Photo: Press (Marcel Fengler)
The story of Marcel Fengler is inextricably linked with the genesis of techno culture in Berlin. Starting out as a breakdance and hip-hop enthusiast, Fengler swiftly embraced the new dance sound of Detroit once it started to leave its impact on Berlin dancefloors. Since then, he has shaped the sound of Berghain and its in-house label Ostgut Ton for roughly a decade as a resident and producer while also leaving his mark on the scene on an international scale. He also launched his own label Index Marcel Fengler in the early 2010s and (somewhat belatedly) celebrated its tenth anniversary in late 2022. His mix for our Groove podcast reveals that Fengler has big plans for the label, something he confirms in our interview: besides a slew of new releases by up and coming producers flanked by remixes from techno giants, the release of a new Marcel Fengler EP as well as his first album in over ten years is imminent.
You have celebrated the ten-year anniversary of your Index Marcel Fengler label with an extensive compilation. What was your motivation to put it together?
First of all, I am very happy that my label still enjoys such fantastic support after all these years, and I am thrilled to celebrate this milestone with a comprehensive V/A compilation. On the other hand, I can hardly believe how quickly these ten years have passed. Initially, the label was designed as a platform for me to release my own tracks. Furthermore, it was important to me to design the entire production process myself—from producing the tracks and creating the artwork to manufacturing and distributing the records or digital releases. However, this quickly changed, and I started to release music from artists who fit the musical idea of the label. Over the years, a portfolio of artists with very different profiles has emerged. In addition to more established artists such as FJAAK, VRIL, Zenker Brothers or Somewhen, it was always important to me to maintain a balance and offer a platform for new, talented acts. This approach can be also found in the 10 Years Index Marcel Fengler compilation. In addition to artists who have already released on the label, there are also artists who will release on the label in the future. Therefore, it was important to me that the 10 Years Index Marcel Fengler compilation looks back at the past, but also focuses on the future and reflects the upcoming musical direction of the label.
Besides established artists such as Etapp Kyle or Dasha Rush, the compilation also features some new names—STEYA, Cratan or Rodiaz, for example, have only recently started out releasing music. Why was is so important to you have them on board?
First and foremost, because they produce damn good tracks despite perhaps having a shorter career in the music industry, and I really love their music. Furthermore, their sound fits wonderfully with the IMF DNA, with each of them musically being convincing in their own unique way. The individual and independent work of an artist has always been of great importance to me in the context of the IMF release schedule, but it is even more important within the context of a compilation. As I mentioned before, maintaining a balance in terms of diversity has always played a big role for me. I am really glad to have every single one of them on board.
You are also featured on the compilation, but not with a solo production. How did you collaboration with The Advent come about and what was your working process like?
In my opinion, there are not many artists who have managed to remain true to their musical style despite their long careers and also consistently deliver amazing music. Luke Slater is such an example for me, and so are Ben Sims and Surgeon. And of course, Cisco is definitely one of those artists for me, too. We met on gigs over the past few years, and while talking we noticed that we have a lot in common musically. On the production side, we really clicked while working on an upcoming IMF release by Rover Ranger. We wanted Cisco as a remixer and he submitted several versions. In the end, two of his remixes will be included on the release. And even though I haven’t really engaged in many collaborations in the production field myself—except for the wonderful and inspiring collaboration with Efdemin in our DIN project—that was the starting point for our joint track on the collaboration. We went back and forth until the sounds and sequencing just completely amazed us. It was definitely a great pleasure for me, and who knows, maybe it wasn’t our last collaboration.
Solo releases by you were few and far between in recent years. What role does producing music play in your life and work right now?
Yes, that’s true, my last solo EP came out a while ago and in recent years, I’ve only had a bunch of tracks released on compilations or put out remixes. But of course production work still plays a prominent role in my life. Like with many things in life, this work also undergoes certain phases where sometimes everything just falls into place and you feel super inspired, and other times it just doesn’t. Then it’s always the perfect time to look for further inspiration and try new things or improve on certain processes in the production area. Honestly, I probably have pretty high standards for myself when it comes to releasing something because, from my point of view, every production leaves something for posterity. Therefore, time is often a good filter for me. Additionally, there has been also considerable headwind in recent years regarding intensive and complex care aspects for my two parents, which led me to have to cut back on my general creative work and especially in the production area. However, family always comes first for me. Shortly, a new solo EP of mine will be released on IMF, and I’m really looking forward to it.
