Interview: Paul Kalkbrenner
Paul Kalkbrenner is a unique international talent. In fact, with seven studio albums and more than 2.3 million Facebook fans, he is one of techno’s biggest superstars. In a time where the big drops of EDM and cake throwing DJs seem to reign supreme, Paul Kalkbrenner is keeping his cool. He trusts In his remarkable talent as a producer and live-act. No added artificial flashiness needed. He can rave with the best of them, raise his arms to full dance floor delirium, but his head will never spin right off.
On 9 January, Paul Kalkbrenner touches down south of the border where he will join the likes of Apollonia, Guy Gerber, The Martinez Brothers, Luciano, and more for the very special BPM Festival event, YA’AH MUUL, located at the incredible new venue The Jungle. With The Jungle, fans can expect a festival within a festival complete with multiple stages, palapa, intimate lounges, an adjacent cenote and a food court featuring local food concession partners.
For those unaware of the BPM Festival, it is an annual ten day and night electronic music festival held in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico featuring just about everyone who is relevant in underground dance music.
“..one of the things I love about playing live is the unexpected elements that can occur – it keeps it fun.”
Your history is intertwined with Berlin. You were raised in the city, have made music in the city your whole life. You even starred in a movie about the city. Earlier this year you played to 500,000 at the Brandenbrug Gate to mark the 25th anniversary of the Berlin Wall coming down. As a Berliner and an artist, what was that experience like? 25 years ago as a Berliner could you have imagined that scene?
I was born in Leipzig, and moved to Berlin age 3. Playing Brandenburg Gate last year upon Invitation of the Government was simply spectacular. I never would have dreamed to reach this point, certainly not 25 years ago. They even sent me an official thank you note, which I have framed on my wall at home. In all shows, this will always be the No 1, because it clearly showed me again, that if history would have taken another turn, I could never ever had the life I have now.
2015 was also monumental for you in other ways, You became a father, you released your seventh studio album ‘7’. It would be easy for you to stay in Europe and play to enormous crowds and headline festivals. What keeps pushing you to come to newer markets and festivals?
Actually touring wise for me, I took it very easy this year, with only about 25 shows throughout the summer. But I am playing more in newer markets, I like the challenge though and to go places where I’m maybe not that well known or not headlining. It gives you a great impression of the world if you leave the comfort zone for a bit.
You mention “leaving your comfort zone” can you give us some destinations where this would apply? How do you define your comfort zone?
One of the most recent ones was going to Buenos Aires for a concert show. No other touring around it, just there. It was great to experience and see about 8000 people turn up. The comfort is very easy to define: at home in Berlin with my wife & my daughter.
‘7’ was a unique project. You had access to some incredible vocal samples like Jefferson Airplane, Luther Vandross, D-Train. It’s the first time you had worked with vocals since the iconic ‘Sky + Sand’ track. How did that inform your production process?
The usage of the vocals were an ‘incentive‘ in the negotiations for the album. The process took quite some time, but when I finally gained access it added just that little bit extra that I was looking for. It certainly was a lengthy & complicated process, as most of the owners of the original recording had certainly never heard of the German techno guy with the name that’s a bit difficult to pronounce. But it felt great to get it done, and a privilege to work with some of these amazing vocals.
There is often a misconception in dance music about what constitutes ‘live’ performances. You play live for three hours at your concert shows. What are you doing when you play live?
I basically re- arrange every song on the night again. It’s like the minute before you start recording, where normally all is set up. This is what I do live, I arrange all songs in their elements live on stage. Therefore the sets can never be the same, even if I had the same tracklist.
With this definition of “live”, when the set goes really well, what would you say make it that way? On the contrary, what are some things that can make a set go wrong (aside from technical glitches and things of that nature). Has such things happened to you in the past?
I wouldn’t be able to put that in words, because if I knew I’d always have the perfect set. I guess it’s a mix of everything, all happening at the right time, without the technical glitches etc. But one of the things I love about playing live is the unexpected elements that can occur – it keeps it fun.