Updated: Oct 20, 2018
As a child, Andi wanted to play drums but his dad only gave him drumsticks. What seemed like a deficit ended up being a creative explosion in his life.
Sylvain: Hey, it's Sylvain and this is the handpan podcast. Joining me in this episode is my friend Andi Steil, who is a German musician and a comedian in the northern part of Germany. In the episode we talk about how to start creating in a simple way and how often times that simplicity empowers us to experience creative freedom. You'll want to listen to how Andi learned how to play the drums. It's pretty funny, but really I think this podcast episode will encourage you to enjoy the creative journey. So let's jump right in to a conversation with Andi Steil.
Sylvain: Well, Hi Andi and welcome to the handpan podcast.
Andi: Hey Sylvain.
Sylvain: Hey, I'm really excited for our conversation today for a couple of reasons. Um, I've followed your creative work for about 10 years I think, and it's been a great source of inspiration, but also it seems to me like your approach to making music very much aligns with the vision I have for the handpan podcast, which is to experience the simple joy of creating. So I thought I would start with, uh, the beginning. Um, when in your life did you start playing music?
Andi: I started very early when I was six years old, to be honest, I started singing in school and my father was a music teacher, played piano and accordion. My mother was a singer and yeah, in school, uh, first, uh, um, I joined choirs and at home, uh, I made a bit of music with my father. He taught me a bit of a piano. Um, yeah, that's from six years old. And um, I learned or I started drumming at the age of 12 on bongos.
Sylvain: Drumming on bongos. Okay. So playing percussion.
Andi: Yeah. But, but I played the Bongos, like the drum set, like a bass and snare. I didn't at that time I didn't know any patterns from bongos, so I just played a, like a back beat on the drum. I played it on the bongos deep for the bass drum and the high for the snare.
Sylvain: So, you were drawn to the drum kit it sounds like.
Andi: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Very soon after I, uh, my father decided not to teach me on piano again anymore because, uh, I was one of the last of pupils. He, he get a students he gets during the day and hadn't any patience to, um, to, to teach me. And he said, if I want to learn piano, you have to get another teacher. And then I said, oh, well papa. I think I want to play drums. I would like to play drums more.
Sylvain: So what happened from there? Obviously you grew up in a. from a musical family. Yes, yes. But you didn't completely follow in their footstep of being classically trained and kind of in an institutionalized music. You took a more creative approach it seems like.
Andi: Yes. Um, I was more like watching other musicians, watching even my father, even my mother listening to my mother when she was singing and uh, immediately when the radio was turned on, I joined music on the radio. I'm accompanied it with my own singing or with such other things. And when I asked my father to buy me a drum set, uh, he gave me only a pair of sticks. Hahaha. And I was glad that I don't ask for an aquarium because maybe he gets me some water first.
Sylvain: So you went from drumsticks later on, you became a drummer? Yeah. But you started only with drumsticks.
Andi: Only with drumsticks. Yeah.
Sylvain: How was that beginning? Because what do you do? Do you play on your bed, on your desk or.
Andi: Uh, no. I played in the air and just, yes, I imagined the drum set in front of me and I sat in front of a mirror and got my headphones on and played to the records. Uh, my, my, my record player played to the music I hear and I've heard in the, in the, on my headphones and, Yeah, I did this for one year. The reason why I did this, we moved a lot. Maybe it's important to say this. Um, we moved a lot through Germany. My family, my father especially, he got jobs at different schools and when I was 10 we moved from an island which was beautiful. My mother and I, we loved it there, but then my father got another job down south in and for a guy who came from, comes from the north of Germany, goes to Bavaria as a kid during that time it was a hard time to come to get there and being from the north and being in Bavaria. So I got bullied in school. Even also, my father was a teacher at the school and that was the time where I ask him for a drum set, got the sticks, got bullied in school. And the first thing I did after school I immediately ran home and played my invisible drum set.
Sylvain: Yeah. So it was an outlet to express yourself.
Andi: Yes. And uh, and uh, it, it was getting better. Of course, after I think, four or six month I made friends became a bit normal and after one year, uh, I was so in the school that I got some jobs. I'm also organizing parties and one big party with a band. And because I was one of the organizers, I, um, it was telling the band where to build up their set there, the instruments, and I asked the drummer if I can, if I may play on a drum set for just five minutes. And he said yes, yes. Go ahead. And then I played, never been, till then I never played a real drum set, only my air.
Andi: So I sat down and I could play, I could play the rhythms. I just played on air drums.
Sylvain: So that is amazing. Yeah. So after that, I assume that was a big validation because you could play the drums. Um, yeah. Did you go on to being a drummer and get your own drum kit?
Andi: My father then decided to give me one on Christmas and yes, at that time I started drumming. Immediately, not alone anymore, just immediately I joined groups, joined bands, joined other people to make music with. And that was also kind of my education. My musical education. I never had real teachers. I just, um, yeah, I was a learning-by-doing guy.
Sylvain: So fast forward a few years, how did you discover the hang, which for some listeners it's the first handpan, the first, the instrument that inspired handpans.
Sylvain: So how did you discover the Hang and what drew you to that instrument, which is very different from the drum kit.
Andi: Yes, that's true. Yeah. Um, when I left school, uh, I decided to be a musician at the age of 25. I decided to be a musician, don't go to the university, don't do any other jobs, being a musician and also a comedian because I always wanted to, um, to uh, make music and theater and funny theater was for me. Yeah, one of my choices. And then, uh, yeah, got comedian played in several, uh, shows as a comedian, as a musician, as a drummer, and get a friend in Berlin and he had the connection to a Swiss guy who, um, gave us the opportunity to play our show. We had at that time we had a show together. Uh, he was more like a standup comedian and I was a music comedian and we made a show together and uh, got the opportunity to play in Zurich in the year 2000.
Andi: It was one year a after the Hang was developed, after they made it. And um, I went into a one day, we had always a engage