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A Sit Down With DJ Paul Kalkbrenner

08:20 Mar/12/2018

Having rarely listened to contemporary music since 1996, Kalkbrenner has assured himself that outside influences will never over shadow his own internal creative force. But, marrying fellow techno force Simina Grigoriu in 2012, Kalkbrenner is never far removed from the underground community.


"I’m successful because I always do the same thing – consistently – and stick to that."


You're a live act today and not a DJ anymore. Did the DJ-existence at some point no longer irritate you?

My partner Sascha Funke and I started hanging up 16 years ago. And we wanted to be big DJs. But then at 18, where you have to remember to make some money and that did not work, I made a little dangling. I worked as a cutter for 2-3 years on TV, in newsrooms for ARD and ZDF, I took part in the party congress, sat in the Schnittmobil ... From the money, which I earned there, I bought equipment and made my first tracks , And there was already relatively clear to me: I prefer to play live.

What do you think of the evolution of techno in recent years?

The development is incredible. When I started, in the 90s, I heard stuff like "techno is dead" ... And what about fifteen years later? Techno is always on the rise, and can reach new heights. You only have to see the number of festivals devoted to it.

You haven't played other people's music in so long, do you think that if you end up performing this project live that it will feel like a completely different experience?

No, I was always very good DJ, technically, when I was young, but I was never very good in letting the record run and not doing something. But yeah, I don't know, I think pressing them on vinyl and making it into a vinyl-only, old school set would be the most probable way to perform it.

How do you arrange your music on stage?

All the work takes place on stage. I have broken my songs down into parts. It was normal for me to completely disassemble the studio and on stage – except for a few external devices – reassemble them. In this way I did all my earlier music. To press “record” on a DAT tape could take the whole thing to a new level. The same way I do play play live until today. This is how I learned to make music. If I would have done it with a computer, then I would still be ok, just only with a laptop and some controllers, but staring on the monitor like a pig onto a clockwork.

By now you are playing headlining at rock festivals or filling the Berlin open-air stage Wuhlheide with 20,000 spectators. To what extent does that actually change the music?

As far as the set-up is concerned, basically nothing changes. Actually, like ten years ago, I have 16 individual channels available and screw them around live. Except that I am doing this on a giant stage now.

Knowing your own tastes, do you ever create music for your own personal pleasure? Like an ambient record, or something more experimental?

No, no. I have to use every second that I’m in the music studio for something to be released under my own name. There’s no time, like when I was 17, for all this stuff. There’s so much touring and a child at home. I know what I can do, but when I’m there, why would I waste time? I’m very happy and proud with the way I can do it.

Playing exclusively as a live act, something that I think perhaps you don’t get enough credit for is that essentially, you are developing and testing out new musical ideas in a very public fashion.

I had to be very patient about that, but now we can see at more and more festivals, there are even people recording me on their phones. For the visual side of the show next year, there will be less designs, graphics and visuals and more of a camera feed. They’re so small now, you can put them everywhere. Tomorrowland, and many other festivals, are just streamed directly from their different stages on YouTube. The more this takes place, the more people see what I do, and maybe see how little other people do there. And they’re the rock stars of today, EDM artists, so I think in the next years, people will get a bit more interested in who’s doing what on stage, and who’s doing nothing.

What are your musical influences?

The older I get, the more I realize how many folk songs are floating inside me. Just that kind of music that you have noticed early on, even some pop songs on the radio, which, when they are played today, trigger something. Music from the age when you have not made a difference, and did not want to make a difference. Everything is equally good. It’s just music.

How important are the reactions from the audience?

Of course it's great when the shop rocks, but for me other things are more important. Good monitoring, for example. It does not make any sense to me if a 3000-man-dandruff is upside down, but I do not hear anything because the sound is not properly picked - I prefer a club that is only half full, but where the monitoring is clean, where I stand, so to speak, in my own juice. If I am properly kicked by my own music, by the pressure, then the set also gets better in terms of content and art.

Have you changed by success?

I can already see certain divine features on me, for which I would have cut myself down ten years ago. For example, I wanted to postpone the interviews by three hours at short notice, simply because I would have been better off. Then I have to let me know that maybe this is not such a good idea. And Larmoyanz sometimes comes in, so a certain inclination to tearfulness.


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