Paul Kalkbrenner: “If you’re not famous enough, just make a fantastic album”
From humble beginnings as a techno fan inhabiting the demi monde of Berlin’s dancefloors in the ‘90s, Paul Kalbrenner struck gold in 2008 with the single Sky and Sand from the club culture film Berlin Calling, which also starred Kalkbrenner as the lead actor. These days, he regularly fills stadiums in Eastern Europe and is taking his concert tour to the USA for the first time, before he makes his first trip to Australia in a while for Future Music Festival. We caught Kalkbrenner for a chat about history novels and why he’s taking his time over his next album, while also getting some tough-love advice for emerging artists.
So you’re doing the States on your first headlining tour?
The first time we’ve tried this concert thing there, yes. I went last year with the Sí³nar tour with Die Antwoord and other artists. It was kind of funny. The tour now will be from December 5.
How did you find the tour with Sí³nar? EDM is huge in the US at the moment, but that’s a very different sound.
Yeah it is. That’s what it’s all about, getting a little bit out of your comfort zone, it’s like when you go to Central Europe and are, by far, not that well paid, but it’s part of it, you know, getting out of your comfort zone and making it in other markets. It may be a little difficult to do, but that’s the plan for 2014: Australia, the US, UK, the English-speaking markets – to conquer them next year.
Is there a release schedule that goes along with that plan, or just touring?
I want to release my next album in a year so that’s why at this time I’m going to sit on it because my last two albums I now find I didn’t take enough time for, so now I want to have an entire year for doing that, so that’s why I’ve already started now, and I can release it in exactly a year. That’s the plan.
So you’re starting now on the next album?
Yes because the last two albums I just allowed myself to have like four months, and even though the albums were good, they got gold status here in my country, I want to take more time for it and maybe have more to choose from, just spend an entire year on it and I think it will be better then.
So you have more time to consider it.
And also to try things, absolutely.
Do you have any collaborations planned?
No. I’m a non-collaborator [laughs]. I would rather do everything myself.
Will you be working with your brother Fritz again?
I think maybe he will sing once for me, but making music together also becomes rather hard because he is very busy already as well and I mostly don’t see him anymore [laughs]. No, no, I’m very proud of what he’s achieved. I think he’s coming to Australia as well this December, and he’s doing very good. I’m a very proud older brother.
Do you find that your songwriting styles influence each other? Because they’re very different.
I think he found his way to himself – this is how he does music and I think from album to album you can see we both do electronic music but it’s not the same at all, it’s completely different stuff; and I like that. Those people who say ‘oh my god they’re doing the same shit’, but especially with the last album it’s completely something else, and most importantly it’s the value in what you’re doing. It took him a little bit longer to gain his sound and feel. You go out there and do it. And now he found it and I’m really cool with that, I like that.
Would you consider singing in your own productions?
Me singing? Oh no, maybe I should try but I’m not such a good singer. Not as good as Fritz, so… And I found out I can express myself best in instrumental music, so if you have a singer and you have a text to sing it’s much easier to express yourself you know, than saying something just through the sounds and that’s what I tried to do, especially after Sky & Sand, to make these following two albums entirely instrumental. And I found it a much bigger achievement to work a 40,000 person festival like I did this summer with a completely non-vocal act. There’s not so many here, if you believe it. I don’t know anyone else; let’s see how it works in Australia.