185. Clemens Ruh on ‘Defining’ Music, Cover Design & How Music Shapes Emotion

clemens ruh of cinambientique and frissionwaveEntrepreneur, composer, DJ and producer for film and cinema and other media, Clemens Ruh has +15 years experience creating and producing music for clubs like Distillery and Elipamanoke in Leipzig, Germany, and is one of several curators for Frission Radio, an online streaming radio station.

How exactly do you define what you do? Actually I don’t try to define myself anymore. In the beginning I wanted everything to be well-ordered – every new track needed to be in a certain genre – tagging needed to be as precise as possible and so on. But overtime I’ve realized it’s not my job to define my music; I think it’s more on the listener to do so.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Recall in my interview with Sophie Andresen of Neuromaencer that she too prefers her reader to define her work and doesn’t want to take too much away from her visitor’s experience. The best thing is to experience something for yourself and make up your own mind because pre-made answers and explanations diminish your chance to have as genuine of an experience as possible.]

That’s why I added a ‘youdefine’ concept to my uploads because I think it’s more interesting to see how people who listen to my music for the first time define my sounds. As a composer and producer, it’s exciting how people describe what they hear, if they’re really into it. Comments like “I define this as beauty” or come up with whole new ideas of genres like “cinematic-daydream-music.” That’s the kind of artist/listener interaction that’s really exciting!

The reason why I do things this way is because throughout the years I have discovered myself pulled into a lot of different genres. I love trying myself out. I started with electronic music – mostly deep house stuff, later I explored more ambient textures. Currently I’m working with a lot with orchestral arrangements.

What is the difference between Frission Radio and Cinambientique? Cinambientique is a project I started in the summer of 2014 to express my love to ambient and soundtracks in some way. In March 2015 I joined Frission Radio (Mixcloud) with monthly shows.

 

frissionradio.com

(Above the fold screenshot of www.frissionradio.com)

Frission Radio is a worldwide collective of many musicians, DJ’s, record collectors. – but mostly just music lovers. Rory Hyland, Frission’s founder currently keeps around 25 active music industry professionals, DJ’s, label owners and producers and writers – totaling 30 staff who come and go. Nobody is paid, it’s a labour of love for now. And most of us are in college or have full time jobs, including Rory himself.

Frission’s website has recently been relaunched right now and is in a bit of a transition, so we don’t have much analytics to share, but we are steadily getting a few 100,000 hits a month. On Mixcloud we average a few thousand listens per month and steadily growing. We did have well over 10k listens per month on Soundcloud before our account was taken down during the Soundcloud 2015 purge policy.

Our followers/listeners appear to be a more mature audience (over 25 year olds) of well educated males (±60%) and females (±40%) who have music high up on their hobby/passion lists, likely music collectors who like discovering new music.

We try not to focus on trends, keep it simple with no frills, and focus on good music unconstrained by genre and epoch. This is probably why we don’t appeal to the early 20’s bracket as much.

How do you organize yourself on social media? So, my social media presence is slightly complex:

On Soundcloud I used to keep a lot of old deep-house stuff – my DJ-sets – old edit’s and reworks of tracks I love and my ambient/soundtrack stuff, but I had the feeling that listeners were becoming confused, wondering “Is he a house/techno producer and DJ or is he more like a cinematic composer now?”

So I cleaned up my profiles and decided to reserve soundcloud just for my ambient/cinematic stuff. Now I have the feeling that people are interacting more. Soundclouds 2015 purge policy made this decision easier. Now, I use Soundcloud to showcase my professional work as a composer & producer for film and other media.

The Cinambientique Mixcloud channel, which was the Winner of best Ambient/Chillout award in 2015, is about to welcome it’s 20,000th follower with roughly 1,000 more new followers each month. This channel serves as an archive for my Soundwave and 2h Frission Wave episodes which air on Frission Radio every first Sunday of the month at 7pm GMT.

For the first 7-8 months I ran the Mixcloud channel secretly – just for myself and the listeners on Mixcloud – I didn’t tell anybody about it because I just wanted to do my thing without any expectations. And that was a great idea. It just feels different when you know nobody knows who’s running a project. However,

with no promotion and for no apparent reason, the release of Soundwave #15 became a tipping point and the channel exploded with a massive amount of followers. The Mixcloud Cinambientique community has been steadily growing ever since.

