Quehenberger & Kern at the listed MPS bar. October 2023/Villingen. Photo: MPS-Studio

Philipp Quehenberger and Didi Kern have been on the MPS studio want list for some time. Improvised huge keyboards & lush percussion, that’s a completely different idea of free music.

Kern played in the hottest hardcore band in Austria: “Fuckhead”, improvised with Peter Brötzmann and worked on a project with Peter Weibel (Wiener Aktionismus / later ZKM director).

“For my part, I was never a jazzer. Not a free jazz player either, more of a farmer jazz player. I came from brass band music and later got really into punk and hardcore. Then techno came along in the 1990s. So if someone says free jazz, all well and good, but it’s actually improvisation.” (Kern in an interview with Mica)

It’s not free jazz either. What is it? Power Improvisation? The rich sound doesn’t get lost in annoying, small fragments of noise. It is something big, something tangible. Kern is a very precise drummer who brings a lot of energy and creativity to the skins. It is a pleasure to watch how the two of them get on blindly on stage.

Kern on the drums, Quehenberger on the keys. Live in the MPS studio. Photo: © Jens Heid / MPS Studio 2024

Both grew up in the provinces, Kern on Lake Attersee and Quehenberger in Innsbruck. Teen Quehenberger was musically socialized by his father at a very early age: jazz, techno and punk rock. The whole thing in the blood. I was allowed to attend Sun Ra concerts as a child and Cecil Taylor once visited the Quehenberger house. A formative experience for him.

I play what I hear. But yeah, that you can’t see through that or say why you think that’s kind of good . . . I’ve been with the free jazz thing from a very young age. Cecil Taylor certainly influenced me. When I was a kid, he also lived with us briefly. For me, that was the ‘normal’ music. (Quehenberger in an interview with Mica)

During this time, the schoolboy Quehenberger went to England, where he experienced the harshness of the British subculture first-hand. Nevertheless, a good school for music, even if he doesn’t want to glorify anything. Back in Vienna, he released his first albums on Editition Mego or Cheap Records and composed tracks that were also used by the well-known post-punk legend Mark Stewart (Loner). Kern also shows a musical socialization on a broad level, from punk, techno, jazz to avant-garde. The boundaries are fluid.

Kern on the drums, Quehenberger on the keys. Live in the MPS studio. Photo: © Jens Heid / MPS Studio 2024

In October 2023, the time had come, the two gentlemen were invited to the MPS studio for a concert and – oh joy – they were promptly accepted. By train from Vienna to Stuttgart, then the MPS pick-up service arrived, you simply can’t count on Deutsche Bahn when it matters.

The concert was split into two sets. It’s obvious – these two unagitated and idiosyncratic Alpine countries are blind masters of their craft. Their sound develops a fabulous, crazy-psychedelic-technoid energy. What is that? A genre is hard to come up with. An intense tremor, then a pause and the machine thunders on, taking an unexpected turn before hurtling into oncoming traffic. Free, brute, nervous. Quehenberger & Kern create a significant sound, an entity that shows that they have been making music together for many years. An extraordinary concert!

Kern & Quehenberger at the gallows, fox trap near Triberg/Black Forest. October 2023 Photo: © Töni Schifer/MPS-Studio

The following day, our guests were taken on a short excursion through the steaming valleys of the Black Forest to the somewhat obscure town of Furtwangen, where the best cheesecake in the world is served. The gallows at the Fuchsfalle, near Triberg, was also on the tourism program. After all, this area once belonged to Vorderösterreich.