“The mix is reflecting more of what I personally like and what many of my influences are. It doesn’t represent what I do as an artist. There’s lots of soul and hip hop influences, which in a tiny way reflects my productions.”
Growing up on a steady diet of hip hop's elite like Eric B & Rakim, KRS-One and Wu-Tang Clan in the early 1990s, Germany's Fritz Kalkbrenner didn't have a huge interest in the techno scene that is generally associated with the country, in particular its capital city, Berlin. Of course, as he moved on to a clubbing age it was hard to escape it, and through his brother Paul and good friend Sascha Funke, it wasn't long before he was getting involved.
Initially though, it was through a stellar voice that he had honed through his worship of said hip hop artists. “It was pretty natural,” Kalkbrenner begins on the origins of his vocal application. “The first vocal composition I did was on a friend of mine's [Funke's] album, and yeah, it was one of the first vocal contributions that I did.”
Following these early days in the late '90s, Kalkbrenner himself began getting into production, creating soulful tech-house that he often adds his own vocals to, although not excessively so. “Nowadays I finish a production and maybe I'd fit on some good vocals to it. So I'll write some lyrics or whatever. But it's not something I have to do on every track, because I just can't do it. Sometimes a club track works without any kind of vocals, and they do not necessarily need them. If I put it on every track I wouldn't like it either.”
While his tunes don't fit exactly into that Berlin sound, Kalkbrenner has found his background in hip hop, soul and jazz sets him a little apart from the scene – and he likes it that way. “I can see my position and my background is not that often [represented] here,” he tells. “And I think as long as the performance and the production bares a certain quality it'll keep me accessible… So yeah, maybe I'm in a lonely position, but that's good for me.”
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It's led to his debut LP, 2010's Here Today Gone Tomorrow, which he followed up earlier this year with a mix CD released on the Suol label, Suol Mates, which covers a lot of territory; from J Dilla and Pete Rock to Tom Trago and Robag Wruhme. Kalkbrenner discusses some of the difficulties DJs face in getting commercial mixes made in the current Internet age. “The tough part of it was, usually with things like a Soundcloud mix or a podcast, you do not have to pay any attention towards licensing; you can pick whatever you want. But when it comes to making an official or commercial release you need to pay attention to all those kinds of things.
“So the guys from the label, they said, 'Pick your collection, make it like 60 or 80 tracks, and then we'll start to trickle out who is still the owner of the rights so we can contact these guys.' On the way we had a few disappointments from guys who would say, 'this will cost you this much' or whatever, which were totally astronomical. Or they weren't willing to give you any kind of rights. It was pretty tough going but in the end we made it, and it has a good selection.”
The result is a mix that, rather than just covering a bunch of popular tracks of the moment, really showcases Kalkbrenner's inspirations. “The mix is reflecting more of what I personally like and what many of my influences are. It doesn't represent what I do as an artist. There's lots of soul and hip hop influences, which in a tiny way reflects my productions.”
And while the producer hasn't quite nutted out singing vocals during his live sets, he does promise a smattering of his own works for his upcoming appearance at Geisha. “I play a live set, so I play my very own tracks – a lot of stuff from my last album, a few things from before that, and of course some new and unheard stuff which I've just finished in the studio.”
Fritz Kalkbrenner will be playing the following shows:
Friday 14 September - Trinity Bar, Canberra ACT
Saturday 15 September - Geisha Bar, Perth WA
Friday 21 September - Brown Alley, Melbourne VIC
Saturday 22 September - The Ivy, Sydney NSW