Three and a half years of writing and production culminated in the release of Greenissimo’s debut self-titled album on Dangerous Drums Records. Comprised of Esther Cowen and Charlyn Green Hashmi, Greenissimo is setting out to make some changes. Breaks with melody. Soul and downbeat.
Signed to Breaks label Dangerous Drums, these two American-born, Berlin-based ex-pats are beginning to cause quite a stir in musicland, garnering support of the likes of King Britt. Charlyn is programming and on the keys and Esther holds down vocal duties. Lending a helping hand are producers Bym, Nawroz Abbany and Paul Browse (of Clockwork DVA fame).
Fly’s Jeremy Balius touched down in Berlin to find out what all the furor was about and where it’s all going.
If the ideas are working without all of the studio tricks, then we know we’ve got a good song
JB — Between the two of you, you have the past of Detroit, Philadelphia and California, and Hamburg. How has Berlin shaped/changed/affected your music?
Esther — Living in Berlin gave me a chance to re-create myself. I’d been a dancer my whole life, and through the people I met in Berlin I was inspired to develop another creative side of myself. It was also relatively easy to make a living doing gigs and teaching dance, unlike in other cities.
Charlyn — I came to Berlin expecting to follow a career in classical music, but I always wanted to make other kinds of music as well. Around 1992, I started working in clubs, doing the coat-check, cashier, guestlist — you name it. Later on, I worked in a record shop that catered to DJs. Doing those jobs and working as a keyboardist put me in direct contact with music scenes that I may not have been a part of if I’d lived somewhere else.
You mentioned elsewhere that you’re ‘thinking globally, but happy to touch one heart at a time’. In what ways do you wanna affect change through your music?
Charlyn — Any time you write or perform music that people relate to, you’re already somehow creating “change”. Hopefully, it’s a positive change! A change that makes people feel connected to each other, regardless of who they are or where they come from. It’s also great to see successful artists use their money/fame to help others, and we’d like to be able to do that too. Actually, the real “change” that we enjoy by making music is the growth we experience within ourselves.
Describe your writing process. Writing together, separately, programming, playing etc.
Esther — We usually meet a couple times a week to see how the vibes are! Many times, Esther has lyrics or melodic ideas that she’s come up with, and I have my own. We try to fuse those ideas together, usually in a session with just the piano/keyboard and a drum machine. We always come up with the main ideas of the song (melody, harmony, lyrics and groove) before we record anything. If the ideas are working without all of the studio tricks, then we know we’ve got a good song. Sometimes it’s fun to just hook up with a producer and see what happens, but most of the time we have pretty clear ideas about the songs before working with someone else.
In what ways are you able to infuse soul into the electronic?
Esther — We’re not trying to infuse soul into the electronic. We’re just making music, and we like to think that we’re naturally soulful. It would be hard for us to make any music, electronic or otherwise that didn’t have soul in it! Besides, there’s plenty of electronic music that’s soulful, even if it’s minimal, non-vocal and repetitive, the soulfullness can be in there in a very subtle and profound way.
In what ways do you see the style of music you listen to and/or play changing in 2006?
Charlyn — That’s a good question, but hard to answer since one can only tell with hindsight. We want to make music that fits nicely into the electronic music genre, yet stretches the current boundaries. Actually, we’d like to be the creators of a whole new genre! We like the electronic scene because there seems to be an openess and willingness from its audience to embrace new sounds.
What do you think of MySpace and what has it done for you?
Esther — We love myspace.com! It’s given us a chance to connect with other artists around the world, and other artists in Berlin that we weren’t aware of. We like checking out other people’s profiles and getting a sense of what they’re doing, and what’s happening in the global scene. We’ve gotten a lot of postitive feedback from some of the aritsts that we admire, and have been able to use it as a marketing tool. It’s fun!
Give us some insight on music, new or old, that people should be aware of or listening to?
Charlyn — First of all, we’d like people to be aware of and listening to OUR music. After that, you can never go wrong listening to Prince, whether it’s his old stuff or the new jams. We also like Martin Luther, John Legend, Spacek, Eric D. Clark, ElBee Bad, DJ Aziz, LTJ Bukem, anything that Sasha and Digweed make, Jill Scott, Meshell Ndegeócello… we dig them all… how much time have we got?
In your myspace blogs, you mention that you’re working heavily on more material, not only for your live show, but for future releases well. Thoughts on releasing singles/remixes?
Esther — We want to release some straight-up, bumpin’ dance tracks before releasing another album. We would very much like to release a single or a remix of one of the songs from the album… can you hook us up?