Fresh off their hit “All You Got Is Gold” which was one of the most popular tracks featured in Netflix’s “The Haunting of Hill House”, Venice trio, The Great Escape, is back, this time with a homage to immigrants. Their new music powered short film “Where Do We Go From Here” features 30 immigrants each narrating their own story. As immigrants themselves, the members of The Great Escape, Kristian Nord, Hanna Fahle, and Malte Hagemeister, has stayed true to their previous cultures and do all they can to show support to fellow immigrants.
I sat down with guitarist and director of the “Where Do We Go From Here” video, Malte Hagemeister, to dive deeper into the band’s origin and their powerful message.
Ariel Zedric: Tell me a little bit about how ‘The Great Escape’ came to be? Did you bond more over your immigrant status or your love for music?
Malte Hagemeister: Definitely for the love of music. Venice Beach is full of amazing folks from all over the world so the fact you are an immigrant is nothing too special. We all love the 60s and 70s, we are all Beatles lovers — that’s a solid foundation 🙂
Yet I know there is a mindset that connects all immigrants. So maybe there is some truth to that side too: All of us “ran away from home” to find ourselves. That’s some bonding material.
What’s the significance behind the band name?
We love how it raises the question: What is a great escape? What is your version? Vacation? Moving away from your parents? Breaking up with your girl? Buying a new car? Too many cocktails? We love the idea of an inner “Beautiful Escape” (as in “It’s Getting Better” on our first album) — music is a superpower and can transcend your reality. We are music junkies and love to get lost in sounds, in melodies, in beats. So this is an important aspect to us — but our band name can mean something completely different to you. Which is awesome.
Your new music powered short film “Where Do We Go From Here” nearly had me in tears. Talk about the inspiration behind not only the music but also the visual.
We wanted to get as personal as you can get in a few minutes with these many people involved. We thought it might be powerful to get a sense of immigrants’ struggles and how everybody can relate to their courage and growth. Getting all these heartfelt reactions now shows us we succeeded.
We’ve been exploring the idea of using our music to support an inspirational message for some years now: one video is about the transformational power of dance, another one about the infectious passion of a few very special old folks. Being immigrants ourselves (Kristian and Malte are German-born, Hanna lives in Berlin) we realized how much our song is about this side of our lives — and how much this connects us to all immigrants, no matter if they came here legally, illegally, out of free will or because they were forced to leave. To represent this diverse international group visually seemed like a powerful idea. We’re happy to hear that it causes tears of compassion!
What was it like working with those who were featured in the video?
Everyone was just really sweet and supportive of this project. We were blown away by the vulnerability and openness to go deep and share some dark moments. At the same time, it was powerful to see everyone’s positivity and strength shine — no matter how difficult their life might have been. You could feel how everyone is affected by the political climate — and sharing experiences of strength and courage from an immigrant’s perspective was definitely an important matter to everyone.
How do you feel being an immigrant has shaped you?
I think first of all it taught me a lot about myself! Leaving your culture, your friends, your language behind makes you re-evaluate everything that defined you. You grow up with certain ways things are or people behave and then everything is different. You have to find your place in that new world which makes you question many sides about yourself. I think I developed a lot of compassion for everyone.
And then you learn so much about your home country. I keep saying I really got to know Germany when I left it. Because in contrast, everything becomes so much more visible!
Being an immigrant has pushed me into growth on all levels — personally, creatively, business-wise.
How has it shaped your music?
It put me in touch with so much American roots music — Blues, Soul, Rock, Gospel, Americana — I always had a love for these influences but I soaked them up since I’ve been in the US. I get to work with people who have been in the studio or on tour with my heroes, and these sessions all left a huge impact on my music making. Here in LA, we get to play with some of the best players in the world — this is a great kick in the butt to create the most fantastic music possible. Yes, it raised the bar for me!
In what ways do you still honor and/or stay in touch with your culture from home?
I personally cherish German culture a lot through my kids — they grow up in Cali but I feed them with every German kid’s song I know, with German books — and of course, the German language that I think is really beautiful (an appreciation I didn’t have so much back home). I want them to have the diverse roots that I have — it will broaden their horizon and will make them feel more like a world citizen.
At the beginning of the band, we were much more obsessed about creating a record that sounds like it could’ve been recorded in the 60s or 70s. When we met for the current record we got excited about letting in anything that inspires us. We opened it up. Drum machines, samples, effect processing — there are many new elements on the record that take from the past into the future. Still, the love for everything vintage is the core of our sound. We also started quite a few songs on the keyboard rather than on guitar, just to change our creative process. We own this badass Mellotron keyboard that you can hear in almost every song now.
You’ve done several music videos in short film form. Would you ever consider dabbling in the film or documentary industry?
Tempting. There are some folks who said some of our videos could turn into a long form. So who knows — maybe the next release will be a documentary that we score as a band. Why not. We love telling stories. May it be through songs or through our music powered short films or through future formats.
Have you encountered any major setbacks or obstacles in the music industry as a band thus far? If so, how have you overcome them?
This band has been our testing ground for exploring the indie route — we’ve been releasing everything on our own label, through our own publishing. All partners are Indies themselves, and this network has been very fruitful. I would say that our band is our answer to setbacks and obstacles we had with other projects before — we really enjoy the freedom and flexibility we have with doing it the way we want to. That being said, there are always ups and downs in making money with music. As soon as you think you have it figured out it will be different next time. So now we really focus on inspired moments and ideas. That is the core of everything and much more valuable than relying on some strategy. Music is magic — it opens doors you didn’t know existed.
Are you working on any other exciting, forthcoming projects that you want people to know about?
Kristian and I are involved in The String Theory — a big orchestra based in Berlin and Gothenburg. We are part of the new LA chapter that features several indie artists, there’s an exciting double vinyl and documentary in the making!
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger selves, what would it be?
If in doubt, do it. I think when I was younger I was too afraid to fail and didn’t grab all opportunities. Now I know that making a mistake is a far more valuable lesson than not trying something.
Any last thoughts?
This is just the beginning!
Feature image courtesy of The Great Escape