In conversation with Alex Niggemann … about Zoulou and ‘his’ music.
Alex Niggemann needs little to no introduction. He’s classically trained pianist and it was his brother’s vinyl collection that created his thirst for electronic music. Niggemann formed his AEON imprint back in 2013 as a place to release quality and timeless house and techno music.
Last year, his absorbing AEON imprint celebrates five years in the business. To mark this pivotal moment, he invites a succession of celebrated AEON family members to contribute to this impressive ten-track release. More about this great release in the interview below.
With the start of the year, Alex drops a stunning release on the Crosstown Rebels imprint. We had a short conversation about this fabulous work, but even more about ‘his’ music. Enjoy.
How are things these days?
Everything is fine. I had quite a busy last month of the year with a lot of travelling. Looking forward to now having some holidays to start the new year with.
Any special events you had planned for the end of 2018 or did you enjoy a break with your family?
My last gigs in 2018 were near my new home in the Netherlands playing in Nijmegen and Rotterdam on NYE and NYD. I’m flying to the Caribbean for 2 weeks now to get some tan and charge batteries before I continue with gigs in Sofia, Oslo and Berlin.
How do you balance your music with other obligations like running a label, being a DJ, producing, mates, family, …?
It’s tough with all these responsibilities to make sure you give 100% with everything. Sleep is not really what I do the most at the moment. But I just try to set priorities and share work with the people that I work with and give them more responsibility. It isn’t that easy to let go of things you have previously taken care of yourself. But I guess, it was time for it. I also try to live healthier and try not to waste time with senseless things and sleep instead.
I just try to set priorities and share work with the people that I work with and give them more responsibility. It isn’t that easy to let go of things you have previously taken care of yourself.
Your AEON label just turned 5. Congrats! Explain a bit the journey of the label, from idea to where you are now, and maybe what is yet to come.
The beginning is always a bit bumpy. You have to compromise, find new talents and convince them to trust in your vision and the route you want to go with them. Its tough to have patience and also convince artists that sometimes a different way is the better one, but at the same time it will work, even though it might take a bit longer. After five years, thirty-six releases, a lot of events, the label has a spot in the scene. Artists like Denis Horvat and Speaking Minds who have been with me since almost day one have became established figures. The future looks bright and new talent like Anii, Kincaid and TVA are on the rise.
After five years, thirty-six releases, a lot of events, the label has a spot in the scene.
Review of the release can be found here »
Your vision once was to launch a label that mirrors diversity. Can you explain this a bit?
I like a lot of different music and it is really hard for me to categorize the music that I like and play. For me, it is more about the mood and vibe of the music, even though style can be different. Starting a label from scratch and having the vision that it should stand for diversity and quality at the same time, making sure it isn’t a mixed candy box isn’t an easy thing. Usually, labels tend to stand for a certain kind of genre, which makes it more easy to promote as people know what to expect on the next releases. But I can say, although not everyone is always liking every release, they still know the music we release is quality and maybe the next one will be ‘their thing’. The advantage is that we have a wide pool of people that follow us.
How does this reflect in your own sound?
I’m an artist that has always and will always play diverse music. So it was clear for me from the beginning that the label should reflect that and be open for everything that touches my heart. So it literally mirrors what I like and play.
It was clear for me from the beginning that the label should reflect diverse music and be open for everything that touches my heart.
You are making your debut on Crosstown Rebels with your upcoming EP “Zoulou”. Two great tracks! This one pulls us in African rhythms. Why this direction?
As said before, my music and therefore my releases were and will always be diverse. I like different styles, get bored by always doing the same things and also get inspired by a lot of different things like cultures that I’m exploring when traveling private. And Africa was always a very inspiring continent. On this release, I have already been working for a while and I’m happy it found a great home with Crosstown Rebels, which perfectly fits its sound.
Alex Niggemann – “Zoulou” is out on Crosstown Rebels January on Jan 18. Pre-order »
Comparing “Zoulou” with previous releases like “The Birds” & “Tangram” for example, this EP sounds different. You like a different approach with each of your releases?
Well, lets say “Zoulou” started in the beginning of 2018. While “Birds” was done in September 2018. So first, it was a very different timing. So also different moods and vibes. When I start making music, I either have a clear idea or I start from scratch and get inspired by playing around. “Zoulou” was made from scratch, while its B-side “Bwana” was made to complete this EP. With “Birds” I had a clear idea. Same as with “Tangram“. I like this kind of experimenting here as it keeps my musical horizon open as I also tend to sometimes act like, “no, it should sound only like that” or “you can’t do that”… and that limits you. I like to break those frames.
How do you want your fans to feel about your music? Especially when it’s so diverse.
First of all, I’m doing the music for myself. If I didn’t do that, I wouldn’t be happy with what I’m doing. So I don’t create music to please someone but myself. And the fans I have grown over the years know me for being that diverse from the very beginning.
I’m doing the music for myself. If I didn’t do that, I wouldn’t be happy with what I’m doing.
I think people tend to get bored of the same kind of music during a long time anyway. That’s also why a musicians career doesn’t last forever. It’s the same thing with Hypes … When I started it was Minimal, then Deep House, then Melodic House, now Techno etc etc. Hypes and artist will come and go because of a certain style doesn’t last forever. So I prefer myself to be diverse. Sometimes making music that fits the hype and sometimes making music that is off the radar, like “The Birds”. I like to develop with my music and I hope my fans do too.
How has your music been influenced by other artists, musicians, or life in general?
My main influence is usually the mood I’m in on a certain day. It’s is so great, that when you compose, even if you get back on it on the next day with a different mood, you get dragged into the mood of the day before, as music is the only thing which is able to do that within seconds.
Besides that, being influenced by artists is a natural thing. I needed that to get interested in how things are done and doing my own music. Nowadays, it is different than it was when I started. In the beginning, everything was just about House and Techno for me. Jeff Mills, Derrick May, Laurent Garnier, Sven Väth … now it extendeds with artists from other genres like Thomas Newman, Hans Zimmer, Nas, Dr Dre, Moderat or Bon Iver.
What about your childhood was unique and most contributed to the adult/artist you’ve become?
Let’s say my childhood wasn’t the easiest. I lost my parents early. Therefore I had to become/act like an adult very early and prove myself in the world without being able to ask for help and advice. That definitely shapes a character and gives you the “elbows” you need to push yourself through the mass and also to give you the stamina to not give up too early.
TGMS:Sorry to hear.
Any advice for young artists on maintaining a successful working relationship in a crazy space like dance music?
Thank you and all of the best for 2019!