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Alex Uhlmann

unselfie unFlop | unselfie
22 JUNE 2018

Alex Uhlmann


Director   Giovanni Aponte

Editor / Interview   Annie Markitanis 

Music   'Back Home' David Morales ft. Alex Uhlmann (Diridim Records) 

Production   unFLOP production



How would you describe yourself; The core essence of who Alex is?

The core of myself has a lot of music, everything is about music, it’s an obsession actually. As a person I believe in human beings; despite how the world is going, I believe in the good of people; I believe in what people can do together, how people can help one another as well as share with each other. 

I believe in authenticity, respect, cooperativeness, resilience, and empathy, amongst people; therefore, I try to act this way, as much as possible, in my own life.

 

How does Alex differ from Alex Uhlmann and in what way “they” are alike when you are on stage and share yourself with the public?

I believe I am a bit different when I am on stage. In my daily life, I wouldn’t say I am shy, but I am certainly not the most outgoing person. So, when I am in front of a big crowd, I feel different.

The way that Alex and Alex Uhlmann are alike is that positive thing that I am trying to do, which comes naturally especially when on stage where I am sharing that with everyone, sharing a collective experience.


Do you recall that aha moment when you realized that music was your passion, your thing, sort of speak?  

Yes, I do remember there was a moment when I was about six or seven years old. 

I started playing the piano pretty early, and I remember that there was a moment that I was playing over and over again, and I can recall diving into this state of mind, in which I had never been in before. When I came out of it, and I stopped playing, I realized that I had been playing for three hours without even realizing it.

That’s when I began becoming aware that there is something magic in music. 

It is sort of a drug, which I always try to get back to and experience it all over, when I am writing a song, playing, or singing live. They are all magical moments. 


Luxembourg-born, and a globetrotter since a very young age; Bologna, Paris, London, Berlin, Milan: How have all these cities and cultures shaped you both as a person and a musician? 

In Luxembourg, I went to an International school where all of my friends were from all different places. I heard so many things about their countries that it was only natural for me, when I turned eighteen years old, to go away and travel around, experiencing different cultures.

I first moved to England as I was really into the British Pop scene, and so eager to learn, because, at that time, you would go to a pub, and four bands were playing, and I wanted to be part of that. So, overall, I certainly learned and took a lot from all these experiences; each city influenced me differently. I have undoubtedly benefited from this international upbringing; these cultural stimuli contributed both to my personal growth and my musical shaping. If you as a person become like that, it would be automatically imitated or reflected in your music or whatever it is that one does.


Which aspects of the contemporary music industry do you enjoy the most? 

That’s a good question; Well, I would like to believe that if one really has talent and the will to succeed, he can. I am not sure if it is that way, but I would like to think that it is that way. One of the advantages of being a music artist today, due to the technology and the digitalized era we are all in, is that it’s easier to make a piece of music heard obviously, and in a way for the record companies, it’s easier because they don’t have to be active A&R’s no more. All they really need to do is look at one's social media profiles, understand who has the most followers, and that’s a package one doesn’t have to develop. One could see that as an advantage, but I don’t personally see it as a positive thing. I think it’s a shame, and I think we need good A&R’s who go into bars, concerts, and look out for talented individuals, watch them playing, get excited when they come across a good band, choose them, develop them, follow them, and create with them. Unfortunately, this is not happening anymore; Today you have music programs that pretend to teach everything there is to know about the music business, and then you have a career.  Well, I honestly don’t believe it works like that. 

Positives are hard to find, but I am sure there are some. And I don’t want to sound critical, but things certainly changed a lot. 

Despite that, I still believe that the ones who are good and really want to make it will eventually make it. And that’s hopefully thanks to the record companies and the music industry in general.


In your opinion, which are the weak points of today’s music industry?

There is no project anymore; Record companies don’t develop artists from scratch. 

An investment for x amount of time in a specific artist is rare. I am not saying that they don’t want to do it anymore; What I am saying is that that’s the natural consequence of today’s digitized reality.

Another weak point is that there is no live music anymore. If you ask me “Where can I go to listen to some live music,” I wouldn’t really know where to tell you. Unfortunately, I think that’s because most people probably don’t really care about live music, especially the younger generation.

Nowadays, everything is so fast, so even the act of going to the bar and waiting for an hour to listen to a band that you don’t know appears time-consuming. 

Similarly, nowadays people don’t go search, hunt for a vinyl anymore and listen to it from the beginning to the end. You don’t look at the credits, you don’t see the lyrics, because blatantly people don’t have the time. Today there are playlists, there is the song of an artist, followed by the song of another artist, and so on. 

