in the studio production process, for example we do not have to be afraid of presenting ideas to each other that might be stupid.
The new album is a deeper exploration into dub and downtempo, two styles you’re both intimate with. What led you back to your roots?
Richard Dorfmeister: The dub element is perhaps the one thing that glues the album together, but if you scan all the little musical elements which make up a Tosca track you will discover all different kinds of influences – jazz, blues, funk — but also music from all the different corners of this world. Combine that with our own homemade vision and freethinking attitude and that translates itself into the typical Tosca music language.
In contrast to Outta Here there are no vocal collaborations. Is that by design or did that happen naturally? Or are singers too much to deal with?!
Richard Dorfmeister: Somehow we found out that we are more into instrumental-based music at the moment. We both think that it’s much more interesting to treat vocals as if they were an instrument, something to generate extra dimensions rather than just the usual backing track with a vocal over the top. I am sure that a lot of people are open to that kind of approach as well, and I am not just talking about ambient music. What we do is to walk on the thin ice of making instrumental music and at the same time trying to create something with depth. If you are not listening closely it might be just background music, but if you give the tracks more time you could just discover deeper levels to it.
Rupert Huber: Working with [singers] Rob [Gallagher] and Cath [Coffey] on Outta Here was actually a very pleasant experience. For the new album, Going Going Going, we wanted to create tracks that don’t just follow a traditional song structure though. Tracks that might start with a certain mood and then go somewhere completely different. Words, as in songs, would have been probably too “real” to work with this stream of consciousness approach.
Going Going Going is an album I want to listen to a 2pm and 2am. Do you ever make such considerations when you’re writing music?
Richard Dorfmeister: Sometimes I might think an album is more autumn/winter orientated and doesn’t quite work in the summer time but if a record album has a certain quality I think it doesn’t matter when, where or what season it was written, it just works as a functional unit. And with this album I feel like I can say we managed get to this point, but then I also feel like we are still at the beginning, it can be done much better and we are still learning. If you know the great classic jazz albums of the ’70s then you have to admit to yourself that there are always certain levels that will be very hard to achieve!
Rupert Huber: Tosca music is for everyone, everywhere, and at anytime. That has been always an important issue for us.
“Hausner” sounds like the quintessential Tosca track. It’s deep, majestic and has an emotional quality. The twist is the reggae-style groove that comes from leftfield — it’s a nice surprise. What’s the backstory of this track?
Richard Dorfmeister: As with most of the album tracks “Hausner” is based on a jam between us two. Generally we start with a simple draft and then with added levels of recording and editing sessions it might lead to something good. It’s very hard to put that production process into words though. It’s often a lucky coincidence when the right mood and the right elements come together in place.
“China Bar” is also chock full of fresh ideas. Can you reveal where the sample is from?
Rupert Huber: The title “China Bar” refers to a bar we were hanging out in once while we were waiting for a journalist who, as it turned out, got beaten up on the way …. Bit of a weird situation that was. The vocal sample is a recording of Wilhelm Reich, sitting alone in his cellar completely isolated after all his psychology colleagues had abandoned him.
Richard, I saw that you will be playing with Peter on March 15. What’s the significance of this gig? When was the last time you played together? What is the official status of K&D?
Richard Dorfmeister: The last gig together was in 2012 but as we (K+D) are receiving an award from the city of Vienna on that day we decided to organize a session together in the city. I posted the event on our Facebook page and the reactions were amazing; we got tons of positive responses and it was fantastic to see how the K+D imprint is still active. The tickets for the party were sold out in one hour – the whole thing is going to be mad!
Are there Tosca tour dates on the horizon?
March 25 – Bratislava
April 21 – Budapest
June 30 – Vienna
July 1 – Sopron
July 2 – Porto (tbc)
Please check our website for updates.
Are there any new artists whose music stands out in your mind?
Richard Dorfmeister: At the beginning of the year I was playing at a festival in Uruguay, and I had the pleasure to meet a DJ producer called Acid Pauli. I like his way of generating a danceable sound without being commercial. I love the stuff that comes from the Crew Love label (Soul Clap and all those guys) – that’s very ambitious club music that you can actually listen to out of that environment as well.
Say you had an unlimited budget, what would the ultimate Tosca box set look like?
Tosca: The complete Tosca catalogue including CDs, vinyl, a book filled with photographs, musical scores, handwritten letters with exclusive personal drawings and all sorts of other unreleased material.
And the obvious closing question: What would I have to do to get a copy?
Tosca: Come to Vienna and you will get one!
Images by Markus Roessle