Drama house anyone? Me neither but for the record it is currently a genre of one, the tag having been dreamt up in-house for promotional purposes it seems, and perhaps with tongue slightly in cheek, to describe exclusively the sound of André Lodemann.
Yet it is perhaps as fitting a description as any though for the Berlin producer’s work which, for some at least, is not always easy to pigeonhole. And that surely is a good thing.
So too is his lack of pretension. Despite a track record that includes outings on Moods & Grooves, Freerange, Room With A View and Simple, plus remixes for amongst others Phonique, Spirit Catcher and the incomparable Tracey Thorn of Everything But The Girl, there is clearly no ego from the man who grew up in eastern Germany prior to re-unification and where the opportunity to obtain fresh new music was almost non-existent. His musical education before the fall of the wall relied heavily on West German radio and pirated cassette tapes.
Refreshingly too, rather than re-write his musical background to include some deep and earnest name-checking to impress the heads, Lodemann is not only unafraid to acknowledge his trance background, which he describes as an escape from daily life in East Germany, it is loud and clear in his own meandering, multi-layered productions that occupy the deeper end of the house spectrum. Amongst the substantial body of evidence I give you the recent Going To The Core, a sublime and hypnotic beauty of the highest order, or perhaps more obviously the deep trance of Still Dreaming.
Lodemann is no Johnny-come-lately either. Prior to taking up music full-time he spent 10 years in social work working with youngsters and showing them how to make music, DJ and stage their own events. It is no doubt one of the reasons he appears to be so grounded still.
Now with more than 20 years of playing records and over a decade of production to his name, Lodemann has released his first album, a double-disc affair of original work and remixes entitled Fragments on Best Works Records, the label he runs with fellow Berliner Daniel Best.
Tell us about the debut album.
In the beginning I actually just wanted to release a collection of all the remixes I have done in the last decade. But then the idea came up to give listeners a different context to my whole creative work. After making this decision I noticed more and more that all my work has a deeper connection then I expected.
So which side to your work do you prefer then, the original productions or remixing/collaborating?
I love both. The big difference and challenge here is the fact that when you do original music you start from scratch. At the very beginning there is nothing besides your deepest inner voice seeking to come out. A remix already gives you that first creative impulse that you can follow. Of course, along the way these things can change dramatically.
Talking of drama, I’ve heard your sound described as ‘drama house’. What’s that all about?
That’s funny. I have never heard of this besides the fact that we used this expression in a promo-text for my music. That was my label partner Daniel’s idea. But I do think it describes my music in a certain way. I like to leave the classical track architecture and surprise my listener by giving the original story a new turn.
You grew up in East Germany. What was the music scene and indeed access to music generally like there before unification?
Yes, I grew up in the countryside outside Berlin. The only access we had to other music was West German radio and TV that we recorded on tape decks. Also, many of the DJs in the seventies and eighties played their music from tapes that were recorded from the radio stations such as SFB, RIAS, etc. Some of the East German radio stations did manage to play more progressive music. One of them was DT64 from Berlin. We couldn’t buy any records besides releases from the state-owned record label AMIGA. Those records that made it to East Germany never arrived in the shops as they were sold out the moment they arrived. Sometimes we got some newer releases when we went on vacation to Hungary.
So how and when did you get into DJing and production?
Around 1990 I went to the first techno raves in Frankfurt/Oder where I was studying. For the first time I saw a DJ spinning records and mixing. I was so impressed I wanted to do it myself. That’s how it started. I then travelled to Berlin to buy records at Hard Wax, which is still around to this day. I started fooling around on keyboards in the early nineties with no ambition to produce music. Later, around 2000, I got my first PC and started producing in Logic with a lot of ‘blue screens’! The first release was in 2004 on Moods & Grooves from Detroit.
Away from music, you spent 10 years as a social worker. Do you ever miss it?
I honestly really loved the job. It helped me to understand and further develop my personality. I really miss the daily direct interaction face-to-face with other people. It is rewarding to see a happy thankful face. On the other hand, the job also brought a lot of administrative work with it that I am happy to have left behind me.
So did any of the kids you worked with go on to make careers from music and do you stay in touch?
Yes of course. There are still a lot of connections. Our most recent release on Best Works Records (BWR12) was produced by two of the people that I worked with during my job years, Felix Fischer and Fabian Dikof. They both took part in a project I developed to show kids how to produce music, to spin records and organise events. I am very proud of them.
Talking of Best Works, tell us more about the label.
There are quite a few of my releases but if you look closer you will see that we have released many known artists too: Vakula, Prommer & Barck, Eve Be, Mario & Vidis. After my album Fragments we will take a creative break as I am on the road a lot to promote my release. We have quite a few new ideas for upcoming releases.
It has already been a long career. What have been your personal highlights?
My first release ever on Moods & Grooves. I was so happy to hold my first wax in my hands! Also, the first record on my own label Best Works Records: having the courage to start a vinyl label in the digital era. Then there was my remix for Tracey Thorn. I was so honoured to be asked to do this remix. And now my first CD album Fragments.
So finally what is coming up DJ and production-wise?
I will be touring a lot this summer. I am looking forward to my first gigs in Brazil and South Africa, while production-wise I am working on material for Dessous and Peppermint Jam.