We were getting close to the year 2008 when a young German guy, with a rather introverted character, would show up in the DJ booths of his homeland Bavaria to offer genuine dj sets, very different than those usual at that time. Lorenz Brunner was betting on a low-speed techno sound. An intimate, introspective, solitary and melancholic proposal. A decade later, Recondite is one of the greatest icons of melodic techno worldwide. He has published in nearly all the great labels of the genre. At 36 years old, Recondite maintains a dizzying pace of production, although, as he acknowledges, his sound is not in constant reinvention.
One of your first albums – and your debut on Ghostly International – was Hinterland, released in 2013. Your last step was Dwell, also on Ghostly International, released this last January 2020. Could we say these are your two most ambient-oriented albums?
I wouldn’t say so. I think Dämmerlicht, released on Plangent in 2018, is my most ambient-oriented work. It didn’t have any four-to-the-floor tracks on it. It had some beats, but more like down-beats and hip-hop oriented beats, and most of the tracks didn’t have beats at all.
What made you release music back again with Ghostly International seven years later?
We have a constant connection, we always keep in touch, and every time I visit New York, I go to their office. After the first release, we always said that, if I came up with a new album, we could talk about releasing it together. And that’s what happened with Dwell.
In between, it’s been nine years in which you’ve released for Hotflush, Afterlife, Dystopian, Innervisions, Life and Death, Crosstown Rebels… It’s like a footballer having played in all the best teams in the world. Do you approach your music production differently depending on the label you are working with?
(laughs) I do, but not in that direction. I have different approaches when producing music, and, after that, when my music is done, I approach the labels – or they approach me – depending on what type of music I have come up with.
So, you have several approaches to music, but always under the same alias. Did you ever think about using different names?
Yes, but I think all my tracks have a certain familiarity, even though they are different from each other and they fit different vibes. They, somehow, have my personal handwriting, I think. It is just shades and reflections of my work. I don’t see reasons to change my alias. I would do so if it was a really different thing, like a heavy metal project or whatever.
I get you, but we can’t deny that your name has been – and still is – always related to danceable music. Don’t you think that maybe your audience would get surprised if you played, for example, an ambient set, with beatless music only?
It could happen, yes. In 2018, for example, I played a special set to present my Dämmerlicht album. It was in the CTM Festival, in Berlin. We built a special light sculpture at Säule, in Berghain, and it was a total ambient show. It was fun, cool, and interesting. But I think people there already knew what they were going to see and listen to.
We know you also do some hip-hop…
Yes, I like hip-hop, and I produce it. Three tracks of my new album have some hip-hop beats. And I would say even more: I think there are 1-2 tracks in each of my albums where you can find some hip-hop beats.
Do you produce for rappers?
Not for now. I was in talks with some, but we never end up sitting down in the studio together. But I would like to do it at some point.
How is Lorenz Brunner in his free time?
I’m always trying to be very relaxed, to be honest.
You were not before?
I always was, and I always tried to be. I don’t want to have a fast-paced life. I say “trying to” because I feel like if you don’t try to slow down a bit, especially in this lifestyle of travelling a lot in which I grew into over the last 7-8 years, you won’t achieve that quiet life. You know, always travelling, always playing in clubs, social media, shows, hotels, airports, transports…
Your music seems to say that you are quite a chilly person, actually. Is that true?
I used to go to parties and events when I was much younger, like in my early twenties. I was always going to clubs in my area, in Bavaria, but there were not many clubs there (except you moved to Munich). I was more interested in who was playing that night, and not in knowing people or making new friends. I was not – and I am not – a very social-networking person.
That was exactly my next question. Your music sounds lonely, melancholic, introspective. How related is your personality to it?
It’s quite related, but not completely. I’m not always sad and lonely, as you can imagine. (laughs) But it’s a part of me, for sure.
When, where and how did Lorenz Brunner give birth to Recondite? Why Recondite?
It was in Berlin in 2009-2010. I started to realize that maybe it was an opportunity to release music as an artist, under an artist name. I tried to find a word that described somehow the opposite of something that is very ‘in the face’, very obvious, very quickly understandable. I was trying to look for an adjective that describes a circumstance which is not obvious on the first side, which is a bit hidden, a bit mysterious. That is what “recondite” means. According to the dictionary, a recondite matter is a matter which is not so easy to discuss. It is demanding, and you have to get in deeper. That is exactly what I was looking for.
