The music moves like a rushing river on “Dabu” yet it’s not harsh; the melody lays on top with some high fingerings on guitar; the drums keep pumping, no violence but persistent; and the piano has a chime-like brightness. ATSCH (rough American translation might be “Gotcha”) is a band of pretty young guys based in Dublin, but they play with a maturity of more seasoned pros. Lead man Matthias Winkler originally hails from Germany. He’s not sure there are any folk or cultural references in his music. He just plays what comes to him, and the rest of ATSCH keeps up nicely, shoulder to shoulder.
The sound is full and multi-layered in their first EP just released in early November. All eyes are on ATSCH, with the promise of a bright future and more cool and original music ahead of them.
What age did you start guitar and were you immediately enamored of it?
I started when I was around 6 or 7 because my mother made me. She thought it was part of a good education to learn an instrument. And no, I didn’t like it and didn’t practice at all ’til I was 13.
What is the jazz scene like in Germany?
I really wasn’t much into jazz before I moved to Ireland. So I actually don’t know much about the scene. It seems there is big money and funding for jazz festivals in many towns. But mostly that’s for really big international acts. From what friends tell me it’s very much a struggle as well as everywhere, unless you’re exceptional and live in Berlin or Cologne.
What is the jazz scene like now in Ireland?
I really like it. Of course, compared to other European countries, the scene is quite small. There are very good musicians here. And it feels like in the last couple of years there are more places to play, especially in Dublin. But that could also be just me getting into the scene more.
What does the name of your band mean?
It’s an expression kids say when they fooled someone. I choose it because I snuck all my favorite music into these tunes for my graduation exam. So I felt in some way I fooled the examiners into thinking what we do is “jazz.”
Talk about the personnel and what strengths each one brings.
The band is a classic jazz quartet. Eoin on bass and Graeme on guitar were in the same year as myself in college.
Hugh on drums already finished his degree but helped out some ensembles in his final year as a sit-in drummer. He’s a great drummer! He is very reliable in holding things together and is also a good listener. He has a fantastic balance between keeping the groove and reacting to what’s going on. He’s very adventurous in exactly the right moments.
Graeme is a huge Monty Alexander fan. And you can hear that! He has an excellent swing feel when we play standards but also a great ear for melodic playing on our original tunes.
And finally there’s Eoin. Eoin is crazy. He really is. There are some tunes we like to play that are kinda on the edge of what Graeme and I can play well. “Bolivia” would be one. Eoin, however, is flying through those tunes. His time and groove are great as well but he really makes me look like a beginner when he starts to solo. He’s a tremendous musician.
When did you form this band? Why?
I formed it in 2016. To graduate Newpark (music college) you have to play a final performance with your own band. That’s how it all started. I had lots of fun playing with those guys and we became good friends. So I asked them if they were interested in playing together as a band after we graduated.
When did you realize you had an affinity for jazz, amidst the classical training?
Very late. I got a little bit into it in my first college year in Germany. But the first time I really got into things was when I came to Ireland and was around all these musicians far better than me. I was around 22 then. I really hadn’t listened to jazz before I was 19.
Is there any cultural tie of German influences to your music today, or is it more related to Ireland?
I’m not a fan of the whole culture-music mix. I’m sure there’s some part of my upbringing from Germany that reflects in the music but I don’t think about it like that. It’s more that the music I like the most, I try to merge into our sound.
Do you also perform as a drummer or pianist?
No. I was a terrible rock drummer as teenager. And probably an even worse classical piano player. I thought as a teenager it would be cool to learn all these instruments, which it was! But nowadays it takes almost all my time to get decent on guitar so I don’t really play the other instruments anymore.
What’s rewarding about teaching?
Money. I’m not lying, that’s the first reason most musicians teach at all. But of course, there is something good in it. I had great teachers when I was young. They really didn’t force their view on me but let me gradually discover music and make up my own mind.
I try to pass that down to my students. Seeing someone you taught from the very beginning playing a piece of music a year or two later is a great reward. It gives you a great feeling of accomplishment and the sense that you are actually a good influence in someone else’s life.
What are the ‘soundscapes’ you create – what kind of flavor are you trying to communicate?
I love jazz for many reasons. But I also grew up with rock and pop music which has a way more “compressed” sound. With ÄTSCH were trying to get towards a very melodic and warm sound mixed with our abilities to express harmony through improvisation.
Can jazz improv and post-rock be melodic also?
I hope so. Imagine Sigur Ros. One of my favorite bands. Imagine they would take some of their songs even further through collective improvisation. That’s what I’m aiming for.
Your upper register playing on “Thu” is almost glowing. How do you create a bright, pretty sound like that?
Mostly by writing really “low” parts for all the other instruments.
I play a pretty cheap guitar and use just a little bit of reverb and delay. The rest is a good sound engineer and a great band.
On an energetic piece like “My Stolen Moments,” your solo rises up and creates a layer that works great with the other musicians. Where do you “go” to create your solos?
This tune is probably closest we get to “jazz” on the EP. For this tune it’s all about the energy. The harmony for the guitar solo is quite simple so I try to listen to the band and add what I think helps that energy.
What’s the name of your new EP?
The EP is just named ÄTSCH. As a debut I liked giving it just the band name.
Which of the five songs is your most cherished favorite or the most unusual song?
“Thu.” It’s the Vietnamese name of my girlfriend. The song is written for her and I really like the way it came out. It reflects her character well, I would say 🙂
What were your feelings as a band when you decided you would finally produce and record your first EP?
Excitement. I for sure was really excited. And I think I speak for the guys when I say that we all had a great time working on this EP project.
Did you schedule any events to coincide with the release?
We just had a release gig on November 2 in Arthur’s in Dublin. And of course, the music will hopefully find its way in our usual repertoire.
I think your songs have a delicacy. But when I think of “rock” I think of something much harder. What are the musical similarities to that genre?
It’s the energy. Most songs on the EP have a dramatic curve that builds the song somehow. This building of energy is more what rock is to me than distorted guitars.
Place you’ve always wanted to tour?
Anywhere. I’m not picky.
Plans to grow your presence in 2018?
Hopefully we get some people to listen to our music and maybe get a chance to tour it through Ireland or the UK.
Thank you very much Debbie for this great opportunity! Your work on your site is class.
For more information, visit www.matthiaswinklermusic.com.
Photos courtesy of and with permission of the artist.
(c) Debbie Burke 2017