A Tale of Two Cities

An Interview with Eric Maltz

Our environment can directly influence our creativity, and in Chief Ideologue Filip Lindström's case, the obsession with certain places creates nothing but envy. Here he interviews American producer Eric Maltz about moving from New York to Berlin and finding somewhere to belong on new release »Pathway«.

My fascination with Berlin is ever growing from afar. Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean my obsession with the idea of New York City is going anywhere. Eric Maltz is the perfect person for me to talk to about these obsessive thoughts, as he was raised in and around The Big Apple and now lives in the European capital of electronic music.
        - In New York you feel like you’re at the cutting edge of what is happening as far as music and art are concerned, Eric says. You’re constantly surrounded by great musicians and great artists, so there is a lot of inspiration. That’s what I love about both cities, and that’s why I’m really happy to be here in Berlin.
        I don’t know if my feelings for Berlin and New York (that are spurred even more by Eric’s comparison of the two) come from envy. Maybe longing is a better word than envy. I long to be in a place like the ones Eric is talking about, and I have felt the power of both cities when I’ve visited. New York might very well have affected me a bit more, because it’s farther away from Stockholm physically and culturally than Berlin, and thus struck me as more exotic. And, of course it was foreign and exhilarating for me to visit New York. I mean, I was fifteen or sixteen and got to see the street corner where Dee Dee Ramone used to turn tricks. Which Swedish teenager wouldn’t see that as the high light of a family vacation to the States?

»I’ve found a place where I belong«

- Eric Maltz

Longing for another place can be a form of envy, and envy can turn bitter faster than vegan milk left outside of the fridge. The cure for bitterness is finding what you’re longing for and enabling that for yourself wherever you are in the world. What I can do, when I sit in Stockholm and dream of New York or Berlin, is to retrace my steps within myself and tack down what I felt on the corner of 53rd and 3rd, standing on the street. That feeling is something that happened within me, not just because I was in New York. If it was something that came from me, I must be able to take it back.
        One advantage that Eric lists for Berlin, and maybe Europe as a whole, is the cost of living. Berlin attracts creatives in masses because they don’t have to stress about money like they have to do in say, for example, New York.
        - The price is right, says Eric, continuing: I feel like New York City is still surfing on the wave of being an artist city in the 80´s and 90´s where you could afford to live in Manhattan, whereas now it’s just insane.

Eric Maltz

My extreme obsession with Berlin and its energy forces me to interview more and more artists from there. One thing that I always feel I have to ask, especially if someone has moved to Berlin like Eric, is whether the city in any way has changed their work.
        - Absolutely, he says. I don’t think I can say that the city itself has changed my music but going out and hearing what people are doing has had a huge influence on me. I think that goes back to the cutting-edge thing I was talking about, where you can go out and hear something that you know is new, that you know is pointing towards the future.
        Eric’s new record »Pathway« is a groovy techno effort with an effortlessness that caught my ear instantly. The title track feels almost improvised, thrown together with the many influences from New York and Berlin, two points where the edge is cut. Eric works fast, taking in the impressions he experiences and then quickly rendering the emotions into new tracks. These are also released swiftly, so what we hear is close to the artist’s feeling at this point in time, as opposed to when we hear an album that was written two years ago, produced one year ago and released today. He puts his new records out on a label of his own, Flower Myth, to which he hopes to sign more acts in the future.

Dee Dee Ramone

Although his long running interest in electronic music, Eric Maltz himself hasn’t been making such sounds for his entire career in music. For a long time, he dabbled in the fine art of rock’n’roll – playing in a band in New York and writing songs in more traditional formats. My guess is that the groove in his techno tracks comes from the understanding of writing other kinds of music. The piano has been his instrument of choice, and some say knowledge of the piano grants you advantage in all musical fields. Alongside his rock’n’roll enterprises in the Tri-State area, Eric always listened to hip hop, jungle and drum and bass, and outside of his band he produced his own house music. Finally, it was Levon Vincent who encouraged him, and even ultimately released Eric’s latest EP »NS-17« on his label Novel Sound. Step by step, Eric Maltz has transitioned, from one city to another and from one genre to another.
        - So, you feel like you’ve found somewhere you belong in this sound? I ask Eric, an infantile question I must say myself, since I can’t see the possibility of a non-affirmative answer to it.
        - It’s so funny that you say that, says Eric without taking notice to the childish tone in my inquiry, and explains what’s funny (not the Joe Pesci kind of funny) about what I said: That’s what I’ve been saying to people since I moved to Berlin, that I’ve found a place where I belong, not even a specific sound or style of music. I feel like I’m in a city and in a scene where people are wanting to hear what it is I want to say. I feel like I can take part in a conversation that is actually happening, that I can contribute to, get feedback from and be inspired by.
        - You never felt like you got that from the rock’n’roll stuff? I wonder, once again posing a tremendously dmub question, I mean, »rock’n’roll stuff«, who says something like that and calls themselves a pop journalist? I do apparently, and what I can learn from that is that I need to shape up and choose my words better the next time I speak to a New York rock’n’roller turned Berlin techno talent. Excuse the short self-evaluation, dear readers, but it is necessary for my future improvement and thus your future entertainment. Let’s retrace our steps and dive back into the question:
        - You never felt like you got that from the rock’n’roll stuff?
        - We played some big shows where we had huge crowds and got feedback, says Eric. I felt really good about it, but working in a group dynamic there is always a sense of compromise. One of the cool things about being in a studio and working on electronic music is that you´re kind of the entire band. [Being in a band] was extremely rewarding and I absolutely loved it, but I still wanted to do new things. I feel like I’ve found a voice and a style that’s really working.

In the end, I can talk as much as I want about being centered and recreating feelings within myself, but Eric’s stories of New York and Berlin makes me want to go back to the street corner where Dee Dee sold his body to pay for new sneakers or bass strings, just to feel the energy of musical history that only exists in certain places.

9 Mars 2018