Down the Production Hole with Alex Niggemann

Words by: Lisa Loco
Posted: 31/5/11 13:26

Down the Production Hole with Alex NiggemannAlthough still only in his 20s, Germany's Alex Niggemann is a name known everywhere from Ibiza to Brazil. He grew up with hip-hop, has played classical piano, studied audio production in Berlin, and then found a mentor in DJ T. His evolution as an artist later led to a remix for Get Physical - Booka Shade's 'Darko' - and from there he's continued to grow his sonic reputation around the world.

A big advocate of quality over quantity, he has released tracks on imprints like 8Bit, Micro-fon and Supernature. And, together with comrades Marc Poppcke and Oliver Fritsche (Superlounge), he founded his own Soulfoold imprint in 2010.

Fast forward to 2011 and Alex's latest output is an EP projecting his passion for classic Chicago vibes and dark synths. It's out on Steve Bug's Poker Flat and is entitled Lately, comprising tracks 'Lately', 'Madness' and 'Smash Your Face'. (Check out the bizarro 'smack the bloke up' type video, below!) And if you're on the island this summer you always can catch Alex DJing at Space and Sankeys

Anyhow, that's a taster of a backdrop, just to set the scene, as we now welcome Alex Niggemann Down the Production Hole...

First can you tell us something about your frames of reference/what you think makes for a high quality electronic sound recording?
First of all I think creativity is the most important thing. If there isn't a good idea it doesn't matter if you are a technical nerd. I think as EDM isn't only beats, a musical background, such as playing an instrument, is definitely a great advantage.

Last but not least, if you can fulfil all the things I mentioned before, you can only make your songs sound perfect by having the technical know-how. I need to say, I'm definitely not a nerd and I was always more the creative type of musician. But when I recognised that my productions can only sound better through technical terms, I was really happy that I did my audio engineering studies, which helped me a lot to understand how to do/use certain things to make a song sound 'big', to place instruments right and know about which of their frequencies are really important for my song.

new studioBut, all in all, there are no rules or certain ways of a 'how to do'. I don't like people using complete loops from sample packs exactly as they are in their original or using the wrong tonal pitch for basslines. I can't understand how some people aren't able to recognise that there's something wrong in their tracks. It usually takes me about four days to complete a track: one day collecting ideas, two days arranging, one day mixing, so take your time to play instruments and create beats on your own! It's all about quality not quantity.

What's your current music production set-up like?
I think a very important thing is the room you are producing in and the monitoring. I just built a new studio with a room in room construction [see photo]. As monitors I'm using two different pairs of speakers. I have two Klein + Hummel's O300 and a pair of Yamaha NS10. I switch between them during the production progress with a Novation main station. I'm also using an Akai MBK for playing and controlling as well as a Korg Triton LE. All this is connected through a RME Fireface to my quad-core Mac Pro. As Sequencer I only use Apple Logic Studio 9 with a lot of quality AU plug-ins like Waves, Sonnox, Sonalksis, Native Instruments, Arturia, etc. For recordings I'm using several condenser or dynamic microphones like MD421, SM-52 or TLM102. It depends on what I need to record. I'm also really happy that I have my old Steinway piano in my studio right now.

Within that set-up what is/are your most essential tool/s of the trade?
As I don't buy and mainly use only a few things I have to say that all the equipment I have is really necessary for me. I have some favourite ones that I always use, such as different transient-shapers, EQs and rooms (reverbs), because they are what you need to place sounds wherever you want them. I always say a song is like a picture; you need to place instruments like elements in the picture - and not only in the middle. There's a below, above, right, left, and all in between.

Definitely my new O300s are one of my best investments ever, as they are giving me a clear and big range of all the frequencies I need to hear in my 'picture'.

Can you reveal a secret about your production technique/s?
It's all about EQing!

Do you have a general top tip for budding producers?
Yeah, don't buy/use monitors that sound good. Speakers for production don't need to create sound, so that your productions sound good. Speakers for producing usually sound rough and bad.

They should only let you know how the instruments and track really sounds without any compression or filters integrated in your speakers. If you can produce a track on those monitors (e.g. NS10 or O300) and it sounds really great, you can be sure that it will also do everywhere.

Finally, what's your take on the future of electronic music production?
Hopefully, people will recognise that they should start thinking about quality music again. In times of social media, web 2.0 and digitalism, too many self-called 'artists' are releasing their songs made out of a few loops on several digital 'labels'. There are so many brilliant musicians out there who don't get recognised, as they usually should do, because of the huge amount of same-sounding loop-stuff being published.

I really hope that listeners, party people and dancers are realising what's happened to EDM in the past few years. People ('artists') are trying to earn money in the quickest way (e.g. David Guetta) by just releasing rubbish, and others are buying magazine articles and features from famous artists. And some try to get their fame by flooding the market with loads of their bad productions only to be mentioned as often as possible. This, in my opinion, has nothing to do with music. Music was originally made to give something to people - not only to take their money.

Alex Niggemann
Latest Releases
Alex Niggemann - Lately - Poker Flat Recordings
Alex Niggemann -  Findling & Lihab - Jewels / Ol' Times - Soulfooled
Alex Niggemann / Rio Padice - Samurai Blades EP - Tsuba Records
Alex Niggemann & Marc Poppcke - Sleepless Nights - Darkroom Dubs
Alex Niggemann - Take Control & Use Me EP - Supernature
Alex Niggemann - Makayuni EP - 8bit Records
Alex Niggemann - Black Rose EP - Supernature
Alex Niggemann & Marc Poppcke - Berlin Down The House - Bloop Recordings

Next Dates
03rd June - Westelijk Handelsterrein Rotterdam (NL)
17th June - Flying Circus @ Macarena Beach Club, Barcelona (ES)
18th June - We love, Barcelona (ES)
24th June - Krisha Mira, Moscow, (RU)
25th June - Supernature at the Nest, Dalston (UK)
26th June - Cable, London (UK)
03rd July - We Love... Space Sundays Ibiza (ES)
17th July - We Love... Space Sundays Ibiza (ES)

Alex Niggemann Online
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