One of the must-see acts at this weekend’s Secret_Prøject festival, Roman Flügel is a highly respected German electronic music producer and DJ. Hosted by Insomniac offshoot Factory 93, Secret_Prøject also features Marcel Dettmann, Motor City Drum Ensemble and many other top-flight DJs. L.A. Weekly caught up with Flügel — who has a new album out later this month on the L.A. label ESP Institute — by phone in advance of his performance on Saturday, Oct. 13.
L.A. WEEKLY: I’ve seen you play about half a dozen times in the last 10 years. It seems like you’re constantly touring. Would you say you’re busier now than you were back in the day? How do you maintain such an intense travel schedule?
ROMAN FLÜGEL: It’s been quite intense since the last seven, eight years. Before that, I was mostly touring with my studio partner [Jörn Elling Wuttke] and we presented a live show [as Alter Ego]. First of all, I think traveling or playing is a very important part to remain in the business. It’s also very important to stay on point. And also, I quite like it. I like traveling, I like being on the road, and I like to promote what I’m doing. I try to balance things out by living quite a normal life during the week. My weekends are very different compared to what I am doing between Monday and, let’s say, Thursday or Friday.
Where are some of your favorite places to play around the world?
Well, that’s a difficult one, because sometimes you end up somewhere where you don’t expect anything and suddenly it’s the best place, and you never thought of it before. So, I think the most impressive places I’ve played were in countries like Japan, or in places like South America, maybe we end up at a beautiful beach somewhere. Japan has always been a very interesting place to me as it comes to the mentality and the traditions.
How did you get into music in general and electronic music specifically?
I started to play classical piano when I was about 6 or 7 years old. From then on, I started to play drums by the age of 12 … joined a few bands when I was [a teenager]. And then suddenly by the end of the ’80s there was this big wave of electronic music hitting Germany, coming from the U.S. and the U.K. So it was the early days of acid house and Detroit techno. That’s when I got into this music, because I also started to go out around that time. I went out almost every night, and that was the music that was surrounding us all the time. It was a fantastic energy. So I started to buy synthesizers and drum machines and just tried to find out how they did this kind of music, basically. Maybe two years later, I left my band and started to produce my own records.
Your new album, Themes, is coming out later this month on the L.A.-based label ESP Institute. How did you link up with Lovefingers [aka L.A. DJ, producer, promoter and label owner Andrew Hogge]?
I think I met him for the first time personally when I played a festival in San Diego a couple of years ago. But I always liked the label. I knew the records before I knew him. We had a chat and we stayed in contact, and I remembered him saying, “Whenever you have something that might be suitable, just send it over,” and I thought it was the right time, and then he really liked what he was listening to, and we ended up with this record.
Can you tell us a little about the album?
It’s not about club music. It’s not a dance album. It’s a quiet album. It’s an album that at least eases my mind and I feel very comfortable with listening to in almost any situation. It’s not pushing you forward. It probably gets you to a remote place in your mind.
What do you tend to listen to when you’re at home?
I listen to a wide range of music. I love classical music still. I like listening to guitar bands. For example, one of my favorite bands is Yo La Tengo, still after all these years. Or Galaxie 500. Stuff like this. I like to listen to classical Indian music, for example … Indian classical musicians playing tablas and sitars and all that. I love jazz still. It’s a wide range of music, and electronic music is just one part of the things I’m listening to. It’s the main part I’m producing but it’s not the main music I’m listening to at home.
What’s your studio setup like? How does it compare to what you used, say, in the ’90s or the 2000s?
My gear is basically a collection of what I’ve done in the past combined with the techniques of today. Computers and software and all that. But I still have a lot of analog hardware gear in my studio. It’s a small space, but it’s full of instruments and synthesizers and drum machines. Everything I do still runs through a mixing desk and then back into the computer. So I like to work on things with my hands still in the studio. It’s not just using my laptop or working with headphones all the time. I still want to feel the room and the way the music sounds in the room. That’s the way I work.
What can fans expect from you at the Secret_Prøject festival in Chinatown this weekend?
Well, of course I play dance music, first of all. But what I’m always trying to do is present quite a wide range of music. Danceable. Not super easy to consume sometimes, but that’s what keeps things interesting to me. Hopefully people can expect the unexpected.
The Secret Project Festival takes place Sat.-Sun., Oct. 13-14, in DTLA. For more information, visit secretproject.com.