In his productions Andre Kronert brings forth a raw energy with ingrained emotions joined together by his love of techno, tangible hardware and vinyl. In his live sets, he prefers the unpredictability of hardware synths, drum machines and mixers wired together like a puzzle, where catastrophic results would scare the average producer.
Yet Andre is anything but average. From his humble beginnings in East Germany he developed a true love and appreciation for music, instrumentation and making his own contributions to the scene and fellow musicians, running several labels over the years. His recent “Lost Era” vinyl release on the nascent Berg Audio label from France continues to showcase his unending creative development.
We sat down with the man, who doesn’t shy away from a challenge and finds inner motivation to bring out the best in himself in all walks of life.
You received your start DJing by basically going out (in Germany) in the mid-1990s. Can you give a bit more detail about the parties around that time and what inspired you to get on a pair of turntables?
Yes, you are right, the parties and the inspiration there got me started on all of this: DJing, and also producing music. Everything started just for fun and for the passion. We became total music addicts and stopped hanging out on the streets as punks. The early 1990’s were a hard time in East Germany for kids like me. I grew up in the North-East of Germany, the old Russian part. We had almost nothing. It wasn’t like Berlin where influences or products from the West came through. I mean, can you imagine seeing and touching a skateboard or a Metallica t-shirt for the first time, at the age of 13. We’d never seen it before.
Well, you can’t imagine how I felt when listening to a Jeff Mills vinyl for the first time in the middle of a dancefloor. If I think and talk about this now I get goose bumps on my whole body.
Then some years later the techno and house music arrived. I mean it was already there for a few years but we discovered it a bit later. I think I was 15 years old. It was like a revolution for us. Totally magic, totally peaceful. We started to go out to secret places, bunkers, backyards, abandoned buildings. It was amazing. Everyone knew each other and it was like a big, big family. And the music…Well, you can’t imagine how I felt when listening to a Jeff Mills vinyl for the first time in the middle of a dancefloor. If I think and talk about this now I get goose bumps on my whole body.
We visited Berlin almost monthly to go to the old Tresor, E-Werk or the first Love Parades with only a few 100 people. I saw the first DJs playing and from the first moments I was lost. I started to take the wooden turntable of my mom and a tape deck and mixed with these, using a mixer with batteries. From these first moments we stopped hanging out on the streets and concentrated on music the whole day. We bought a 606, a 101 and later a 909 and well, this was where it all started and there is still no end in sight.
Did DJing become a full-time commitment? And how was the segue into promoting and of course music production?
It never became a full-time commitment. I always had jobs alongside the music thing. The scene is full and I sit in a very small city far away from the melting pots. I had to work hard to get money for turntables or equipment and my mom supported me so much. I don’t know, but I think she felt that there will be something coming back through this someday. Now it’s almost a full-time commitment, but I still have a day job.
I mean you have to focus on the structure and the energy. To give energy away while travelling and doing music, I need to load up first and that happens here.
The scene is full of DJs, especially in the age of the digital revolution. It’s also full of elbows, talkers, haters. It’s hard to get your feet on the floor, but all the work seems to be paying off. I have a lot of old friends, I’m in an agency and I have a straight schedule for studio, DJing and all this. I’m still in my silent small city far away. I have 2 kids and a small house, 2 dogs and a garden but this silence gives me the energy to travel around the world over the weekend and do all of this without getting lost. I mean you have to focus on the structure and the energy. To give energy away while travelling and doing music, I need to load up first and that happens here.
Have you a music background or how did you pick up producing, mixing and mastering of records and, what was the learning curve and process like?
I have a music background. I’m a sound and light engineer. I studied this for 3 years but it was mainly to get the knowledge to manage bigger concerts etc. I can use only a small part here for my music. Everything I picked up for producing I discovered myself, I had nobody to show me tricks or the new kinds of technology or technique. I learned myself. This was a long, long journey and also a very expensive one, but the right way. I’m still flying solo and use a method of production which would drive others crazy, but I’m totally happy with the results.
DJing was the same. It took me some time to figure out what you can do with a turntable. I mean the good old things like back cuing, cutting or scratching. My friends and I became nerds about this; spending days and nights practicing until we got it.
I know you prefer hardware at least as far as live sets go – any reason why you haven’t transitioned into a single laptop/controller combo like some other live acts?
Yes I prefer hardware, always. It’s just me. I mean I don’t care about the media or equipment, if someone is playing live or DJing. The result on the floor is what’s important – nothing more. We’re in 2016 now and I’m not a digital / analogue preacher.
I discovered for me that playing live with hardware is much more difficult and complex. It was always like climbing a mountain. I never know if my hardware will go out of midi-sync or fuck me up if there is too high a humidity in the club. I’m always so nervous and a bit afraid but this is what I love. I don’t want to just press play and know in the beginning that I will get this done because I prepared something perfect in Ableton or similar. I don’t want to know if it works.
