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Goldstoned - Interview

  by Chris Jones

published: 20 / 7 / 2004

Goldstoned - Interview


Berlin-based musician Patrick Goldstein's solo project meld 60's pop, Northern Soul, Motown, dance, Spy music, and a touch of jazz . Witha regular base now at the Firestation label, he chats to Chris Jones about his long musical career

Spend a few hours listening to commercial radio in the US and you may reach the conclusion that there are only 43 bands to listen to.  Spend a few months searching the internet though and you may feel that there are more bands than there are people in the world and that listening to them all is an impossible task.  The latter could be closer to the truth which is actually good news to those of us who are willing, even compelled, to attempt this task.  Friends, college radio, concerts, zines, record labels, the internet, whatever the means, "discovering" a "new" band is always a thrill and serves to add fuel to the fire.  A recent "discovery" for me came about after realising that a number of the records I had reviewed were on the Firestation Records label.  This led to me scouring their website and listening to all of the audio samples they had there. One listen to the song 'Wherever' by Goldstoned and feelings of joy and excitement swept over me.  Then I listened to the sample of 'Dream Machine' and it was clear that I had to track down every Goldstoned releaseI could. 'Our Man in Soulburbia' and'"I Was a Teenage Popaddict' arrived shortly and I have been spinning them blissfully on my turntables for months now.  The album by Goldstoned side project Caroline Now came next and as soon as I can find a copy of the Goldstoned album "Home Run" i'll be snatching that up too. Not being content to merely have these great records, I wanted to find out just who was responsible for making these records that managed to meld 60's pop, Northern Soul, Motown, dance, Spy music, and a touch of jazz in such an incredible way.  I was a bit surprised when I found that there was a single person behind all of this great music coming through my speakers.  That person is one Patrick Goldstein and a short email to Firestation Records later, this interview was set up.  Whether you already know a bit about Goldstoned or are reading about Goldstoned for the first time, I hope this adds some fuel to your own fire. PB : I know you live in Berlin now. Did you grow up there? PG : Yeah, I grew up in West-Berlin. Until the wall came down in 1989 that was a (semi)city, that had this strange aura, the fading glamour of its cultural high time between the wars. Morbid almost. Bowie loved it and recorded some of my favourite albums here. Especially 'Low' is very Berlin.  In comparison to other cities of Germany the music here was harder, darker, the perfect breeding ground for a Goth scene and teutonic/artistic stuff like Einsturzende Neubauten. Not exactly the place to look for a blooming Mod-scene. If there's a "musically correct" to the nineties "politically correct" I always felt musically incorrect to rave about Antonio Carlos Jobim, Felt or Brian Wilson's 'Pet Sounds' - and my Nick-Cave-adoring friends surely made me feel exactly that. After the wall fell in 1989 Berlin became a whole different city. Absolutely positive, a place to discover, parties in ex-East-German-Government-Buildings, in a former bank, all-night-cafes in the former grocer next door. As since then the city attracted lots of young people and lately the major labels and MTV I never had reason to leave town. PB : Did you learn to speak English just from school or have you lived in another country before? PG : I could hardly talk German when my father started teaching me English, and later French which didn't work that well because I was not as fascinated by that country as I was with the UK. PB : Have you travelled to a lot of different countries? PG : I had/have many friends on the North American continent plus an aunt near San Mateo, California, which really thrilled me when I was there as a teenager, because I think John and Yoko lived there some time. I've been over rather often, took the Chevy from New York to Los Angeles with two friends, lived in N.Y.'s Soho for a month to write a book when I held the very strong opinion that my future was being the next Graham Greene/Raymond Chandler. I have been there many times again although not in this millenium. Then, on this continent you travel a lot in Europe, distances to the other countries are comparatively short. I also worked in London, saw Brian Wilson do 'Pet Sounds' there, Sean O'Hagan having tears in his eyes two rows in front of me, the guy from the Manics beside me. Kraftwerk in Paris, Roxy in Munich. So, yes, I'm the jet setting indie popper.   PB : I know you work as a writer.  Do you write for a newspaper or magazine or something else ? PG : I write for a daily newspaper, about parties, film premieres, music and talk to the Clooneys, Pitts and Soderberghs when they are in town.  