Switzerland is a country often known for its chocolate, clocks, ski resorts, and yodeling. However, in the northern German-speaking part of the country, there lives a composer by the name of Adrian von Ziegler. The music Adrian composes, as a whole, is hard to define with a single term. The genres range from the gloomy “Emotional” and “Dark,” to the mysterious genres of Chinese, Japanese, and Arabic, to the popular Celtic Music that conveys a wide range of emotions.
Upon first glance, Adrian’s long, dark hair, accompanied by a goatee and dark clothing lead many to ask: Is he a Goth? Then they go into his music, not sure what to expect, and are grasped by the sounds and taken to the highlands of Scotland, the cold halls of Viking warchiefs, the darkest towers of Transylvania, the Arabian deserts with the crescent moon and countless stars shining upon the sands, or simply a tropical paradise. They then return to reality, unsure of what happened to them and they subscribe to his YouTube channel, joining a community of six hundred thousand people.
“I guess many people are surprised that I listen to music quite rarely,” Adrian says. Along with having so many songs, he has no other professions because his music sustains both him and his wife, Carina. According to Adrian, the three things he cannot live without are, “Carina, music, and...hope.” Adrian also says that his music is part of his biggest challenge in life, and according to him, “The biggest challenge was and still is, that I didn’t give up on myself...that I got up and started to follow my dreams and despite so many people trying to tell me that what I’m doing will never work out, I continued and kept on going.” Part of his challenge is his music, which he says, “now it became a job that has to support my wife and maybe someday family…”
“I feel like I was never inspired to go into music,” Adrian says when asked what inspired him to go into music. However, when he was growing up, he cites Kurt Cobain and Hans Zimmer as individuals that he looked up to, though they were never “why” he “got into composing.” Though as he says, “they, for sure, helped inspire me greatly.”
Adrian refers to Hans as “a Beethoven of modern times.” He went on to say that “he does things with the music itself...produces sounds and emotions with it that I don’t think have ever even been done before he came along…”
About Kurt Cobain, Adrian says, “Kurt and the music he did with Nirvana was the first time I felt such raw, brutal, painfully honest emotion in someone’s music. Kurt was suffering like hell, and it was so easy to feel that suffering in his songs that I was blown away by it.
Adrian stated, “Oh boy, so many!” and laughed when asked which song was the most difficult to compose and then he listed his songs “Atmospheres,” “Ocean Daughter,” and “Arch Rivals.” He called “Ocean Daughter” and “Arch Rivals” the most difficult ones to write on an “intellectual level.” “‘Atmospheres’ was so extremely hard because of its length,” according to Adrian. “It’s an entire hour of uninterrupted soundscape and music.”
When asked what his favorite song is, he said, “‘Innocence and ‘The End’ would be the top, there. I think when it comes to melody, my favorite, however, is ‘Immortal.’ I think it’s the best melody I ever did, and when it comes to favorite song that I myself listen to the most; it’s ‘Ótroðinn’ and ‘Pluto.’” Again, he said that it was a hard question to answer.
“Ótroðinn” and “Pluto” are both songs that Adrian von Ziegler created experimentally. He said that recently he has uploaded all of the songs that he did experimentally, but some genres that he experimented with but never published are an “80’s Pop-Rock song,” “an Indian song with an electronic beat,” and “Arabian metal.”
Also concerning his songs, Adrian said, “I’m frustrated to say that I don’t believe any of my songs are perfect; I could have done more with each of them.” He laughed, “Like Hans Zimmer once said, songs are never finished; they are abandoned...so finishing a song is just that you say, ‘Okay, I won’t try to build more on it.’” Furthermore, he said, “...once I decide that I ‘abandon’ a song, I try to move on. It pains me, usually, to go back and try to rebuild something old.”
When composing songs, he only uses the keyboard and a music mixing program called MAGIX Music Maker, and when asked if he uses any more instruments, he said, “Nothing, those are all I need to make my songs. I do, however, also write music on the guitar, almost exclusively for songs that end up having guitar melodies in them, of course.” He went on to talk more about the process of making songs, “Mostly, I start a new piece of music either because I have a picture, a scene or a story in my head that comes to me, and I try to express this in music...for example, ‘Viterns Dröm,’ where I imagined Odin sitting on a frozen throne. Then the other case is that I somehow create a melody in my head, and I sit down trying to capture it...trying to search for the right instrument for the melody, and eventually to build around it so that it makes a complete song. One example of a song that started this way is Legend….” He then said, “Story and mental imagery is very important for me. I always imagine scenes in my head for any song I write. It makes me much more inspired, and at least, I hope that it gives the music a much deeper level when it was made with a background idea, rather than some funny little tune with nothing behind it.” He also explained that the process is “chaotic,” and how long it takes to finish a song varies between hours and months.
After being asked about the weirdest instrument he used in a song, considering the great variety of instruments in his music, Adrian stated that he loves weird instruments. Then he answered, “I guess something that was very strange, but turned out surprisingly good, was that I used a Didgeridoo for an Arabian song, once.” This song that he is referring to is “Dust and Shadows.”
Before the interview ended, Adrian revealed some themes for future albums which include a Viking album, a “dark album,” and a relaxing album with ethnic music, rather than more ambient music as was seen with his “Wanderer” album. He said that completed four songs for his “dark album,” but only one song was uploaded to his YouTube page, “Dark Overture.” Then he said that he almost finished his first song for his relaxing album.
With that, the adventure of interviewing Adrian von Ziegler ended. Talking to Adrian von Ziegler is like walking into his music that could be found on his YouTube account, Adrian von Ziegler. His words grab and captivate all those around him. They make them want more, and it leaves them amazed. After his last word was spoken, a new conversation with Adrian von Ziegler starts by listening to his music.