:Interview: Claus Larsen of Am Tierpark
Interview with Claus Larsen
Conducted via email November 2015
Questions by Jaymie Burzette
Claus is going back to his synthpop dreams with the formation of Am Tierpark, showing us a softer side of the electro-industrial pioneer we know as Leæther Strip. Be sure to check out our review of Am Tierpark’s Uncaged here and if you like what you hear, head over to Distortion Productions and buy it!
Jaymie: Can you tell us a bit about this project?
Claus: Am Tierpark is a two-piece synthpop band. Members are John R. Mirland as the synth/music guy and me, Claus Larsen, as the lyric/vocal guy. This band is all about the love of a good melody, synths, and lyrics that will move the listener. We try to stay away from overproduced songs and too many layers, and let the melody rule with a clear vocal and lyrics that really mean something to us. We both share the love of the spontaneous ’80s style of songwriting and move in the worlds of the many synthpop legends from the ’80s most of us still love and adore, but we both think we’ve already found our own type of sound. Very melancholic at times, but still with some rays of hope and cheerful melodies.
Jaymie: Have you and John Mirland worked on a project before?
Claus: I have known John for a few years and I did some mastering for his Mirland and Holm/Mirland projects, but never worked with him as intensely as we do now. We both really found a musical soulmate here with Am Tierpark and a fantastic friend. This is not “just” a project on the side, this is a real band. So we hope there is a demand and support for this type of music so we can get to release it, too.
Jaymie: One of our reviewers who spoke with you recently said this project was very personal to you. Could you explain how so?
Claus: Yes, it really is. Back in ’82 when I started to write songs, these were the type of songs I would compose. So Am Tierpark is really getting back to my roots and all the dreams I had back then of a career in this business. And with Am Tierpark, my lyrics and voice stand out for people to really take notice because here I can’t hide behind vocal effects and tons of music layers, here it’s direct and in your face. John’s music is really opening up old doors I locked and blocked many years ago. I’m really getting some very personal issues out in the open here. And it’s very therapeutic for me and for John, too. We are both so very proud of Am Tierpark.
Jaymie: How long have you been wanting to work on a synthpop project?
Claus: Back when I was about 14 I bought my first synth and a few weeks later I wrote my first song titled “Dreaming.” So I started out with dreams of being a synthpop artist. I made a few demo tapes and I also got a lot of interest from some German and UK labels, but it always ended up with the labels wanting to change what I was doing, and I’ve always demanded 100% artistic freedom, so it never worked out. Maybe that was also one of the reasons that my music slowly grew more and more aggressive ending up in me starting Leæther Strip. So the synthpop dreams have always been there for both John and I for many years.
Jaymie: What are some of the goals that you set out to achieve with this album?
Claus: It might sound bold but our main goal or plan with this album, and hopefully many more, is to get the focus back on the craft of good songwriting. These days focus is more on production and how it works for the DJs, and not on a lyric that people can relate to and a melody that will get stuck in your head for days on end. There is a reason why so many ’80s songs are still earworms today. The focus was on the songwriting and a way more spontaneous approach to the craft. Not many pop songs released today will make you cry or laugh. And for us a song has to make the listener “feel” and not just go in one ear and out the other. We stick to some drums, 2-3 synth sounds, and a vocal where I actually sing about what goes on in my life and the people around me.
Jaymie: If you could live anywhere in the universe, where would it be and why?
Claus: Right where I am. As long as I’ve got Kurt with me, my studio, my friends and pets, I couldn’t be happier. Yeah the world can be crappy and filled with evil, but that all goes away when you’re in good company and try to live out your dreams. Getting older has been a real blessing for me. The dark clouds don’t come as often as they used to and when they do I’m so much better at ignoring them. 2015 has been my most productive year when it comes to writing songs and John’s fantastic music has been a huge part of that and working with him is like pouring gasoline on a fire.
Jaymie: What’s your idea of the ultimate tour?
Claus: Right now my agent in North America is in the process of setting up a Leæther Strip USA tour for next spring. It will be out 3rd US tour and we can’t wait. A dream tour for me would be to bring Am Tierpark on a world tour together with Leæther Strip. Or maybe open with Am Tierpark for a big synthpop act like Erasure or Pet Shop Boys. We are going to rehearse a full Am Tierpark set so that we will be ready, if and when the offers come. The feedback we’ve had from the Uncaged album has been fantastic, so I have no doubt that we will play live hopefully next year, if we’re wanted.
Jaymie: I love going to the San Diego Zoo; which zoo is your favorite?
Claus: I actually worked as a zoo keeper for six months back in the ’90s. Such an amazing job. I think the favorite zoo I’ve been to was in Brisbane, Australia, the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary it was called, when we toured there two years ago. I even got to hold a baby koala named Layla. Such a great place to visit, and they do so much rescue work there, too. The zoo in Berlin where we formed Am Tierpark is also really nice. It was the former DDR zoo and it’s in this very old park and has a lot of animals you wouldn’t normally see in European zoos.
Jaymie: If you could be anyone throughout history (including mythological characters) who would you be?
Claus: I’ve always been interested in the Vikings, so maybe one of the great Danish Vikings like Harold Bluetooth who ruled the Danes back in those days. That couldn’t have been the most boring life he had. If it had to be a more current person, I think I would pick either Daniel Miller or Marc Almond. There must have been some amazing days there in London back in the late ’70s-early ’80s.
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