Berlin is without a doubt one of the most vital and exciting cities for electronic music. House producer Alex Niggemann relocated there early in his career, and has never looked back. “Berlin inspires me a lot,” he says. “It’s a creative and young city, and it has a huge network of artists, not only music-wise, but from all mediums.”
People come from all over the world to share their music and art and experiences, and of course, this leads to new and exciting creations. “Another thing about Berlin is that the city never sleeps,” Niggemann says. “You can go out, listen to music, meet new people, and experience new things anytime you want. That’s what I really like about living here.”
Last year, Niggemann released his debut album, Paranoid Funk. The record met with wide acclaim for its combination of intricate beats and catchy melodies. He says that, in creating it, he was determined to make the kind of record that you could throw on at home or in the club and have a similar effect.
“You can enjoy it when you’re at home by yourself, or the dance floor with others,” he says. “I tried to combine modern, deeper and slower elements with the roughness and coolness of dark old-school sounds. These things might not fit together at first sight but in the end exactly this is what turns out to be the perfect combination and is also the reason for my album’s name Paranoid Funk.”
Explaining further, he says that the two words ‘paranoid’ and ‘funk’ don’t necessarily have much to do with each other, yet they fit together well when you hear them spoken one after the other.
“The ‘paranoid’ of the title stands for the dark and clubby part of the album,” he says, “while the ‘funk’ stands for the laid-back, more groovy and musically-orientated part.” The overall reaction to the album has been better than he could ever have hoped for. “I’ve received so much positive feedback,” Niggemann says, “both from inside the dance music scene out outside of it. That really makes me happy, because that was my main intention for my album, to reach people outside of those who are familiar with EDM.”
Dance music moves pretty fast – a genre or sound will be in clubs one week, and in the dustbin the next. Thinking about this was one of the biggest challenged Niggemann faced when putting the album together.
“When I was working on the tracks, I knew they might not be released until a whole year later,” he tells me. “Because of this, I tried to keep the sound as timeless as possible. Another thing that really challenged me was that it’s pretty hard to create an album sounding homogenous, but without tracks being too similar to each other so that it might become boring in the end.”
He started with 80 songs, of which 20 were finished, and 11 made it to the album. “It was a long process,” he says, “but as I said I'm more than happy with the result and the great feedback on this!”
These days, Niggemann inhabits the world of club music, but he got his start as a child learning classical piano, and he says that this, more than anything, helped deepen his understanding of composition and structure.
“My piano was the beginning of my musical career,” he says. “It’s how I started making music myself. I started lessons when I was four, and I learned all basics and got a good musical knowledge.” His parents had to force him at first, bit later in life, he discovered some of the advantages of playing an instrument. “Later on in my teens I found out that playing the piano and singing Backstreet Boys songs was something the girls really impresses so I went a bit more in the pop music direction!” he says.
Needless to say, Niggemann eventually grew out of his I Want It That Way stage and into the acclaimed electronic producer he is today – but he always thinks back on those early stages of his musical development. “At some point I started writing my own songs,” he says. “I tried a lot of different styles, and I even tried to produce some hip hop tunes. Later on when EDM became interesting for me, it was just a matter of fact to start and produce my own tracks. So I would more say the piano was the source of everything and accompanied me throughout my musical development process. Even today I still have a piano in my studio – I used it for the track Lovers on my album.”
As well as producing, Niggemann is in demand as a DJ, and has found himself doing an awful lot of touring recently. Adapting to life on the road isn’t necessarily easy, although he loves the lifestyle of travelling and meeting new people.
“I’m definitely aware of that I’m one of the few lucky people who can call this their job,” he says. “Currently I’m in Kuala Lumpur, just arrived there from Bangkok, next week I'm in China and then finally Australia again. It’s nice and exciting but of course a life like this also has its down sides. I can't be creative in my studio, can't see my friends and sometimes it's hard to relax when being on airports all day. But the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages!”
BY ALASDAIR DUNCAN