Stranger Than Fiction:
An Interview with (and about) Fred und Luna
Fred and Luna are two mannequins, making music. Behind Fred, Luna and their friends Vizudaru Nono and Ariston Baton is Rainer Buchmüller, a highly versatile German artist sometimes also known as Sugar Ray Buckmiller. Profet's Chief Ideologue Filip Lindström speaks to Rainer in order to understand the various parts he plays, and of course to comprehend the way they change every single night.
Fred and Luna
I’m sitting alone in a dark room, in a dockyard half an hour outside of Stockholm. The power is out, and the sun has set, so when I call Rainer Buchmüller I realise there is no point in turning on my computer’s camera. He won’t see me anyway.
Rainer himself is standing in his window, to simplify the use of a public wi-fi, since he doesn’t have a connection of his own in his Karlsruhe residence. To create a similar environment to mine, the dark, he puts his blind down – thus blocking the sunlight from the open window. He is wearing a white powdered wig and a red shirt resembling the one Kraftwerk wore on the cover of »The Man-Machine«. The music Rainier makes under the moniker(s) Fred und Luna, a project which frankly needs a bit of explaining, is highly inspired by the Düsseldorf innovators, as well as Kraut pioneers like Can.
Fred und Luna is an intricate outfit, officially consisting of two mannequins living in a clothing store in Karlsruhe, a German city located between Stuttgart and the French border. On stage, Fred is portrayed by Sugar Ray Buckmiller – Rainer’s alter ego – and Luna is re-enacted by a new companion every night. This means that Luna can be anyone, and she can also play any instrument, ultimately resulting in a continuous change of the music in a live setting. To complicate things for you even more, dear reader, Rainer also channels two other personalities on stage, forming a confusingly entertaining musical group. At times he becomes poet Ariston Baton and visual artist Vizudaru Nono, the former contributing with lyrical content and the latter with projections in the form of photos and videos. Wrapping your head around the concept of Fred und Luna takes its time, which is also why it is so intriguing. Also, the soothing quality of the music doesn’t make it worse.
I adore artist playing characters, making me question what is real and what is not. I am crazy about the likes of Andy Kaufman, who made his whole life a spectacle where even his death was viewed as a stunt. Of course, everyone is acting in the public eye, since there is no way to fully let someone else into the inner most thoughts, but I fancy creators who are imaginative enough to construct new personas for their art to be channelled through. I would very much like to believe that I have built a character for myself, a Profet persona that I can slide into whenever I allow my fingers to materialize words onto digital paper. I can hide behind it, find strength in it, and give it features that the person I really am could never carry. The persona pulsates power, in a way that an authentic person could never do.
Authenticity is so anticipated, so boring and so shallow. I want fiction, a good story to believe in, like the fairy tales of old. Rainer effectively fictionalizes himself by not only embracing a role, Fred, but even letting his own alias, Sugar Ray Buckmiller, do it for him. As a viewer and listener I am forced to question where Rainer as a person ends and where his different characters begin, and of course at what point they give room for the next one to take over.
»Would you say Fred is the character who represents you the most, or do they all have different aspects of your own personality?« I ask Rainer.
»No, Fred is always represented by my personality Sugar Ray Buckmiller« he says cryptically. »Most of the time, the Luna is changing.«
»And how do the different Lunas affect the other characters? How do they react? Does that change from night to night?« I wonder.
»That changes from night to night, yes. It depends on the person. I’ll give you an example: I was playing with a young guitarist, who was really willing to show his skills.«
»A lot of guitar solos?« I giggle, knowing very well how likely a youthful stringbender is to shred extensively.
»Yes, a lot of guitar solos« Rainer laughs. »He was playing all of the time, so the music was very guitar oriented. That only happened once though, most musicians know how to keep themselves back or come into the foreground.«
The cover of Fred und Luna's upcoming album »Im Tiefenrausch«
When Rainer says »I was playing«, I stop myself to think for a second. Does he mean himself, or Sugar Ray Buckmiller? I know Sugar Ray is a fraction of himself, re-enacting a fraction of Fred, but is Sugar Ray a part of the »I« or is the »I« only Rainer playing Sugar Ray, playing Fred? Can an actor completely taken over by a role be a new self?