There is no concept to albums anymore. So, everything has taken a different route, but then again we still have concerts, big concerts happen luckily. However, the underground scene is the one that is mostly suffering. 

People don’t have the patience to discover and dedicate time to these things. There is this urgency to find what you like Vs. to test and choose what you want until you find it. If you tell me there is this exhibition on, I would probably first check out what it is about; I wouldn’t have the time to go and check it out in person and then draw my own conclusions. So, I am guilty of this as well, I think we all are, but again that’s a shame. 


Back in the days, during your encounter with the British musical territory, you founded the “Friday Night Hero” indie rock band, “parent” to the “Tourist In Your Own Town” album, and awarded in 2008 as the “Best UK Live Act”: Tell me a little bit more about that phase of your life? What led to the band’s eventual dissolution? 

It was indeed one of the best periods of my life, if not the best because this band was made up of my best friends. We were at school together, and then we said, “Ok, let’s go to England and make it”; we lived together, we worked together, and we played music together.

Regarding what dismantled the band, I think that music has to be your passion because if it’s not is very difficult to make it. Especially today is challenging to live as a musician, so, you really have to love it and have it be your passion. 

So, I think that after a while, it was clear that for some of my friends, although they enjoyed doing it, it wasn’t their passion. So, life happened: I on the one hand always followed music wherever I went, I went to England because of music, and when the band became more successful in Germany rather than the Uk, I moved to Germany. But they were not ready to follow music at this pace; they had different priorities. 

However, I can say that when we were getting there, we weren’t even aware of getting there, which by the way is the beauty of it; It was fun, but it was also our job. 

We were doing it without being consciously driven by a specific outcome, other than doing the best that we could. After the original band members were replaced by other English musicians, we moved to Berlin and six months down the road I was contacted by Planet Funk.


Considering that you have traveled a lot and you continue to be always on-the-go do you ever feel like a “Tourist In Your Own Town”?

Absolutely, and that’s actually why I wrote the album titled “Tourist in Your Own Town” because that’s how I have been feeling all my life. I feel like a tourist even when I am in Luxembourg, my hometown. Probably Milan has been the first place to, strangely enough, make me feel like more at home, in comparison to anywhere else that I have lived so far. 


Singer, Songwriter, and guitarist; in which role do you feel like you can express yourself more? 

Songwriter for sure! I think I am becoming a good singer, I am still not a good guitarist and not a good pianist either, but I think I am a good songwriter. So, If I had to choose only one area to invest in, I would invest everything in songwriting. This is the thing that comes more naturally to me. Sometimes I feel I am not even doing it myself, it comes so fast. All I need is to be in that space, and when I am in that space, something happens, and the writing flows. 

Open-mindedness, sensitivity, and patience are necessary when it comes to successfully write a song. When I enter that creative mental zone, it’s more like magic, and I get to follow it and make something out of it. 


Since 2010, you are part of Planet Funk: What is it like to be in an internationally known band, receiving worldwide recognition? 

Planet Funk has been an excellent experience for me because I learned a lot from them. I didn’t really know much about Planet Funk before joining the band. 

As soon as I signed up we straight away recorded a new album. I didn’t really know how big the band was until we had this concert, and I asked the guys how many people, more or less, should I had expected, and they gave me five thousand people as a ballpark number, which I thought was a lot. 

But when I got there, there were fifty-thousand people… 

Everything was so quick and intense that I really didn’t have time to think about it. Today I am glad for the decision I took, as well as for my so far creative journey in general. I genuinely believe that Planet Funk represents a stepping stone in my career. 


In 2017 you took the next step in beginning your parallel career as a solo artist under the name Ben Alexander: What prompted you towards your solo venture? 

Ben Alexander was a very natural evolution. At some point, I just wanted to also do my own stuff under my real name (Alex Uhlmann) but also using an alias.

While is great to work with other people because they take you out of your comfort zone, providing stimuli and a broader musical vision, after a while, it felt like I needed additional incentives and musical perspectives. So, in combination with the need to do something on my own, it was evident that it was necessary for my personal growth as an artist to explore this urge further. 

Ben Alexander was and still is a good way to have an “excuse” sort of speak, to do anything I like really because as an identity it doesn’t reveal me directly; it’s still Me but in a different Me. I can accept to do stuff that I couldn’t or wouldn’t do as Alex Uhlmann, or express myself in ways that I haven’t so far. 

Ben Alexander is a way to create the space for all these to come to the surface.