Overall, I have been active on Facebook and Soundcloud for several years now

and I think the growth of my followers is pretty healthy and constantly compared to other musicians. I think it’s important to interact with your listeners and build a connection with them. It’s senseless to collect likes and comments without reacting to them and being thankful and interested in feedback. Numbers don’t matter.

 

What are 3-4 milestones that helped you grow such a large number of followers in such a short amount of time? I think the story isn’t written yet, I’m just trying to do my thing. But my first big milestone was 2 official remixes for Kollektiv Turmstrasse and Chymera, both released on Connaisseur Recordings.

Another exciting and unexpected moment was my first interview with FRXH FRXH, a Leipzig based online blog about electronic music from and around Leipzig. That interview opened some important doors for me. Thank you Jens btw! 😉

I’m also thankful to hear my music being placed in Germany’s national museum of soccer. Also my residency at the Distillery Club – one of Germany’s favourite clubs for house and techno music – is pretty much my favourite thing! But – seriously, there has been so much stuff going on that I’m more than proud of.

Are you represented by a label? At this point I’m not represented by any label. I have had a few releases on different labels, but without getting signed officially. I haven’t found a nice label that feels like home for me yet. But I can’t say that I’m looking for one right now. The internet makes it easy to present your music to the world by yourself.

What attracts you to ambient and chillout music? Why do you feel this genre of music is so appealing to people? Ambient is a genre of music that needs to be ‘understood.’ It’s not just a beat with some fancy instruments that keep you occupied for a couple of minutes. In ambient music there’s room for interpretation – and it is your interpretation that takes you places.

I’m not saying other genres can’t do that – but for me ambient and cinematic music is the best music to drift away to. You can just lean back and listen and even fall asleep or do your thing as you get your work done. A lot of my Cinambientique listeners keep telling me that this kind of music is perfect for them at work. Ambient music isn’t distracting – it just floats in the background. Someone even told me he plays my mixes for his clients at his massage studio. Ambient music is so minimal but it can be so much.

What is your experience on the power of music on human behavior and mood? Music has a direct impact on human behavior and mood, and even I choose my playlists according to my mood. If I’m sad I want the music to sustain that feeling. If I need to be productive, I choose a techno mix or some random upbeat music.

Tell me about the graphic direction of your mix covers. I did an apprenticeship as a media designer for visual and sound which concentrated on the camera and on being a sound engineer, but I haven’t studied anything related to graphic design. For my own music I mostly seek out talented photographers on flickr for my covers. I reach out to them and ask for their permission to use their art. But I do all the cover design by myself.

Indeed, my Cinambientique Designs follow the same pattern. I wanted to keep it simple but with a high brand recognition. The colors are decisive. And if you keep scrolling through your mixcloud stream it’s always an eyecatcher and

…without reading the title I want people think “Oh, a new soundwave!”

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Frissionradio.com is a minimalist website with great music and no advertising! Where does the money come from to cover expenses and keeping Frission Radio available and for free? Have you been approached by brands to do marketing for them? As per Rory Hyland, Frission’s founder, most of the overhead is paid for by the core staff. Over time as the project expands, Frission will open up to sponsorships via indirect and non-invasive advertising, and no radio ads. We feel that advertising on the site must be relevant to listeners, such as banner ads for appropriate music festivals. Frissino currently in discussion with some possible partnerships, but want to make sure we get it right before jumping in to anything.

Revenue from events pretty much go back into helping the station promote itself and to help with operating costs. This money is also invested into new Frission projects.

As Frission is a virtual radio station, all the technology is based online, so our staff operate the station through project management software and a Facebook page. Frission is pretty well organized considering we are spread out all over the planet. We hope to eventually find a headquarters for the project and bring it all together under one roof.

For me, Frission is a beautiful platform to share my music, and all our members are highly talented and have the passion to project Frission forward. That’s the aim right now. Of course I could envision Frission as a full-time business, but that’s far in the future.

What lessons have you learned, and mistakes have you made in your career that you would tell others to avoid? What advice would you offer to someone just starting out? Be yourself and make mistakes! I think mistakes are what define us.

But what I have really learned so far is that if you’re producing your own music: take your time and listen carefully to your own stuff.

Nobody is missing your music while it’s not out there. There’s no hurry!

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