Martin Merkel emerged from the shadows at the end of last year with his first single release for Simon Berry’s Platipus Records, an introduction and taste of his self-described brand of “Soulful Techno”, steeped in complex emotions and with an attention to musical detail that comes from many years of dedication to his chosen craft. A somewhat mysterious figure within the European Techno scene, this maverick German DJ/Producer has often stepped away from the egotistical glare of publicity, preferring his music to do the talking. Martin Merkel is a master of sonic excellence and musicality, his creations have previously often crept out on the likes of Cinematique, Bonzai, Secondary Tones, JOOF, Monkey Business, Neverending and his own Shelter 54 imprint. Now, under the auspicious guidance of Platipus Records the most exciting new chapter of his career is about to begin with the release of his ‘Constantin’ album – a creative project inspired by his emotional journey over the past year and honouring the recent birth of his son. Martin’s joining forces with the legendary Platipus imprint also marks a bold new direction in the label’s evolution, as its creative ethos develops in an exciting Tech House / Melodic Techno direction, so we thought it was high time that we caught up with this exceptional artist to find out more…
Martin, a huge welcome to DMCWORLD and congratulations on your new ‘Constantin’ album on the legendary Platipus Records. Your release marks a bold new musical direction for the label. What’s the story here? How did you connect with this label and why did they choose you to launch this new path for the future?
Hello DMCWORLD and thanks a lot for having me here. Well, I came into contact with Simon by chance, really… I got sent a promo from Platipus and in the promo feedback I left my rating for the track and also asked how I could send a demo to the label. Simon (Berry) was so nice to give me an answer (as you know a lot of labels never reply to such requests) and after that, he listened to some tracks from me on Soundcloud, and then the story started. Why Platipus chose exactly me I cannot answer, maybe because they like my music (well I hope so hahaha), but really you’ll have to ask Simon? I guess because we are on the same wavelength, everything is really working fine and he is open-minded for new music.
For anyone not already familiar with your music, how would you explain your “Soulful Techno” style? Can you put your finger on the elements that make your music so distinctive?
Basically, because there is a lot of emotion in the music and, for sure, Techno elements, but “Emotional Techno” sounds not great, so I use the phrase “Soulful Techno”, but you can also call it “Soulful Melodic Techno”, if you want to?
Talk us through the sounds and production of one of your favourite tracks on your new album?
If it is only one track, then I’ll take ‘Constantin’ – first of all, this one is damn slow in comparison to the other songs, the genius of the song is that it goes into your brain and you want to dance automatically or at least you start to rock your legs… It begins so wonderfully, in a harmless way, and then the first bass starts and you know there’s something coming… and then, layer by layer, it grabs you takes you on a journey.
Are there any intriguing stories behind the other album tracks?
The whole album was made during my wife’s pregnancy, so there were a lot of moments and emotions that you can’t describe with words – the first ultrasound image, the heart beats – you see and hear life growing and, finally, when I experienced the birth of our son (who we named Constantin) it was the most amazing thing ever. All those emotions are unique and I wanted to capture those moments in my music.
Do you find it easy to express your emotions in your music, or is this something that finds an outlet only in certain, special tracks?
It is not always easy, I sit on the songs for so long… Sometimes, I throw away a track that others would keep and release immediately, but it does not fit in this moment and half a year later, the moment has come for the track because you have come up with the last idea for the song.
Tell us something about the psychological effects of music that totally blows your mind?
When I hear music that captivates me immediately.
Which of all your tracks do you consider to be your most accomplished creation to date? Why?
That’s my track ‘Voyager’, which is also a very emotional song when I lost my mother in 2014. Creatively it was a collaboration with Fe Malefiz – she had problems with her boyfriend and I was looking for a way to say goodbye, so that’s how ‘Voyager’ came to be. The single was then released on John 00 Fleming’s JOOF label.
Do you find defining music by genres useful or limiting?
Limiting. Because, if I listen to the styles on Beatport / Juno, or other shops, I find tracks that do not belong there. For example, my track ‘Constantin’ is categorised as “Upflifting Trance” on Juno Download! Well… Personally, I think “Uplifting Trance” is something else than what my track ‘Constantin’ (listen above) is, but here we are…
Let’s rewind for a moment, what is your earliest musical memory?