PB : Your music seems to capture many styles and they are all melded together quite seamlessly. I imagine you have quite a record collection.  Is it in fact a record collection or mainly CDs? PG : I think I was the last person in Berlin the industry couldn't interest in buying a CD-player. I was quite happy with my vinyl albums which I have loads of - especially because a friend of mine worked in a second hand shop and let me get those albums nobody wanted (then) cheaply: Carpenters, Dusty, Steely, Philly stuff, loads of Modern Jazz and Bebop. So the record companies decided - just to lure me into CD-buying - to re-release early Beach Boys albums with unreleased stuff, I think the first 'Pet Sounds' CD, with the incredibly beautiful bonus track 'Trombone Dixie' got me into purchasing a player and CDs. The greedy bastards. If they hadn't gone digital they wouldn't be in so much trouble today.  PB : So is your record collection indeed quite diverse? PG : I'd say so. I grew up in a good climate. People hate the Eighties now, but - to vary a saying about the Sixties - if you hate the Eighties you weren't there. I mean, forget the clothes, but that was a decade where new music styles came up or were revived in new bands. I loved the synth-stuff by the Human League and Heaven 17;  the new Ska movement with Madness and the Specials would interest you in early Ska. From there you went to Reggae and Dub. XTC were pronounced the new Beatles so you checked out if those four guys from Liverpool made any decent music, Prince showed you what had happened in the past 50 years of black music, so suddenly you had a connection to Duke Ellington, Stevie and Sly Stone. And the reverberation of the first Stone Roses album at the end of the decade is still being felt today: Guitar met dance - a vital combination until today, take any N.E.R.D.-record. This short polemic also tells you a bit about my record collection by the way.      PB : I read that Paul Weller had a big influence on getting you to start writing music.  Which era of Paul Weller do you like the most ? The Jam ? The Style Council ? His solo career ? PG : I just love what the man does. That Jam catalogue - man, the guy was merely a kid then. Then the playful way of the Council, melodies, irony, getting me into the whole Sixties aesthetic with the Blue Note art work, Mod, drawing me into Motown, Bossa Nova, proper Jazz, hardly any bad lyrics there. The first solo album is a collection of some of his best work. The folllowing albums are still head and shoulder above any other songwriter at that time including McCartney and Costello, though some of the songs only make sense once your hear them live. But he's in Berlin at least once a year. Especially his Style Council albums have always inspired me to dare to put various music styles on my albums. On the latest one 'I was a Teenage Pop Addict' you hear Sixties, some spy movie sounds, some House, some Philip Glass-related stuff. I always liked the Beatles' 'Revolver' for that mix of styles. PB : Do or did you listen to lots of other UK bands as well when you were growing up? What do you like listening to now? PG : I've mentioned some earlier. I hear a lot of my old faves in today's music, the Velvets and Iggy in the Strokes, Steely Dan and 10cc in Phoenix, I feel very related to the guys from Fountains of Wayne who also know and use their knowledge of music history. But all time favourites - although that may not often show in my own albums are: The Beatles (well, that may show in my albums a bit), Brian Wilson, Bowie, Roxy Music, Kraftwerk, Bacharach, Costello, Motown.    PB : What inspires you to make music and what influences the type of music you make ? (Other music, movies, friends, art, fashion, everything)? PG : The music always comes first. I write whenever there's time. When something on TV gets boring I take the guitar and strum some chords, a melody might come up and if it's fine I put it down on my dictaphone. So I have all these raw recordings with TV or my kids in the background and I know that there are these dozens of songs waiting to be recorded properly, awaiting proper lyrics - you need so much time to record, especially with the technical stuff I record with you can always better something on the tracks you record. So the music is pretty much inspired by... music. I think I built up this data bank in the back of my mind where I've been downloading details from listening to music, things about harmonics, instrumentation and production. It's only months later that I notice where certain ideas in the songs came from. Inspiration from the scources you mention are in the lyrics. 'Lovebomb' from 'Our Man in Soulburbia' is an homage to 'The man from U.N.C.L.E.', and 'Mission Impossible', the spy shows of the sixties - do I mention spy stuff and the Sixties a lot in this interview? - anyway, and 'Weekend' from 'Pop Addict' is inspired by this talk among friends about how hip you already were when you were still a kid. The new album which is only half finished has been written and recorded before and after my kids were born so that will be an even more personal album - the one you just name after the band, like the 'White Album' or 'McCartney'. Recommendations welcome.    