10 Things to know about Paul Kalkbrenner

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10 Things to know about Paul Kalkbrenner

Posted on: March 6th, 2014 by tommyj

Click here to view original web page at www.thevine.com.au

In his native Germany, Paul Kalkbrenner is not just a star of the electronic music
scene, but a superstar, full stop. He can attract crowds of up to 23,000
people to a solo show. But here in Australia, techno producer Paul Kalkbrenner has
a loyal, but much smaller following. 

This week Kalkbrenner will attempt to win over
new fans while regaling existing ones at Future Music Festival. We spoke to the all-rounder ahead of his trip to Australia, to find out ten things to know.


1. He’s the star of one Germany’s most successful films in recent years

When German director Hannes Stöhr approached Kalkbrenner to compose a
soundtrack for his 2008 film Berlin
, about a Berlin-based DJ called Ickarus, whose drug binges land him in a psychiatric
hospital, neither Stöhr nor Kalkbrenner envisaged that Kalkbrenner would end up
playing the lead role himself. The film played at Berlin’s Kino Theatre for
nearly three consecutive years, the soundtrack went gold, and lead single, ‘Sky and Sand’, featuring Kalkbrenner’s
little brother Fritz, went platinum, selling over 200,000 copies. 


The film catapulted Kalkbrenner’s career to new heights, but he
maintains that he’s never lost his head in the way Ickarus did. He says that he could only relate to the hedonistic character “49% of the
time” back then, and feels even further removed from him now. One of the other
differences, says Kalkbrenner, is that he was already a much bigger name than
Ickarus was – at least in Europe – at the time that the movie was filmed.
“Ickarus has to release his second album or else he’s completely fucked…I was
already beyond that point at the time of the shooting,” he says. 

2. He’s a producer, not a DJ 

Kalkbrenner’s sets are made up completely of his own
material and he re-arranges his own tracks on the fly, the same way he always
done it. “The technique I use, it’s like
the sound goes into an arrangement — like a timeline thing — and then at that stage of
readiness I take it on the stage. I play with a laptop that does most of
the work, but also a mixer and 24 channels and drum machines and synthesisers,”
he says. “It’s more like the music machine I had in the ‘90s, because nowadays,
most making music happens on the computer.” 

3. He was one of the first people signed to techno aristocrat Ellen
Allien’s BPitch Control label in the late ‘90s

Allien signed Kalkbrenner after meeting him and his friend Sascha Funke at a BPitch party (pre-label) and went around to their
place to hear what they’d been working on. After the success of Berlin Calling, Kalkbrenner left BPitch in 2009
to start his own label, Paul Kalkbrenner Musik. The two albums he’s released
since, 2011’s Icke Wieder and 2012’s Guten Tag, have been met with critical

4. His music is hard to categorise, even for Kalkbrenner himself

Melodic techno, or “techno for people who aren’t ashamed to cry” comes close.
Tracks like ‘Aaron’ and ‘Azure’ from the Berlin Calling soundtrack, swelling with emotive strings and warm
organ synths, are suited to introspective headphone sessions, but Kalkbrenner
is equally skilled in creating dancefloor destroyers; witness the rallying,
rousing clip of ‘Square 1’ and Jestrupp’s masterful build and seismic


5. He claims he hasn’t listened to other artists’ music since 1996 

Kalkbrenner prefers his inspiration to come completely from within. “It’s like, when you’re a writer,
writing your first novel: you shouldn’t read Dostoyevsky in the evening,” he
says. “I really try when I’m trying to make an album to not listen to the car
radio or watch TV or anything because – it comes with a layer of dust on
top of what would come out. When people say all the songs sound the same or you
need to do something new, no I don’t. I’m very good at telling all the time the
same old story, but I’m succeeding in being able to tell it all over again in
an interesting way.” 

6. He’s disarmingly honest 

When asked about his most recent album, Guten Tag, which he made in three
months, he’s the first to admit it’s not his favourite. “It’s an OK album. It
went gold in Germany. But now when I hear it, I hear that I didn’t take enough
time for it as I should have. So for the next album I will reserve more time.”
He describes it as his “archive album”, comprised of lots of different tracks
he’d been working on in the past. “I think for the next one everything has to
be new, and even less techno. You think for credibility I have to have two
really techno-ish songs on it, but I don’t have to do anything, it will be just
music. Maybe now I have the strength or the consciousness to say, I don’t have
to do anything, to serve anyone. I just can do whatever I want, and that’s what
I’m going to do for the next one.” 

7. He’s too much of a big name

These days Kalkbrenner is too popular to play in smaller,
prestigious Berlin clubs like Berghain or Panorama Bar, but he says “stadium
techno” is better suited to his sound and sensibility. 

“Instead of saying
techno is for everyone, some people are not let in at Berghain by the bouncers
because they are wearing the wrong clothes, even though they have been friends
of mine for 20 years. Some well-dressed tourists are let in even though
they don’t know who’s playing,” he says. “At my concerts, everyone can buy a
ticket, as long as they’re 18, they’re welcome. I like that much more.”


8. He’s married to a mega-babe

A mega-babe otherwise known as DJ, Romanian-Canadian Simina Grigoriu.
They met at an after-party when Berlin
was showing at the Toronto Film Festival in 2008 and she went on to
open his Paul Kalkbrenner: A Live
2010 tour across Europe. “It’s a fairytale, yes, but also crazy
and stressful at times. It’s a very seldom way to share things, I don’t think
it exists very often.” 

9. He’s a huge football fan

Kalkbrenner’s a mad Bayern Munich supporter. When
asked what he would do if his dream gig coincided with a World Cup or Munich
final, he says he’s already eliminated the possibility. “I always block out the
dates that my team could be possibly playing in the final—and the European
championship. I block out that entire time. As a techno DJ through Europe, you
can miss the World Cup if you’re not careful through bookings.” 

10. He has global domination in his sights

He’s particularly keen on
increasing his profile in UK, the US and Australia. “It’s a good first step in
the US, even to change what people are used to hearing. With ten years of EDM
on American ears, they are a little bit more prepared for other music of that
kind – much more than what it was like maybe five-ten years ago,” he says. “But
the breakthrough of instrumental music is still yet to come and if anyone can
do that it’s me.” 

Annabel Ross

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