10 Questions with Verena von Horsten


1. How would you characterize your music?

V: Rock with a lot of old synthesizer sounds and heavy drum beats. For several years I played the piano until I was fed up with its sounds. A friend of mine gave me an old synthesizer, a Juno 109, and voila there was a whole album… Along with heavy drum beats the songs contain a lot emotions and sometimes they can be dark too.

2. What is one early music experience that made a deep impression on you//made you rethink what music can sound like//has helped shape the music you make today?

V: Live records of Leonard Cohen and Bob Marley on tapes. Listening to these live songs -as I was a child- was mind blowing to me. The sound was so full of life and freedom. I pictured a wide horizon that made me feel I could fly. And classical music by Russian composers: Most of these compositions are wild, honest, deep,dark and free.

But I guess the most important fact that shaped my music was the way I was raised up: both of my parents are very much messed up. I had to follow their madness every second without saying a word. As a child I could not raise my voice against them. This led to a bunch a really sick problems that I only was able to express or somehow able to deal with doing music. There I found my voice and to say things out loud and at the same time the courage to show my vulnerability.

3. What is usually your process when creating//writing a new song?

V: For 3 years I was working on my upcoming record! Not only that I recorded and produced myself but most importantly every time I was trying to write a song I began to cry. Every single note I played made me remember my brother who died 2 years ago of suicide. I do not say he commit suicide. I say he died of suicide, like to die of cancer.. It’s still hard to write songs. I considered myself as a daily writer. I was writing songs, playing the piano and I sang just because I loved it. My heart was always open so I could let things come out of me. But when my brother died and even a year before he died, when he had his first attempt, tears, sorrow and helplessness always overcame me. I could not feel these sentiments every day! So I stopped doing music. Sometimes for several months.. At the beginning I thought I will will be able to do any music again. But one day I went to a medium. She told me a lot about my brother. And that he wishes I would do more music. I guess I would feel the same way if I was dead. I would not want people to stop their life just because I am dead. I would wish they had a happy and fulfilling life… After many dark moments and grief things are getting slowly better and I am able to release this record…and yes it will be about grief, crisis, death but as well how we can find the way out of the darkness and learn that these dark moments are there to teach us something.

4. Where can we find your music//what have you done to make your music available?

V: Uff, too many places: Youtube, Itunes, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Spotify, Facebook, Homepage blablabla.. I feel like I want to do a lot more concerts. That’s where the music really happens and comes alive. My last concerts where in New York which were a blast! They gave me much and I felt that my music could give people a lot too.

5. What is a recent musician//band//music that you are excited about?

V: Prince Rama. They are signed to Animal Collectives Label,.They’re from Brooklyn. And: they are really crazy. I like crazy people. People who are kinda on the edge of something I call “out of order”. Our world becomes more and more organized and controlled and we follow unsaid rules. i.e. do we have a respected profession, do we wear the latest fashion, shoes, do we have a cool bike, nail polish, money, the latest iphone, a car, do we eat healthy food, work out, be skinny, maybe have a house…I mean we all do those things. Even I do. I buy clothes that I like to express my personality – if I can afford them. I work out, I dance and jump around in my apartment. But those things should not affect your self confidence or even worse, DEFINE you. Your self confidence should not be defined by those things! And you shouldn’t feel less worth if you can’t live your life this or that way .. Many of us, me too, we feel good only if we have certain things in our life that are unconsciously considered as “good”. i.e. as a musician I only feel good if I write a spectacular song, or if I can do a show at this or that venue. Or if I sell enough records. Or if I get good press reviews.Or if I get signed to an awesome label.. We feel good if we achieved something, if we can afford to buy things or get the success people are proud or jealous of…. But doing so we are only obeying. We don’t choose freely what kind of things in life makes us happy. No. We let people, society tell us what makes us happy in life. Or lets put it that way: We THINK this is how everybody does it so it must be right. We don’t even know what other people really think. But we act as if we know. Because we are told, educated and raised that way. But do this kind of system really makes us happy?

