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Features Interviews

In Conversation with…Fritz Kalkbrenner


For all the readers and fans out there, a legend is about to make his next move. I am talking about the iconic Fritz Kalkbrenner. A delightful figure with great opinions and we had the chance to talk to about his new music. On 16th February he is releasing his fifth album “Drown.” In this exclusive interview, we will talk about it and of course about the experience and circumstances surrounding this new release as well as his insight and analysis of some factors in the music industry.

A.R.: You are well known for your vibrant voice, the fact that you didn’t include that asset into this new album makes us curious about your decision. What is behind it?

F.K.: Not so easy to answer but, I am going to try if you can see the change from the first till the fourth album. I try to bring several types of music that influenced me from album to album, its sort of an evolution. For example in the first album we were working on with music composition bringing strings and all sorts, we would incorporate real live musicians and songs as well, however, it wouldn’t be a new approach, nor it would resuscitate itself. It was actually a moment of frustration to me, I would be able to do another vocal album but it wouldn’t be new, it wouldn’t be a level stage up. I mean that sort of frustration made me think why wouldn’t I try with the approach to go very back to… some sort of my roots in music and yeah, I mean if we go back on electronic music. Somewhere like 15 years ago, you find yourself that the element of the vocalist wouldn’t be so much in the focus of it, actually, it wouldn’t be missed at all. Yeah, actually that’s the end of the approach you know? Making this new album without the feature of my voice it would be to surprise myself.

A.R.: Regarding the length of this new album and its significance, it’s a fact that in the electronic music landscape we are more used to EP releases rather than LPs. Now we know this is not your first LP, but it is the first one with no vocals. What is the story behind this one? Any message “drowned “ in between these twelve tracks?

F.K.: I mean like yeah, “Drown” could be seen in a positive way of course, but it’s actually more to be seen as “drown” into the death of that kind of music…

A.R.: How long did it take to finish “Drown”? Did you come across any difficulties in the production process?

F.K.: I mean like yes a few of the ideas I had them for quite a long time but it was a bit frustrating because of the old way of doing things on the previous albums. I had sort of ideas and sketches already but remodelled them pretty much and you can hear in the new album featuring more synthesizers and drum machines as I did before. But bottom-line, the final recordings and the final production is what was actually just a session and we speak of three weeks of hard work. I had all these parts already together and know that the moment its right to go into the studio with them and then ok, now I have three weeks of work. You can actually do all of this in one session and this can be really good for the sound of the album. It makes it really sound like one piece rather than if you have a track that is already two years old and it was created into a completely different mindset that you are now so pretty much I prefer this situation so I did it in a row in these three weeks combined.

A.R.: Is there any piece of equipment, which is your ‘go to’ in the studio?

F.K.: Oh yeah, I’ve heavily used the Jupiter-8 Synthesizer on this one and as well as a Prophet 5 synth and of course classical drum machines like the Roland 808 and 909. And also I used a really cheap reverb on many of the tracks and it’s actually dysfunctional in a way so it was malfunctioning all the time. I was recording with these kinds of malfunctions in the song as well but I know you really can’t hear it in the songs in the first place, it’s pretty deep. I don’t even know the manufacturer of that one I would need to go to the studio and have a look at it, it’s something like a €30 euro reverb, more like a toy.

A.R.: Can you describe how you work on a musical project, what are the steps of your workflow in the studio? Do you start with a beat, with a melody?

F.K.: To be honest most of the time I couldn’t give you a recipe and say I always start with that. Actually, it’s always different. You start with what catches you, what is good, what’s fine; you know to make a cool starting. Generally, I think drumming its secondary, usually it’s more like a composition that catches you, is the thing to start with, and then you add up all drums and make your way through it. I don’t think it should start with a kick drum and no composition at all. This is actually not my way. It is more like to have something that really hooks you up and catches you and that’s most of the time the musical content than the drumming part of it.

A.R.: When it comes to lack of creativity in the studio, what are your tips to overcome that?

