Catching Creativity With Milky Chance

German rock duo Milky Chance discusses their creative chemistry, upcoming album Living in a Haze, and how smoking weed with friends can be a spiritual experience.
Milky Chance
Photo by Anthony Molina

Milky Chance is ready to rock. The duo of Clemens Rehbein and Philipp Dausch recently embarked on a new world tour and the German-based band is set to continue bringing the freshness with a new album Living in a Haze, dropping everywhere June 9th. “There’s lots of enjoyment in there,” said Dausch of the upcoming record. “We’re super happy and stoked to release it and share it, because it feels like a new chapter.”

After years of touring and releasing albums, the band encountered a period of stillness during the pandemic and used the time to cultivate new material without the stresses of being on the road. It’s somewhat fitting then that as their current tour progresses, new singles will drop—such as “Golden,” the latest off the upcoming record—allowing the band to simultaneously share new music live and digitally without the pressure to do both.

When we connect over Google Meet, Rehbein and Dausch are in a calm, thoughtful place, and over the course of our conversation we explore Milky Chance’s origins, the group’s creative process, and the art of being intentional with one’s cannabis consumption.

High Times: Growing up in Germany, when did you discover music was the path for you?

Clemens Rehbein: I started playing guitar at the age of twelve and began taking guitar lessons by accident. A friend of mine back then asked me if I wanted to join him [in the lessons] because he didn’t want to go alone, and from the first day onward, I was totally into it, and I didn’t want to do anything else.

I don’t know if you could say we knew music was going to be the “thing” for us—as in “professional” or a profession—but from day one, playing guitar, getting into playing an instrument, and making and creating music connected to a new sauce within me. I wanted to spend lots of time doing it, it gave me such a good feeling and I had so much fun doing it. I was driven by that.

Philipp Dausch: I started guitar playing when I was six, but more in a classical way, and it didn’t really connect with that internal force thing. That happened later when I was in my early teens when my parents broke up and the world became a bit chaotic.

My best friend was a musician and he had a studio at his house where I would spend a lot of time with drums, guitars, saxophones and we would jam. That—combined with some life events where you had to grow up—connected for me really hard. I felt something with music that was parallel to coping with emotional work. Music, making music, having a band and having this strong bond between people was something that definitely felt like a path opening up that felt right and felt like home.

“Finding a path” is an eloquent way to describe it because the path isn’t connected. Getting a little lost—as traumatic as that sounds…we all have that growing up, places where you feel a little lost, and I think music has always been—and always will be—the source of guidance and a compass to follow.

High Times: You were both in a group prior to Milky Chance. What was it about your individual connections to music—that when combined—created a collaboration you felt gelled in a really great way?

Philipp Dausch: We met in high school and became really good friends and played a lot of music together every day. Musically, we had a lot of mutuality. We shared the same styles, we loved the same music and loved to exchange stuff, and also just really lived in that community together. We had the same friends and it was that daily life that connected us really strongly. All combined, it let us grow together.

Once we started doing Milky Chance and growing with the project, we just figured over the years that with the foundation we had, we worked well together—musically and also on all the other levels needed to sustain a successful band because there’s more than just music, obviously.

High Times: As you rolled with Milky Chance, was there a moment where you started to realize you could possibly sustain yourself off your work with the project?

Clemens Rehbein: It was the end of 2012/beginning of 2013 when we made the decision to record all the songs, maybe do an album, start a label and do it all DIY because we’d gotten a lot of very positive feedback and attention on YouTube back then. After a while, you could tell people were digging it.

We had our first show here in our hometown—maybe 150 people or something like that—and they were all going crazy. It was one of those moments where it was like, “Oh, wow. This music does something to the people.” With the decision to do an album and release it ourselves, I think that was our moment where we thought, “Let’s give it a shot.”

Philipp Dausch: But we also have to admit or fairly say that we’ve grown up in very safe places and bubbles. Meaning, there wasn’t too much pressure or decision making of, “We have to do this right now and live off of it.” We were free and safe enough to know we felt something—because we’d made music together for a while—and could feel that people really dug the music. We wanted to try and work it, but there was not too much of a conscious mind having to think about living off of it. We had time, we had fun, and we had music.

High Times: And you could take risks.

Philipp Dausch: We could take risks, which feels like a privilege these days.

I guess the time where it really consciously hits was more life experience—stepping outside your bubble—knowing what you’re made of and where you come from. As in, it’s more like today—ten years later—that we have an actual understanding and more of a mindset where we’re very grateful that we are able to live off of it. Music is our life and we can feed our families and live a safe life, but it’s something that came way later.