Recently, your new single “Back Home,” a featuring with the legend Dj David Morales was released. How did your collaboration come about and what was your experience working with the king of House Music? 

It is a great honor to work with David Morales. For me, Michael Jackson was the king of Pop Music, and David Morales is the king of House Music.

I met him by chance on the set of a television show, about three years ago. 

We started talking, and he then sent me some demos, and I put some melodies on them. He said he really liked my voice and the way I wrote, so we began writing together. We wrote some songs, and “Back Home” was one of them.

I remember him saying “I have this new idea, see if you like it…". I remember that I was just getting ready to leave for Luxembourg, and I started trying out this melody that I had in my head, thinking already about going home.

For me, as I said before, home is a strange concept because I don’t really have one. The chorus of the song goes: “I don’t know if you are looking for love…” if you say that to a person, you are already in a certain relationship with that person. So, something is going on, but you are still unsure how far you can take it. Similarly, for my home and me, it’s always been like that. So, I wanted to put that feeling into a song. One can also see it as a metaphor for a relationship. It’s like that feeling when one's expectations don’t match the reality of the experience of a particular subject. For instance when you think you are in love but when you are actually with that person, you realize that it’s not what you expected. It is more about being in love with the notion of being in love than with the actual reality of the person you are with.


In this digitalized era where consumerism is the norm, and the search for the next-best-thing has almost become a daily ritual, is there anything you are nostalgic of? 

I am nostalgic about a lot of things. I miss live music, I miss vinyl as an object, and I miss taking the time to listen to a record from the beginning to the end, experiencing music from an entirely different perspective. 

When I was young, I used to save the pocket money from my dad, only to go and spend it to buy an album, and then go home and just immerse myself, appreciating every bit of it. Within our digitalized norms, so much is more accessible and thus less appreciable. So, yes I miss the overall concept of taking the time to do stuff, giving value to the ordinarily sacred.


Do you ever get stuck or lack inspiration? If so, how do you cope and move forward? 

Of course, that happens, but I just accept it rather than resist it. This writer’s block thing, I certainly have it, but I don’t let myself be influenced by that.

I don’t give it power. I wait until it goes away because creativity is not a forced state. 


How do you define personal success? 

Personal success is being able to do what I love. For me, just being able to make music is what makes me happy, what motivates me and prompts me to keep going. 

Nowadays being able to keep the flow, stay in the game, and continue to make music is by definition a successful outcome.


Relationships are…

Relationships are hard work (laughs). Love relationships are beautiful when they work. 

I think I am at an age that I realize that love is like a garden that you have to take care of, nurture, cultivate. My relationship is what keeps me sane and balanced, In this weird creative world. It is vital to be in the position to go home and have someone to talk with, share moments with, be supported by and remind you of your self-worth. 


Best compliment you ever got? 

When the song “Back Home” was on BBC Radio 1, for every musician it is a great honor to be on BBC Radio 1. The weird thing was that the DJ Danny Howard, who was playing the song, said afterward that he liked my voice. This was unexpectedly flattering because radio presenters don’t usually comment on a singer's voice. 

Another compliment is when after a gig someone would come up to me and say how my songs really speak to them or sum up an aspect of their life or experience they are going through or went through. I remember a guy, in particular, saying to me that a song of mine was the soundtrack of his relationship. 

I love that thing when someone relates to something I have written, it is totally gratifying as it reflects the actual purpose that music serves: To connect with others. 

 

If you could work with another creative who would it be? 

If I could have written a song with John Lennon, that would have been the ultimate dream.


If you could interview another person who would it be and why? 

Right now, I would like to ask Donald Trump if he is really that stupid or if there is some kind of strategy behind all he does, and if so, what that strategy is.


Are there heroes in real life?

A friend of mine takes care of dying people, during their last hours or days of life. I would never be able or strong enough to do that. So I admire and look up to her, and she would definitely be an example of a real-life hero. 

I once said to a doctor how unimportant I felt next to him because he was actually doing something that was making a difference, and he replied saying that music can do a bit of what he does, not practically but mentally, emotionally, and soulfully. I don’t know if he said that to make me feel better. Nevertheless, it was great to hear him say that. 


If you could choose one song that best describes your music aesthetic which would it be? 

It exists, but it’s not out yet…


What do the New Horizons behold for Alex?

My new single “Butterfly” came out on June 21, and there are a few other things that are in the pipeline, but I can’t reveal them yet.

Overall it’s a happy phase, and I look forward to what’s coming next… 


www.alexuhlmann.com




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