Interview: Douglas Greed on New Album and Sasquatch Behavior

Class of '06 Mario Willms aka Douglas Greed has built up quite a catalogue of techno-influenced singles and EP's over the last few years, on labels such as Combination Records, Infiné, Freude Am Tanzen, Lebensfreude, and Dekadent Schallplatten, to name a couple. But this year sees him step into the world of the album, transferring his signature sound of deep dark passages and esoteric grooves to the long player format the way only Greed can. We reached him for an afternoon chat about Quincy Jones, sasquatches, and how he keeps his emotional focus...

So how long has this album taken to come together?

Well, one track for example is nearly three years old now, and there's some tracks that i did at the end of last year, so all in all, I would say it's taken one and a half to two years to get all this together. But I wasn't like, "OK, I need to do an album." It was more like there was one track happening and then there was another, and at one point I had six or seven tracks together, and all of a sudden I thought, yeah this could go somewhere, let's put it together and let's make an album. But I didn't sit down and think, "OK, let's do an album." It just kinda happened.

Listening to the tracks on your site, even though there are quite different styles and tempos on there, they all seem to fit together somehow…

It's more about the mood than a certain music direction or music style I guess.

Yeah, it sounds like you weren't consciously trying to make everything sound cohesive.

No, not at all. Not, "let's make an album like this, or that, or make a dance album" or whatever. It just happened and at the end the tracks share the same kind of mood, so I guess that's the glue that holds it together. There was a basic idea, but in the end it was the certain kind of music that I like that glued it together, then. Also, for this album, I was really into mallets, so maybe that's another part of the glue that fits it together… As well at the atmosphere of melancholy and dusk (laughs).

What are your thoughts on the album as a format? It's quite different from, say a live set, or a mix CD. Will you be playing these tracks live in the club?

Well, yes, actually we've already played a bunch of shows. On the one hand I play alone, but I've also got a thing with a percussionist, and we are also preparing something with the percussionist and the female voice who's on the album as well, called Dehlia. The first couple of shows went quite well, so I have this percussionist who is playing some of the figures from the album, as well as improvising and playing some of the bass lines on the percussion, on electro-drums. We tried to make the album more danceable, or more club-fitting, and we don't just play album tracks either, we also play some of my old tracks as well, and we have tried to glue it together. It worked quite well, even when we switched tempo from 125 bpm to 180bpm, or down to 90bpm, which was quite a surprise, and offered up lots of possibilities.

Yeah you don't just want a constant tempo, huh? Some surprises are good right?

I really think it's refreshing sometimes to have a pause in a set, to make people stop for a minute… As a DJ, I always like to play a track in the middle of the set, like, I've got this idea that in the middle of the set that I play something strange, or stop the record in the middle of a set and play something totally different, like… I don't know, Joy Division or something like this, just so that people are waking up again and you know, you try to catch them again and give them a bit of a kick up the butt.

Freude Am Tanzen, 2011

So what about the title, KRL? Where does that come from?

The album is dedicated to my grandfather, he died a long time ago, his name is Karl, so it's just the A missing. We have the artwork, which is a series of pictures, and they all include some link to my grandfather. I wanted to make a totally personal and private album, and this was kind of the point I could always come back to, to make myself aware and remind me to make something personal, not to listen to people saying "do a dance album" or whatever. Just make it about yourself, or stuff that you like, and that you want to do.

There's a lot of personal memories tied up with grandparents aren't there, but it's also something that a lot of people can relate to, as well.

Maybe you can say listening to music is always something personal, or that music is quite like memories, like the smell of your first tape recorder being freshly taken out of the box, or the smell of the first record you bought, or stuff like this. It kind of is a sepia-colored memory thing, you know, and it gives you this certain feeling in your stomach. So maybe this album is a search for that certain kind of feeling in your stomach.

I guess it's nice to dedicate things to family, they can be closest to you in some ways…

Or they're even not. There's this kind of salt and pepper thing going on that strains through your whole life, you know? And you have relatives that you couldn't care less about, and you have relatives that you care quite a lot about, and it's kind of a strange energy. And society, rules, and… but his has nothing to do with music, now (laughs). 

So who are you collaborating with on this album?

