That Natural Feel: Dominik Eulberg Interviewed
Dominik Eulberg uses nature as his muse. A walk through the forest is a rich landscape of sounds and inspirations - turning animal chatter and chirrups into rich, dance floor ready rhythms.
A former forest ranger, the German producer released his first disc in 2003, infusing the project with ecological expertise and live recordings from the biological world around him. It’s a celebration of nature, plunging the listener into harmonic bliss with blurred synth patterns and textured techno beats.
His fifth studio album 'Mannigfaltig' is a desperate plea to preserve our ecosystems, and the tangible threat posed it to it led by human destruction.
The album journeys through 12 immersive pieces of music, each track named after a native animal species. Each creature is brought to life through soaring electronics and droplets of watery synths, traversing through dewy forest lands and green alkaline lakes.
Taking his stirring sounds on the road, Clash chatted to the graceful composer to find out more about the project.
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You describe nature as “the greatest artist of all”. Why is it so important for you to incorporate nature into your electronic music?
I studied ecology and nature conservancy and worked as a National Park Ranger after my studies. Being in nature was the greatest thing for me as a child. I grew up without a TV so nature was my entertainment system. I understood very early on that nature is the easiest, healthiest and most cost-effective way to happiness. I only need some binoculars to widen the horizon and I’m happy.
At the same time I quickly realised that it is our indispensable livelihood, our mother who nourishes us. Raising awareness, sharpening the senses to the essentials is so important: it is the beginning of a causal chain, because we only protect what we appreciate.
Some of your previous works have featured direct recordings from wildlife, encapsulating the natural sounds of the ecosystem. What made you decide to leave this motif behind for 'Mannigfaltig'?
At the beginning of my musical career, I tried to mingle my two great passions, nature and music. I recorded animal sounds in nature and weaved them into my music. Also, at that time I simply did not have enough money for new synthesisers. Some animal sounds could be of electronic genesis, such as the nightjar, for example. But at some point I got bored of this.
Today I only use field recordings for production-related reasons in order to have a third sonic dimension. This helps to give my music an extra dimension. So I keep recording sounds in nature or in my studio, and from there I either build soundscapes or use them as drums.
On 'Mannigfaltig' you can hear exhalation under water, shots at a military training area, rain on a metal roof, books being smashed or pushing buttons. This kind of work is giving me more joy, more motivation.
The album’s artwork recalls the intricate beauty of nature - why did you choose this design for your project?
Developing the concepts is always the first thing I do on an album. I already have the concept for my next album ready in my drawer; I know how the cover will look and what the track titles will be. It's not that hard for me to develop these concepts because I enjoy the process.
Making music is nothing more than the selection of an infinite number of options. So I can play this note with this synthesiser, then this with this synthesiser etc. You can get lost very quickly. But when I have a clear concept, I already have a common thread on which I can work along, showing me where to go.
On 'Mannigfaltig' I made tracks inspired by the phenotypes and habitus of twelve animals. These twelve protagonists were drawn by the marvellous painter Christopher Schmidt, compiled by its number and arranged on the front cover of the album.
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The album tracks focus on creatures that many people may view as insignificant. What made you focus on these 12 species in particular in relation to the very real threat of extinction posed by humans?
With twelve colourful pieces of music, I wanted to create a positive plea for the breathtaking beauty of our biological diversity. But I also want to raise awareness of its importance to us as humans. An intact ecosystem is a kind of life insurance for us and future generations, because every species is an important gear in a system whose services we make use of daily.
I came up with the idea for the album’s concept during a hiking tour in my home region, Westerwald, a few years ago. On a flower meadow I spotted a yellow-luminous butterfly which has a figure-eight shaped pattern on its outer wings. Therefore his name is literally translated as “golden-eight”. Then I saw a very special songbird in a blackthorn bush. It stores food for difficult times by spearing its prey on spines. It’s thought he would kill nine before eating one, and therefore it’s called “nine-slayer” in German.
I then heard the calls of a dormouse in a forest, a rodent that owes its German name to the long hibernation. Its verbatim translated name is “seven-sleeper” and this is where I spotted the causal chain went further and found a species for every number from one to twelve.
This is why the album title is 'Mannigfaltig' (which means ‘manifold’ in German). I named each track number from one to twelve, after those “numeric“ animals in my mother tongue.
Each track feels like a beautiful homage to its namesake, detailing every tiny movement of the creature as well as the broader environment it lives in. How did you manipulate sounds and textures to capture an image of each animal in your music?
The more mindfully you walk through nature, the more you will experience its wondrous beauty, even on the smallest scale. I have the approach to experience nature in a contemplative way, just enjoying it and allowing the impressions to sink in without any intention to change something. After a while I am in a meditative, transcendent state of mind, where I can feel the essence of being. These deep, primal feelings give me an impulse and guideline to create my music like a painter, adding to it layer by layer.
What made you decide to take an extended creative break between 'Mannigfaltig' and 'Diorama'?
Time simply flew by. I played many, many gigs during this period and was also involved in a lot of other nature projects as a biologist. I’m an advisor for nature conservation organisations, a nature conservation officer in my home country, co-created nature documentaries for television, developed new bird feeding systems and insect hotels, launched a bird card game and worked as a bat ambassador.
It was around two and a half years ago when I realised how long ago my last album was. The production then took so long because I was always looking for innovative momentum during the album’s creation-phase and didn’t care about contemporary trends. I just made the music that I was feeling at the time.
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You have a live show coming up in February at London’s Electric Brixton - how will the visuals capture the beauty of each creature?
For 'Mannigfaltig' I’ve produced a variety of “raising awareness music videos" with a few friends, which have been created to show the beauty of native nature. With the renowned nature filmmaker Jan Haft I want to show the breathtaking diversity of the native flora and fauna.
Even on photographic levels that we can no longer grasp with our eyes we are still able to find beauty. With a scanning electron microscope and up to 20,000 x magnification, I have cooperated with Eye of Science to show a fascinating world that we as humans often miss. This material will be cut live by my VJ Julius to allow the audience to dive into a real wonder world of nature.
A review of your previous album 'Diorama' detailed that your “music has never featured a narrative, just details”. How true do you find this statement?
This statement sounds pretty one-dimensional to me. Receiving music is always very subjective. I never design my pieces classically according to different parts, verses or refrains. I let myself be carried away by my feelings and the material itself.
My tracks are like a walk through nature, you never know what to expect after the next bend. Maybe a meadow with lots of butterflies, maybe a forest with lots of songbirds or a pond with ducks. This imprint is reflected in my tracks, they do not follow an anthropogenic convention but an organic narrative.
With the album explicitly focusing on threats to biodiversity, what do you hope people will take away from listening through to the LP?
I hope that as many people as possible will try to understand the meta-level of the album, not discard it because the track titles are "weird". I hope we can begin to appreciate nature a little more and fall in love with it again. I hope that we understand that everything which takes action against nature will always affect us in the end.
I only know this one earth on which we can exist and I hope that we finally give our nature friends the space and the respect back they deserve.
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'Mannigfaltig' is out now.
Words: Bryony Holdsworth
Photo Credit: Natalia Luzenko
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