I’m a star – it’s just that nobody knows it!

Bernd-Michael Land

BIRKENSTORY #11

Bernd-Michael Land – pioneer of electronic music

As a musical pioneer, Bernd-Michael Land was already experimenting with electronic instru-mental music in 1969. Inspired by the pioneer of electro music Karlheinz Stockhausen and the 1968 electronic album Switched-On Bach, the trained locksmith, welder, and security consult-ant discovered his own musical style. And this unconventional guy from Hesse has gone on to produce 17 albums. We visited him and learned about his philosophy of colorful hair, sound art, and V8 engines. He also told us the story behind a Birkenstock sandal landing on the roof of his garage.

You have to live your dreams

The 64-year-old from Frankfurt/Rodgau stands out from the crowd, with the color of his long hair changing regularly. “I started with green hair in 1974,” he says, laughing, “and have had every color you can imagine since, from copper to orange. I even got kicked out of a pizzeria in Cologne once on account of my purple hair.” It’s never bothered his family that he’s slightly quirky. “My kids actually enjoyed me picking them up from their Waldorf kindergarten with my brightly colored hair and on my Harley,” says Land, grinning. His hair is gray right now, but he’s planning to have orange highlights soon. His motto: “Life’s too short to be boring! I’ve always done my thing, no matter what people think!”

Land gets out of bed when he wakes up – he doesn’t own an alarm clock. And he likes to be practical: “I usually only ever wear T-shirts – ironing is a waste of time. And I like comfy shoes.” He came across Birkenstocks some time in the 1970s: “I’ve been wearing them ever since. Not because I think they look elegant. No, Birkenstocks are simply incredibly comfortable and practical, so it’s a little like walking barefoot. And my feet get some fresh air,” he explains.

From behind the bar to taking the bar

After school, Mike worked as a barkeeper, whitewater canoe rafter and professional rafting guide. In the eighties, he spent a few years in Nicaragua. While there, he learned Spanish, grew out his hair and his beard, and acquired his first pair of Birkenstocks. He was 34 by the time he started his law degree; his fellow students were in their early twenties. “I was the old hippie in the class,” Mike recalls.

Literally “making” music

Although Bernd-Michael Land never wanted to make music his career, it’s been with him throughout his life. He first began to experiment musically in 1969 with tape machines and recorders, and it wasn’t long before the synthesizer appeared on the scene. By this time, he was interested in electronic music and Land’s first album was released in 1974. Over the years, he also developed sound designs and theater music, and passionately tweaked old sounds for synthesizer companies. Land’s favorite piece of equipment is an old EMS synthesizer, which he affectionately calls his “heart-lung machine.”

In search of sound: from “Bembel techno” to sound art

Land now lives off his music. Having heavily influenced Frankfurt’s “Bembel techno” scene for years under the pseudonym of Aliens-Project, he now plays 70s electronic music as part of a duo called THAU. He also makes chill-out music and meditation music, and works on sound art projects. He is currently involved in World Environment Day with a project on the topic of sustainability. Music and his studio are everything to him – this is where he finds peace, inspiration, and joy. He is particularly fascinated by sound research, which he calls the “never-ending search for new sounds.”

“I’m a star – it’s just that nobody realizes!”

In 2015, Bernd-Michael Land received Germany’s Schallwelle Award for electronic music in the “Best Musician 2014, National” category. He’s quite the celebrity in his scene, where everyone knows him. Laughing, Land says: “I’m a star – it’s just that nobody realizes!”

His loyal fans have been with him for years and come from all over the world: Canada, America, Scandinavia, and Japan.

The freedom of the open road and freedom for your feet

It’s not just music that Bernd-Michael Land is a fan of – he also loves the throaty roar of engines. He has been riding motorbikes since he was 18 – his current bike is a heavy Yamaha Wild Star XV1600 – and there’s a full-blooded Ford Mustang parked in his garage, which he likes to take out for a spin on country roads in the early hours of the morning from time to time. “I like the sound of a V8, it’s got such a nice mumbling ring to it,” says Land, explaining his preference.

Hot rods – elaborately converted classic cars with large, souped-up V8 engines – are another of his passions. He recently sold his converted 1932 Ford, but is looking to buy another hot rod soon.

Land always has three to four pairs of Birkenstocks on the go and, as a biker, he even combines his favorite footwear with his leathers. This has caused some difficulties for him in the past: one time when starting his old 1950 Harley, the motorbike’s kickback sent one of his Birkenstock sandals flying onto the roof of his garage.

For more information: bernd-michael-land.com




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