Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Interview: Kaiserdisco & the 'Victoria Harbour' EP

Like two brothers of rhythm, German DJs Frederic Berger and Patrick Buck sit in their Hamburg studio finishing each other's sentences.

Their obvious synergy is the result of a successful musical pairing under their project Kaiserdisco, which has seen one of the most prolific and consistent release schedules in recent German techno and tech house. Their music has been featured on many of the country's top labels including Berlin's Get Physical Music, Cologne's Traum and its sub label MBF (who released the Kaiser's debut album), Monika Kruse's Terminal M, and Munich's Great Stuff Recordings.

Adam Beyer's Drumcode label was one of the first non-German imprints to release Kaiserdisco's music with last year's bomb EP 'Le Feu', the result of a collaboration with Naples producer Flavio Diaz.

Such was the popularity of that EP, that it was only a matter of time before Adam Beyer invited Kaiserdisco to produce another record for Drumcode. Their 'Victoria Harbour' EP was released today, so we called Kaiserdisco to find out more about their new Drumcode record, their thoughts on techno, and their approach to DJing and production.

Your first EP came out on Drumcode last May. How did that initially come about?

[Frederic] 'Le Feu' was a collaboration with Flavio Diaz. He had a lot of great releases out last year so we got in touch with him and chatted about doing something together on Drumcode.

He sent us some tracks and we listened to them and said, 'yes this is something that we can work on'. Last year though we had only one option to do a release for Drumcode.

Because you had a busy year?

[Patrick] Yeah, our debut album came out at the end of October and then we had our album remixes out last month. So now is really the first time that we've had to return to the normal EP format.

How do you feel your album went down?

[P] From the beginning we had a good feeling about it. And since its release, we've played at some amazing parties around the world and have had the chance to celebrate the album with our audience.

[F] We played some great parties in Lima and Columbia and people came up to us and said they loved the album and liked this track or this track. It was really great to have that kind of feedback.

The album was also good for us, because it allowed us to show that we're not only about dance and club music. We also did some downtempo stuff.

Good club music is what you are known for though. Where would you say Drumcode fits in, in terms of the labels you worth with?

[F] Drumcode is of course all dancefloor focused, and Drumcode is the side where we put the more techno stuff out. I've been a big fan of Drumcode since I went into the DJ scene in 1997. I'm a big fan of the label and its releases.

When we started producing and we did our first techno tracks, we said 'hey let's send these to Adam and try and get a release'. This year we plan to do more Drumcode releases.

How many?

[F] Drumcode is really the second label that we want to work with for a long period. Right now we have planned two or three EPs and also something for the 15th anniversary of Drumcode.

What's great about working with the label is that it allows us to show people that we're not only about tech house - we can also do proper techno.

What sort of music do you send to Drumcode usually?

[P] You'd think that it would be techno around 127 bpm, but the new EP is actually pretty slow, at around 124 or 125 BPM. It's still techno, but it's quite slow even though it doesn't really feel that way.

[F] Maybe because it's kinda busy.

[P] Yeah.

There's a very rolling sort of techno sound on both tracks on the 'Victoria Harbour' EP.

[F] Yes, that's the kind of techno we like to play in our sets. We are very groove orientated. When we do techno tracks we tend to use more space, and we move towards a wider feeling and a darker vibe.

[P] The way we start in the studio is always with a loop and the groove, and then we build it up. The loop runs and runs in a circle, and when we are finally happy with it, we build it up and take it down to arrange the track.

Considering your techno tends to be loop-based, have you any theories on the perfect techno loop?

[P] Well, for us the groove is the most important part, and that applies across every sound in a track. We need the right feeling of bass with the drums, and the right synth sounds with the FX. Most of our tracks are quantized at 16C too, which gives the rhythm swing. We don't produce many tracks quantized at straight 16.

On the EP, 'Peak Tram' features a kind of rolling snare drum. There haven't been many of those around since the 1990s.

[P] [laughs]. Yeah, the 1990's snare roll sounds a little bit different to the one we used. When we produced 'Peak Tram' we didn't think about the 1990s in particular, that sound just came to us during the studio process.

Where did you get the name 'Victoria Harbour'?

[F] At Christmas we played in Hong Kong, and we had a great time there and played at a great party. We also had a couple of days off so we did some sightseeing and checked out the harbour. We thought it would make a nice name for an EP.

Because we produce a lot of tracks, it's not really easy to give a meaningful name to every release!

So what about the EP's track 'Chinese Junk'?

[F] [laughs] No idea where that came from! We just had 10 days to make the next track for Drumcode so after we had made this peak time techno stomper we gave it a name.

How long do you usually take to make a track?

[P] We are very fast when doing remixes - usually we're done in two or three days. Normally a track takes us about five days to make.

On the first day, we concentrate only on the loop, the theme, and the groove. On the second and third days we arrange the whole thing, and then finally we add delays and echoes and space effects. We concentrate a lot on effects and take one or two days just to write the automation to make everything sound perfect.

We then try to play the track on the weekend to see how it works in a club, and if everything sounds good we finalise it or make minor adjustments.

Some people might be surprised to learn you take about five days to make a track. Some producers put a track together in a few hours.

[F] Yeah, we are not very fast. This is a big problem when people ask us to do remixes. They always have these crazy deadlines, like for next week, so we have to turn a lot of things down.

But we are also not that slow. We know a producer who has been working on one track for a year!

How do you guys work together in the studio?

[F] Patrick is a technical nerd and knows everything about software and hardware. I usually sit behind him and talk about the ideas and get him to change things as we build a track. But we always work together in the studio.

How long have you been working together?

[F] We first met about two and half years ago in a club here in Hamburg. We became friends and decided to try and make a track together.

Can you tell us a little about your studio set up?

[P] All of the old analogue stuff isn't plugged in any more, as we do everything now in the computer, in Logic.

So all the synths and boxes that you see are really just for decor [laughs].

What's your favourite plug in?

[P] We like very much, the Sonalksis Compressor and Limiter.

When you DJ together, you're known for playing off two laptops.

[F] It's easier for us to play ping pong DJ sets, with him playing two tracks and I playing two. Whilst he plays his two tracks, I look for my next two tracks, and it means we can also keep an eye on the audience to see how they are feeling the music.

It's also a lot easier to communicate with each other when you've got two decks each, then if you both play with four decks and always have to concentrate on your laptop.

We also don't play too many loops, as we prefer to play the whole track as intended by the producer. Sometimes we'll loop the outro of one track and it will play for a while, but we only use the beginning and end beats of a track for loops. The rest of track has to be played alone.

Why is that?

[P] For me, it's not good to play only 20 or 30 seconds of a track, and then put on another track. Also our tracks are more like songs, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Of course, you can buy tracks that are loop orientated and are just one big loop from the beginning to the end. When we buy a track to DJ with, we listen to the whole song before deciding whether to play it or not.

Finally, I noticed that a lot of Kaiserdisco's tracks have Spanish titles. How come?

[F] Yes we like using Spanish names, and it has actually led to us building up quite a big fanbase in Spanish-speaking countries. Our music has had the biggest impact in South America. So I guess, if you're a producer who wants to play in a certain country just name all your tracks in their language and you'll be invited to play there soon [laughs]!

(Words: Terry Church)

Listen / download the 'Victoria Harbour' EP from Beatport.

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