The name Paul Kalkbrenner is far from a household name in American electronic music culture. But the German techno producer and performer is absolutely huge in Europe, routinely selling out stadium shows packed with more than 10,000 people. He’s also well-known for starring as the main character Ickarus in the cult film “Berlin Calling,” which exposes the seedy side of club life in the capital city.
Kalkbrenner – who is married to Romanian DJ/producer Simina Gregoriu – makes his Miami debut at the Ultra Music Festival in support of his eighth album, “Guten Tag,” which is a perfect way to say “hello” to Miami Music Week.
You’re performing at Ultra this year for your Miami debut. What can we expect from your set? Any new material?
It will be a pretty short set compared to my usual set length – 45 minutes were given to me. I really have no idea yet what to pack into those 45 minutes. The new material I’m working on is not yet really there to play out live, but we shall see.
What do you expect from your experience in Miami?
I tend to not expect anything from shows. I’ve been shown many times in past years that expectations – no matter how high or low – were often not met or often proved to be the direct opposite. It will be my first time in Miami; therefore, I am curious.
You’ve been a superstar in Europe for years – what took you so long to come to Miami?
You never invited me to play a show!
Would you say that Ultra is the biggest electronic music event in the world?
Hmm, I’m careful with this: biggest, largest of the world, quite possibly. I’m not sure of all the numbers. For me, it’s more about quality and longevity when it comes to festivals. I’m excited to see what Ultra brings to the table.
How does your live show differ from what a typical DJ does?
A DJ plays records of other people. I only play my own recordings, and some remixes I did, which I arrange live onstage every time . The song in its structure is different from every show or from the recording on the album. No two shows or performances are the same.
Have you ever composed a song while performing live?
No, I’m too busy doing what I do. I don’t have enough hands for that – plus, I need to be alone to record.
When people refer to you as a DJ, do you feel compelled to correct them?
It used to bother me, but nowadays I don’t mind anymore, as I’ve learned that a lot of people simply use the term DJ, because for them that’s the title a musician in electronic music carries.
What does it feel like to perform in front of 20,000 people, and watch them go crazy over your music?
Pretty hard to describe. You feel an energy waving to you on the stage. I don’t really look that much or that far, as I’m more focused on performing, but you feel there is a lot of people out there!
Are you anything like Ickarus from “Berlin Calling“?
No. Much more boring.
Does being married to a DJ make your whole lifestyle easier, because there’s an understanding between you two?
Absolutely. It takes one to know one.
Describe a perfect day in the life of Paul Kalkbrenner.
Home. Mild weather. Friends and family around. Champions League final with my favorite team, Bayern Munich. And they win!