Anett Ecklebe, aka Toni Kater, a singer-songwriter from Berlin is set to release her latest album Sie Fiel Von Himmel. It’s her third record to date and in her own words her best so far. Anett has been performing since 1996 under the name Toni Kater, and despite her love-hate relationship with the city, she has no plans to move elsewhere.
The album is laden with addictive melodies. I wish I could say the same with the lyrics but my German leaves a lot to be desired. However, if you feel like a bit of melancholic, well-crafted and chilled out indie-pop, then Toni Kater is a winner.
I met up with her last week to talk about her new record.
You don’t sing in English. How do you think it affects the reactions of the general public?
Toni Kater: Sometimes I think it would be better to sing in English because singing in German has it’s limitations. I can only sing in Germany, Austria or Switzerland. Maybe I would be more famous in other countries, if I were to sing in English, I don’t know. There are so many musicians and so many bands that sing in English it’s very difficult to sing in German these days, but people respond well when you do. Germans tend to listen more then. They pay more attention and relate to the lyrics more.
Would you say that there is a huge difference between this album and your previous ones?
Toni: I think my lyrics are definitely better now that I’m older. The albums before were more electronic. On this record we played real drums and I played banjo and zither and many other funny instruments. I was inspired by OMP (Orchestre Miniature in the Park) too. For instance the idea to use children’s piano came from them. The album developed.
Who did the arrangements?
Toni: I have.
Who did you work with on the album?
Toni: I mostly worked with Rudolph Moser from Einstueurzenden Neubauten. He arranged some things too of course. We talked about many things and I wrote the songs. Later I changed the arrangements and he played drums and synthesizers. Some friends of mine helped me as well, for instance Schneider TM. Do you know him? He’s a pioneer of noisy guitar sounds. He played some instruments on one track. There were also two guys from the studio who mixed some songs and they never got money for their work. They mixed six songs the rest I mixed by myself because I had no money, but I think you can’t hear the difference.
How long did you work on the album?
Toni: Oh don’t ask this. These songs are three-four years old. I changed them over time and because I never had the money I couldn’t publish the CD earlier. That’s why it took me such a long time.
Would you say that this album is closer to your heart compared to the others?
Toni: It’s very special, yes. I think it’s my best album. I was inspired by love. It’s very personal.
My German is not as good as yours. Could you tell me a bit more about the songs themselves? What do you write about?
Toni: Many songs are about love, simply love. I think love is, every time, a good theme. But I also write about what I see around me. I live my life in this town and I feel the changes and I am influenced by them. There were a lot of changes and shifts in politics in Berlin in the last few years and that has definitely affected me. I’m interested in political subjects and I absorbed all of these influence of course. I think about a lot of things like our world, nature, war, all these things and some songs are about those very subjects.
You mentioned Coco Rosie as being one of your influences. What other musicians influence you?
Toni: I love Depeche Mode [laughs] and I tried to write like them, but forget it, they are so good. It’s a totally different cup of tea. I like the power of their music. Other influences? I like Cat Power, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Johnny Cash, Susanne Vega…these are my favourites.
The title of the new album is Sie fiel von Himmel…
Toni: “She’s falling down from Heaven”.
Who’s falling and how did you come up with the title?
Toni: It came to me in a dream. I dreamt that I was falling through the bed, through the flats, and so on and that was the beginning of the song. It felt so real. I wrote it down and created my own story around it.
Is it difficult for you to write lyrics?
Toni: It’s not easy. I come up with the best songs when I write them down without thinking. That works best. I sometimes have only one sentence and then I add things to it.
Do you ever make yourself sit down and write?
Toni: It comes on it’s own. I have a problem with sitting down, concentrating and telling myself “And now I have to write”. Now I wait till there is a thought in my head.
So you usually start with the lyrics when you start a new song not with the melody?
Toni: It’s easier for me this way. I have many ideas for melodies, that’s not the problem, but when I sing in my fantasy English it’s very difficult to translate it later into German, so it’s better if I write first in German and than create the music around those words. German is a hard language, it’s very rigid.
You have your own musical project but you’ve also worked with the OMP are there any other projects you’re involved with?
Toni: Not really, no.
But you also wrote a graphic novel?
Toni: I have released one book.
Tell me about that.
Toni: I started to write little stories when I was sick or ill. My songs are very serious and melancholic and my short stories are funny which creates a good balance. It’s just fun. I feel happy when I write such things. We wanted to release a collection of short stories but it’s not so easy and so far there’s only one book. Laureline Michon illustrated this book and we released it just for fun.
When I play solo concerts, unplugged, I read some of my stories. In the first part I play my songs and then I read them, so there is something to laugh about. I’m writing a novel too but the musician in me is more important. Very often I have no time to write or I’m not in the mood to write, but I hope that I will finish it someday.
One of your songs was used in VW commercial. How did that come about?
Toni: Oh it’s a crazy story. I was asked to create a hook for the VW commercial, and I had a song with a hook which they wanted to use. The director invited me to conduct the people who would sing the lyrics but in the evening of the same day he looked my name up in Google and found a video of me singing ”Fuchslied” and fell in love with it for this commercial. He asked me if he could use this song for the ad instead and I agreed. They cancelled the previous concept, refreshed “Fuchslied” and then used it.
Are you happy with the result?
Toni: Yes. It came out well.
How do you feel about music being used for commercial purposes? Did you have second thoughts?
Toni: I have no problem with commercials if they are ok. I think it depends on the product. I wouldn’t do it for every product or if it’s very cheap. I have no problem cos it’s the only chance to earn money for musicians.
Do you get played on the radio?
Toni: Yes. I have interviews coming up on Radio 1 and Flux.
Who will perform with you in Lido?
Toni: Karen Kramatschek, she plays the bass and piano. On the drums will be Heinrich Schiffers. He’s a very very good guitar player, but now he will play drums. And we will have background singers Julien Rupp and Leonie, Karen’s sister.
Are you going on tour after the Lido concert?
Toni: I will play some concerts, yes, but it won’t be a tour, I would say. There are, I think, now six gigs lined up. I hope there will be more after the record release party and the release of the album.
How do you feel about giving interviews?
Toni: It’s a long time ago that I gave interviews. In the beginning I like it, but after giving five or so, I’m tired. I have to say the same things and it’s not so very interesting. Tired is the right way to describe how I feel when I talk about the same things all the time. Nevertheless sometimes interviews are very good conversations, with interesting thoughts and questions that lead in other directions.
Come to Lido on 19th of Januray to celebrate the launch of Toni Kater’s new record, and if you miss that one you can also see her live on 24th