It’s me that has to make it work. My hands, my knowledge and my brain and not something pre-prepared. It’s ‘live’ and I love this feeling so much. Always when I finished a live set it’s like: Wooaahh it worked and I fucking got it done — totally happy and at total peace. Not because of the applause even, but because I made it. 🙂
Also on that topic, just read your studio article in Attack Magazine. How do you go about picking up new equipment and replacing your current ones?
It’s a long process. I check videos, go into shops, test it, check it, think about it and then repeat the process again and again. But I’ve not bought anything new for a long time. Usually I would do it if I was in a dark hole and stuck, without creativity. I thought sometimes that new equipment would bring me a new flow, but this is only partially right. The new drive comes a little from the new equipment but the majority of it comes from your inner self. There it starts and there it ends. It may give me the drive to do something, yes, but at the end I might have something completed having not even used the new equipment. So I stopped buying new things a while back. I also know that the equipment I currently have still has the ability to deliver something new, that I never knew it could do.
Of course everyone knows your work as a label head honcho of Odd/Even, Night Drive, Neurotron and 3rd wave. What is your day-to-day involvement and process, as well as time management and allocation like?
The Neurotron project is taking a creative break. Regarding productions I’m focusing on Andre Kronert now. Night Drive Music is my house label from back in the day and looked after now by a friend. I run ODD EVEN now and am totally focused on it. 3rd Wave is a playground for me, for the dubby and more minimal music but the main focus is ODD EVEN.
Just work on your dreams, don’t stop and don’t look forward or back, look into the present and get the present done.
I have a very strong structure for the day and since I’m doing this almost for 20 years, I know how to get things done fast and without getting crazy. You don’t have to be afraid of big tasks or complex things. Just get them done and you will see that they are not that big or complex as you were thinking before.
Just work on your dreams, don’t stop and don’t look forward or back, look into the present and get the present done. This way you prepare for the future without thinking on it and without having big expectations. Do what you need to do. GET IT DONE 🙂 STOP TALKING AND THINKING AND START GETTING SOMETHING DONE!
I must ask about 3rd wave music – the concept is extremely interesting. It’s like white labels but aesthetically the albums are black and void of any information. How did this idea come about and get executed? Was it hard to convince people to accept this vision?
It was the vision with a few releases, but we have changed it a little now and have names on the artwork, but it is still like a white label. The artists like this concept and the product. We do a very special cut and now a very nice mix between a white and black vinyl. It’s a split colored vinyl. The label is a playground for me, for artistic experiments and my dubby and minimal side.
Let’s speak a bit about the state of techno in general and vinyl specifically – both in Europe and abroad. What do you think of the vinyl revival of sorts and especially in the techno scene?
I don’t think vinyl is having a so called “revival“. It was always there. Ok, it is maybe stronger than a few years ago but I think it’s now in the consciousness again because the media and press promote it as a “revival“ and some key players have switched back to it and use it, maybe, as promotion. The format was always there and I think the sales as well. It was mentioned as dead from the major labels (also techno and house majors) and also reported as dead through the media, because of them. They told everyone the sales were down.
In my opinion, the independent labels grew up a while ago and a lot of nerds and good souls started their labels. Now you have the same amount sold as years ago but a lot (and I mean A LOT) more labels are in the market so everyone as a whole is selling less.
The big labels now have to deal with a lot of nerdy labels who do amazing work. They do it with love. They keep the attention not only on the music, but also on the product, the quality, the cover, the record itself. Stamped things, numbered things, inlays, silkscreen prints. Some records are looking like a big work of art. There is also the Bandcamp market which acts totally different from the major market and that seems to work well. The times are great now because there is a lot of quality.
Sometimes I leave the room while recording and later in the club I play a track with a jumping needle. Funny thing 🙂
I’m pretty sad because I can’t play with vinyl anymore. Since my severe bike accident last year I’m not able to carry a case full of records. But I buy it and record it in my studio. Every single track. This way I have the files with noise, crackles and all the things from my beloved records. Sometimes I leave the room while recording and later in the club I play a track with a jumping needle. Funny thing 🙂
Tell us about how your latest Berg Audio release and about the label which is somewhat unknown at the moment. How did this come about and what about the release?
I like the whole concept of the label. Nice mastering and a great cover artwork. The covers are hand-painted by the amazing Juli Jah and shows old Soviet monuments in different countries. I mean the monuments, if you have ever seen them, are big and I love to see this kind of architecture. The reason why they are there is another story, but they are still mute and contemporary witnesses.
The label asked me to do a track for their first release and then I got the offer to make the EP. Some of my all-time favorite producers Mike Dehnert and Deadbeat are on the remix duties and it’s out now. I’m pretty happy here with everything.
What does Andre Kronert do outside of techno and music?
(I am) a husband and a father of two wonderful daughters, a gardener and a dog whisperer. Just a normal man.
Anything else you want to share with the readers?
Don’t forget your dancing-shoes and hopefully see you later on the floor.
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