The pandemic brought with it the need for us to adapt the way we communicated at unprecedented speed. This was especially true for artists and creatives who, unable to play to live audiences, were suddenly forced to find ways to stay connected while apart. Factor in that live performance accounts for a significant portion of a music act’s revenue stream, and the need to find new ways of performing for audiences became essential, especially for DJs and electronic music acts. The rise of the livestream was upon us, but even this had its limitations. Platforms like Instagram and Facebook Live proved particularly challenging for DJs, with their copyright protocol (programmed for pre-lockdown times) striking down streams at the slightest hint of copyrighted material, making mixes nearly impossible to share. Twitch gained notoriety for their more relaxed approach to this, and the platform became popular for DJs while collectives like Club Quarantine found ways of fostering club culture via video conferencing apps like Zoom. While most artists were innovating by using these platforms in ways completely outside of their intended functionality, German producer Paul Kalkbrenner saw an opportunity to innovate beyond what was already in existence.
The techno icon had been strategising his own virtual network to connect with fans and share his work. With the resources at his disposal to create such a platform, Kalkbrenner began developing his own app. It’s a move that marks the sign of a true innovator, an artist who continues to evolve the inherent futurism of electronic music beyond the studio and decks. Fresh off the release of his single Si Soy Fuego, we had the honour of chatting to Kalkbrenner about this endeavour shortly after his show at Exhibition London, his first live performance in the country in nearly three years.
You’ve recently launched your own app, can you tell us more about how you hope to connect with fans through this platform?
Firstly it’s going to be direct, without having social media and their algorithms in between. The app will see various content: exclusive galleries, full concert streams, guest list competitions. Fans and users will always have first & exclusive access.
Living through the pandemic, technology has been more vital than ever in keeping us connected. Did this inspire your decision to develop an app?
No. The connection throughout many channels was already established. But the direct, unfiltered contact has been missing. Therefore we decided to try it via an app.
Many DJs and music acts jumped online during lockdown. What are your thoughts on the livestreaming trend, and did you ‘attend’ any of the online parties that were happening at the time?
I watched a few, but it became repetitive to see DJs in their bedroom, living room, etc etc, mostly one drink too many in and playing a set. Too much solitude overall and too little emotion.
Can you take us through the development process for your app? How new was the process for you?
My part was only approving the possibilities the app should hold at one point. The development and creation was done by my management and the Baze guys in Berlin, who offered me to be their test driver for this community tool, which will also be available to others.
You have recently returned to live shows. Walk us through how it felt playing for an audience in London again?
First it was having to jump through many, many administrative hoops just to bring the production from Germany to the UK. After that, the show went very nicely. We had an incredibly into it & diverse crowd. It was a vibe that was memorable.
What have you missed the most about performing live? Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.
The chemistry is very subtle, as I do not speak to the fans while playing. No shouting or the likes. It is something I feel while playing. And in London I certainly felt it.
On the topic of technology and live performance; what’s your opinion on the increasing reliance on technology to play music ‘live,’ especially in electronic music? Do you think the machine is beginning to make man, rather than vice versa?
Maybe. In the end though, it will be the fans who decide whether this ‘live’ performance touched them in the right place or not. If not, I’m not sure the machine will be able to help.