Published Jun 04, 2013Martin Stimming is a master of organic dance music. On his third full length album, the Hamburg-based producer pulls away from the more experimental sounds of his sophomore album Liquorice, and closer to the instrument-laden grooves of his highly respected debut, Reflections.The result is an album that combines both of the best qualities from his previous two albums, dabbling in some extremely groovy and emotional beats ("Die Taube auf dem Dach," "From One Cell") and other more left-of-centre grooves (" Mächtigen"). Stimming's lack of quantization gives his music a more human quality than most electronic music, a quality that helps him to define rhythms that our bodies respond to directly through an internal synchronization to his organizations of sounds that expands from the inside outwards.
Exclaim! spoke to Stimming recently about making people dance, using 'real' sounds, and touring adventures.
What's keeping you busy these days?
I'm working on my live set. I've finally included an Arturia Minibrute analog synthesizer, which gives me many possibilities to express myself while playing. But, like with "real" instruments, this needs a lot of practice. That's what's keeping me busy. I love it!
How would you say your creative process working on the self-titled record differed from your previous albums, and ?
It was quite similar to Reflections. I needed about a year of hard work, a little longer than the first one. It started with the aim to do a third one before I became thirty, and during the process, I had 15 tracks; 12 made it on the album. It's very difficult to stay concentrated when you're close to the finish line, especially because you have to decide where [that] is, exactly. At the end of January this year, I was finished and needed another month to check and double-check.
On Stimming ― as on many of your previous releases ― you blend organic samples seamlessly with electronics, creating extremely 'real' sounding dance music. Are all these organic samples things you record yourself? Can you explain that process a bit?
Well, I have a couple of microphones and preamps which I use to record. It's like recording a band, but in a different context. For outdoor recordings, I have a little portable recorder from Sony which sounds okay, but if you tweak it afterwards, it's definitely usable. 70% of the percussion instruments are played by myself. I mostly play 64 bars and choose the one or two that fit afterwards, but apart from recording "real" sound sources, the way I play synths and samplers makes a big difference, because I don't quantize afterwards ― quantizing means the computer corrects your recording to put it on the perfect timing. But, perfect timing sounds boring; our ear likes to hear "mistakes." In fact, the only instrument in my music that is 100% tight in a machine-sense is the bass drum.
Why do you find those types of samples so appealing?
Because they are individual. I would love to hear more individual samples in dance-music. As soon as a producer records his own samples, it becomes unique.
You also recently had your track "November Morning" adapted by a classical orchestra. Your music and approach to recording exhibit rich depth, which make your work considerably more 'classically friendly' when compared with a lot of other dance music. Given your background in music theory, do you ever think about making a foray into the classical world?
Classical music has a very strong heritage, which I have a lot of respect for. I would need a lot more knowledge in theory of melodics to make this happen, and also need to start listening to Bach, Beethoven etc. I've never tried because I have respect for the heritage, but not so much for the music itself. It bores me because it has no groove in it. It's a challenge that I do keep in mind; I just have no idea when it's going to be.
Your music is undeniably groovy and really makes people dance. Beyond physical movement, what do you hope to achieve through your music?
Making people dance is my duty, but I also want to create emotions and situations which you usually don't get on the dance floor. On my album there is this track "3rd of June" [also the album's release date outside North America] on which you suddenly hear a swarm of cranes combined with a melodramatic melody. If you know that cranes leave Germany at the end of summer to travel to better weather conditions, that's why their sound means a sort of yearning for us. These are the moments I work for.
You get booked for shows quite frequently. Are there any venues or festivals that you've played that have really stayed with you?
My first time at Fusion festival in Germany. It was at the beginning of my career, and I didn't have the right equipment for playing live yet. I had the first version of Elektron's Machinedrum with me, which is still known for making problems, and the festival's power supply wasn't the most stable. Anyway, during my live set the Machinedrum crashed with a really loud "fiiiiiieep," and I had no idea where it came from. It was on the main stage and they have a very powerful sound system there. Unfortunately. the bass drum came out of it so I had to stop playing. As you can imagine, this felt like ice cold water into which I was thrown.
Are there any crazy experiences that you've had on the road that have made for great stories to tell as you grow older?
Of course. Especially the long trips to another continent have been very exciting and full of strange stories. Or in deepest Russia ― things get mad every time!
What other artists would you say have influenced you?
Are there any releases in particular as of late that you might say are 'blowing your mind'?
Not so much, to be honest, and even if so, I wouldn't know the names. Due to me playing live exclusively, I don't find time to stay up to date when it comes to artists, releases, or labels. But David August's debut album, Times, is worth a listen.
What can we expect from Stimming in the future?