Name: Tom Blankenberg
Occupation: Sound designer, musician
Age: 48 years
Place of residence: Düsseldorf
I will not only have made a record, but also have learnt a lot about myself.
Music and silence are mutually exclusive. Generally speaking. However, the musician and sound designer Tom Blankenberg convinces you of the opposite. His sound threads weave silence into music. Now his first album has been released – “Atermus”. We visited Tom Blankenberg in his studio in a Flingern backyard.
“Atermus” – the word doesn’t really exist. Or rather – the word does exist now, because it is the title of Tom Blankenberg’s first album. But it can’t be translated. “I met the title. I collected it like a find. At first, I thought “Atermus” was a human being. Then at some point I knew: “Atermus”, that’s me.”
Already back in 1987, when he was only 17, one of the pieces was written. Which one, he would not like to disclose. The way Tom Blankenberg speaks, reminds me of his music. Thoughtful, quiet, focused. He is a little surprised about the great resonance that his quiet tones bring about. He gets the best reviews. Apple has already included the first track “Tori” on its playlist “Alternative Classic” before its official release on 15 February 2019.
Tom Blankenberg’s music can’t be categorised easily. He has listened endlessly to film music, jazz, also classical music. That has stirred a lot in him. His music contains elements of all three. “I regard it as ‘little music’.” Intimate is also a word that he likes to use. “To me, these are nice phrases.”
An English music critic said about Tom Blankenberg’s music that it is like an “impressionist painting”. He also likes that. However, the characterisation ‘Neo-Classic’ makes him feel rather uncomfortable.
Tom Blankenberg also doesn’t like track titles that reveal too much – like “Winter Dream” or “Soul’s Journey”. “When the song title expresses what I’m supposed to feel. I find that annoying.” He prefers those who don’t say anything and can be filled with connotations by his listeners.
Accordingly, his track titles come about by chance. They were partly placeholders, fillers of gaps, spontaneous inspirations. “They then seeped into the album. I like that and then they stayed with me.” They refer, for example, to the place where it was when the piece was written, or to the month.
The man at the piano never studied an instrument. “I’m self-taught.” But he did have lessons as a child. However, his enthusiasm was not really sparked by that. Like many children who learn an instrument, little Tom was also impatient. He never played by reading the score. He wanted perfection straightaway and above all – without practicing.
“I wanted to take the shortcut. So, it took about 30 years for the record to be released.” He laughs and his inner child is revealed for a moment.
“Fortunately my parents kept the piano. It became like a good friend.” He sat down at it again and again. Composed, played. “I still sit there at Christmas and play Christmas carols.”
Since school, Tom Blankenberg is also playing with his twin brother in the band “Subterfuge”. But that also kept him from expressing his own style. However, he is sure that the music, which now also is released in analogue form – on CD and on vinyl – has always existed in him.
“When I have the idea for a piece, it is like getting hold of the end of a string and I just have to pull at it. At least that’s how it seems to me.” Sometimes it takes half a year until a piece is fully exposed.
By the way, Tom Blankenberg owes the beautiful retro cover of his album to a Japanese media philosopher whose estate is managed by the ZKM in Karlsruhe. The multi-coloured forms combine the analogue and digital world. He likes that. He also discovered it by chance.
“The title came to me, the picture came to me and the music also came to me. In times when boastfulness and an inflated sense of self are very common, Tom Blankenberg with his modest, self-effacing, friendly and soulful manner, which is also reflected in his music, has an almost therapeutic effect. This music leaves a mark, a lingering feeling. A small, great silence that opens up more and more and shows how little it takes to say a lot. How quiet abundance can be.
Tom Blankenberg says: “I will not only have made a record, but also have learnt a lot about myself”.
Good morning – where in the city do you drink your espresso in the morning to wake up? At home.
For Sunday brunch and an extensive breakfast, you meet… Also more at home at the moment.
The best coffee is served at… Hüftgold, Zoopavillon
For a delicious, healthy and fresh lunch you go to: Near the studio, to the old butcher’s shop. Or if it’s not around the corner, Dreas&Dendas & Schicke Mütze. But I miss the Gattogiallo 🙁
Your favourite route for a walk, stroll or to clear your head? By bike or on foot to the Rhine.
Three places in Düsseldorf you have to show your visitors: The Rhine and the Tonhalle /Kunstakademie /Oper /K20 /Kunsthalle /Karlplatz /K21.
For coffee, cakes & co you go to: Hüftgold, Café Barré
Where do you prefer to spend a cosy evening with friends or family? Vitale
Which restaurant represents the typical taste of Düsseldorf the most for you? Olio
A restaurant where you’ve always wanted to go, but never been: Le Bouchon
Your absolute favourite spot and insider tip, which you would like to share with everyone here? Pizza Katastrophe at Cemo
Your favourite Altbier: Schumacher
Your favourite bar or bar tender: Square Bar
A very special, memorable night in Düsseldorf, where did you spend it? Unique Club
Dance the night away! Dancing happens here: Recently mainly at private events in living rooms and studios
Where and when do you feel like a “real Düsseldorfer”? When I realise once again that somehow everybody is connected with one another.
What do you miss about the city when you’re not in Düsseldorf? My family, apartment, piano and bike.
If you could eat Düsseldorf, it would taste like… maybe like wasabi chutney.
What do you love most about Düsseldorf? Everything is within easy reach, even on foot. That gives me a feeling of freedom.
What do you hate most about Düsseldorf? Hate? I’d like to put it this way: the number of cars stresses me the most.
Are there places in the city that inspire you in your job? Being alone outdoors… then again actually being at the Rhine.
Where do you look for & find furniture for your apartment? Hand-me-downs, flea market, in a skip, Ebay, Reverb
Your top 3 shopping addresses in Düsseldorf? I don’t really like to go shopping…
The best place to watch people? Tram/train
What styling rules do you follow? What works and what doesn’t at all? It has to feel real and I must feel comfortable in it.
What’s your favourite food? A mixed starter always works.
Where or what is the best place to relax? In the tub.
Your favourite destination is? Away. And sea.
Which book is currently on the bedside table? Roger Willemsen “Musik! Über ein Lebensgefühl.”
What was the last movie you saw at the cinema? MAMACITA by José Pablo Estrada Torrescano
Your all-time favourite movie? Babel by Alejandro González Iñárritu
What is currently on your playlist/record player? Clemens Christian Poetzsch “Remember Tomorrow” and Hideyuki Hashimoto “Earth”
Your all-time favourite song? “Bibo No Aozora” by Ryuichi Sakamoto
Which football club is close to your heart? I only got into football rather late and I am not very involved, but I stay up to date about Fortuna and from time to time I take a quick peek at MSV Duisburg.
Thank you very much!