DEBUTS: Roman Flügel “Parade”
Roman Flügel is one of our favourite producer-DJs around. We’ve had the pleasure of hosting him on Boiler Room a number of times already – you can check those out here, here and here – and he never appears short of more&more&more great material. Today we continue the love-in, with the world first airing of new music from forthcoming sophomore album Happiness Is Happening.
Fatty Folders, the last full-length from the Frankfurt maestro, was of 2011’s finest. In the game for close to 15 years before finally bouncing down a solo album proper, Fatty Folders ran out a delectable mix of earworm melodies, jazzy flourishes and twinkling synth runs, bound by an organic feel.
Initial impressions of the follow-up are twofold: firstly, in peeling back some tender layers, Flügel has exposed a tougher foundation resting at the heart of his sound; secondly, he’s struck gold again. The buzzy lead single “Parade” works as a great microcosm of Happiness Is Happening as a whole – a slightly weird amalgam of diffuse dancefloor influences, yet instantly catchy; very much in Roman’s lineage. So imagine our joy at finding out that not only could we premiere the track, but have a video specially commissioned too! We spoke to the man to get a deeper insight into his new record, and mindset as a whole.
– Was there any clear initiative going into the making of this record? Did the timing feel right to make another?
I’m usually constantly working on music. But since travelling on the weekend cuts my week into half, an album production is different. For example, most bands rent out a studio space for some weeks and end up having an album after that particular time. That happens because their songs were already written. My work is much more improvised in the beginning. At one point I have some ‘core’ – tracks that pave the way for the whole production.
It probably took me around 1 ½ years after the release of Fatty Folders to feel like doing an album again.
– Is the title of the record more than a witty turn of phrase?
It is actually a quote from a David Bowie song named “Fill Your Heart” from the brilliant album Hunky Dory. Happiness can only happen where bad things have happened before, some say. It’s sometimes hard to believe that happiness can actually happen if you take a look at the news. But isn’t the ability of feeling happiness one of the greatest inventions of human evolution?
– From – who or where – have you taken influence in the past three years since Fatty Folders dropped? “Occult Levitation” reminds me quite strongly of the resurged Crème Organization, for example.
Crème Organization is certainly a great label. But I think during the making of my new album I’ve reached some hidden areas of my subconscious mind that haven’t been triggered for a while, such as my love for Krautrock, David Bowie or early Depeche Mode. That combined with my never-ending interest for dance music shaped the sound of Happiness Is Happening.
– The production seems to be a little more jagged in places than the smoother sounds of Fatty Folders: intentional?
Definitely! The smoother sounds are still there but this time the beauty is sometimes hidden behind layers of distortion. I intentionally got rid of solos, bongos and jazzy vibes to add something more artificial and edgy.
– And yet, conversely, there are quite a number of light and breezy melodies: for example, the final 30 seconds of opening track it feels like a toybox opening and unwinding. “Friendship Song” is also very cutesy.
Right. Those chords at the very end of “Connecting The Ghost“ are where I wave goodbye to Fatty Folders. It is time to open up for something else. That is also the reason why I decided to put a pretty bulky track as an opener: the 2nd track “Friendship Song“ gives you a hand and welcomes you on board but you have to connect before you can go on.
– “Parade” is a good example of that balance between playfulness and ruggedness. Can you tell us a little about the track?
I recorded the groove first. It has that kind of Kraftwerk feel but then it is not as accurate as the boys from Düsseldorf. It goes through some old fashioned FX that was edited during the recording which gives it a bit of a craggy but shiny sound.
Next step was to record the four note bassline, which is quite primitive but simultaneously ensnared by tiny melodies and a synth line. This has its origin in the glory days of Joey Beltrams track “Dominator“. I was trying not to become too serious about it. I love to mix up things and make ‘mistakes’. That is when you allow yourself to make everything right.
– Any explanation for the Japanese-themed video, too?
Video artist Michel Klöfkorn already worked with me in the 90’s when I had a project called Sensorama with my former studio partner Jörn Elling Wuttke. He asked me what kind of pictures I would have in my mind and where the title “Parade“ was coming from. I told him that I had seen some kind of a huge military parade, much like the ones they do in North Korea; an expression of brutality with fake long distant rockets in front of a cheering citizens. This scenery sums up the weirdness of our time. A couple of days later he sent me his video, which shows the many facets of Japanese dances. I’m so happy with the result: the overall feeling is pretty ecstatic and fits perfectly with the music. Enjoy!
All photos © Nadine Fraczkowski.