PB: I read that you've been in bands before but that things never turned out quite how you wanted them to. Do you feel you know right away how you want a song to sound or do you need to give them time to develop? PG : I'd still say that the influence of the other players, even when you use hired hands, changes the song. Of course! On the new album I use a singer for a duet, and while I thought her voice would give the song a black feeling I found out that the piece went into an Easy Listening, Jimmy Webb West Coast-direction so I enhanced that and now it's a bit 'Up, Up and Away" 'Fifth Dimension'ish - with just one extra musician to work with you can improvise really well and not lose control over your song. With more people that becomes really hard and takes lots of time trying things out. I always know how the song should sound and since the previous album I am always positively surprised about how the pieces turn out because now I have all the old instruments available, from my Rickenbacker bass and guitars to the Rhodes-sound, Mellotron, Brass, Strings. It's a blessing and a curse, because as I said: you're tempted to record more and more layers. PB : Your music has such a nice vibe that I think it would make for a great live show. Has that been the case when you've managed to put on a Goldstoned show? PG : My label had a Label fest last winter where Edwin Collins played, and Bob Stanley from Saint Etienne was DJing, and I was asked to do something too. So I got a bass player and a drummer and we did a dozen of my songs as a trio which I loved: These big productions translated by just three guys. I enjoyed it a lot. Just recording you forget how great the appreciation of a live audience is. PB : In most of your songs there are lots of instruments used. Which do you play yourself? When you write songs do you usually start with guitar or piano or do you come up with all the arrangements or do you get input from the people who play the different parts for you?  PG : Guitar was my first instrument, then piano and keys in general, which today enables you to record a whole album by yourself.  Also you don't need a proper studio anymore. You just record at home, on a 16 track machine in my case plus a sequencer program. Today my favourite instrument is bass. You can't fake bass. You either groove or you don't, you either support the main melody or you don't. The biggest effort on my records is made for the right bass-line. That's why the bass is very loud in my mixes. PB --- There's a nice variation in sounds on your songs yet the albums flow very well. Do you make a conscious effort to create an "album"? PG : Yes, I want the listener to enjoy those 65 or more minutes like a trip, get them started nicely, then slow down the tempo, then something fast again, many variations, then in the album pieces that connect to something that was heard earlier on the record. I always liked long albums. PB : I love the little movie/tv snippets you have between the songs.  Are you a big movie/tv fan? How did you get all of those snippets? IPG : 'm into movies a lot, especially those from the Sixties and the disillusioned ones from the Seventies. The snippets I get from a friend who records a lot from the longwave radio or something. I originally started that with my first two solo-albums which were recorded to a 4-track-tape-recorder. There was a lot of hissing on the songs and I thought, I can use the snippets so there would be no silence between the songs and no-one would be conscious of the hissing. Clever, huh? Today I wouldn't need them and I wonder if I'll use them for the next album. But then, they glue together the album and they are a nice way to counterpoint the song's lyrics. PB :'Our Man in Soulburbia' has a great soul vibe with a distinct 60's pop feel. '...Popaddict' has more of a smooth, jazzy feel to it. Do you favour one sound over the other or are both equally Goldstoned? PG : Well, thanks. I like both of them for their songs and for what they are: With 'Soulburbia' I was enjoying very much to get close to the music I listened  to then. That was mainly Sixties stuff. I had this nice new beat box, really got into bass playing and put loads of instruments via multitracking on those 4 tracks. It felt very exciting. Also looking back I seem to have been in a very carefree state of mind. 