I think we somehow feel that these kind of things are not truly the ones that makes us happy. Therefore we try harder and harder in achieving and getting more and more. And it still doesn’t make us happy. Some people get burnout or are suffering from depression or the really worst case, they die of suicide. It’s a vicious circle. It’s as Albert Einstein said: Madness is if you repeat doing things the same way by expecting a new result. I do think we all are very mad nowadays. Which actually is a good sign. Nothing is normal. But we want things to be normal. We can’t stand the madness. People with a approach to mad things, people who dare to be mad might understand and have the courage and the faith to do the things they really love. If we do so, if we do things we really love ,then we might have a chance to experience a moment of wholeness. A moment where you don’t need nothing more but yourself. A moment in which you feel whole. I wish that many more people had that chance. that we as a society would give every human being the chance to feel such moments in their life. And to share them with other people. As an artist you let the art speek through yourself. Music can make you forget things around you. And can make you experiencing what life could be all about.

6. How would you describe the music climate in your home when you were a child?

V: Very diverse. My mother is Turkish. I only spent 10 years with her. Then my parents get divorced. Until then I was listening to the Beatles, Elvis Presley but as well, Turkish folk music, Greek folk Music and Reggae. After the divorce of my parents me and my brother stayed with our father and he married a Colombian woman. I then experienced a lot of other music like Mercedes Sosa, Pablo Neruda, Maria Callas, Pink Floyd.. As you can see i came in touch with a bunch of different music. It all helped me to understand that music is freedom. And that I can do whatever I want in music. Even more, I think it’s the most important thing if you are an artist maybe even as a human being: Do what comes from within. Experience that unique thing that is yourself and train it, do the best out of it and people will understand that your art is not to impress others or to follow a given image but to show how we can liberate ourselves.

7. Is style//image important to you and if so what//who do you consider cool in music?

V: Style can help people to understand your image. And your image should express your personality. If style is simply used to be stylish in the sense of being fashionable, I don’t like it. Then it’s boring to me. But if I see that your style is reflecting your personality then it’s interesting to me.

8. What song do you want playing at your funeral?

V: Never thought of that. My brother wanted Amazing Graze to be sang at his funeral. I sang it for him and to him. But before that I did some research on the internet. I wanted to understand why he choosed that song. Because he surely looked it up! I learned that the song was written by John Newton, a captain involved in atlantic slave trade. His ship was hit by a violent storm one day, so he begged for mercy. The ship and the crew as well the slaves survived the storm and Newton thought that god have given him a second chance. He then gave up trade with slavery and became part of the fight against slavery.

..I assume that my brother felt very guilty for a lot of things and might have thought that death could bring him freedom and redemption. I don’t agree with my brother regarding his feelings that he needed to be forgiven but I agree with the message of the song, that every person can be forgiven regardless of what he or she did when that person is ready to take the responsibility for his action. By the way I don’t think suicide need to be forgiven at all or is a selfish action. And now I quote somebody from Facebook: “I often wonder how many suicides could be avoided if we as a society decided to treat mental health with the same serious nature that we address our physical health. Somewhere along the way we became uncomfortable talking about it. We decided that people who commit suicide are selfish — that they didn’t love those closest to them because SURELY they wouldn’t want to put them through that heartache. I can’t believe that for a second. These are beautiful people that bring a lot of joy to those in their life.”

I don’t think death is the end at all. I believe in a sort of afterlife and that we all are still alive after being dead. I sometime even speak to my brother – mad I know! But I got a slight impression he likes to talk to me too. And he compares those conversation with as if you would call somebody on the phone. You don’t see each other, you can’t touch the other person but you know the person is there cause you are talking to her, right?

9. Why music and why do you make it?

V: First it was the only place where I felt totally free. It was the place I experienced freedom and the only place where I truly felt like me. But now life becomes freer and freer to me. And music becomes the place where I can put these experiences I have in my life in and share them with people.

10. If I should listen to one unknown musician//song today who//what should I check out?

V: Unfortunately the song of the woman I wanted to share with you is not available because she does not want to share it..yet. So I suggest you to follow this blog about humans of New York on Facebook. Reading the posts AND the comments help me learn a lot about people and their life:

Humans of New York

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Songs from Verena von Horsten’s upcoming album