MATTHIAS LÖSCHER wrote and recorded his solo album, “SONGS OF LIFE” in 2015. While much has occurred since then, a number of constants have remained, as well. From the roots of personal, emotional experiences and values, to ongoing violence, discrimination and injustice against particular demographical groups in society at a global scale, the core issues at the center of this album are as true as ever. The first single, “UNSEEN” was released May 25th, 2021, in conscious alignment with the 1-year anniversary of George Floyd‘s murder in 2020. The Austrian-guitarist/songwriter-turned-New-Yorker, MATTHIAS LÖSCHER spoke with Arianna Fleur to explain both the beauty and struggle he continues to witness and experience in his life and surroundings, and how this has all culminated in a deeply personal, yet highly relatable body of musical work. “Unseen” is the first release of the album on the independent, Brooklyn-based label, 4×6 Records, coming out in full on June 12th, 2021.
You recorded this album approximately 6 years ago. Why the wait to release it?
Matthias Löscher: Because life happened and got in the way! (laughs) Less than a month after the recording session, our daughter Artemis was born. My production team and I finished everything (mixing, mastering, video editing) in 2016. At the same time I was still working and touring a lot with my band THE RUFF PACK. And then of course, there is always plenty of other freelancing work to do in and around New York.
In the fall of 2016, I was picked up by Ms. Lauryn Hill. Since then I have been on tour with her pretty much non-stop. When we are not on the road we are in the studio in New Jersey recording and rehearsing. So in between the family life and touring and a number of other personal matters I won’t even get into here, it was practically impossible to work on this release. In the meantime, my biz partner & co-leader of THE RUFF PACK, Stephan Kondert and I founded 4×6 Records in 2019, an independent Brooklyn-based record label. I remember working hard on the label in the wee hours of the morning, in backstage areas, after shows, on tour busses and planes all over the world. There was just no time to get “Songs of Life” ready. And then the pandemic hit. First, Steph and I put out a new EP by THE RUFF PACK that had also been on hold for a while for the same reasons. Now I finally found the time to release “Songs of Life”.
As the title of the album indicates, the content of the songs are very personal and intimate. How does it feel to share it with the world?
Matthias Löscher: It feels really good, and right. Just like many artists, I am rather hard on myself and quite self-critical when it comes to my music and art. However, although many years went by since this recording session, I am still really happy with how it turned out. It is definitely the most personal and intimate release I have made so far. This music is truly a part of me. I think this is why “Songs of Life” really has great potential to reach and touch people’s hearts. Moreover, the topics of the songs are pretty much timeless. My only concern was that if I waited even longer to release it people might not be able to recognize me in the videos of the songs anymore… I’m getting old over here! (laughs)
Sometimes, when one picks up an old diary, they are surprised by what they read, seeing how much things have changed. Other times, they are amazed by what truth the words still hold, and what insight one always had. How does it feel to you, reconnecting to this material you wrote years ago?
Matthias Löscher: Listening to the “Songs of Life” now, I definitely see my growth. A whole lot has happened since that recording session. Could I play the songs better by now? Maybe I could. But that doesn’t even matter. What really matters is that this body of work really came from my heart and I think it translates. The songs do feel ageless to me. Partially, that is due to how the recording session came together in the first place though.
Can you describe that monumental recording session?
Matthias Löscher: With pleasure! Some of the greatest magic in art and life (is there really a difference?) that I have ever witnessed, happened in the moment. Nothing can reproduce this kind of energy of the here and now. And sometimes we are lucky that someone pressed the record button and the moment is captured. I am a big fan of the old Delta Blues musicians, such as Robert Johnson or Skip James. Their absolute mastery on all levels (lyrics, singing, virtuoso playing on their instruments) is one of my greatest inspirations. The few recordings we have from that time were all captured in the moment. Sometimes there was not even a change for a second take. There was no recording technology that allowed editing, overdubbing or any other fancy studio tricks that we work with in this time and age. I wanted that kind of energy for “Songs of Life” – and what’s the saying? ‘Be careful what you wish for.’ Shortly before the recording session my singer was signed by a major label and due to her contract, was no longer able to record the album with me. For a moment I thought I had to cancel the whole production (the studio and camera team, everything was booked). But then I reached out to my friends, Kennedy, Jay White and Jonathan Hoard. It was almost a miracle that they were all available for the same afternoon. Mind you, they are all in high demand in New York, so I was really lucky! So when they came to the studio, they didn’t even know most of the songs. It all really happened in that moment that afternoon. When I watch the “Unseen” video I still feel the same energy that was present back then in the studio. I think “timeless” is the right way to describe it and I am so grateful that it all happened the way it did.
As for the music and how I relate to it after so many years, during the compositional process, I really challenged myself to be as honest and, also, as quiet as I could. I searched for ways to let this music really come out as unbiased as possible by my knowledge and guitar playing skills, my thoughts and aspirations, my insecurities, etc. I really just tried to listen and not be in the way. Some songs do have an almost meditative quality and I do still feel that vibe when I hear it. I hope that the listener will be able to feel that as well.
What does the song “Unseen” mean to you? Who is unseen by whom?
Matthias Löscher: Let me just start by saying that the way this world treats people based on their skin color and gender is absolutely insane and unacceptable. This is not just a problem in the United States but worldwide.
In terms of the US, the inequality and racism can be found in, I would say, every aspect of life: access to education and health care, distribution of wealth, housing (red lining), the juridical system and incarcerations, discrimination at job interviews and at the work place. The list goes on and on. And of course, the way people of color are being treated by law enforcement, often resulting in plain murder.
Unseen is the future of so many victims of (institutionalized) racism and police brutality. Unseen are the dreams and hopes of too many people that suffer from white supremacy. Unseen are these realities by most people who live a protected and comfortable life within white supremacy.
At the time when I wrote this song many “Black Lives Matter” protests erupted all across the States. The main public focus back then was on black men being murdered almost back-to-back by the police. Let me tell you: If there is one thing I would like to change about “Songs of Life” it would be that “Unseen” includes female figures in the chorus along with the male ones. Although I had been in the USA for several years at that point already, I was too naive to understand that the police would not even stop for women and children. And then in 2014 the police killed 12 year-old Tamir Rice. 12 years old. So I wrote “Unseen”. And after that Sandra Bland got murdered. But I guess this, in itself, is a good example of one way of how white supremacy works: that even though I had lived in the US I was under such a wrong impression, simply because of how I am treated in this society as a white man and what and how information is being presented to us. I consider it a responsibility to do everything in my power to help create change and create awareness.
Unseen is the future of so many victims of (institutionalized) racism and police brutality
As for the song “Unseen,” I amended the second chorus to:
For the girl, the niece, the mother
Judges clean each other
Feeds the hate of another
For the friend, for the queen, for the mother
Thank you for sharing this with us.
Matthias Löscher IG