The Outlaw Ocean Music Project: Tobias Rieser (Klangkarussell) Interview

A couple of weeks ago I chatted to Tobias Rieser, one half of Austrian Electronic duo Klangkarussell. The duo have just released a wonderful single to support Ian Urbina’s Outlaw Ocean Music Project. I’ve really been enjoying covering this mammoth project and listening to all the songs created. Fusing music making and journalism together – this project is one of a kind. Myself and Tobias chatted for well over an hour about the project and life in general. It was a brilliant conversation. As this is an Ocean Project interview, it has to be whittled down to a compact and bitesize written form. He is a great guy and it’s been a pleasure meeting him, albeit over Zoom.

Find out more about the project here. (introduction, explanations and previous interviews)


Why did yourself and Adrian decide to get involved with The Outlaw Ocean Music Project?

I think the topic and what it’s all about is quite interesting. Nobody really knows about what’s happening out in the oceans – Ian’s reporting is very important and through this project he can collect a bit of money to keep documenting and reporting. Supporting this type of journalism is why we got involved really. 

He gives people a voice who perhaps didn’t have a voice before – which obviously is the job of any good journalist I suppose. There is no law at all in the ocean, people can do whatever they want. It’s quite interesting on one side but also a brutal place too. 

Indeed, people think of the ocean as a vast empty space but Ian’s work depicts otherwise.

Yeah, now people are starting to think about the ocean – people are talking about fishing rights and that. Also, global warming is becoming something we are all hearing about now – the sweet water melting away from the glaciers is causing the natural water circulation to stop. When this new water type combines with the salt water, it has a terrible effect on the ocean. We are moving into dangerous territory. I don’t know what the news is telling everyone, but I read a lot and it’s serious. The problem is rooted in the big companies and governments. What can we do?

How do you and Adrian work, I presume you got sent lots of files from Ian – what was the process like in your composition of ‘Swan Song’?

Adrian lives in Berlin and I live is Salzburg. Usually we meet up to produce songs but on this particular track I started with some chord progressions and sent them over to Adrian who continued. I had a friend come over from Vienna, he is a composer and does film scores, Johannes Zinkler – and he helped with it. We would send it back and forth, with Adrian later adding some sounds from Ian’s archive in the intro. That’s how it went.

Has your music making always been at distance or have you and Adrian made the bulk of your stuff together in studios?

We were working with a management company in London and the music we have been releasing in the last two or three years was all old music we didn’t release under our major label deal. They wanted to sell music but all we wanted to do was make music, and did – keeping all the stuff we created to release after the deal expired. We often worked together in Strongroom Studios London and we also had a mixing room in Berlin. It’s 50/50 between recording in a room together and not. 

Of course, in the beginning, we would do the whole process together – meet up at each others places but as soon as we got the management and Adrian moved to Berlin, we had a different workflow. 

What was the lifestyle like after Sonnentanz hit the charts?

It was a little bit too busy sometimes. We travelled three/four times per week. In the beginning it was easy and fun but after seven years you don’t feel the same love for travelling four times a week. There are people who do it and I don’t know how they do it. I cannot do it, I’m thirty-two now and I got to know my body better. Yeah, in the beginning – everything is exciting, it’s still exciting but now we aren’t doing every gig that comes our way. Our success wasn’t very expected as I only started making electronic music two years before our breakthrough. (Although I played instruments before then) Adrian had more production experience than me when we began. I had to learn how to be a DJ pretty quickly.

How did you both meet? 

We were both born in Salzburg and went to school together. When school ended we drifted apart – Adrian moved to Vienna but we eventually decided to get together and make music. 

Were there any strange gigs you played – what’s it like playing gigs actually?

We always played very good shows. Iceland Airways was one of our favourites. There was one gig in Pukkelpop Festival actually where we were playing to fifteen/twenty thousand people and something went wrong with the equipment and it went silent. Everyone stared up at us – ‘huh?’ – we managed to fill the void quite well and when we figured it out and pressed the button again, all was forgotten. That was an experience and there’s not many jobs in the world where you would have forty thousand eyes staring at you when something goes wrong.

It’s a good stress to play gigs for lots of people. We must deliver for the audience and that’s a good stress. At the beginning of a gig there’s always a few minutes of nerves, like fifteen minutes or so and then it goes away as you settle into the set and new surroundings. I never got rid of the nerves. 

Getting back on stage after the pandemic was nerve-wracking. Up there after eighteen months out of it, oh my. A gig in Amsterdam after Corona was one of the toughest gigs I’ve done. Fifteen minutes in, I was fine again.

What’s planned for the next few months?

We are keeping a little bit quiet in the coming months musically. We have a big show coming up in Vienna – I don’t think we will play a lot this year. Next year for sure. We are thinking about changing our live set – perhaps reducing our band a little. We have our own label now too so we are working hard on that. 

How many people are signed to your own label?

We’ve been running for two years now and we have five or six artists signed up. We have GIVVEN (Adrian’s side project), SIN – a DJ duo. I check music all the time on Beatport but I don’t think there’s anyone better than them at the moment. One of them is working on a solo project too.  Paul Deleon is also with us– he is indie/rock, old school.

It’s a varied roster because myself and Adrian listen to different styles of music, not just electronic. We don’t worry about changing styles and genres. Since we got out of our record deal, we are enjoying the freedom to express and release the music we want. 

Have you ever wanted to perform a live set that was different to your usual one? Did you ever want to change it up a bit during a concert?

Yeah, sometimes I play some different style tracks – for example, I’d mix in a remix track from Maceo Plex or something because it appeals to me. If I was playing for myself I would play The Beatles and Pink Floyd. Big electronic music crowds wouldn’t quite get into that at one of our gigs though. I like a lot of Disco aswell. Adrian is very into Jazz music. I am playing at a wedding for a close friend soon and am looking forward to playing wedding songs for her.

What is/are your favourite song/s you’ve created with Adrian so far?

Maybe, Time. Circuits and My World. Those three are my favourite – Ghostkeeper too.


– About ‘The Sound Sniffer’ –

The Sound Sniffer is a music blog that’s still only a baby – Founded in early 2019 by Kevin Coakley, a music writer and ghostwriter. ‘The Sound Sniffer’ also runs gigs and showcases in London since Oct 2019. The showcases are picked from artists found in the blog’s submission inbox.

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