Q&A with Marc Romboy, Playing the One Year Anniversary Block Party at Electric Pickle on Friday

For going on two decades, German DJ/producer Marc Romboy has established himself as one of the preeminent figures of electronic dance music through a rare combination of innovative vision and heartfelt reverence for the classic forms. A childhood fascination with synthesized sounds, via the likes of Kraftwerk, got Romboy hooked on electronic music, and with the advent of house and techno in the '80s he delved head-on into original production work, employing classic early tools like an Akai sampler and Roland TB-303 synthesizer to develop his own sounds.

By the mid '90s Romboy and partner Klaus Derichs were heading Le Petit Prince, one of Germany's foremost techno imprints in its heyday, and championing the sounds of artists like Phuture, Microwave Prince, Emmanuel Top, and Thomas P. Heckmann until the label's demise in 2000. The following decade saw a bout of intensive international touring during which Romboy cemented his reputation as a world-class DJ, and by 2004 he returned to A&R work with the launch of new label Systematic, marked by the release of debut single "Every Day In My Life" produced in collaboration with Booka Shade.

Two artist albums and further collaborative work with American house/techno legends Robert Owens and Blake Baxter, along with more contemporary cutting-edge artists like Gui Boratto, Stephan Bodzin, and Spirit Catcher, have demonstrated Romboy's creative fluidity and broad perspective as a producer, embracing the future while paying homage to the past. Marc Romboy will be headlining an all-star lineup at the One Year Anniversary Block Party at Electric Pickle on Friday, one of only two exclusive North American dates for his "5 Years of Systematic" tour, and we couldn't pass up an opportunity to pick the man's brain on the cusp of his Miami performance.  

Read the full Q&A after the jump.

New Times: Legend has it you started DJing at age 8 after hearing Kraftwerk for the first time. How did you first into get music production and what can you tell us about your early musical development?

Marc Romboy: Well, it´s true. I went to a record store to buy "The Robots" by Kraftwerk when I was only ten years old. For all who don´t know this tune, please listen to it and bear in mind that this song came out in the late '70s. Crazy how visionary these guys were. I dived through any and all styles of music like breakdance, Italo disco, new wave, acid house and finally techno during the '80s. Especially acid house totally blew my mind away. It was so different and sounded like sounds from outer space, I was totally fascinated. At this point if time I wanted to know how guys like Phuture and DJ Pierre could generate such incredible sounds and I started to make music together with three friends back in the '90s. Our first project was called Unknown Structure on Adam & Eve Records and funny enough, you can now find these old tunes again on YouTube.

What are your ongoing musical influences? What inspires your own work as a producer?

I think that every second and every moment influences all of us. Every sound, even a driving car or the wind can create its own mood with a certain musical key, which I find really fascinating. I was always bored of polished mainstream music you can hear on the radio. Techno and house always had a link to the real life because it has something industrial and technoid -- sounds you can hear all day long. I found this always very fascinating and I´m still not tired to explore new synthesizer sounds and drum rhythms we have not heart before. The sky is the limit...

You've collaborated with a number of influential producers, from Chicago house and Detroit techno legends Robert Owens and Blake Baxter to contemporary greats like Gui Boratto and Spirit Catcher. Any projects which you are particularly proud of?  

Working with influential legends like Robert Owens and Blake Baxter must make everybody proud. But maybe proud is the wrong word, it´s more something like being grateful that these fellows have shared my vibes. Without Robert deep house would not really exist and without Blake we probably wouldn´t talk about Detroit Techno. So, yes, I´m happy and grateful.

As a German artist who has spent time in Berlin, what do you think are the attributes that have made that country a leader in contemporary electronic dance music?

I´m based in Dusseldorf, which is the hometown of Kraftwerk by the way, and it´s a wonderful town in the Western part of Germany, not far away from Belgium and the Netherlands. Of course I travel a lot to Berlin and, yes, I have lived there for a while because there are many music people and also clubs. Well, Berlin has always been a very special and magical place, especially for creative people. Some of you maybe don´t know that back in the '20s Berlin was a town with a sophisticated and innovative culture, especially when it came to architecture, literature, theatre and music. And I have the impression that this vibe comes back and back step by step, due to the fact that the wall is now down for more than 20 years. But I would not say Germany is the leader of electronic music, there are so many musicians from other countries who have influenced the scene a lot too.

You've had a prolific career running labels, from your successful Le Petit Prince imprint in the mid '90s to your work with Systematic in the 2000s. What have been the advantages of working on the business side of the music industry, compared to focusing strictly on music-making?

Oh, it helped me very very much to see both sides of the game called "music business" as I have also learned all my lessons when it comes to the business point of view. Nowadays you have to be a bit of everything, artist and administrator. If something of these two parts is missing you cannot survive in this circus.

You've played in countless cities across the world. Any particular favorites? Do you find that some crowds are more receptive than others to your sound and electronic music in general?

People and news are always talking about the bad things in the world and also that people cannot communicate and live in peace together. My opinion is that the house and techno music movement is a kind of counter example because no matter where I have played people have always understood the universal language of, let´s call it, our music! And I´m very very proud of being a little mosaic stone of this entire thing. When it comes to the places where I have played so far, I don´t want to miss any of them because I always get to know wonderful people on any continent, in every country and this is something which makes you rich, not the money in your pocket. To come back to the crowds, yes, it´s different every day but as long as we can dive into the music all together, it´s fine, isn´t it?

We're very thrilled to see you play at the Electric Pickle on February 26. Are you looking forward to this performance?

Believe it or not, I will fly over to America for only two days, one show in Miami and one show in Toronto. And I´m very keen to share my feelings with the people in Miami and Electric Pickle. When I heard about the lineup that night, I was like, oh my god, what a list of wonderful and fantastic names! I´m really looking forward to this date, that´s out of the question!

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