Ahead of his performance this Saturday at the Make Me loft party in Shoreditch, we caught up with Roman Flügel to discuss his first steps into music production, early monikers, acid house, the art of the DJ and reading the crowd. Roman also talks about his forthcoming album, set for released in May 2014 via Dial Records.
What have you been up to so far this year?
As I’ve done so over the past five years I took a months holiday in January, I was in India and didn’t play any gigs or spend any time in the studio.
After having a lot of interesting experiences going there it was about time to play my first gig of 2014 in Bristol last weekend, which was great fun actually.
What’s your musical heritage built upon?
I started to play piano when I was quite young. Not because I had to, but because I wanted to. My first teacher was an old man who used to play a huge electrical organ at cinemas along silent films during the 1920’s in Berlin.
When I was 12 my uncle, who was a very talented hobby musician with a huge collection of instruments, made me a gift by sending me a cheque worth 1000DM. He knew that I was desperate for a drum set since he heard me playing on his son’s drum kit whenever I visited their house.
A little later I joined my first band. I was the youngest group member. The other guys were around 17 or 18 years old and they wanted to play Funk, which was good because they introduced me to some great music by sharing their record collections with me. I guess playing drums along James Brown or Parliament on headphones shaped my interest for dance beats in general.
What were you listening to in your teenage years? Can you list your 5 favorite tracks from the age of 15 – 18?
I turned 15 back in 1985. Tracks I really liked back then were poppy stuff like The Style Council’s ‘Boy Who Cried Wolf’, Prince’s ‘Girls & Boys’, Yello’s ‘Vicious Games’ along with weirder things like Alien Sex Fiend’s ‘Get Into It’ and finally Rhythim Is Rhytim’s ‘The Dance’, which I discovered on the live changing ‘House Trax’ compilation on Street Sounds in 1988.
When did you realize that music was the path for you?
I was obsessed with watching bands on TV. I also like looking at the brightly colored photos of my favorite bands in pop music magazines. They made me dream of being part of a similar experience one day.
At the same time I had fun playing classical music on the piano. It simply gave me a good feeling. Some years later I started to buy records and couldn’t stop listening to music. Whether it was on the radio, my Hi-Fi system or my Walkman.
I also started going to concerts a lot. Music was becoming more and more important and it was basically the only thing that made me happy and was giving me some kind of structure. I was already dreaming about putting out a record one day but I refused to tell anyone.
After I finished High School I decided to visit law school instead, which obviously didn’t work, so I enrolled in Musicology classes at the University.
Around the same time the first wave of Acid House and Techno started to hit Frankfurt where I was going out at night pretty much three days a week. The feeling I had from being part of a brand new movement was so strong that I started to work on my own music more than anything else. Suddenly everything seemed to be possible and I started to earn some money by releasing records and playing on parties.
Who was responsible for introducing you to electronic music and what provoked you to start experimenting with it?
I guess it all happened at my uncle’s house. He had a Roland System 100 and a Hammond Organ. As a 6 or 7-year-old boy I was allowed to mess around with these instruments and I loved it.
While I was playing in bands during the 80’s I was also surrounded by synth’s, and FX’s in our rehearsal room. Even though I was the drummer I borrowed a synth from time to time.
I then bought a drum machine and a Tascam 4 track cassette recorder, which I used to arrange and record my first demos. I was fascinated with the possibilities and unusual sounds that came out of these cheap instruments.
Over the years you’ve released records under a string of aliases. Why did you feel the need to produce under different names?
Back in the days a lot of record labels asked for new monikers once you had a release. It was also a way to release more music using different names. For me the main thing was to separate the different musical directions from each other by using aliases. Another thing was the possibility to hide behind different names, which can provide a certain freedom.
Will we see any new musical projects or aliases from you, or are you settled now with “Roman Flügel”?
By now I’ve been using my real name only for a few 12”’s and one album. There will be a 2nd Roman Flügel album later this year on Dial.
Gerd Janson’s Running Back imprint released some of my music using old aliases like Roman IV or Eight Miles High in the past two years but I’m not searching for any new ones at the moment. It’s perhaps already too complicated.
What did you learn from producing and releasing music under different monikers?
I learned a lot from listening to other peoples records, when I started making house music and techno. Different monikers that presented a certain style prevented me from getting off the track. The aliases kept me focused.
On the other side, the more releases I released, the more confident I became in what I was doing. Everything was ‘just me’ and that my music was not necessarily connected to a certain style but my own. That’s why I decided to get rid of them.
Can you describe how you go about writing new music? Is there a particular environment or experience that helps provoke a creative process?
I usually try to remain playful and surprise myself. Making mistakes is important and failure is part of the creative process.
What do you envision when writing new music? The club or some other environment?
It can be the club but certainly not necessarily. I’d be happy if my music could work anywhere. I’ve never been ‘stable’ enough to work in one direction.
Are there still areas of production that you’re keen to explore and learn about?
I’m always interested in finding new ways to trigger the creativity within.
“Fatty Folders” was released in 2011 via Dial. Did you have a pre-determined idea of how this album would turn out or was it a case of trial and error?
There was no real concept before I started working on that album. Usually everything shapes up during the work process. Trial and error is important but so are many other procedures during any kind of creative work. After a while I simply started to realize which direction the music would take.
Do you have anything to say about your follow up LP?
The new album is scheduled for May 2014 along with the release of one or two 12”s on Dial.
Do you have a particular philosophy or method to writing new music? If so what measures do you put in place in order to achieve what you set out to do?
Writing music for me is like a constant soliloquy. Since I don’t sing it’s basically all about the arrangement, sounds and mixing. Decisions are made while asking questions and giving answers on a very sublime subconscious level. It’s actually very hard for me to describe what it is that makes me achieve what I really want. As soon as it is ‘there’ I know it.
What’s your take on the art of the DJ?
It’s not rocket science. The most important thing is to find exciting music within this ocean of sound in this never-ending stream of new records that never seem to stop. You really have to love what you do too and becoming sarcastic or cynical about it certainly does not help if you want to enjoy what you do.
Tell me about your approach to reading a crowd’s mood and lining up what records to play.
Hmm. I’m usually trying to have fun and give the people a good time. Since I’m not a very entertaining DJ who’s trying to support his aim by waving hands, stage diving or the presentation of special dance moves it is the music that should do most of the work. Deciding what record to play next is often made spontaneously. In general it gives me a good feeling when things become a bit edgy and unpredictable and people start to enjoy the weird stuff.
I’ve been loyal with Dial and Running Back recently, simply because these labels are run by friends.
You’re playing at the Make Me loft party this Saturday in London. You’ve played in London before, what do you think about London’s approach to hosting parties? Do you see much difference from Berlin’s approach?
It seems the concept of having parties at warehouses and off-spaces was much bigger in London during the last few years than in Berlin where club life is probably more ruled by various club brands. I usually have fun in both cities and I’m very happy to be part of the Make Me party for the 2nd time!
Is there something that you’ve always aspired to achieve in your musical career that you feel you haven’t quite achieved yet?
Writing proper lyrics.
Roman Flugel plays this Saturday at the Make Me loft party in Shoreditch.
Photo by Music by Marina