Yes they're the few people I've met over the years. Dehlia, the female voice, I've known her for like fifteen years now, we met while I was growing up listening to hip hop stuff, you know? And there's Pascal Bideau who I met in Melbourne, Australia, at the Academy in fact. And then there's MC Kemo, a drum n bass guy. I met him when I still played as a drum n bass DJ, about five years ago… and then there's Ian Simmons, who used to live in my home town, but he just moved back to the UK, and then there's Mooryc (Maurice), he a guy from Poland who I met in Poznan last year when I was playing at an art festival. It's kind of a thing, someone else brings home a t-shirt with 'I've been to Rome and all I got was this t-shirt', and I bring back singers (laughs).

That's nice to connect and then keep the collaborations going when you get back home…

Yeah, and the internet makes it so easy, you can send stuff back and forth and then go chat on Skype, and give directions, or kick the others in the balls to work a bit harder… (laughs). Yeah that's quite nice. I really love to work alone, I'm kind of a sasquatch, maybe… but this gives you the opportunity to do something with someone else, without having the annoying part of working with someone else. Mostly it's really annoying, or boring to sit in the studio with two or three people, because basically doing music is searching and trying to find something, and so you separate the part of finding and searching, and you just enjoy the fun time together.

It was only twenty or thirty years ago when everyone had to be in the studio, watching one guy do a take from the control room..

Yeah, now you don't have to take the horse to go there (laughs).

So the album's coming out next month…

From next month it's going to get serious (laughs). I'm already nervous like a sixteen year old girl before her first 'Take That' concert…

Your pants are wet, are they?

Like a sixteen year old girl! Yeah, next month the record is out. We're going to have a special version for iTunes including the video for 'Pain'. The vinyl version is with ten songs, and the digital version is with twelve. Then the iTunes extra is with fourteen songs, there's remixes by Patrick Pulsinger, and Acid Pauli aka Console which are going to be included in the digital package, and then later on, like early next year, we are going to have a remix album.

Have you got a few remixers lined up already?

Well yes, there's Patrick Pulsinger and Console, as well as some of the German house and techno guys I met over the last couple of years. Clara Moto will do one, and Richard Eigner, and Ruede Hagelstein, and some friends of mine and from the label like Marek Hemman, and people like this.

What about the lyrics? Did you trust the singers to write their own?

Yeah I trusted them. For the album they had total freedom, I'd say if it's cool or not cool, but then when it came to lyrics, they did all the lyrics, I didn't write any lyrics for them. I mean, I'm really into doing all this stuff myself, but I can't sing, so… There's going to be a new record coming soon on Gigolo Records, and there I wrote all the lyrics… we'll see about that. You see, I'll ask people 'hey I wrote these lyrics and I've got a beat, could you perform it?' But naturally most of the vocal artists kind of feel a bit bad about it, cause it's like their art, and now this guy comes and he's only able to produce a track with a bass drum, and now he's also written the lyrics (laughs)!

Did you ever think of trying a vocoder?

Oh yeah, I even bought the mouth package, from Native Instruments, but I still didn't find the time to try it yet. I think actually I should try it, but the vocoder is so overdone these last couple of years… and my voice is really bad, I can't sing. Even though I would love to stay in front of people with the microphone, one foot on the monitor, tearing off my shirt and spitting in their faces and just scream stuff… (laughs) but no that's not going to happen I guess.

I noticed a quote from Quincy Jones on your web page? "I want the music to give me goosebumps. Music, that moves my heart and soul." How does someone like Quincy Jones fit into the world of electronic music?

The thing itself, I was watching a BBC documentary, and it's really impressive what this man did, I mean, unbelievable. I felt while I was watching it, I felt I wasn't worthy to call myself a musician… but then he said this one sentence, and that's basically what it's all about. It's not about doing a dance floor smasher to get bookings next month, or get a cheesy melody and a girl who's singing great and wearing a short skirt, it's about this feeling of trying to make music that gives yourself the goosebumps, you know? To give other people goosebumps, and you're only able to do that if you can give yourself goosebumps with your own music in the first place.

Douglas Greed's 'KRL' is out 14th October on Freude Am Tanzen. Pre-listen to the soundcloud player here.

By Red Bull Music Academy on October 7, 2011

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