Trance DJ Alex Niggemann describes a dance music crisis...
Hello, Alex. Hello there. Are you okay? Yeah, I am, thanks! You sound tired, though… I just got back from the gym, you know; I had a great weekend but it was very exhausting because I played in Venice and Rome and it was also my birthday, so I partied a lot more than I usually do. I played at Rashomon Club in Rome – I love smaller clubs, where everyone’s so close to the DJ that their fingers are almost on the turntable, and you can really feel the vibe.
You’ve only really been doing this professionally for a year, right? I’ve been producing and DJing since I was about 16, but until last year I was studying engineering. My profile has risen really quickly over the past year, but I’ve worked pretty hard for it and taken chances when I saw them. There are too many people who don’t take the chances when they get them because they don’t take it that seriously. But this is my job as well as my passion.
You’ve talked before about how the dance music industry is in crisis. What did you mean? I meant it was a crisis for artists: when I started I would be the first one at the record shop when the shipment came in on a Wednesday and I would have to fight other DJs over the new EPs. Now everybody is sharing everything, so anyone can have the same songs as you. And I’ve had bad experiences with a guy in Romania who had one of my unreleased tracks and threatened to spread it on the net unless I sent him another unreleased track. I got it sorted, but in the past it couldn’t happen like this. There’s a crisis of creativity, too: I listen to 100 promos a week and I’ll be lucky if I can find one that’s good. There are too many kids who open [sequencing program] Ableton, put a few loops into it and get a label to release it. I wouldn’t call this art, you know?
What can be done to improve things in the industry? Well, if there was a clear path I would take it, but at the minute I don’t really know how to handle it. Maybe people could just care more about quality rather than quantity. Anyone can find a label right now.
Do you get second opinions on your work? I have some really good friends who listen to my songs and give me their advice – sometimes you spend 10 days on a track and think it’s really bad, but someone else can come in and say, ‘Hey, this is really good, man. It’s just that you’ve heard it a million times now.’ And sometimes they just tell me it’s s***.
When you’re listening to promos, what makes a song stand out? I have sample libraries and loop libraries, and 90 per cent of the sample tracks I get sent are just made of the same samples I can find in those libraries, you know? Not that every track has to reinvent house music, but there needs to be something special there – a great groove, a great break; it has to really hit you the first time you hear it.
Is there a gender divide in dance music? Trance, which you mostly play, seems to me to appeal more to men than women. I had the same feeling when I was travelling around the Paris club scene, which is dominated by minimal or hard music. There did seem to be more men than women in their clubs. Yeah, I think that men generally prefer the harder stuff and girls prefer a bit of sexiness and melody. So if you’re playing a techy track and girls are on the dancefloor, it probably has a more melodic element. But I think it’s always good to play to the girls; I don’t want to be at a party where it’s just men.
Your brother got you into dance music when he used to DJ; is he jealous of where you are now? He’s not jealous, he’s really proud of me. He was not as talented as me – those are his words, not mine – but he’s proud that I fulfilled the dream that he had when he was 18 or 19. He has a cool job and I’m proud of him. And it’s always a good feeling to have him partying with me.
Alex Niggemann plays Subst@nce at Alpha, December 10.
Ladies of the dance
Trance music may not be as popular with women as some other genres, but there are stil a fair few female trance DJs out there… Kelly Trance: This US-based lady is multi-talented, being a DJ, VJ and producer. She named herself after her favourite genre, but also branches out into electro and prog house. www.kellytrance.com.
Sophie Sugar: Described by Armin van Buuren as ‘the first lady of trance’, UK-based Sophie iis an award-winning DJ. www.sophiesugar.com.
DJ Tatana: A Swiss trance scenester, Tatana’s a resident in two Zurich clubs. www.djtatana.com.