The German musicians John Boredom and William Forrester are still considered a streaming secret in this country with their synth-pop music project Heartbeat Designers. In Great Britain, a well-known music producer has now taken notice of the duo. We met the two artists during preparations for a music festival in Cologne, and asked them a few questions about their new album „Open Sesame“and their live performance.
„In London, people recognise some talent behind our music“
LIKEHIFI.com: Heartbeat Designers have followed up their first album with „Open Sesame“ in just nine months. John and William, how do you do it?
William: We ask ourselves the same question. (both look at each other and laugh). We put together so much material in such a short time that we even ended up choosing which songs would make it onto the album. It was indeed very easy again to compose new songs together. We were very much in agreement about how we wanted to sound on „Open Sesame“ and what should change now compared to the first album „Casino Casino“. In the end, with our songs it is like the sculptor who said: „The sculptures were all already there, I just had to carve them out of the stone“.
It sounds as if you could produce on an assembly line.
John: That’s deceptive. Every song is worth being unique. If we work too fast, harmonies and progression within a song are like the ones before. The memory then plays tricks on you and you just repeat what you have already thought up before. No, we indeed leave ourselves enough time to listen, choose suitable ideas and then one or the other song also changes in the process of creation over the months, both in the music and sometimes in the lyrics or the lyric melody. No assembly line work! Rather artistic creation with a love of detail.
There are 18 new songs on the new album…
William: …and exclusively for the LIKEHIFI.com readers a spoiler: Two more new songs will be bonus tracks on the Deluxe Edition. We couldn’t have known at the beginning that there would be so many great songs. We only had one goal with „Open Sesame“: It should be an album from one mould, which secures coherence musically, but also lyrically.
Different from the first album?
John: The first album „Casino Casino“ was made under very special circumstances. Of course, the first album is always something special for the artists, but we didn’t know yet whether anyone would ever listen to. So we professionally produced all the songs we had recorded in six months in the studio and the order of the songs or even the theme of the album played a subordinate role. We put all the material we had finished on that album. The lyrics of the song „Success Roulette“ were the theme for the album title „Casino Casino“.
What was different about the production of „Open Sesame“? And why the vault on the cover?
William: „Open Sesame“ is certainly not a concept album, but it is clearly more conceptual. The themes do revolve around what makes up our existence, our lives and especially our living together. And again and again the question of the meaning of our own existence. The „Open Sesame“ for all these questions. The open vault lies before us with these songs.
Does that mean that the pieces tell a story, that they build on each other?
William: The songs are self-contained, but of course we thought about the order. From the almost fragilely sung opener of the album „Even Before We Start“ to the melancholic ending in the closing song „Finity“, there are many moments of happiness, passion, strength, confidence, exuberance and joy of life. That’s what makes this album so special: it’s not just happy or just gloomy, not just thoughtful or just polished, superficial pop. „Open Sesame“ carries all the colours and moods of life.
The hits on the album are „Blood Sugar“, „Fame“ and „Ball In Your Court“, right?
John: „Blood Sugar“ is a danceable song that is instantly catchy, perfect for live performance or to groove and sing along to while listening to the album.
„Ball In Your Court“ is musically more in the tradition of an orchestral entertainer’s show, with thoughtful grand showstoppers, an authoritative bienvenue that suggests the audience is invited to join in a surreal theatrical world. The staccato-like brass section supports this sense of a show event. Especially the big finale of the song with a long held vocal tone has musical qualities. And all that together in the synth-pop of the current 20s! Who would have thought it possible to compose a single song with these so many different elements that is also catchy and danceable? And yes, these are two highlights of the album „Open Sesame“. Both very positive songs, by the way!
William: With „Fame“ we come back to the roots of synth-pop. An almost evocative atmosphere prevails in this song. Almost in a trance and hypnotic repetitions come the calls to savour one’s own fame, because you only live once – even if it is only for the 15 minutes mentioned by artist Andy Warhol. This song has changed a lot during the production until it became what we wanted it to be. But, speaking of hits: „Incredible Bright Light“, „Stranger Than Paradise“ or „Blow After Blow“ also clearly have hit character.
One song remains largely instrumental. Can you describe the song for the readers?
Wiliam: „Gravity“ was conceived as an instrumental song from the beginning. But like a movie score, this song also describes a story. It is a spherical homage to great sound artists like the Frenchman Jean-Michel Jarre, the German Klaus Schulze or the meditative sounds of the Swiss Andreas Vollenweider with his electric harp.
John: The only song on the album where, for once, my voice was used with the single word Gravity in the otherwise instrumental piece.
How do you work musically? Digital instruments or also hardware?
John: On „Open Sesame“ we used digital instruments like Emulator or Prophet 5 as well as hardware synthesizers like Fantom, Wavestate or Streichfett. The instrumental „Gravity“ is a nice example that you can combine both worlds in your music.
William: Personally, I like to tinker with physically existing knobs to get the sound the way I imagine it. But of course, some hardware synthesizers in 2023 will have touch displays that allow you to change a wave with your finger. Of course we also use that with these synthesizers.
You write all the songs yourselves?
William: Yes, lyrics and music always come from us. But when we are inspired, we have no problem naming someone who has contributed.
It is said that the next single will be co-produced by a well-known producer from the UK. What’s that all about?
William: In London, they recognize some talent behind our music, or so we were told. As a musician, you like to hear that. We are now working with producers who have been successful for decades and who have co-written some world hits. In concrete terms, this means that the next single of the Heartbeat Designers will be mixed and produced by Ian Little and John Robinson in London. Ian has had worldwide No. 1 hits with, for example, Duran Duran, Roxy Music, Bryan Ferry, Talk Talk, Sparks, OMD and many more artists. There will also be well-known DJs doing additional remixes for the clubs. But we won’t reveal the song yet.
John: For now we are looking forward to our live performance here in Cologne, where we will already play this song. We are also planning international live performances, for example in Great Britain. Quite turbulent times for us. Heartbeat Designers will play again in the cathedral city this year with a two-hour programme. We will be happy to keep you informed about the dates.
Then we wish you continued success! Thank you very much for the interview!