Billions of thoughts captured in music
BY SANDY STRASSER
(Published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue 3 2016)
An old proverb states that the best stories come from life itself. But we are all familiar with the fact that it gives us more than just sunshine – something that singer Axel (Aki) Bosse is also all too aware of. He creates veritable musical treasure troves from his experiences in life. Sometimes cheerful, sometimes melancholy – but always with a virtually unparalleled authenticity. He touches the hearts and souls of an entire country with his songs. His lyrics are profound, honest and reflect a person who is his own worst critic. We had the privilege of meeting this amicable songwriter for a partly rainy but nevertheless fabulous interview.
Aki, how and when did you discover music for yourself?
Making music myself was something I started at a very early age. I guess it’s something I inherited from my mother. She was always a pretty good pianist. Unfortunately, we did not have a piano at home for many years due to a lack of space. At some point, we were left one and from that time I started to play. I must have been around three. I had regular lessons with a very strict teacher, I vividly remember that. And she really was strict. I lost interest after about a year and started playing the drums. My older brother frequently took me along to concerts which didn’t really feature the kind of music that was the norm in our village. It was amazing.
How do you set off writing new compositions?
There is no such thing as “one” approach here. I am, however, always happy when I have finished writing and recording an album. Then I don’t do anything at all for a longer period of time. Actually. And although our current album “Engtanz” has only been out for a couple of months now, I feel that I am in the mood to write again. I’m simply addicted to lyrics. For this, I always first set up my workplace just the way I want it to be. It is part of my new studio, located in an old farmhouse. The space feels almost like a gallery. Then I kind of unpack my stuff – usually collected on my mobile phone – and start reading. I’m constantly collecting, regardless of where I happen to be. These can be articles that I’m interested in or special words or even mixtures of words. But I can also be inspired by events and encounters. I believe that a song most definitely needs a reason to be written, and with me that’s always through lyrics. Only when I want precisely that at precisely that moment I can start writing.
What instruments are elementary for you?
I normally work just with my piano and guitar. Although I also have trumpets, a bass and drums, my job is however to first write the lyrics, for which I don’t need the other instruments. I actually always do it in the same way: I sit down in front of a sheet of white paper, with my piano and guitar next to me, and get started. But I need a reason. I can’t just sit down and say to myself: “you’re going to write something today” – that’s not how it works. I always have to know why I’m doing it.
What’s the best place for that? What do you need to be able to really write freely?
Actually, all I need is motivation and peace and quietness. I need the latter above all to be able to finish things off. When I know that things are about to get serious and everything I say – or rather sing – will live forever, then I need absolute silence. And I find that in Umbria. Friends of mine have a small house there. There is no mobile phone signal or anything else that might distract me there, just peace, lyrics and music. Sometimes I find this situation really good, but it doesn’t always have to be like that. In contrast, I can continue developing an idea anywhere.
Your songs reflect an honest and authentic spirit. Are the lyrics all influenced by your experiences in life?
That is definitely the case with the current album. There is nothing that is completely unrelated to me. Anyway, I think that writing songs always includes a lot about how you personally feel. At the same time, I also like taking a step back; in other words, not saying everything or simply exaggerating things from time to time. So you can’t always just compare my songs to my life one-to-one. It’s not that simple. However, the more interesting, the more hidden, the more beautiful or the more sad things are, the more reasons I find to write about them.
Where do you draw the line when it comes to being transparent about your experiences in life? How much of yourself do you want to reveal to your audience through your music?
I only really know that when I reach that threshold. When, for example, I write a song like “Ahoi Ade”, that is a truly honest reflection of my feelings. But music can also work differently. If, for instance, I listen to a song by somebody else whose lyrics really blow me away, then I always see myself or somebody who affects me in some way. I believe that everybody hears music in a different way and that we all perceive it differently.
What characterises the typical Bosse style?
I can’t really answer that properly. Although I know that I have my own language, I find it difficult to explain where it comes from or how it was created. I think it just emerged over the years. I have never really focussed on a certain style, but rather on doing it the way I like it. But it is a long and, in part, strenuous journey to this point.
It seems that you are your own worst critic.
Absolutely. But sometimes my own reflection on things is almost over-the-top. For this reason, I have some very clever friends around me who are able to tell me honestly whether something is good or not. An album is quite often akin to a doctoral thesis. You work and work on it, so immersed in it that you lose your orientation sometimes, because you are unable to take a step back – but I always seem to find my way back at some point. Being uncertain about yourself from time to time is part of the process.
How important is poetry for each and every one of us?
I think it’s absolutely important. Often, it can also be quite distanced from life. Poetry always has a lot to do with circumscribing things to acquire a sense of what it means. And that is hugely interesting. Nevertheless, it would sometimes probably be better to simply get straight to the point and say what you want to say. Personally, I like good, honest things.
What influence can your music have on the soul?
Music is a fantastic support, particularly with regards to emotions and feelings. If, for instance, you are feeling particularly good and you listen to something great, then you will feel even better. But music can also be healing because it carries you along in a very specific way. For some people, music can in turn be like a good friend or a guide. I think it can be anything and everything.
What do you want to convey to people with your craft, your art?
When I start working, I am doing it just for myself. If I simultaneously thought about whether others would also like the result, I would probably go crazy. It would be like wearing a straitjacket. Despite this, I hope that what I do is food for thought and that my music stands for hope, love and freedom. These have always been the reasons why I love listening to music and creating it myself.
What are your musical dreams? Are there certain people you would really like to work with?
I love Katie White from The Ting Tings. She’s definitely somebody I’d like to collaborate with. Or Coco Sumner, Sting’s daughter.
How proud are you of your success?
When I look at what we have achieved with the band and initially with our own small record company over the past twelve years, then we all have to be really grateful. It all happened bit by bit. However, the thing that I’m most proud of is that the whole gang has stayed together and that we are still totally up for doing what we do.
Picture credits © Universal