Alex Flatner has no time to rest. In between constant DJ tours and respected production work, he’s the driving force behind the Circle Music label and works elsewhere as a booking agent and A&R manager.
It sounds like an overwhelming workload, but the German electro professional refuses to let this compilation of activities restrict his achievements in each field. It just means there’s no time for life outside of music.
“My time schedule is really very tight,” he says. “[I’m] doing the day at the office, then in the evening going to studio and on the weekends around in the clubs.”
It’s the latter vocation that brings Flatner our way this week for his second Australian visit in 12 months. On Saturday night he’ll occupy The Spice Cellar with a diverse array of house, disco and techno tracks. It’s only a brief stay, which makes it unlikely he’ll taste much more of the country than the clubs he performs at.
“I really love to see the country if my schedule allows that when I travel,” he says. “[In Australia] I have only three days and [am] doing three gigs, so I don’t think I would have loads of time for some travel experience.”
But that’s not so bad. See, Flatner’s life doesn’t revolve around electronic music purely by chance. “Well, either you love it or you hate it, nothing in between,” he says. “I love what I do and I do it with passion.”
Based in the outlying German city Mannheim, Flatner has been DJing for almost 20 years. As you’d expect, after such a long haul spinning tunes for the masses, he’s become a master at the craft. His tastes, however, aren’t fixed in one place. “Back in the days it was trance and in general techno, then it changed to more tech house, house.My productions were also, in the late ’90s/mid-’90s, more techno.”
Basically, this suggests there’s no limit to what gets included in an Alex Flatner live show. The affable performer endeavours to put a unique spin on each gig.
“I react to the crowd. If the crowd is feeling more to have house stuff then I do that. Actually, I try everything a bit and then I learn what the crowd wants to have. I don’t really have a playlist when I play. Every set from me is different than the others I do on the night before. Sometimes people are asking me if I can play that or this. If the wish fits to the mood of the sound the crowd is running, then I could do that, but it’s also happening that some guests are asking for records which don’t fit at all to the mood of the crowd … I am trying as best I can to play a lot of unreleased stuff, which will be released in a few months ahead – also some old records from the ’90s and ’80s or bootlegs, which I am getting from friends and producers.”
Although Flatner’s been spinning since the mid-’90s, his music industry involvement dates back a further five years. The initial focus was on studio production work. Despite the acclaim and demand attached to his DJ profile, Flatner hasn’t abandoned these origins. “I have been producing quite a lot of new stuff,” he reveals. “Lopazz and me have a few upcoming releases. I do as well have a solo release [coming up], including a remix by Hermanez. Also I have been taking piano classes for almost four years, just to develop myself in music. It helps a lot and [is] so interesting to learn.”
While he is restlessly productive, Flatner won’t settle for anything shy of what he deems perfect. Before releasing music to the public, he customarily spends months fine-tuning minute production elements. His live sets are usually a combination of DJ selections and original music, and he explains how he utilises the live environment to help him complete tracks.
“It is the best way to try out your own production and to see the reaction from the crowd. [You can see] if your break is maybe too long or too short or the vocals are maybe too low – or whatever you are missing in your production. Also you can check out your mixdown, if maybe a bass or the lead is too loud or low.”
Generally speaking, it’s through monitoring the atmosphere and taking heed of real-time reactions that Flatner has gained his primary distinction. Rather than slapping a formulated routine on club dwellers, he endeavours to make direct communication with those gathered in front of him. “Before I start to play I am, at least one or two hours before my show starts, at the club and checking the crowd out, [looking] into what they are into and how I could get to them. I think a good DJ should feel the crowd and try to drop the right record right in time, but shouldn’t sell his soul, too. A DJ is not a jukebox.
“After almost 20 years of DJing I am pretty confident but also, for every single gig I do, nervous too. Every single gig is a challenge and it should be. People want to be entertained, so here I am to give them a good time.”