10 Questions with Rupert Huber of Tosca!

Kevin Keating
Rupert Huber and Richard Dorfmeister of Tosca
We had the pleasure of touching base with Rupert Huber of the duo, Tosca, as they kicked off their most recent tour last week in Europe. Tosca will be playing the Independent on March 4th and be sure to get tickets here before they sell out! Nearly fifteen years ago, Rupert Huber and Richard Dorfmeister changed the face of electronic music with their seminal Suzuki. Their newest release Odeon marks a return to a vocal-driven, darker and more atmospheric set of songs. Their show next week at the Indy will be one not-to-miss! In the meantime, our interview with Rupert Huber is below:

San Francisco Bay Area Concerts: We're really excited to have Tosca perform in the Bay Area. You've always seemed to have an ease when it come to live performance -- the live disc of No Hassle sounds fantastic, and the live clips Richard has uploaded to YouTube are a lot of fun. How do you feel that playing in front of a live audience impacts your sound? Even naming the new album Odeon sounds like a statement of purpose.        

Rupert Huber: San Francisco has always been a special city for us... Somehow our sound fits the feeling of the city and the people - at the moment we are already in the process of doing a new album - this time we will feature our live vocalists Rob Gallagher, Earl Zinger and Cath Coffey... Last year we managed to develop a new live show - bit more dynamic and a balanced mixture of classic Tosca tunes and some of the new tunes.

SFBAC: The Independent is a fantastic venue with a rich history when it comes to electronic music; it's a good size but still intimate at the end of the day. What do you look for when it comes to picking a place to perform?

Rupert Huber: The size, the sound, and the atmosphere are really crucial indeed. Although music disappears after it has been played and heard, some elements still stay in the room... So a place where there have been good gigs already does have something special.

SFBAC: How important are live vocals during your shows? I love how different Tosca albums use vocals in different ways -- whether it's the whispering echoes in Suzuki or some of the more full-on song type singing in Odeon.

Rupert Huber: Recently the vocals became more important - it's lovely to see how Rob and Cath are interacting with the crowd and make them move. Recording-wise we treated the vocals more like instruments and used just little snippets and sometimes found sound material - especially on the SUZUKI album we did it this way. But for the new upcoming album we did more real songs...

SFBAC: You've mentioned before that Odeon is darker than some of your more recent past work. As downtempo as it is, it also has a buzzing energy to it -- where did you find your inspiration for this newest set of songs?

Rupert Huber: The inspiration for Odeon came often from deconstruction; the looking ambiance actually came from a track called "Looking" (below). Reduction is another important inspiration on Odeon - everything unnecessary has to go, only important elements can stay - we were always interested in this process, and found out that this can set some energy free. The lyrics on Odeon deal with life, death, leaving, so the darker aspect came from the  lyrics especially, and the cover, which is actually quite dark.

SFBAC: I love how as Tosca you guys are always re-inventing yourselves: Suzuki in dub, the live album with No Hassle -- how important is it to you to keep true to your sound while adding new elements to your music?

Rupert Huber: Our musical style - the Tosca 'sound' - is like a language. Every album is like a story being told in that language, and every time it is a different story!

SFBAC: Last week I found myself listening to two hours worth of Different Tastes of Honey and Chocolate Elvis remixes. And, Tlapa gives an entirely new perspective to Odeon. How do you approach remixing your work and what does it bring out to compliment the original performances?

Rupert Huber: The remix albums are always a good opportunity to approach artists we like... For instance, Brendon Moeller delivered some great work - he did the mixes at the time of the last hurricane in New York - and sent 3 deep mixes that are putting the original mixes on another level...

SFBAC: It feels like you always have a little humor blended in with your music -- whether it's the winks that are part of your cover art or something like ending Odeon with "Bonjour" and having it be the lead off track on Tlapa. Do you intentionally create these little moments of levity or do they spontaneously bubble up as the album comes together?

Rupert Huber: We like Rene Margritte a lot... Brightens up the day! It's maybe not humorous, but we definitely love to put an apple in front of a face!

SFBAC: Even though it's nearly fifteen years old, Suzuki sounds just as vital today as it did when it came out. Can you give us a little background on how this came together? Do you ever revisit your older work years later for perspective?

Rupert Huber: Suzuki was dedicated to zen master Suzuki, whose book Beginner's Mind was very influential to our lives. This was the spirit of the production back then: empty mind, and let's start from zero. We listen to the tracks a lot while we are producing, so once an album is out, it takes one or two years until it's possible to listen to it with fresh ears...

SFBAC: You have hundreds of comments on your tracks on SoundCloud and you've used Facebook to announce shows and give away tickets to fans. How important is social media to you, and do you see it as a way to connect more deeply with fans? If not, what do you think is the best way to connect with your audience?

Rupert Huber: Well, it's another platform to get in touch with the people and Facebook offers a good and easy way to do it... And then again it's good fun producing little videoclips and spread them out - and as well getting an instant response...

SFBAC: I feel like it's a really interesting time in music right now -- Nick Cave, Ciara, Wire and CHVRCHES all released great albums last year. Are there any new releases that you guys are particularly excited about right now?

Rupert Huber: We are producing a new album with Earl Zinger and Cath Coffey on vocals, some of the new and unreleased tracks we will present in the show - that is a very exciting time for us! We are in the studio a lot and we play live gigs, and there is not really space to listen too much to music...

SFBAC: Well, we're extremely excited for your show next week at the Independent and look forward to hearing new material from you soon! Thanks again for your time!

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