Hahaha…that’s a long time ago! The first record that I bought was Silver Pozzoli ‘Around My Dream’ – an awesome example of Italo Disco Music!
At what point did you get into producing and DJing?
When I was 18, I got into the clublife and started my DJing life (also by chance, actually).
In what ways do you think your particular journey through life has influenced the electronic music you make now?
When I was at the beginning of my musical journey of discovery, the sound was completely different. Sure, there were also the synths, but then life is changing and the older you get, the more you perceive the things around you.
You’ve been described as a “somewhat mysterious figure within the European Techno scene“ – for what reasons have you stayed away from the glare of publicity before now?
Well that’s easy, I feel very well in the background J I do not like the social networks (but now I am also on Facebook, because the label said that you have to do this today), and I am not a marketing fiend! But, unfortunately, it is not so important if you make good music, it’s more about knowing the right people. When I look at the line-ups of many events, I always see the same dinosaurs – where is the new, upcoming talent? They are all caught in the marketing trap. Honestly, how many times do you still want to see DJ xxx? Every year the same line-up, except for a few small exceptions…
Tell us about your own Shelter 54 label?
Shelter 54 was created because I produce a lot of music. I do not commit myself to a style, and so, many pseudonyms have emerged over the years. I produce everything from Deep House / Nu Disco / Tech House / Electro / Progressive House etc. But, I cannot release all that under my Martin Merkel moniker, and on my own label I can let off steam! The Shelter 54 label family was also founded to help other artists release their music too. You can check the Shelter 54 releases here: https://www.beatport.com/label/shelter-54/25447
What were those legendary clubs, such as Dorian Gray and Omen (Frankfurt) and Tresor (Berlin) like, during the years when the embryonic Techno scene was growing in Germany?
It was the wonderland for me, it was all about partying all the time and discovering new music. Unfortunately, that has been lost today and too much you hear the same music everywhere.
Having witnessed the evolution of the underground scene in Germany over the years, how do you view where things are at now? Is it healthy? What could improve things?
I have already mentioned that, look at the big festivals, there are always the same dinosaurs, where are all the new talents? Supposedly, they are always wanted and in the end, for years, they have always been the same artists you would have to start with, say the promoters. But, since it is about a lot of money, I see bad chances that something will change.
What is your favourite analogue synthesiser? And what makes it so special?
Well that’s analog / hybrid stuff – with the Roland JD 800 you have immediate access to all parameters, but the keyboard is a disaster (it always breaks), and the Waldorf Microwave XT is also a real monster.
Do you think ghostwriting a good or bad thing for the electronic music scene?
I think it is more common than most people can guess, but is it good or bad? That depends on the view and on which side you stand. I know a lot of artists who buy everything, but on the other side, they play every weekend, so when should they make the music? Ghostwriting has always existed, a lot of top artists are celebrated every weekend and in reality, they just bought their tracks. I think a DJ should just be DJ, but today every DJ is required to be a music producer and, to be honest, very few can do both. And, when you’re on the road every weekend, you will not always have the time and creativity to produce music. But, there are also many musicians who do not want to be the star, or play every weekend in a club. So, people dance and have fun and the only thing is that the real artist is not on the credits, and I don’t think anyone is interested in this. It is a huge business, because the stars constantly need new material, but who is the guilty one? The baker baking the bread or the one who re-sells it as his bread?
If you could remix any track by any artist (ever) what would be at the top of your wish list?
Emmanuel Top ‘Climax’ or Plastic Boy ‘Silver Bath’ – I’m a big fan of both, so I would like to do both! Hahaha.
Best piece of advice you have ever been given?
That I should not give up hope.
What are your plans for 2018?
See my son grow and continue to make music…
Thanks for your time here Martin – much appreciated! ☺
Martin Merkel – Constantin LP
(Platipus Records) PLATMULP26
Global Release: 12.03.18 / Beatport Exclusive 26.02.18
Martin Merkel Info: