A New Interview & Thoughts on Charlie Watts

Recently Kurt Mitzkakis of German Rock e. V. did another interview with me for RockRadio (not in English, though, but in German): we were talking about the future of Antichrisis and new ways of music publishing, and you can listen to this interview here or download it from there. So many thanks to Kurt for this really interesting and pleasant conversation.

In August 2021 Charlie Watts died at the age of 80, and although I seem to have a split relationship with the Rolling Stones (I really loved the early Stones from 1963 to 1967 and I could still get something out of them from 1968 to 1978, but from the 80s onwards they had lost me completely as they started to sound more and more like a third-class imitation of themselves to my ears), I always considered Charlie Watts - much like Ringo Starr - as one of the most underrated and yet best drummers in rock history.

He was not a berserker like Keith Moon or John Bonham; he refused to play - and there is the parallel to Ringo Starr again - any kind of drum solo. He was a minimalist in the best sense, according to the motto that the best notes are the ones you don't play. This gave not only his drumming but the whole sound of the Rolling Stones that laid-back feeling that characterises many of their best tracks.

Charlie Watts' style sometimes seemed a little behind the pace, but actually it never was. In fact it was the ideal match for Keith Richards' guitar riffs, which always seemed a bit sloppy.

There are probably hundreds of drummers who are technically superior to Charlie Watts, but only few play in such a song-oriented way that he did. And above all, there are only a few who manage to create such unique drum intros that let one immediately recognise the respective song: Charlie Watts succeeded in this with his opening drum groove to "Get Off Of My Cloud" as well as Ringo Starr with "Tomorrow Never Knows" or John Bonham with his intro to "Rock and Roll".

Charlie Watts was one of those drummers who never played himself to the fore, but nevertheless kept everything together and with whom every musician on this planet would have liked to jam at any given time. The big band up there in heaven has recruited another excellent drummer who will be sadly missed down here.

On Top Of The Mountain

"How Can I Live On Top Of A Mountain?" was a question I couldn't find an answer to for so many years and for all sorts of reasons: sometimes I couldn't reach the mountaintop at all because it was shrouded in mist and thus all the way out of sight; whereas sometimes I could only linger for a short while on the top before being pushed back down again by a simple twist of fate.

But with Ayuma, I set out for a last conquest and although the ascent was sometimes steep and arduous, in the end we’ve reached the summit on which we’ve been living ever since and where love is so much more than just a four-letter word.

"Living With You On Top Of The Mountain“ is dedicated to my wonderful querida Ayuma who is sharing life with me in true love, liberty, affection, passion, affinity and above all with lots of fun and laughter.

At the same time, this instrumental is also a tribute to Näx, who contributed the gorgeous track "How Can I Live On Top Of A Mountain?“ to Antichrisis’ second album and whose wonderful uilleann pipes playing marked both "A Legacy of Love“ as well as "Perfume“.

This song is the first in a series of single releases that will follow in the next few months as we will be releasing one last Antichrisis-album and only singles beyond that: you can read more about this decision in our blog post from June 2021.

The Last and Final Antichrisis Album

When I started Antichrisis in 1995, the world was a different place: back then demo tapes were still sent to labels, music was preferably released on records or CDs, and if you were one of the chosen few to get a record deal, you went into a studio to record a complete album within a given (and usually far too tight) time frame.

Times have changed a lot since then: sales figures for CDs and vinyls have declined drastically, home recording has taken off whereas the number of studios declined just as much as the number of major labels, and instead of sales figures for CDs and vinyls, streaming figures and YouTube-clicks are much more important nowadays.

Some may regret this trend, but one of its positive side effects is the democratisation of music production and distribution. Today basically anyone with a computer and appropriate software (although musical talent is definitely not a disadvantage at this point) can publish proper songs - and you don’t have to get involved with producers or labels to achieve that goal.

But what does all this have to do with Antichrisis? Well, for some years now we’ve become also one of those bands/projects that record and produce their songs in their own home studio and release them completely on their own. Since "Not Fade Away" all our albums have been released exclusively as digital downloads, but over time we realised that the demand for these albums was decreasing more and more, whereas some our songs were literally skyrocketing on several streaming portals.

So we came to the conclusion that releasing an album could be no longer appropriate - and to be honest: we are neither sad nor miserable about this, because we too have often been wondering whether album releases would still be making sense for us at all.

From a commercial point of view this might bring some disadvantages, because in the music press and other relevant media only albums are taken seriously and therefore are getting featured and promoted accordingly.

However, this only applies to albums released on CD or vinyl; digital downloads by independent artists are largely ignored by editors because these artists can neither place expensive ads in magazines nor afford inordinate PR-appointments for journalists. That is why the perception of Antichrisis in the media has subsided since we went down the Do-it-Yourself-road, although we’ve been still releasing albums.

Our decision not to publish CDs or vinyls any more but to rely exclusively on digital downloads instead has mainly to do with the fact that in times of climate change we all should be re-considering how we want to deal with environmental pollution. And producing CDs and/or vinyls is raw material wastage that is no longer necessary in this day and age, as in the majority of cases digital distribution works pretty well.

But apart from the whole environmental issue, our decision not to release albums furthermore also has to do with our mode of operation: In the past we went into a studio to record a complete album within a few weeks, but nowadays home recording allows us a completely different approach. We are often working on many songs simultaneously, but only a few of them are suitable for an album release, because an album always requires a certain coherence or homogeneity of the material it contains. But what do you do if you are working on an EDM track, a piano ballad and an ambient piece at the same time? What happens when you have finished these tracks and would like to release them, but you don't know whether you will write other pieces of music in a similar vein in the future, so that a coherent album emerges?

Antichrisis has simply evolved artistically in such a way that neither me nor Ayuma want to limit ourselves to any restrictions of musical style of fashion: if we feel like writing and producing a moody synth track, then that's what we'll do, whereas the next song could turn out to be an utterly noisy piece of guitar rock - but it's almost impossible to achieve a coherent album sequencing with that approach.

However, if we put aside the thought of an album release, we can release a single track as soon as it's finished, and you wouldn't have to wait several years until another Antichrisis album is ready to be released.

From a musician’s perspective it is definitely much more satisfying to be able to release a song as soon as it is mixed and mastered, instead of having to put it on hold because another 8 tracks have to be finished first in order to finally have enough material for an entire album.

Hence our next album for which we have already written all songs will also be the last and final Antichrisis album, because we will be releasing only single tracks prospectively as soon as they are finished.

And don't get us wrong: albums like "Cantara Anachoreta", "A Legacy of Love" or "Not Fade Away" were just the right thing for us to do at the time of their release - but as aforementioned, times have changed and our music is written and produced in a different context nowadays. But that won’t affect the musical quality of our songs in any way; it’ll just give us the chance to expand our ways of musical expression even further than before - and that is something every ambitious musician is trying to achieve.