'Popaddict'" is the first Goldstoned-album that was digitally recorded. That meant more tracks, better sound. I hired a trumpet player which may have contributed to the jazzy feeling you mention. Also my playing got better, so I dared to do something like 'Dreammachine' with it's Bossa/John Barry feeling or the House-y 'First Time'. I think 'Soulburbia' was hinting at the two directions where I could have gone then: either towards the Sixties-stuff, or an own style, where you couldn't pin down a number as being influenced by this or that artist. I sometimes flatter myself that I chose the latter way. PB: How did the side project Caroline Now come about? Did you work on writing these songs with Knud-Philipp Roettger in the studio or did each of you bring nearly finished ideas with you ? Will there be more Caroline Now records? PG : We had been real good friends for six years when we recorded the Caroline album in 1997. He had been watching me make music and so he was inspired to pick up piano again, which he had learnt ages before. We had played at parties before but now we sat down and wrote proper songs very spontaneously with him on piano and me on guitar, not trying to do clever things but what came natural, which paid off when we performed the tunes later with a drummer and a bass player. We did rather precise demos for each song and had a great time in the studio. It was the first time Knud was recording and his enthusiasm was inspiring. We did 'Wrong Way Home' in the control room, slowing down the track 'One More Day' and wrote new lyrics over lunch. 'Roses' was an old one of mine. In 1999 we started recording under the name 'Roettger/Goldstein' to make a clear cut from Caroline, as we wanted to use German lyrics. We recorded in 2 weeks at Knud's parent's house, in Northern Germany by the sea. Very intense, very Rock'n'Roll lifestyle. But Knud now had very clear ideas what he wanted and what not, especially anything sounding like Goldstoned. Ironically the record 'Eine kleine Stadtmusik' ('Some Little City-music') sounds like a live version of my music with KPR's brilliant piano and frequent lead vox with his rather troubled, dark lyrics on the tunes he sings. Good record, nice mairplay on the radio but not worth the problems we had.  I'd love to do another Caroline album but we haven't spoken for more than a year and I don't know where he is. PB :You've had records released on a few different labels in the past. Do you think that Firestation will be your home for awhile? Do you know if your records sell better in certain countries or not? (I haven't seen them in any shops near me, but fortunately the internet has some good on-line shops). How often do you see Uwe and the label people? PG : My first label boss who released my first band-album 'Goldstein Circus-Playin' Songs' became a victim to mind expanding substances, I was told. Then I released 'Home Run' and 'Our Man in Soulburbia', the first two Goldstoned albums on my Pat Sounds Label, which worked really well because record shops in the 90's weren't as corporate as they are now. Then I came home from a holiday and Uwe from Berlin label Firestation Records was on the answering machine, offering to do a single. They arranged to have that EP, 'Ready, Steady, Goldstoned' (with '"Babybabybaby' and 'Godchild'") licensed to Quince records in Japan. Quince then released a 'Best of...' plus outtakes of my previous stuff ('Ready,Steady, Goldstoned' again), Vinyl Japan re-released 'Soulburbia'" and 'Caroline Now! - Puzzle', Quince did another EP 'Tonight Let's All get Goldstoned'  and last year they released ''I was a Teenage Popaddict' which Firestation released on vinyl. So on Sundays Uwe, me and the other guys from Firestation meet to have races in our Rolls Royces which I always find rather enchanting. Actually, all those labels sell the records via the net, Firestation in German shops too, and Quince over in the Far East in shops and online. When I check the net a lot of Asian, Spanish, French and US-onliners seem to sell the records. I'm on samplers in Hong Kong,the former Yugoslavia, the Philippines. I get receipts from those places' radio stations plus the US and playlists of Mod All nighters in Japan. So, you see: the usual recording career.  PB : I read that you liked the Berlin based electro-pop band Quarks. Have you checked out other German electro-pop groups like Komeit, Lali Puna, the Notwist, Ms John Soda and Donna Regina ? Do you go to many concerts in Berlin? PG : Man, you're well informed! I'm happy for bands like Notwist who get raving reviews in the NME. Currently I am enjoing y the new album by Superpunk from Hamburg who sound like the Redskins used to: 1000 Miles per Hour Northern Soul. I go to concerts a lot because of the job. The day after tomorrow the Goldsteins travel 700 kilometres to the city of Bonn to see Brian Wilson perform 'Smile'". PB : Some artists seek mainstream popularity, fame, and fortune while others shun those things. Where would you like to see Goldstoned take you? PG : Your hardest question to answer, yet. Well, I am still trying try to write my best song. And I like that my music reaches people. Talking to you achieves just that. Firestation Records offered to get a tour through Spain. But in that time I could finish the present album. Basically I think, I have achieved - without really trying - much more than I thought I could. So...can we leave the answer to that question open?

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