5 years ago, in a Colombian magazine, you were saying that you use to release music very fast. Maybe too fast. And being asked about if it was going to be too much, you answered: It’s hard to say, but I think, it will happen very soon that I feel that it’s already a lot. (…) They are being too manytracks. 5 years later, what are your thoughts on this?
I think the same. Sometimes, I feel like they are too many releases coming from my side. This year, for example, I had my album already, and then I have two remixes… and let’s see what happens later. It’s interesting to release a lot of music in a very short time, but, on the other side, I realized that, if you put too much on it, you can lose the focus and the people can get overwhelmed. I want to have a constant flow of releases. I don’t want to have 5 EPs and one album each year. And, most important, I don’t either want to stress forcing myself to sit down to make music all the time. I want to keep my free initial approach. When I feel inspired, I sit down, and I create. I don’t want to put pressure on my procedures.
You also said once: I’m consistent with what I do, even if I’m not reinventing myself. Do you consider you’re not reinventing yourself?
In a way, yes. And that’s one of the topics of my new album Dwell. When I was sitting there and I was doing the first sketches of Dwell, I realized that I had 6-7 loops, first ideas, that could become tracks. And I realized that was nothing new in my musical aesthetic. But I enjoyed making it. And I thought: is this good or bad?Should I continue, and finishing, and maybe make more, and maybe get a new album? Or it is not worth it because I already did something similar? I thought about it for a few days, and I told to myself: if I decide it doesn’t make sense, what would be the reasons?Maybe that people would say they are bored with my music? That maybe I should come with something new? So, I realized that the only reason that could prevent me to keep making my music is other people’s opinion. But, from my point of view, I liked that music I was doing, and I was enjoying making it, and that’s the only reason why I do music because I enjoy doing it. So, I decided to keep doing it. It is worth it. It’s a landmark of my music, even if I don’t reinvent my sound. I’m happy to persist in this musical aesthetic. It is where I feel well. If at a certain point, I feel like I want to change drastically my music, I will do it. But I will never change my music thinking about what people might say.
You always play live in your gigs, but with a CDJ and a mixer. Could you explain to us your set-up?
I have a 96 Allen & Heath mixer, and I use 3 channels. The fourth one is on the CDJ, but it’s a back-up. If my laptop crashes, I can save the night with a CDJ and a USB stick. Fortunately, that didn’t happen in a long time. In the other three channels, I have outputs of my soundcard. I have two channels with separate tracks, and a channel for all my effects and additional samples, drums, field recordings, ambient stuff… I mix those tracks within each other in the external mixer, but also inside Ableton with a MIDI controller.
I remember you once deejayed b2b with Tale Of Us in Ibiza, and also with Marcus Worgull at DGTL Barcelona. Do you deejay since your beginnings?
I started deejaying in Bavaria, in smaller clubs, also in Austria.
Did you use to play the same kind of music you produce now?
Yes. I’m thinking that I might have some old mixes recorded from those times. Later, I focused on music production. Now, if I have to deejay, I always prefer a b2b situation. When I’m alone on the stage, I want to play live, I need that special connection with my own tracks. But, as soon as somebody else is coming to the stage, the interaction with that person and the crowd becomes a completely different approach. Sometimes it is just fun.
Do you pay attention to what’s going on in the scene?
A little bit. Not too much, to be honest.
You know, normally DJs pay more attention than live performers…
Yes, I agree. That’s one of the reasons why I feel like, at the moment, I couldn’t be a solo DJ.
I was asking you this because I was wondering what your thoughts are about Sónar being headlined by Bad Bunny, but also mainstream festivals like Tomorrowland featuring Tale Of Us or Stephan Bodzin in its mainstage. Just to put some easy examples.
I think the whole thing is developing.
In a positive or in a negative way?
Who am I to judge that? I think electronic music gained a lot of popularity in the last years. I also feel that bigger diversity of styles in smaller clubs. I don’t believe in red lines in electronic music. But yeah, as you said, acts that I have played with are now playing in Tomorrowland’s mainstage, which shows that this music is getting bigger and more commercialized. It will depend on what they play once they are there. If they keep it cool, it is nice. If they push it to a cheesier level or whatever, maybe that is not nice anymore. But this is completely subjective. I’m not the right person to judge that.