Germany’s Alexander Krüger AKA Tigerskin has been at the forefront of the cutting edge electronic music scene since the turn of the century. His releases span back over nearly two decades under a plethora of aliases and labels including his Dub Taylor moniker, Hamburg’s Liebe*Detail imprint and Freestyle Man’s Moodmusic.
Tigerskin’s deep and melodic sounds were recently galvanised further by a new production partnership with Panamanian duo K.E.E.N.E. Shortly after meeting the duo, Kruger invited them to his studio in Berlin and they conceived the ‘Lust’ EP, which dropped on the Stereo MCs and Terranova label Connected in March (2016). We sat down with the Berlin-based producer to talk studio setups, creating your own instruments and finding sounds from the most unlikely of places.
Hi Alex, thanks for talking to us. How’s 2017 been treating you so far?
2017 looks promising so far. I have prepared a good amount of exciting releases lined up nicely until after summer. New projects with different kinds of music are in the making. All with very talented and inspiring musicians or production partners. Finally I hope to have spare time to focus on some long term projects like a 'new old wave' collection of songs, that's been sitting in my head since I was a teenager. And between all that I'm trying to fit in as many gigs as possible.
Can you tell us how you were introduced to electronic music and what made you decide to start producing?
I started when I was about 8 years with playing acoustic guitars, later added electric and bass guitar, but I never really fit into bands. So I started early to record my ideas or songs by myself, very basic on stereo- or 4-track tapes with drum machines instead of drummers. When the first wave of 'acid' and 'Chicago house' was over in the early 90s and the whole thing lost its hip-hop attitude, it became more industrial and 'punk'. That was when I was sucked into techno, ambient and the Berlin music scene in general.
What is the concept behind your Tigerskin moniker and how would you describe it?
There is no concept at all. I never cared. As Tigerskin, right from the beginning there was disco, house, techno, trance, electronica, jazz, soul, whatever. Both songs and Dj tools. I take care of the music, not the genres. I still release some music as Dub Taylor once or twice a year, that's usually more conceptual dub music.
Your next release on connected is a well-gelled collaboration. How important is it for you to team up with others in the studio?
Thanks for the roses. It's the essence of what I am. I learn from my partners and they learn from me. For instance, as a producer I have worked on Phonique’s music since his first record. Without him I'd not have become able to focus on results as well as I can do now. He wanted his tracks to be 'DJ-friendly', without much going on for the first and the last minute of it to make it possible to mix in a set. Back then I was giving a shit, if any DJ was able to play my music. But you know how it is: when you see a club full of people going nuts over your carefully designed white noise alarm break for the very first time... that's where you wanna be. That's what I share with DJs.
How did you link up with the guys at connected?
It was Lloyd, Kevin and Elli who got in touch with the guys. I knew Terranova from playing together and of course I had liked and bought the 'Connected' single from the Stereo MC's as well in the '90s. So I knew the guys were alright.
How would you say your sound has developed over the years you have been producing?
I always wanted my work to sound as best as possible and tried everything to make it so without involving other people like external mixing engineers, but in the '90s and early 2000's it was all hardware and my budget was small, I had to compromise all the time. That's probably why I basically released club tracks then. I simply couldn't get 60 audio tracks to sound good together at a time on the equipment I had and with the few engineer tricks I knew.
It was common to write, produce, mix and finish stuff all by yourself. Artists were judged by their ability to do so. Nowadays the rules have changed, cheating is easy, there's marketing generated hype on every corner and a lot of attention on sound quality. That led to the decision to give some work out of my hands and looked for help with the mixing process. For almost 2 years now I work with a partner, Jack Jenson, who helps me mixing my work properly. He also did the mix-down for the Connected release and we work together on material released under both our alter egos. From the point of music making itself, I still work the same way I ever did.
Can you explain your production process and what are your essential pieces of equipment in the studio?
There's not really a favoured process. I work in all possible different directions to get certain results. It also depends on the question, if I work alone or with fellow musicians or if I produce music with DJs.
For my own stuff, I either have the whole thing in my head already and just transfer it into the sequencers and synthesizers or I start from scratch with whatever comes first: a bassdrum, a Rhodes piano lick or a percussion piece. I arrange it, do the filtering and EQ tunings and then wait for Jack Jenson to come over for the mixdown.
With musician partners it's usually just jamming around with some gear or tweeking a plugin and at some point we start adding, recording and arranging.
'My DJs' have to work with me on their music, help me with the recordings and play and write the music with me, even if they didn't have a clue of how to make music in first place. They will learn it. At least I hope so. As a result from the experience being a DJ-producer I started a while ago to teach music making, recording, mixing and sound design with both, hardware and software. In individual lessons with those who are interested to learn how to write and record original electronic music.
I always used a variety of vintage gear, analog as well as digital. I like old machines rather than modern gear. For me they still sound better after 40-plus years. I use a vintage Roland Tr808 and a Tr909 as well as Cr-78 & 8000 or a Casio Rz-1 or some obscure drumboxes, DIY instruments and handclappers from all over the world for my drums. But sometimes you just punch a chair, record it and it becomes your snaredrum. For synths, I always used Roland Modulars, Jupiters and a couple Moogs. Roland and Eminent Stringmachines are my choice. About 10 years ago I also added a mighty Cwejman Modular. My favourite and most essential studio gear are my modulation effects. I have various phasers, flangers, filters, ringmodulators, frequency shifters and chorus machines, guitar pedals as well as professional 19" pieces or modulars. I even modify or built my own things sometimes if I need a certain sound. Right now, I'm working on a special piece of gear that doesn't exist yet in a particular form.
With gigs ranging across the world from Japan to Ibiza, can you tell us about some of your favourite places to play?
Since I don't DJ at all, it's sometimes not easy to catch people in remote places with what I do live, because they often expect their music wish to be fulfilled rather than to listen to something they might not have heard before. That's probably why Japan has always been good to me. Folks there are the best listeners around in my humble experience and are often open for the odd experiment.
In the end most of us Berliners like to travel to warm and sunny places, preferably with an ocean around and good food. Maybe because we only have that dirty river here in Berlin.
Finally, have you got any exciting gigs or releases planned for the rest of 2017?
April will see a new Tigerskin only release with Mioli Music, a label run by good friends from San Francisco who DJ under the name of Emanate. It also includes a remix by them and another one by my friend Lily Ackerman, also from SF.
Then there's a beautiful 90's soul piece Meggy and I did together will be out on the annual Suol Summer Compilation very soon. There will be an all analog disco tune out as Korsakow, one of my vintage aliases, that I haven't used use since 2004 on Bar25 Music.
In May, Jack Jenson and I team up for our 3rd EP together, this time featuring Aquarius Heaven on Exploited Ghetto. Finally, and already finished, is a new EP with Grambow and two beautiful and very deep tunes with my friends Nature Of Music from Toronto.