In Conversation: Dollkraut

Pascal Pinkert’s project Dollkraut has evolved into a much sought-after band that features at festivals from Nuits Sonores to Strange Sounds From Beyond. Time to catch up with the Dutch producer to find out all about it. On the terrace of Tolhuistuin, we discuss the transformation, his analogue sources of inspiration and making dark records.

Pinkert apologizes for his sunglasses. Unnecessary, of course, on a sunny afternoon as this in Amsterdam North. A few raindrops would fall on the recording device later in the interview, but we’ve got nothing to complain about if the weather turns out just like today coming weekend. Pascal Pinkert will be performing on Sunday with his now-famous Dollkraut Band. He had started out spinning records, but that was never where his heart was. “I don’t ever put on sets at home,” he confesses after a swig of IJwit. “I listen to everything from guitar music to classical music, also some very good internet radio stations we’ve got currently such as Intergalactic FM and Red Light Radio. I find these more pleasant for at-home listening; I get much more inspiration from them. Aside from that, I am updating my ‘old man’s library’: my vinyl collection.”


Band Resurrected

Pinkert made his debut album Schimanski’s Black Lullabies with the intention of eventually performing it with a band. “I felt it was a shame to represent it with DJ sets. The album sounds so organic; it goes from left to right in such a way that made it very suitable for a stage with real instruments. That works very well, as we are still playing songs from that album today. When it first came out, I did initially perform some DJ sets but it didn’t take long before I began thinking about a live set. The guys from Brandt Brauer Frick (the electronics trio from Berlin, Ed.) were good acquaintances of mine. They perform with a whole ensemble; they’re more classical-leaning. I had started to branch out with their tips when bassist Timothy van den Boom came in. I had known him from the East of the country for some time. He was taking photographs at parties and that’s how we got talking. I found out only later that he played bass.”

De Ambassade

Initially, Pinkert did the drumming in what was then a two-man band. “Back then, it still sounded a bit square. Eventually we decided to look for a good drummer, so that I can focus on the keys and the vocals.” Meanwhile, along with drummer Rens Ottink, the band played a combination of all the music Pascal Pinkert made: his Dollkraut records Schimanski’s Black Lullabies and Holy Ghost People, but also particularly songs from his Dutch-speaking wave project De Ambassade. As De Ambassade he recently released two fascinating new tracks “Verloren” and “Jerney”.

“There’s certainly some overlapping, but that keeps things interesting,” says Pinkert. “On the one hand it remains mysterious, but on the other hand there are people who only knew me as Dollkraut before finding out that I am also De Ambassade. Even more than the language, it’s the sound that makes the difference. De Ambassade is more about truly grating DIY wave of the 80s. Since the beginning, our band has gone for somewhat sloppy playing, so it fits just fine. Maybe in the long run I will think of a separate live act. No idea. For now you get two acts for the price of one.”

“Perhaps they’re too intense to get through. But that may well be the intention.”

Holy Ghost People

Back to that first act: Dollkraut. Where the first Dollkraut album was influenced by the German detective classic Tatort, its successor Holy Ghost People embarked on a much darker course. It’s not so surprising once you consider that the 1967 documentary of the same name is the main source of inspiration for the album. It’s an insane film about a sectarian church in the United States. “I have always found it fascinating how people can lose themselves in religion. The dark, sinister and sectarian aspects of it all inspire me tremendously. It is also not surprising that this album is much heavier than, for example, Schimanski. You can set it up at home, but it is perhaps too intense to get through; though that may well be the intention.”

“Intention” is the key word here: Pinkert emphasizes that he works according to a plan, that the dark atmosphere didn’t just come about when he worked on the album. As for where he’s looking for inspiration for the music he is currently working on, he leaves that open for the moment. “I continue to create; I jot things down or make a recording when I’ve got something in my head. I once had a house in Nieuw-West with a studio in the living room; there I could act immediately. From the toilet I would sprint to the table and sing something out. Nowadays that has to be recorded on the phone or written down. The studio is still in Nieuw-West, but I now live in the Baarsjes so there’s a bit of cycling involved, hence some delay.”


Old Junk

In general, Pinkert remains fond of old films. Here too, as in his music, he shows a preference for analogue over digital. “Some people are shooting complete films on YouTube. Awful Dutch-language films such as De Lift. But also classics like The Holy Mountain, and many Italian crime flicks. All of them old junk, that’s what it boils down to. I live with two people with Netflix accounts. Recently I was alone at home and I went to check out if there was anything in between. I found the second part of Ghost in the Shell, the Japanese anime. The first one was outright amazing, but the second one really disappointed. You can see that it is computerized; really ugly. What was charming about it was precisely that hand-drawn quality; that’s what I like… Handiwork, craftsmanship.”

Nuits Sonores

With Dollkraut Pinkert is in the luxury position to be able to choose from an international selection of festivals that are right for the band; from Nuits Sonores in France to Strange Sounds From Beyond in the Netherlands. “We do much more abroad than here. We’ve just returned from Leipzig; before that we were in France and in Liege. That is simply a result of the record releases; if they are well-distributed they’d be lying in many record stores all over Europe. The album gets picked up, people want you and you’d notice that in the bookings. I just keep making music; I want nice things to reach more people. That sounds primitive, but that’s what it all boils down to. It is the best thing out there. Last year I was a visitor at Strange Sounds From Beyond and I received a lot of nice reactions. Just random people coming up to me to thank me because my music supported them through an unpleasant period, for example. That’s nice to hear.”

How did the festival appeal to him as a visitor? “I was entertained, I remember that. Cool that I’m now gonna be playing there myself. I’m really looking forward.” Asked about artists he is personally looking forward to seeing, Letta Mbulu was the first to be named. “I still have her singles; she used to make beautiful things. Completely something else, of course, but as I said, I listen to everything. I’m also keen to check out Merel, Vladimir Ivkovic and Nurse With Wound.”

Dollkraut will be performing at SSFB Weekender 2018 on Sunday June 24. Tickets are available here.