Felix Janosa – writer of the German Fjodor songs
“Auf der Fahrt nach Hiva Oa” is already in the Lilipuz-Charts and all Fjodorfans will surely sing along with Bobby Berg und die Landratten “Fjodor, Fjodor macht Radau, Fjodor frecher Kabeljau”! Felix Janosa, who is also the composer for the Ritter Rost musicals, has written all these songs. We have asked him some questions about working with Fjodor:
Which is your favorite song in “Fjodor flippt aus” and why?
“Es röhrt der Elch um Mitternacht” – because the lines “Oh Lappenmama, Lappenpaps, bringt mir meinen Lappenschnaps” has been haunting me for years. Thanks to the subject I have been finally able to make it a complete song. It’s a bit Russian, a bit Finnish, just the kind of song where children and their parents like to shout “Hey”!
Does the publishing company tell you where to add songs or does that come to you by reading the story? How does that work?
I’m developing the song concept by reading the story several times. Terzio Verlag, especially dear Ralph Möllers (the publisher) most often leaves it up to me and I’m trying to deliver something (hopefully) special in return. The musical diversity and a certain dramaturgy – and this is the only common thing with the Ritter Rost musicals – is of big importance.
There is no music coming with the Norwegian original books. They only tell about Fjodor listening to records of the dance band Vikingarna. That’s a completely different music from Bobby Berg und die Landratten, a band which has been invented by Pål H. Christiansen for the German books. How did you develop this band and how did you find the right musicians for it?
German parents probably wouldn’t have accepted the music of Vikingarna in educational books because it is too close to easy listening. Pål H. Christiansen himself had the idea of “Bobby Berg und die Landratten”, an elderly dance band whose members are all great fans of the Beach Boys. And this is already the answer to the question about “Ultraviolettes Surfbrett”.
Where did you get the inspiration for the songs in “Fjodor flippt aus”? “Ultraviolettes Surfbrett” for example is based on the music of the Beach Boys. Where do you find the ideas for your songs?
The main inspiration for the Fjodor songs was the great singer Uli (“Bobby Berg”) Wewelsiep. I’m working with him for twenty years now and he’s getting better all the time. I’m thinking about the kind of songs that Bobby Berg aka Wewelsiep would like to sing. And of course it has to reflect the story.
“Tuma Tuma” is a real tongue-twister and other songs also play with words. What is harder to write: music or lyrics? And which comes first?
That differs. Sometimes I have a strong melody and I already know how the refrain will be (Tuma tuma höma höma etc.) and then you write a text that fits with the melody. These are the catchiest songs most of the time. Once the content is the most important, I’m often looking for the right genre (Bossa Nova? Rock’n Roll?) to go with the already existing lyrics and to tranport them in the best possible way.
What did you like most about working on the music of “Fjodor flippt aus”?
The live recording of the playbacks with the musicians.
Who is your favorite character in the Fjodor books and why?
Fjodor of course because he is even cheekier than Feuerdrache Koks of the Ritter Rost series.
You’re already working on the next Fjodor book that will be published in autumn. Can you already reveal something about the songs that will come with that book?
The songs for “Fjodor im freien Fall” have already been recorded – I composed them together with the songs for the first book in order to avoid repetition and also to make them even better. There will be a cute lullaby and a cheeky dancing song of Bobby Berg (“Senorita Conchita, ja ich bin der neue Untamita!”). And there will be more songs because the story is a bit longer too.
More about Felix Janosa on http://janosa.de/
(Photos: Felix Janosa)
This article was originally published in German on the Fjodor fanpage on May 6, 2011, interview: Annette Schwindt for Terzio Verlag, Translation: Annette Schwindt and Katherine Moseley