Although Volker Bertelmann is one of the most recognizable 21st Century proponents of what is known as prepared piano, one whose sound is altered by the insertion of alien objects between or upon its strings, hammers and dampers – he was barely aware of the champions of such a practice when he first began his experiments. Even John Cage was a largely unfamiliar name that fateful day when he sat in the studio of his friend Adam Fuest and, frustrated by the sounds he was making, starting placing random objects into the instrument.
What’s stranger still, one might think, is the fact that Bertelmann’s first forays into the public world were with major label hip hop act God’s Favourite Dog and a drum and bass quintet called Nonex. But, when you listen to his music closely, this perhaps makes more sense than you’d initially think: the sound of HAUSCHKA has always been both instinctive and fuelled by a love of rhythm. Bertelmann, you see, is clearly a man who knows his instrument – quite literally – inside out, and he’s as unafraid of approaching it with a fresh sensibility as he is capable of drawing upon an unusually broad church of influences.
Volker Bertelmann first began to study the piano when he was nine after an epiphany while attending a Chopin performance in his hometown near Düsseldorf, Germany. Despite seven years of classical training at school, and then a further two years with a private tutor, his interests were never as pure as the tutelage he received. Soon he was employing his new musical skills to play along with his favourite records on keyboards and synthesizers – he had a particular fondness for Jeff Wayne’s War Of The Worlds – and, later, to perform with covers bands. After coming of age, he redirected his attention towards a medicine and economic education, but soon turned his back on this to study Popular Music in Hamburg.
Almost two decades after he began his professional career rapping, Volker Bertelmann aka HAUSCHKA finds himself in the unusual position of being regularly compared to the likes of Eric Satie, John Cage and Steve Reich. (In 2011 he was invited by London’s prestigious Barbican to perform as part of Reverbations, a festival celebrating the work and influence of the latter composer.) Always unpredictable, HAUSCHKA continues to offer only one certainty: that the next step he takes will no doubt be as unexpected as the direction from which he has come.