In the series “Music Life with Kids”, we explore the question of how professional musicians feel when they have children. In the fifteenth part of the series, musician, author, theater and film composer ANTON SPIELMANN gives us an insight into his everyday working life with a child: He talks about the music scene as a lively and free place, about “rock star moms” in contrast to “rock star dads”, his personal experiences at festivals and events with a child, and about children wearing noise-protection headphones during sound checks at the bar. ANTON SPIELMANN is the singer and guitarist of the band 1000 ROBOTA, composes and worked with Fettes Brot, die Goldenen Zitronen and Soap&Skin, with whom he has a daughter together.
What has changed for you since you became a father?
Anton Spielmann: Having a child reorients your own view of yourself, as well as your fellow human beings; a beautiful experience – at least that’s how I feel about it. An experience that, through love from adults, can lead to a broadened love towards the world, and, all this, continued by the best of all teachers one can have in life: a child!
I became a father, young. I was only 23 years old when our daughter was born. That’s not such a usual thing nowadays. At the same time, my daughter’s mother, just like me, is also on the road, internationally as a musician and working in culture. That was more irritating and challenging, especially in the first year. However, I know of few instances where having a child is not exciting or challenging – no matter how young, no matter how old, for better or worse. Enriching though, to have had such life shifts and experiences already in my twenties. I have been taught some things by my daughter, and for that I am grateful.
Are mothers treated differently from fathers in the music scene?
Anton Spielmann: I can’t answer that exactly because I’m a father and male. I think it’s generally the case that women are treated differently than men, and that’s a fundamental problem in our society and system. There are fortunately more and more prominent female artists in the music scene, who offer new ideas and take their rightful place with determination. According to my observation, it is still probably the case that “being a mother” associates a different image than being a father.
“There are fortunately more and more prominent female artists in the music scene, who offer new ideas and take their rightful place with determination.”
As a “rock star” dad, you’re “dad-cool” pretty quickly when you show up somewhere with your kid. As a “rock star” mom, it’s different and more complex. It has a lot to do with traditional and classical perceptions. But, as I said, I don’t have the right to answer this question for others because it doesn’t affect me personally. What has always been important to me, as a father, is that I have always tried to give my daughter’s mother the space she needs to pursue her artistic activities. She has also always been the more commercially successful of the two of us. It seems only logical that I got to spend a lot of time with our daughter, especially in the early years. Aside from the fact that I really love having time with her.
On tour with (small) children? In concert in the evening and childcare? What networks do musicians use?
Anton Spielmann: We never needed external childcare through nannies or anything like that. We had two fantastic grannies – our mothers – who gave us unconditional support in word and deed, which was especially important during intensive rehearsal phases at the theater, where you often work more than nine to ten hours a day. When we worked on “The Tragedy of Romeo & Juliet” at the Thalia Theater in Hamburg, both musically and as performers, our daughter was still a toddler and needed constant closeness, and my mother was closely at our side during this process. Later, siblings were also involved to help us. We have always had the privileged luck to be able to tour and work artistically under dreamlike and protected conditions, whether at the theater or on our own tours.
Of course, that changes when the children start school. As parents, this takes a lot of pressure off us, but since recordings etc. no longer sell, our daily lives as musicians are primarily based on concerts, which means that we are on the road a lot. In Vienna, you do have the option of signing your child off for lessons at home, i.e. teaching them yourself, but who wants to isolate their child like that? I wish there were more free and alternative school concepts in Vienna that were not limited to a handful of elitist parents and their “special” children, but also included other realities of life and did not follow ideological chains. At the moment, the options in Vienna can be counted on one hand.
What would you like to see from organizers and where do you think something urgently needs to change?
Anton Spielmann: Nothing, I am happy to have had only positive experiences. Possibly a misunderstanding in general: The music scene is a free and lively place that allows and should allow possibilities and circumstances of all kinds, it’s not a place that is saturated with misanthropy or people who think it’s absurd when a kid with cute noise-cancelling headphones sits at the bar during a soundcheck and eats his delicious sausage sandwich. I think that as an insurance employee or in other “classic” professions, you have to reckon with many more contradictions and divisions.
“The music scene is a free and lively place that allows and should allow possibilities and circumstances of all kinds […].”
Most of the festival operators and organizers I’ve met are like children themselves, and that’s a good thing. We don’t need a ball cage like at Ikea, a bitter boss or a rock ‘n’ roll authority. The very idea is a pure contradiction – because our scene is free, changeable, plays and lives, and everyone and everything must be welcome. It won’t work any other way. With this mindset, I have always taken our daughter everywhere and been warmly received. Of course, there comes a time when the child herself doesn’t want to come along anymore, to hang around on the tour bus or backstage, and prefers to go out with friends, but that’s another topic.
Is there a general need for more sensitivity in the scene? What is missing? Are special needs taken into account?
Anton Spielmann: No, it doesn’t need more sensitivity in the scene. it possibly needs more sensitivity outside the scene, in politics, in the church or other regulative places. It should finally be taken seriously that what art & culture creators do is good and important and even “reasonable” for society, even if it sometimes seems irritating or frightening – maybe even more so then. That people need something like music and not only for entertainment purposes. The scene is in a good place. We are the “special need” in and of itself. Put together a package for my sake and we’ll make something good out of it, but please let us do it, and do it in peace – and if that doesn’t work, then we’ll make something for you anyway, even without being asked. Two options I can live with.
“This interview is the first time in nine years that I have talked about my fatherhood and my profession.”
Times have changed, social media serves the personal life as well as the professional environment. How do you deal with that in terms of your dual role as parent and musician?
Anton Spielmann: I have never seen our child as a “marketing tool”. This interview is the first time in nine years that I have talked about my fatherhood and my profession. Our daughter hardly ever appears in professional contexts. What I do is also too subversive, “dada,” or polarizing for that. I don’t want my work, my daughter’s life, or her opportunities to interfere or overlap. It’s important to me to take her freedom seriously and not drag her into my quagmire in the first place. For example, I would never want to involve her in songs, plays or filming, or take her on the red carpet or anything. It feels unnatural. She should develop an awareness for these situations herself, if she wants to. Of course, we also fool around and record things with autotune or other funny sound effects. Not to mention that she’s already a fantastic singer, just like her mother. What she makes of it or how it develops further, she will realize for herself and in the best case, then tackle it on her own. You have to let children be and live – and not only children, of course.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Anton Spielmann: I would like to quote Bettina Wegner from her wonderful song “Kinder” (“Children”):
Such clear eyes which yet see everything
One’s never to bandage, otherwise they can’t understand anything
Such small souls, open and totally free
One’s never to torment, otherwise they break apart
Such a small spine, can hardly be seen
One’s never to bow it, otherwise it breaks
Straight clear people would be a nice aim
People without spine, we’ve already got a lot”
(Translated from the German original.)
Translated from the German original by Arianna Alfreds.