Dec 12, 2013
Paul Kalkbrenner

Synonymous with Berlin techno, Paul Kalkbrenner is a rare breed in electronic music. Despite topping charts and selling out arenas, he stays true to the style that has defined his career over seven albums. He just kicked off his first US tour, but not before sharing with us some details about Berlin Calling and his recent NYC show at Output.

Paul Kalkbrenner - Der Buhold [PK Musik]
LessThan3: Though you have more than two successful decades in the music industry, why do you think you are just recently achieving wide recognition in the States?
Paul: I haven’t been to North America all that often, so I guess the fact that electronic music is now gaining more ears, especially in the USA, has led to this development. I’m very curious how these US dates will turn out, especially as my other recent US shows have been larger festivals like Coachella or Movement, and the small show we did at Output a couple of months ago.
LessThan3: On a broader scale, why do you think it took dance music as long as it did to gain widespread popularity in North America?
Paul: Electronic music has been way past a niche in Europe for quite some time already. In the ’90s there was already a huge techno boom with Loveparade and the rave sound in the UK. It’s a good 20 years on the radar now, so it has had lots more time to grow and evolve. In the USA it seems like the gold rush right now, where business opportunists who aren’t focused on the music are marching in heavily and early. With that said, it’ll be interesting to see how techno will develop in the USA from now on, especially with these outside interests.
LessThan3: How does preparation for your first solo North American tour differ from past live performances?
Paul: For this concert tour I am bringing a full production with lights, visuals, and the like, therefore preparations are more intense, as there are crew and equipment to prepare as well. I am using loads of new machinery and as a whole the show is much better-sounding since the beginning of the year.
LessThan3: How did the creation of the Berlin Calling film and your participation in it come about?
Paul: I was friends with Hannes, the director, for a long time. He asked me to be a consultant for the movie at first, but I got more and more involved and eventually Hannes suggested that I play Ickarus, as he felt there would be no actor more convincing in the role than myself.
LessThan3: At the screening in NYC last month, you stated that the character does not reflect your personality, as you have always been very focused and diligent towards your career. Were you judged differently after the film’s release?
Paul: It was a bit annoying at first, when people always assumed that Ickarus’ life is my life, but after some time I got used to it. A lot of people like the idea of me being like Ickarus, even if they are told it is purely fictional. I guess it fuels their fantasy a bit more. Career-wise it definitely helped, as there was a group of people knowing my music from my club shows and then there came the group of people that discovered my sound through the movie. Those groups met and have had a great time together. We call it the “exponential factor.”
LessThan3: At the NYC screening you stated that you sometimes listen to your own music over other artists because you create a sound that you love. Do you have any favorite artists that you look up to, or perhaps influenced your start in music?
Paul: I don’t listen much to my own music except when I play a show or when I’m in the studio. I don’t really listen much to music in general–I’d rather read. Not listening to music helps me to not be influenced, even if it is subconsciously. I prefer my sound to come from within. My first inspirations were purely from clubs like E-Werk in Berlin, where often enough I did not even know the records being played. It was always more the sound of techno that inspired me rather than specific artists.
LessThan3: At Output NYC in October, it looked like the opening DJ had to set up shop in a side area because your live setup was so complex it would have been difficult to transition. What are some of the essential pieces in your setup and why are they important to your particular sound?
Paul: The new set up I use has quite a bit of gear to it and takes about one hour to set up, therefore I cannot change over quickly with a DJ and share such a small space as I used to be able to some years ago. The most essential piece in my new set up is the Midas Venice 240 mixer that I started using this year. It’s actually a 32 channel studio mixer, but the sound is much much better compared to the Mackie that I used before.
LessThan3: Would you ever consider moving to America?
Paul: I have not thought about moving. I have all my family in Berlin and I don’t see myself moving anytime soon. Visiting surely, but that’s it for now.
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