Members: Frederic Berger and Patrick Buck
Occupation: Producers, DJs
Current Release: Varuna EP on Tronic. The new Kaiserdisco full-length Another Dimension can now be pre-ordered at beatport.
Recommendations: Kaiserdisco – ‘In No One’s Shadow’ [MBF]. Kaiserdisco – ‘Another Dimension’ [Tronic]
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What what is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
(Frederic) I started to produce my first tracks in 2005 together with a friend who had a Mac and Logic. Before I was already working as a DJ and was influenced by artists like Carl Cox, Seven Väth, Daft Punk, Depeche Mode and our local hero Boris Dlugosch. At that time, I was very open minded and played house, trance and techno under different DJ names.
(Patrick) I started writing tracks when I was 15 back in 1990. During that time I played the keyboard in a pop/rock school band with some friends. I couldn’t wait to record my first compositions and so I was more than happy to earn some money after finishing school, spending it for my first synthesizer and the first computer to build up my first little home studio in 1995. Just like Frederic, I was massively influenced by Depeche Mode because they combined pop, rock and electronic music in such an awesome way, and that it built a perfect bridge to the growing techno music and scene in Germany in the early 90’s.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
(Frederic) My friend was also pretty new in producing and he started doing bootlegs which worked really well. It was all about cutting samples and mixing them together with our own beats, which was more easy for us than producing a track completely by our own at that time.
In the beginning of our production process it helped a lot to use bootlegs as a guideline and so it was more easy for us to switch to our own productions.
Beside Logic I also tried other producing software like Fruity Loops or Reason, which all helped me to dive deeper into the producing process.
Round about one year later we released the first tracks.
(Patrick) As I was always writing my own songs, I was not really tempted to copy or emulate other artists. When I started a new production I always knew what it should sound like at the end. For me it was more like listening, learning and understanding which sounds you may use or not for a specific genre to let your production sound ‘real’ at the end. This is also something that you have to keep in mind with every production you do. At the end it has to sound ‘real’ and fit the genre you are working with. You may break the rules, but not too much. It’s also a never ending process as ‘listening habits’ are constantly changing over the years.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
(Frederic) In school I had to play violin that’s why I didn’t have any kind of compositional challenges. But I was not good in mixing and mastering and had no idea how to keep an eye on the frequencies of every single instrument in mix. This is something I learned when I met Patrick.
(Patrick) Composing music is either a talent you have or not. Best case scenario is that you’re a good composer and arranger - this is what I call a “complete composer”. I know some guys who are very good composers but horrible arrangers, so then you need someone who will do the arrangement for you. But this is of course something which is more important if you are working in the field of pop music which actually I did many years ago, before we started Kaiserdisco.
To be honest I wouldn’t call most of our tracks compositions, as right now our focus is techno music, although we always having a theme or melody in our tracks, which distinguishes us or our productions from many others. Production-wise it’s all about training your ears. This is something that I have learned over the years as a natural result of sitting in the studio every day. I was lucky enough to have an established producer as a mentor by my side who taught me a lot during my first years as a producer.
When I started almost everything happened without the aid of a computer. The computer was more or less only used as a sequencer program to send out midi data to the periphery. Mixing happened in an analog mixing console, the sound came out of many external hardware like synthesizers or samplers, refined by external effect gears and compressors. This is something that has totally changed over the years and represented a big challenge in the process of music production. Fortunately, it didn’t change overnight. It was more like a fluent transition which made it much easier to get used to it. In the end, music production became a lot easier and much cheaper as well of course, which is good on the one hand because everyone can afford now to produce music, on the other hand the quantity of published and released music increased immensely which resulted in a loss of quality in my opinion.
What was your first studio like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
(Frederic) My first studio was only a PC and lots of software. Unfortunately I never had any hardware synthesizers, drum machines and external effects.
(Patrick) My first studio was the children’s room in my parents house. My equipment was an Atari St with Q-Base on it as a sequencer program, a Quasimidi Technox as a multitimbral synthesizer and a Roland keyboard. Over the last twenty years I moved about four times into new studio rooms. From almost no gear, I managed to collect tons of hardware since then. Most of them are still in the studio but not in use anymore very often, as almost everything happens in a computer. So the most important piece of gear is my Apple iMac armed to the max with tons of plugins on it.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
When we work in the studio and start a new production, we always know where the journey should end. So we always know in the beginning which label we want to produce a track for. This means that the very basics like a bass drum and the general hardness of a track are clearly defined. For the rest we don’t have a concrete plan, we let it flow. Usually we start by creating one track with a two or four bar groove pattern which is built out of a mixture of single drum machine sounds and sometimes loops or single sounds taken out of loops. After that, we then program a baseline so that we have an outstanding, rocking groove at the end. This groove has to be interesting enough so that it can run for minutes or even hours without becoming boring for the listener. The next step is most often the hardest - finding the right main theme. This is almost always something that goes hand in hand with the machines. You can have the best and strongest melody but with the wrong sound it can be nothing. On the other hand, the simplest little melody can be a killer one if you find the right sound and the right effects on it. So at the end it is maybe something like 60% human creativity, 20% inspiration given by the machines and 20% handcraft.
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
This is more or less answered already in the last question we think.
As we are producing techno music usually everything is coming out of a machine. No machines, means no music. On the other hand, no Kaiserdisco in the studio means nothing is coming out of the machines. Sometimes an instrument like a synthesizer or an effects plugin on top of it helps you to implement your ideas or is giving you inspiration, but at the end only because we are jamming on the keyboard something interesting comes out, similar to someone jamming on their guitar. Does the guitar player think there is a co-authorship between him and his guitar? I don’t think so. Of course we are using a lot of production tools and it is absolutely normal for us, our daily business and it helps us a lot to create our tracks, but at the end we only love to make music and without all these instruments and tech we would probably hammering on a woodblock, Frederic with his violin under his chin and a harp in front of him and me with an accordion on my belly sitting at the piano. Ha Ha Ha!
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
Kaiserdisco is the result of a collaboration of our old projects we had before and it is still our preferred way of producing because we inspire each other every day. Of course, at times you need some time alone in the studio to work on some melodies, but in our opinion the main process is much more effective when you are working together. We have also worked with other artists over the years but more in a way of file sharing which can also be very inspiring.