Berlin-based producer and DJ Alex Niggemann has been impressively prolific in his output since his first EPs surfaced back in 2008, with a string of high quality releases on labels such as Poker Flat, Get Physical, Soma and 8-bit as well as his own imprints AEON and Soulfooled.
With a remarkable work ethic and a powerful sound that ranges from dark, intoxicating techno to more melodic and melancholic deep house, it is little wonder that Niggemann has had international success with tracks like ‘Maternium’ and his brilliant 2013 album Tangram.
Without halting his personal output, Niggemann has somehow found time to launch two labels – Soulfooled in 2010 with Marc Poppcke and AEON last year – and also play many of the biggest and most respected venues around the world, from Berghain to Space to D.edge and pretty much everywhere in between.
Not one to rest on his laurels, the hardworking musician has continued to develop his craft with denser and more intricate productions, a development, which is clearly evident on this latest EP Abaton.
Due for release on Monday 20th October via AEON, the new EP features the title track as an A-Side and comes with remixes from Quantum Entanglement and the brilliant Chymera edit that we are premiering for you here. The B-Side cut ‘Tripping Minds’ balances the EP with some more experimental and hazy sounds that lead its creator to refer to it as an “afterhours track.”
We spoke to Alex Niggemann about the EP, his labels and the typically crazy schedule he has coming up.
Hi Alex, how are you and what have you been up to today?
I’m really good, thanks. I just came from the beach and was having a lazy day. I’m enjoying my holiday in Mexico at the moment before ADE madness begins.
We’re loving the new Abaton EP; can you tell us a little bit about the production process for this record?
Well, actually the B-Side ‘Tripping Minds’ was the first tune of this EP that was finished. I really love this tune, as it is a bit out of range. It’s techy in a dark way, containing crazy sounds and you might only be able to understand it after a long and wild night. It’s a typical afterhours track for me…
So, it was missing an A-side…
I really wanted to do something that represents my sound at the moment and fitting perfectly to the sound on AEON; meaning, perfectly fitting for peak-time sets, without being too obvious or just being a functional techno/tech-house track.
I started both tracks completely from scratch and I didn’t have a clear idea like I had when I produced ‘Materium’ for example. I only had the plan, that the A-Side needed to be a contrast to ‘Tripping Minds’. Melancholic, but techy in an uplifting way.
This Chymera remix that you’ve shared with us is awesome, how did you hook up with him?
I met Bren for the first time in Melbourne one and a half years ago, when playing with Radio Slave at Brown Alley, but we didn’t really have much time to chat.
The first time we really got a chance to have a good talk was when meeting him at Off-Sonar in Barcelona. At that time his last Ovum EP has just been released. I still hammer that tune in a lot of my sets. So I just asked him, if he was up for it and luckily he liked ‘Abaton’ a lot!
Abaton is out through your own label AEON, which launched last year, how have you found the first 18 months or so?
As this is my second label (I also have Soulfooled), the founding was less exciting, but way more organised. So it was also a lot more work.
I love how the sound has developed and who has been releasing on AEON. We have a lot of young and very talented artists mixed up with known names, who all only do quality stuff. The schedule is already very busy for 2015 and we receive more and more great demos, from big acts too.
What are some of the biggest challenges involved with running your own label, and how have you overcome them?
Producing vinyl without throwing money out of the window… plus explaining this to artists.
For sure everyone likes to have vinyl… but you really have to negotiate, if it is worth it in these times.
Pressing 300 copies means you need to sell at least 270 to break even. If you sell all copies, you maybe earn 90€… while having production cost of more than 1000€. Meaning 31 records decide if you make a loss or a small income, that the artist has to share with remixers and labels… No one can live from those amounts, plus if an EP does a minus, not only does the artist get no money, but the label has still paid all money upfront…
It really is a tough game huh? However, like your own production work, AEON’s output has been quite prolific over its short history; what have been some of your favourite releases on the label so far?
I can tell you I played all of theses tunes a lot of times and there’s not a single tune that I’m not happy with. It wouldn’t be fair to point out only a few. We really do care a lot about the quality of the release.
Can you take us back to the beginning of your career; what were some of your biggest influences when you were starting out?
First of all my family. My mother, who pushed me hard to practice piano every day and my brother and his vinyl collection in the early 90s, which I played a lot of times, when he wasn’t at home… He would have probably killed me, if he found out at the time!
Electronic music-wise it was Ken Ishii, who changed my life within a few hours while listening and dancing to techno in a club the first time.
Also Derrick May, Laurent Garnier, Kevin Saunderson and Sven Väth.
You had a lot of success with your 2012 album Paranoid Funk and even more with last year’s Tangram 12”; can you describe the development of your sound through those releases and right up to this new EP?
Well, I always do and will do the music that I love. If you listen to my productions from the beginning of my career and now, you will realise immediately that the earlier songs were tracks. Simple, effective and working on the dancefloor. The new tracks are more like “songs” with messages. Still effective on the dancefloor but more musical influenced.
The point is, I need the challenge when I produce. So the newer tracks like ‘Tangram’ or ‘Materium’ definitely took me longer to produce, but they are more satisfying. I realise that, because I still love to hear and play them, while if you produce “tracks”, you might get tired after hearing them too often, as they aren’t that diverse in themselves. That’s not saying the tracks weren’t good. But it’s a difference if you produce songs with melodies and complicated arrangements than tracks that repeat their theme all the time.
We understand there is another release set for later this year; what can you tell us about that?
Well, after the Abaton EP comes out on 20th October, then there’s my first EP on Watergate Records coming up at the end of November, with remixes from Deetron and Marco Resmann. It’s an A side only. Very musical and contains vocals from none other than Tomas Høffding, the singer of WhoMadeWho.
Sounds awesome, definitely looking forward to that one. What else do you have coming up in terms of shows and releases?
I’m also working on new tunes for 2015 and a few remixes. For sure a Poker Flat EP will follow up and I finally have time to work on a second album.
I’ll be touring as well. Besides gigs in Europe, I’ll be in Asia, South-America and North-America during the next 4 months.
Abaton is out on 20th October through AEON.
Written by Will Van de Pol