Since I don’t feel my previous question was really answered, I rephrase it and ask again:
»I was thinking of how the changing Lunas affect your other characters, like Ariston Baton and Vizudaru Nono. How do they change, depending on the Luna?«
»Well, Ariston Baton is kind of a Luna himself« Rainer says, further dimming my understanding of the matter. »In concerts, in between songs Ariston Baton – respectively myself – reads poems. He is kind of also a guest. Sometimes I change my wig to a hat, but not necessarily, sometimes I just stand up and introduce myself as Ariston Baton and read a few poems. The more I get into the dancy stuff, the less Ariston is talking.«
There are apparently alternating poles in Rainer’s music, one which he likes to call the »listening« part of his set, and the other the »dance« part. This alteration is shown not only through Ariston Baton’s changing presence, but also in Rainer’s upcoming releases. In the beginning of February, a full-length album is due – entitled »Im Tiefenrausch« – and later in the spring an EP is coming. At first all the material was meant to be one collected release, but Rainer later decided to separate certain moods and put them on individual records. The soon-to-come LP presents the more Ariston Baton-friendly side of Fred und Luna, whilst the EP gives way for the danceable aspect which Rainer would like to experiment further with in the future.
Twenty years ago, Rainer owned a record store in Karlsruhe, the place where grew up, then left for Berlin and later came back to. Focusing on minimal dance music, jazzy downtempo Drum n’ Bass and House, the store made an imprint on where he is today.
»Was there anything like that in Karlsruhe before you opened your store?« I ask Rainer.
»There were one or two shops that sold dance music, but they were mostly into Euro Techno« he says. »I tried to be more into Drum n’ Bass and Dub, to be a bit different from the regular Techno. That wasn’t my personal taste.«
»How would you say that owning a record store has affected your musicianship?«
»All the music I have listened to through my life up to now has influenced me and the music I’m doing. When I was selling Drum n’ Bass records, of course the music I was doing was under that influence. I also started DJing around 1980 and all the music I played then influenced what I did on my own. When I was into Electronic Body music in the 80’s, I did Electronic Body Music, and when I was interested in Acid House, I did Acid House.«
»What kind of music did you play when you started DJing in ’80?«
»In the beginning it was more of a rock style, hard rock heavy metal stuff, but I changed very quickly. I started going into funky stuff for a while, and then very intensively into the New Wave pop like Depeche Mode and Soft Cell. That led me into darker things like Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus. The style I played constantly changed. I founded Fred und Luna in honour of the electronic music I liked when I was a teenager, like Kraftwerk, but also Kraut, like Can and Harmonia.«
Fred und Luna's »Glück Auf« cover
Fred und Luna thus is not entirely like Rainer’s previous projects, where he took in everything that happened around him at the time and made it his own. With Fred, Luna, Ariston, Sugar Ray and Vizudaru, he looks back at where he started, and celebrates the old heroes whom he still holds dear.
»I am still influenced by this music« he says. »After 40 years I can still listen to a Can album and it’s still fresh.«
According to Rainer himself, the two new releases are breathing new air into Fred und Luna. The earlier releases, »Glück Auf« and »Im Klanggarten«, were more Kraftwerk oriented, where as »Im Tiefenrausch« and the succeeding EP welcomes the project into never before seen venues. Fred und Luna will enter the club circuit, all directed by the enigmatic personalities that inhibit Rainer Buchmüller. What might happen through this environmental experimentation is just as exciting as it was studying Andy Kaufman’s every thought out, quasi-fictional step.
Fred und Luna's new LP »Im Tiefenrausch« is due on February 1, released through Compost RecordsJanuary 23 2019