Interview by Visual Collaborative
March 2019 8 min read
Jens Gad is a German producer, songwriter and guitarist. Producing music and albums for many artists, such as Sandra, he is also credited for contributions on multiple world award-winning music project Enigma. He is the older brother and occasional collaborator of Los Angeles based hitmaker Toby Gad. In this interview he shares his general approach to music and recent projects with Yvonne Sangudi.
Jens and Yvonne, you have put out new experimental music climbing the charts such as Mistaromeo. Tell us about how your work relationship began and what it is like working together?
(Jens) We actually met about 10 years ago in New York City, started to write and record our first songs. Yvonne was living in Boston with her family and i just arrived in the states so she was one of my very first collaborations in the US. When we get together music is simply being created like breathing air – it does not feel like work at all. Put us in a room and come back in an hour, you can be sure there will be a new piece of music. I simply love her openness, cultural depth, big voice and more than everything – her phantastic humor. By the way i`m also friends with her parents and 2 of her brothers.
(Yvonne) Jens and I met in 2008 while I was attending Sarah Lawrence College in New York. We bonded instantly. I had been working with other record producers prior to meeting Jens, but I never quite “clicked” with any of them. There has to be magic between the artist and the producer – if the energies don’t vibe, it’s almost impossible to create good music. Creating music with Jens is effortless because he understands me artistically. We are both aware that great music creates itself so we simply get together, get out of the way and allow the creativity to flow organically. We never overthink a song – if its there, its there and it will write itself. We create from a very raw and real place.
As international artists with a wide mass appeal in American and Europe. Any plans for to enter the West African music markets? There are opportunities open for foreign producers giving the wave and fusion of Afrobeats and house music.
(Yvonne) 100% – the West African music industry is growing rapidly predominantly in Nigeria and Ghana. The beauty of Jens and I is that we both come from two very different places (Europe & Africa) but yet we are able to create reggaeton pop records like “MistaRomeo.” It is our fascination of learning new cultures and international sounds that makes us the writing duo that we are. We would love to create Naija pop, Afro-beat and Hi-life sounds while also building our base throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
(Jens) Of course we will go there. We are global creators and there is nothing more fascinating than learning new territories with their distinctive culture. That`s also the beauty of our project – no boundaries and complete openness.
Photo courtesy @GadImages
There are no real formulas for music. It either comes and creates itself or it doesn’t. You should find a location that inspires you, fuels you with creative energy…
Yvonne does your Tanzanian heritage play a significant part in your creative themes or would you say you move solely with topics of the location and times?
(Yvonne) My African heritage, as a whole, plays a very significant role in my music career. I love incorporating ethnic sounds in my music and you can hear them clearly in the production of both Tanzanite and MistaRomeo. I love to infuse instruments from different cultures and blend them to create my own unique sound. Growing up in Boston, Massachusetts, a melting pot city, I was exposed to sounds from all over the world. That exposure combined with my Tanzanian roots gives me the opportunity to create unconstricted, unboxed music.
Jens you spent time in Ibiza working with Michael Cretu on the Enigma project, working at interesting and serene times. We imagine that today the dynamic in Hollywood working again with Toby must be different. Tell us in your quiet or noisy moments how do you guys get inspired to produce. Do you seek spirituality or get physiological like many artists for muses?
(Jens) There are no real formulas for music. It either comes and creates itself or it doesn`t. You should find a location that inspires you, fuels you with creative energy. There are no logistical explanations. Often chaos or even pain are the best motors – you simply never know. Me personally – i love to switch between urban and remote environments. Hollywood and Catalina island, NYC and Ibiza. I`m thinking about a house in Lima / Peru right now.
Some musicians romanticize about time periods they wish they could have made music or performed in. If you both can time-warp back to any era what time would it be and why?
(Jens) I have no such thoughts. I think it`s all about the moment. All the moaning about the 80s for example – i think is an excuse for being unfulfilled right now. But that`s another problem, right? I think the human being has an issue with breaking out, daring to live crazy dreams, aiming high, being different. By living in conformity you tend to dream of other, wilder, crazier times. That doesn`t help though. Ok – what was the question? Sorry for my long answer.
(Yvonne) I appreciate music from various time periods because they helped shaped people, cultures and movements of that season. I am a huge lover of classical music from the baroque era. Bach is one of my biggest inspirations musically but many people may not know that since I create pop, radio-ready records. I would love to time-warp back to the baroque era to witness how some of the greatest composers in history created masterpieces that are still loved, played and appreciated 400 years later. However, I think its all about being present and creating music in the now. If you try to re-create music from the past – then you’ve missed the mark.
Musically í’m very fulfilled. If i want to work with someone i contact this person. The more fame though the more limited the collaboration will be…
Jens and Yvonne at this stage of your professional careers and accomplishments, If you could work alongside any other artists who would they be and why?
(Yvonne) There are a slew of artists that I would love to meet who inspired me, many of whom are no longer living. I would love to sit down for pizza with Selena, Michael Jackson, Bach and Brenda Fassie. At this stage in my career, I’m not necessarily thinking about collaborations. I’m more focused on continuing to release great solo projects like “MistaRomeo” – I’m still evolving as an artist, so a musician I may want to collaborate with today, may not be the same musician I’d want to collaborate with tomorrow, if that makes sense. I will say, I adore Shakira, Rihanna and Enya. It would be great to do a record with them someday.
(Jens) Musically í’m very fulfilled. If i want to work with someone i contact this person. The more fame though the more limited the collaboration will be. Personally i would have loved to meet David Bowie, or Prince. But to have a glass of wine and a relaxed nice conversation, not necessarily for music making.
Jens are there any similarities to collaborations with the legendary Sandra compared to Yvonne, or they are artists at different times in your music career?
(Jens) Well – every artist is a completely different story. That‘s also the beauty of it. While Sandra in her European 80s style is more of a melody and detail driven singer singing in a foreign language, Yvonne just steps in front of the mic and tells a story. Every recording in European 80s/90s style is done in parts, the voice has more of an instrument character – while a US artist like Yvonne just performs a story like telling you something in 3 minutes while you happen to press record. There is also nothing to edit really because a story is how it is right?
Photo courtesy @GadImages
What kind of work can the world expect from Jens Gad and Yvonne Sangudi together and individually within the next 5 years?
(Yvonne) The music business changes on a daily basis so it’s impossible for an artist to make plans that far out. I personally don’t like to make long-term music plans because all too often plans change, artists change, their sounds change and their looks change! What I do know for sure is Jens and I will continue to put out more great records.
(Jens) No defined plans for me. Like always lots of projects are coming up. Through the Enigma tag i receive numerous production inquiries daily, ranging from electronic, over US pop to movie score projects. A fun dance through all genres – reminding you that there is no real style of music – just music. Expressing a feeling through rhythm, words and melody.