Get to know: Marcel Fengler

Heading up the Middle Floor on 26th January for our 10 Years of Woo! Showcase, we caught up with one of Berghain’s first resident DJs...

One of Berghain’s first resident DJs all the way back in 2005, Marcel Fengler is an uncompromising producer and selector to come from Ostgut Ton’s close-knit alumni. Blending a range of tones from industrial strength techno to funky grooves, Fengler is undoubtedly a versatile artist who captivates his dance floor from the get-go, showcasing a multi-dimensional sound whether he’s on warm-up duties or a marathon all night set. 

Heading up the Middle Floor on 26th January for our 10 Years of Woo! showcase with Jennifer Cardini, Aldoina and Kyle E, we caught up with the German tastemaker to get to the root of his sound and what’s next for him this year… 

We saw your photograph in the Take Shelter photography series explaining why your piece of the Berlin Wall signifies your first discovery of techno in East Berlin. We’re curious about the parties in those days during the 90s, was there a particular artist or event you’ll never forget witnessing? 

Of course, there are a couple of things that make Berlin so unique for me. It´s crazy and fascinating at the same time how much Berlin is able to surprise me again and again. This type of spirit has had maybe the biggest impact on me privately but also on my artist ID. As I already mentioned in my Take Shelter comment, I lived most of my life in Berlin. I was 13 years old at the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. 

So I was a teenager of 16 years old when the techno scene in Berlin started to grow. I remember that most of the parties were just published by word of mouth. The first flyer I got was just handwritten on pink paper, it has been all so far away from the social media promotion standard of today. 

My biggest heroes in the early years oft he techno scene in Berlin were DJ Tanith, DJ Rok and DJ Jonzon. I loved to join them at E-Werk Berlin, which was definitely the most exciting techno venue for me in Berlin during the '90s. It was my techno church at this time from where I still have so many good memories. It was dark, sweaty, bassy and you quickly lost your senses for space and time. One of their specials was an exhibition called Chromapark. I went to the second edition in 1995. It was in the basement of the club where you could see amazing artwork, video installations and sculptures. 

Except that you had been listening to ambient music mixed by Mixmaster Morris and been watching the animation of the famous X-Mix series. I loved to hang there before going back to the bass speakers on the dance floor. 

What about Berlin today where you’re currently residing? Where do you enjoy DJing, record shopping, relaxing with friends and going for food in the city? 

I live in Berlin Prenzlauer Berg. It´s a really nice area as you can find plenty of good restaurants, bars, cool little stores and shops nearby and as I’m a big fan of nature and parks, there´s also the Mauerpark just around the corner. Perfect spot for having a walk, do some sports or just to enjoy some silence if you need to relax. This is where I actually meet friends very often. 

Recently I took a good friend of mine to Teufelsberg in Berlin as that’s a great place to have a breathtaking city view. You would almost forget that it’s a relic from the cold war days as this plant was a big listening device back in the days. 

So it’s the perfect combination of real living history and scenery for a spy movie! When I go record shopping, it's mostly at Hard Wax, Rotation or Space Hall. It just depends on what I’m searching for as each store has its own kind of direction. When I go there, I’m very often just by myself as it takes time and I block a whole day just for record shopping. 

You took part in a panel at ADE ‘From Studio to Stage’ with Dave Clarke, Joseph Capriati and Camiel Daamen who are all huge names in the industry. For those who missed it, what was the most valid piece of advice you learnt from this panel that could be helpful to aspiring producers? 

Yeah, I really enjoyed it. Dave is a close friend now since a couple of years and it was my second panel together with Dave at ADE. The first one 2 years ago was called Demolition Panel and I was part of a jury that spoke about tracks that had been delivered by young upcoming producers and artists. In the end, we had to award the best out of ten. 

This year was my first tech panel and it had a totally different approach. I love to exchange views and opinions about studio processing and compare them with our stage performance routines. I mean, we all had quite different starting points. On one hand, there was this passion for using as many filters as possible during a gig, which implies the transfer of studio skills to your performance on stage. On the other hand, and this is my point of view as well, there’s the opposite way of keeping things as natural as possible and to avoid to get lost in filter issues when you want to blow up tracks on stage. Nothing kills a natural flow of a set more than a filter firework every two minutes. Another quite interesting question was how to stay focused during your work time in the studio. In the end, we all agreed to just switch off everything that distracts you. Yeah, also your mobile if necessary! Maybe your mobile in particular. Then I remember that one guy from the audience asked all of us for good advice for music production. 

We had the opinion that one really important thing is to know your speakers, if you learn how to use them it will be much easier to trust your production procedures and you will get much better results. Well, I had a lovely time there in the end. It was a great panel and once again lovely moderated by the man himself, Dave Clarke. 

As a producer, how do you stay curious and challenge yourself in the studio so your sound doesn’t fit into one category, and continues to remain refreshing and engaging? 

Well, to be honest, this is not a continuous process and mostly comes in waves. It doesn’t make sense to me to go to the studio and to leave it with bad feelings. When I feel kind of trapped and caught in the process, I try to take a step back. Instead of continuing my work on open projects I prefer to improve my skills and go more into the depth with my gear. Then I’m playing around, I’ll try out new things and most of all I do things with fun. That’s the moment when I remember one of my golden rules - do it with fun and passion will follow! 

What’s next for you on the production front? 

After some really great feedback and support of my threefold compilation that consists of 15 exclusive tracks and 3 remixes of previous productions on my own label Index Marcel Fengler (IMF), I’ll be focussing more on my own productions again. I just finished some remixes for the great Glaskin duo on Hotflush and had the pleasure to remix one of my all-time classics from back in the '90s called Lava Flow by Equus on Soma. I’m also working on a second solo album and thinking about releasing the first ‘AZUR’ EP soon. This is a new moniker of mine that dives into warm and groovier sounds while keeping ‘Marcel Fengler’ productions raw and punchy. Both will be released on IMF as well. Next to all of this, I’m also working on a collaboration with Rolando. The first ideas were made and now we’re moving things forward. 

Leave us with a released track that you’re enjoying at the moment and why? 

Well, there are so many great and talented producers out there at the moment. Even though it’s quite hard to pick one, I really like Milo Spykers. He’s a young rising producer from Belgium and released his first EP on Lenske a few months ago. The whole EP is a bomb. But my favourite track on the EP is called Infinite. Dark and punchy riffs, dominated by industrial-esque synth patterns make it a weapon that is definitely made for peak time moments on the dancefloor. It’s a banger and I just can’t stop playing it.  

Get tickets to 10 Years of Woo! with Marcel Fengler, Jennifer Cardini, Aldoina and Kyle E here...