Berlin and Beyond: Marcel Fengler
When thinking of Ostgut Ton and the iconic Berlin nightclub Berghain from which the imprint originates, there are a few names that have become inextricably linked with the techno institution and it’s powerhouse stable of residents- Marcel Dettmann, Ben Klock, Norman Nodge and of course Marcel Fengler. Thus it was with great excitement we caught up with Mr. Fengler to wax lyrical about his time in the ex power plant, the building of his new studio and his love of hip hop ahead of his return to London for Ostgut Ton x 50 Weapons hosted by Broken and Uneven!
Looking from the outside at the critical attention you’ve had it might seem that you’ve gone from being a less visible member of the Ostgut family to having a level of recognition on a par with any other techno star. Has anything seemed to change from your perspective?
Thank you! I haven’t change a lot about my working methods over the past years but obviously I’m trying to develop myself with each project and while doing so I’m trying out new things. I think by now maybe I’m just working in a bit more structured and goal-oriented manner than before.
Berlin, and Berghain in particular, one of the few places in the world where DJs are able to play truly extended sets. How do you go about keeping your record bag renewed for each set?
For longer sets, I prefer to take an extensive selection with me because over here you have more time to connect different genres well with each other. The rest just happens when you’re playing and comes with the flow.
Obviously some adjustment has to be made when you travel and the opening hours don’t allow for this but has the experience of reducing your play time given you any ideas you’ve taken back to your residency?
In principle there is actually not that much change. I’m also trying to offer a context as broad as possible during a short two hour set. To what extent that succeeds always depends on the particular situation and is not predictable. In the end, one thing probably stimulates each other.
Could you pick any places you’ve played were you’re especially keen to go back to?
There’s a range of great venues which I always like to return to. For example, last year I played a lot more often in Holland and without exception these were all super experiences. Looking at it all, it is of course difficult to emphasise the one club over another. I also find it exciting to play at a club that I have never been to before. Last October I played in Mexico for the first time and afterwards I celebrated my birthday together with great people at my debut show in Vancouver, that was a great time.
I read that a while ago you had begun building your own studio space in order to start using a few bits of analogue equipment to make music. What made you want to branch out from your computer?
I actually would like to link my computer-based work with analogue equipment without excluding one part completely. This setup is based on my passion to experiment with new things, which I mentioned earlier. New equipment is always included in my setup and it is fun to find out in which context you can make use of this or that new tool.
Have you caught the hardware bug now you’ve started or have you got your space as you’d like it? Are there any interesting pieces of kit or favourites you could tell us about?
It definitely changes my workflow more and more and I finally get a away from the ‘mouse-work’. Especially when I have the time to whine a bit with my music colleagues. You tend to work more openly and come off of a certain project’s context. Recently, a Korg Monopoly has been added to my studio setup. That is of course a classic, but still a mad thing!
Has taking to the controls of hardware given you any desire to put together a live show?
So far, I haven’t developed any concrete intentions in relation to this. But obviously that could be a natural step and I don’t want to rule it out for the future but we’ll see…
I’m aware you had an early musical interest in hip-hop. Dan Curtin has said in the past that he judges his beats by the standards of hip hop. Does hip hop still feature in your musical conscious today or is it an interest you keep separate from techno.
To keep it in perspective, these were two totally separate worlds for me in the past. Probably this is also because of the different attitudes of both genres during these times here in Germany. But musically, I think Funk and Hip-Hop have had their stylistic influences on me.
Which Hip hop artists did you listen too, in particular?
There used to be plenty of crews for me. I listened to Tribe Called Quest a lot, Pete Rock, Kool Keith and KRS-One. But in particular I was a great fan of Gang Starr and today I still enjoy listening to stuff by DJ Premier. He´s the man with the golden hands on the wheels of steel.
Is there any other music outside of techno which gives you cause for thought artistically?
Apart from genres such as Techno and House I find music exciting if genres become blurred and you cannot clearly put them into a certain box. Especially, when analogue and digital worlds become mixed up. As long as it doesn’t sound tacky, I’m quite open-minded.
Berghain has Blawan flying in from the UK soon, looking at his output from a few years ago few could have predicted he’d soon be getting booked for the main room. Techno has a habit of drawing in talented artists who have honed their skills with other music. Do you have any idea why techno has such a draw for musical creatives?
On the one hand, Techno, or maybe even electronic music generally, just offers objectiveness and the appropriate freedom to let new things happen. On the other hand, the so-called ‘underground’ genre has often been declared dead, but you (still) cannot deny the genre’s great attractiveness. But I think if you have a foible for drums like Jamie, together with his talent, then probably Techno is the logical consequence.
Is it something which contributes to the scene’s long life and constant evolution?
Difficult to say, but as I just mentioned the ability to always reinvent yourself, probably contributes a lot.
Within techno can you identify any artist or group of artists which you think are making great music right now?
From my perspective as a DJ, on the one hand for sure there is a range of well- recognised artists that I like to play. On the other hand, I have my eyes on a few new talents with who I eventually would like to work with closer in the future for my label IMF. But I would not like to say much about it now.