F.K.: To not produce at all. If the moment is not right you, don’t do it. I mean I can remember when I was younger, I really tried to work on something and it didn’t work out but I was still in the studio and I tried and tried and didn’t see that the moment wasn’t right. Nowadays I go to the studio when I feel the sparkle and that the moment is right to do so and if there is a block then I just leave, it doesn’t make any sense to try you know? Have some recreation, have a day off and come back later and when is the moment you get back to it, do not try to make that thing work if the moment is not right. Other people do it differently, I know but when I feel there’s a block I just leave and come back to it another day. I mean if there is the block why bother and try to do that instead of just leaving the studio and come back another day. Luckily and hopefully the mindset its right and you can do it again.

A.R.: Any favourite track on this new album and why?

F.K.: It would be the most diplomatic and polite way to say that they all are dear to me in the same way and on the same level. The title track is, of course, special to me and it could sound a bit weird but it’s the one dear to me, it’s pretty melancholic in its sound setting and I like that. The one titled “Drown” is one of my favourites.

 A.R.: You have been in the industry for a long time now, and you must have seen production methods change vastly over the last 15 years, how did it change for you?

F.K.: To be honest, not that much, I have my ways, my ‘ins’ and ‘outs’. Of course, I try to elevate the production and myself. I have been working with Ableton Live since the first version, which, I think they started like 12 years ago and now they are already into their 10th version. Every now and then when there is a new software synthesizer coming out I am peeking a little bit but I have to admit I know I’ve had my favourites for quite some time and it’s not that easy to change those if you like them so much.

A.R.: There are divided opinions regarding the categorization of electronic music in genres and subgenres. Are you in favour or against it and tell us why; and if you were in favour, under what genre would you place this album?

 F.K.: I wouldn’t actually categorize that, I mean of course people would do, they would say that it is somewhere in between house and techno. I can’t even remember my self there are so many categories and all that but for the people, they can call it, actually whatever they like. I don’t care as long as they listen to the music you know? If they want to categorize a genre to ‘this or that’ that’s fine. I even think the youngsters call it electro nowadays, and that means something completely different to me but times are changing. When you look at artists like Mødern Art, for example, I mean these guys are doing a sound which is so unique, they have a box where the people put them in, and actually, they are the only ones in the box and they are the only ones to fit in there.

I am not a fan of dictating the people and say it’s that kind of genre and nothing else, “you have to obey me!” I really don’t like to do that. Actually, it’s up to the listener to say, if I wanted to say what genre it was I wouldn’t even have to release it at all, you know? If it’s unreleased then I can say hey, it’s completely mine but as soon as it’s in the world you know you have to live with that.

A.R.: This album is coming out right at the start of 2018 does this mean that there is a heavy touring schedule to follow? And if so where and when?

F.K.: Of course there will be a schedule this coming year. We will have two weeks the release party in Berlin and there will shows in London, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Ukraine, Sweden and France. We are working on Australia and Asia but it is not yet confirmed. For me personally, it will be a year with a lot of shows and I am actually kind of excited for that to come.

A.R.: In a more relaxed tone, if you can have your fans remember one thing about you, what would it be?

F.K.: Good question. I mean if they remember that they had a good time with me and my music then that its actually something that I’d like to hear and that is fine by me

A.R.: What do you feel is the best song you’ve ever released and why?

F.K.: I have in my last album a track called “Juneau” and it features a heavily brass section which is moving and melancholic, and it was actually very tough to make that one, the outcome was really great.

 A.R.: Before you play in front of a big crowd, do you have any superstitions or follow any rituals?

F.K.: Actually no, I mean after 15 years now I am excited when the moment is coming but I actually don’t need any kind of rituals. I don’t play around with a totem nor turn coca cola cans upside down. I just get on stage and do the show and see how it turns out.

A.R.: Is there any artist or music producer that you’ve encountered in the last two years that drawn your attention and why?

F.K.: I pretty much like what Bonobo is doing still I can go with that. He is always trying to reinvent himself so I really like that. Oddesee, he’s a guy from Washington DC, and he features more instrumentals in his music, a really great producer, definitely someone to keep an eye on.

Great insight from Fritz Kalkbrenner over the difficulties and pleasures of manifesting one’s art. We are the witnesses of a transition in this artist’s life where he drowns the asset of his voice only to highlight other production qualities he has. Looking forward to the 16th of February, Don’t miss out!

Buy Fritz Kalkbrenner ‘Drown’ here
Credits: Photography by Camille Blake | camille-blake.com