The Dessous stalwart and label boss Steve Bug have teamed up for a joint album project. With the first single out now, we wanted to find out more...
With a production career that now spans back over a decade, Langenberg is a name that should be familiar to most house lovers by now. But a forthcoming album-length team-up with Poker Flat and Dessous boss Steve Bug looks set to propel him well and truly into the premier league.
Hailing from the city of Essen, in Germany's western Ruhr region, first caught the electronic music bug thanks to the output of nearby Cologne's Kompakt stable. Before too long, he'd taken up DJing and made the move into the studio, producing both on his own and alongside Manuel Tur as one-half of the duo Ribn.
His and/or Ribn's work has now graced such respected labels as Freerange, Ovum, Liebe*Detail, Drumpoet Community, Tsuba, Compost and, most importantly, Poker Flat Recordings and its housier sister label Dessous. "Most importantly" because, while Langenberg - real name Max Heesen - also runs his own Mild Pitch label, it was Dessous that provided a home for his first studio album, 2016's Central Heated House. And it was that connection, too, that led to the birth of his and Bug's collaborative long-player Paradise Sold, which is out on 6 April.
Packed with deep, atmospheric grooves that blend house and techno influences from the Chicago/Detroit roots right up to the present day, Paradise Sold is an album that's likely to have widespread DJ appeal. So with the first single from the album, NGC 6240, having landed in stores a couple of days ago, we figured now was a good time to get him to tell us more about it…
When the new album was announced, Steve said "I don't know why we didn't get to work together earlier." So what was the catalyst for getting in the studio together when it did eventually happen?
"Well, sometimes things just need time! And it's fair to admit that it kinda happened by chance. Both of us have been busy with different things: Steve has a tight schedule playing gigs all over the world, and I've been busy producing and promoting my first solo album, finishing my musicology studies and also playing gigs. After getting most of my work done, I felt liberated to face new tasks, and at that time I got in touch with Steve.
"I would say we met at the right time with the right mind set. We'd known each other for years, as I've produced a couple of singles and an album for his Dessous Recordings imprint, and remixed one of his solo productions with my side project Ribn. We'd also shared the DJ booth before, but we never had it in mind to work together. Then one day Steve invited me to join him in his studio. I think he also felt kind of free to start something new from the scratch.
"Once in the studio, we had a deep understanding of each other’s vision. After getting a first 12-inch done, Steve came up with the idea to produce an album. I think I can speak for both of us that we were surprised how easily our ideas matched. Our workflow is amazing and we always have a lot of fun in the lab!"
And you did actually go into the studio together, didn't you? What are the benefits, do you think, of physically working in one space as opposed to collaborating remotely?
"Yes, we met regularly in Steve’s studio. Speaking for myself, I can't imagine making music with somebody without sharing the same room! I think it's necessary to share all the different moods that are affected by sound waves in a certain moment in time. Only by sharing these moods am I able to understand other people's visions, and to leave a true personal touch in the music.
"Communication is an important factor during the production process. And, speaking for myself, it’s necessary to discuss most of the questions face to face. Sharing the hype, and also sharing each other’s frustration, is a fundamental part of the creative process."
Are there any disadvantages?
"I can't see any. Well, the traffic in Berlin can be hell! But once in the studio everything is just fine."
And what are the pros/cons of working collaboratively generally, as opposed to working alone?
"I think it's just easier to make decisions while working collaboratively, which is definitely a pro. Making music is nothing more than creating sound waves and judging them: "Do I like this sound, do I not like this sound, do I maybe like this sound? Which moods does it carry? What do I want to communicate via this sound?" If you have an understanding of each other’s thoughts, are able to act as a team and neither of you is being too selfish, then it's way easier to find the right path. Not being able to make decisions can be such a time-killer in the studio."
You also record regularly with Manuel Tur as Ribn. How do the two collaborations differ in terms of methodology, who does what, etc?
"I think that both projects work quite similarly. Due to our friendships we know how to communicate, and we have this special kind of understanding which I mentioned before. For sure, we use different gear for each project, but it's almost exclusively hardware, which is recorded into our DAWs.
"Both projects are kinda free in terms of methods, which means that there aren't any clear rules. But most of the time you will find me playing one of all these nice synths, working on harmonic chord progressions and programming basslines and beats, but we basically generate and arrange all of our sounds together. The mixing of the Ribn tunes was done by Manuel: he has magic hands. The album tracks with Steve were mixed by Hannes Bieger, who did an outstanding job as well."
The album's quite heavy on analogue synth sounds, and the hype sheet provides a list of some of the kit used. Was this a conscious, deliberate approach - "Hey, let's make an album with analogue synths!" - or just a theme that developed as you reached for whatever tools were to hand?
"This question is quite easy to answer: if Steve had suggested for me not to touch one of his hardware synths but to use his soft synth collection, I would have left the room immediately! Steve’s studio offers a bunch of top class synths and drum machines, which he collected over the last 60 years (yes, he's that old!). There was no question we would not use hardware because it was there and it's good!
"But at the same time we had no conceptual approach in mind in terms of which synths to use. Being in the studio, all we did was to jam with different synths. After a while we found our own recipe. The Roland Juno 106 and Juno 60, Sequential Prophet 6 and Moog Sub 37 are some of the key synths we used."
The single NGC 6240 is out now. A little bit of Googling tells me NGC 6240 is an elliptical galaxy in the constellation Draco - so why did you name the track after that particular galaxy, of all the millions of billions of galaxies that are out there?
"Some spaced-out astronomy reader told me that NGC 6240 is the remnant of a merger between two smaller galaxies. The collision between these two progenitors has resulted in a single, larger galaxy with two distinct nuclei and a highly disturbed structure, including faint extensions and loops. I liked that picture and I saw some parallels with our work. Steve mentioned it before, and I totally agree: 'All the tracks have both of our handwritings, but the final result has become bigger than just the sum of our individual input.'."
It's been a couple of years since your debut artist album Central Heated House. With Paradise Sold out of the way, when might we expect to hear another solo album?
"Well, Central Heated House was released in late 2016, and Paradise Sold will be out in April 2018, so in terms of productivity I am very satisfied! But in the future I will continue to work with Steve as we have more to say - and yes, we are already back in the lab! I don't know if it's still a secret but there will also be a special Ribn release later this year.
"There will also be a couple of remixes out soon, and for sure there are some new Langenberg tunes cooking. Collaborations with Freestyle Man and Sandrino are about to happen as well."
Finally, what else is going on with you right now that iDJ readers need to know about?
"Living in Berlin means you're surrounded by many outstanding producers. For me, it's big fun to be in the studio with different people and to work on different projects. A full album made up of collaborations with different producers is something I would love to release one day. But one step at a time: we'll see what happens. These day I'm more than busy enough handling all the upcoming stuff and working on my own productions."
Words: Russell Deeks
Paradise Sold is out 6 April on Poker Flat. Pre-order your copy here.