Roman Fluegel has long been considered a part of the German DJ and producer elite. He may not be exactly a household name in America, but after laying down two devastating displays of techno and house at Decibel last month, that may soon change. Fluegel has been active in the music scene since the early ’90s, often referred to as a chameleon producer, genre-hopping around through ambient and IDM to house, techno, electro, and leftfield sounds. Having recorded under countless monikers, and having co-founded the Ongaku, Klang, and Playhouse record labels, Fluegel has been a driving force in electronic music for two decades.
Lately though, Fluegel has been focusing on the deeper side of techno and house for his intricate and hypnotizing productions, with Dial releaseing last year’s Fatty Folders album to much acclaim. We caught up with Fluegel during Seattle’s Decibel festival to talk monikers, the current dance scene, and the infamous basement parties at Ricardo Villalobos’ parents’ house.
In an interview online, Ricardo Villalobos had mentioned you attended some of the parties at his house in the early ’90s while his parents were home. How much fun were those gatherings, and what was that time period like for your musical development?
Those parties were really fun. But the main thing was we had discovered something life-changing and that was house music and techno. I knew Ricardo when he was still playing percussion in bands and listening to Depeche Mode all day. I was playing drums in some other band, but it must have been around the same time in the late ’80s that we were fascinated by the new sounds of Dance Mania, DJ International, Trax, or Underground Resistance that suddenly hit the scene in the Frankfurt area. Acid house in general became big pretty fast in certain clubs and we were part of that scene. His parents seemed to be very chilled and open-minded since they were sitting upstairs in their living room watching TV while we were going crazy in their basement dancing to these never-heard-before sounds, surrounded by flashing lights from a strobe and lots of smoke from a fog machine. Sometimes we ended up in another room in the house and started to jam on some gear he just bought, like a Roland JX 8P and some drum machine, for example. These true “house” parties could easily last until the next morning, and since the house had a nice garden, we sometimes ended up having a cup of tea on the terrace listening to Ricardo’s father’s record collection of Latin music. It was all very exciting and the combination of new music, having finished high school, going out all night, and finally having the feeling to be part of some new development was a very strong and fulfilling experience. I was totally convinced that it was something I wanted to stay with forever.
How was this time different creatively compared to present day?
Well, imagine a world without internet or mobile phones and very slow home computers. It was all analog (except a few synths and samplers I was using). I was going to my favorite record shop every week to find something interesting and to have a chat with the staff. Besides this, I was working in my little home studio in my parents’ house without stopping—I was full on electronic music and wanted to find out how to use all these weird instruments that I started to buy after some shitty job during my semester break. I started to work on the music that soon would become my first album release as Acid Jesus. In between, I had met Jörn Elling Wuttke, who had a more professional studio, and he helped me to record everything in a much more professional way. I still try to keep some of the methods to trigger a creative process from back then until today. I try to remain playful and let things happen accidently.
You have many aliases. What would be your favorite project to release under, and do wish one to be more successful than another as far as reach?
Actually, I was trying to get rid of all my aliases during the last couple of years. The idea behind these different names back then was that you had to create another name for each musical direction or different labels. For me, that was Soylent Green and Roman IV for house music, Eight Miles High for more experimental stuff, and Tracks on Delivery for techno. But at the end of the day, it all became pretty complicated and confusing for too many people and since the last couple of years, I was using my real name for almost every production. I want to be able to release the whole spectrum of my music just as Roman Flügel and never thought about one project being more successful than the other.
Why have you released under Dial and Live at Robert Johnson in the last few years, opposed to Playhouse, which you co-founded?
Playhouse, Klang Elektronik, and Ongaku were run and founded by Ata Macias, Heiko MSO, Jörn Elling Wuttke, and myself more than 15 years before the four of us became more and more dysfunctional as a group. Once I realized that we were not having the same artistic vision anymore, I left the company. So did Ata and Jörn. I don’t see Heiko too often these days, so I have no idea if he is still running the label. The four of us together had some great years and we were able to release some very influential records and build some careers. I have a lot of good memories and feel very happy that I was able to be part of it.
Tell me about the “Edition Rodeo 01” 12-inch release. At the moment there is only one for sale on Discogs and it’s going for $129.74.
Phillip [Efdemin] and I were playing together at the Robert Johnson club a year ago or so and as a contribution to a very good record shop in Frankfurt called Deo, we were asked to do a super-limited 12″ to support the shop. Running a record shop these days can be a tough job, so there was no question we’d say yes! A local artist did the handmade artwork and there’s only five copies of that record around.
What’s your opinion of the US underground, and Seattle and Decibel Festival? Was there one track that went over particularly well at here?
I had an amazing time playing in the US this year, and got in contact with some great people who are not afraid to support what they really like. Underground music is always about taking some risk and I appreciate everyone who has the guts to run a festival like Decibel, where you can see that something is growing bigger but does not necessarily sell its heart and soul.
[For a track], I’d take the latest Live at Robert Johnson 12” “A Process (Flutramental Mix)” by Portable. I played this as a perfect comedown for the last 30 minutes of my set. The reaction when the chords hit is always good, and the flute makes the track a wonderful journey.
What is your opinion on the current dance-music craze in the US? And what has been the worst fashion trend to come of it?
To be honest, I wouldn’t consider myself an expert to answer this question since I just hear the most crazy stories about the most crazy DJ fees and the biggest parties ever in places like Las Vegas, but I’m simply not part of this development. What I hear musically doesn’t touch me. I used to wear black horn-rimmed glasses five years ago, so who is to blame? Glow sticks? We know them from years ago. To me, it seems like a huge trend for sure, but maybe I like to compare some of the EDM stuff with these big-hair bands, like Motley Crue, Wasp, or Poison, who became super-successful in the ’80s. The effect they had on the audience was incredible—they sold huge amount of records but their musical heritage is rather small.