Besides a slew of remixes, you have mostly contributed new music to charity compilations, among them one in support of the protests in Colombia in 2021 and another one dedicated to humanitarian aid for those afflicted by the war in Ukraine. Why is it important to you to support projects such as these?
As an artist and DJ, I believe that it is not only immensely important, but also absolutely necessary to engage in things that you stand for out of conviction. Especially in times of increasing media networking and impact, it is even more important for artists to take a political stance. Music can convey a strong message and bring people together, and I think it is only natural that I want to contribute to raising awareness about societal issues and mobilising support for those who need it. In particular, in the cases of Colombia and Ukraine, it was important for me to raise my voice and show solidarity. In Colombia, there have been social and political conflicts for many years that have led to violence and oppression. In Ukraine, there has been a conflict for years that has turned into a treacherous and completely senseless war which has claimed countless lives. I want to use my music to raise awareness about these problems and at the same time help people who are affected by these conflicts.
As a DJ, you have recently been touring a lot in the US, playing several times at New York City’s Basement clubs, among others. How did you experience the local scene?
I have always perceived the club scene in the USA as very lively and diverse. Especially in cities like New York City, Los Angeles, or Chicago, there is a large selection of clubs and events that cover various styles and subgenres. Nowadays, I would say that the massive trend towards very hard and industrial forms of techno has also made its way into the American market. It’s not that these forms didn’t exist before, but at least in my perception, they weren’t necessarily celebrated by the wider scene there. However, similar to other parts of Europe and maybe even the world, you can fill really big venues over there. The Basement in New York is an absolute highlight for me personally. It’s almost a bit of a counter-trend to the one I have just described, because you can find a super beautiful mixture and variety of music there. Moreover, the club is run by two very warm-hearted people. This venue is truly exceptional and it is every time a great joy to play there.
What was the idea behind your mix for our Groove podcast?
The mix already contains some tracks from the 10 Years Index Marcel Fengler compilation as well as a number of my current and some older favourites. Additionally, you will hear previously unreleased material that will come out on IMF. Overall, you will hear a mix that spreads summer vibes and primarily presents the various facets of upcoming IMF releases, while also showcasing a personal touch and identity à la Fengler.
Last but not least: what are your plans for the future?
First off, you can expect a lot of exciting new stuff coming out on IMF. On the one hand, there will be several new EPs that follow a newly developped concept. Over the last few years, I felt more and more that there was a kind of rupture between something old and new, like a defined “before” and “after” in techno. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of that trend because I think both sides are inseparably interwoven and cannot be opposed to each other. In order to implement my more connective perspective on a musical level through IMF, future releases from very talented producers will be supplemented with remixes by established artists. As previously mentioned, there will be a new EP by me with a brilliant remix by SHDW & Obscure Shape. Then, there will be a massive release from Rove Ranger with fantastic remixes by The Advent, as well as a release from Rodiaz with a dope remix by Slam and so on. Additionally, the first release from STEYA is in the works, which I am also very excited about. Furthermore, there will be a digital concept compilation on IMF, which will be putting the focus almost exclusively on tracks by younger producers who truly inspire me. This will be accompanied by an event concept that will replace the previous Marcel Fengler Invites events and IMF showcases. And, last but not least, I have been working on my second solo album for quite some time, and it will also be released on IMF. So, there is a lot happening this year, and I’m really looking forward to it.
Stream: Marcel Fengler – Groove Podcast 380
01. Emika/Renslink – Just Like That (Edit)
02. David Löhlein – Skyra
03. Luis Miranda – Tikis Mikis (DJ Dextro Remix)
04. Coyu – Mecanismo Do Groove
05. Sons Of Hidden – Principles Of Rhythm
06. Marcel Fengler & The Advent – One Shot
07. Rey Brennan – Defender
08. Isaiah – When You Touch Me With Your Eyes (The Chronics Remix)
09. Sigvard – Mesmeric
10. Steve Redhead – Star Steel
11. Ocirala – I Want To Link Your Brains
12. Ill Communication – 1200 mg
13. Marcel Fengler – Unleashed
14. Lars Huismann – Dusty Lick
15. ONYVAA & Mattia Trani – Body Smile
16. Kenji Hina – Drilling
17. Not A Headliner – Dragoon
18. Jay York – Halsey
19. Arthur Robert – Into The Unknown