High Times: How do you find your creative inspiration and execute on it?

Philipp Dausch: We’ll have ideas anytime, anywhere, and we have these cool things in the 21st century called phones [holds up iPhone] which have a dictation function. Whenever there’s a thing in our heads and we’re randomly anywhere, we just record it quickly and either the next day go to the studio and show it to each other or say, “Hey, I have this idea” and work on it. It happens anywhere—at home, on holiday, when you’re with friends, when you’re in the car, when you’re on the tarmac.

We once had an interview with James Blake that still echoes in my head sometimes. He said something back then that I didn’t understand because we had just started, but he was saying “The difference between creativity and productivity is that you can always be creative, but it only becomes productive if you actually take the time to catch your thought.” We will always have creativity and we will always have ideas—the only difference that will be made is if you actually take action and record it quickly and catch it because it will be gone in a minute again. That’s really important and is something I think we’ve learned as well.

We all live our lives and we are all distracted. We have families, our duties, our routines. Within that, we will have moments where an idea will fly by, and either you catch it or it will be gone in the next seconds.

Clemens Rehbein: You also have to make space and time to be creative. Of course at times there’s an idea popping up while taking a walk somewhere, but also when we’re most productive, we’re spending a lot of time in the studio everyday. Just being in the studio—even if you have no plans or ideas—just being there, playing an instrument, spending time making music…if you take an hour a day to play guitar, eventually ideas come.

Photo by Anthony Molina

High Times: In terms of your upcoming album—Living in a Haze—what went into this record creatively?

Philipp Dausch: We were coming out of eight years of touring and making three albums and then the pandemic hit, and we awkwardly took a break where we wouldn’t have naturally. To be fair—

Clemens Rehbein: We had the best pandemic ever [laughs].

Philipp Dausch: It was a good thing for us individually and personally, though not to say it wasn’t a horrible thing on a lot of levels. It helped us to regain a lot of energy, rebuild our mindset, and really have time at home. As Clemens said, we could go on to the studio on the daily and spend time playing instruments and just be real. Those routines of travel, having a lot of input and feeling stressed [weren’t there], which helped us write a lot, explore production and explore our sound.

We found that after all of these years of touring and making our last three albums—which had to happen parallel to touring—that we were in a new chapter. This chapter felt like we were taking big steps and had developed a lot, but we didn’t feel like we had an album yet. So we put out mixtapes—which was a very colorful experience—of remixes, covers, and demos. We just released what we felt we wanted to share, no matter if we hadn’t done a “normal” album thing. It felt really good, and at that time, we just kept writing and writing—until the end of last year—where we felt we had an album put together.

High Times: When it comes to creating new music—and music in general—what role does cannabis play for you?

Philipp Dausch: I’m a social smoker on all levels, whether it’s weed or cigarettes. I never really smoke by myself. To me, it’s a social thing that I like to do with friends and other people. It’s relaxing.

Getting older, I only really smoke homegrown weed because the shit from the street makes me anxious, so I really only go for the bio–homegrown stuff.

High Times: So you know what’s in your buds.

Philipp Dausch: For sure. It’s kind of the same with food, right?

Clemens Rehbein: [Laughs] The organic social smoker right here.

Philipp Dausch: [Laughs] There you go. But just to be clear, [weed’s] not helpful to be productive. We never smoke in the studio. Our productivity and smoking are not connected at all.

Clemens Rehbein: We’re always sober when we’re doing music. I get so bad [playing] when I smoke. I can’t “smoke good” [laughs].

High Times: You need all of your faculties. 

Clemens Rehbein: It’s interesting, I was just talking about this with someone today. In our society, most people consume stuff—not only cannabis—for enjoyment. But you can also do it in a more conscious way. More therapeutic. Sometimes I feel like maybe there could be more to it than just consuming it, being stoned, and having fun. You know what I mean?

Philipp Dausch: But that can be very therapeutic if you think about it.

High Times: Same with psychedelics. Just like with cannabis, you can consume mushrooms to party, or you could have a more spiritually enriched experience. 

Philipp Dausch: I forget who said it—when you use a drug to suppress something else, it’s wrong because it will lead you down a self-destructive path. But if you intentionally use it because you feel good and want to open up and use it for something higher—that’s better than using it because you feel bad and want to forget about something. Because then even a social night at a party can be a spiritual experience.

A spiritual experience doesn’t necessarily need to be pictured as us sitting in a circle holding hands. It could also be that you’re at a party in a garden drinking beer. That can also be very spiritual.

Follow @milkychance_official and check out https://www.milkychance.net/ for tickets and tour dates

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