It was time for Roland Appel to do his own thing. Previously a member of both leftfield jazzers Fauna Flash and Truby Trio, and house supergroup Voom Voom, Appel knew that he needed to realize his own unique vision. But we were little prepared for the Bayern-based boffin's extraordinary solo record 'Talk to Your Angel', due in June on Sonar Kollektiv.
Like his moody, strychnine-laced, string-swept 'Dark Soldier' 12" last year, which found favour with everyone from DJ Hell to Laurent Garnier, the album is a dream-like, melodic, haunting excursion onto the dancefloor, an inter-dimensional portal to a zone neither house nor techno, but more potent than both. We tracked him down to learn more…
What is the significance of the album title 'Talk to Your Angel'?
"It's my first solo record, and you have nobody else to talk to, you're responsible for everything, all decisions. And I'm used to working with a team. So sometimes you think, 'is this the right decision, or should I do this a different way?' You're working by yourself, and you're surrounded by the angels, the creative side of yourself."
Your productions are very original – are you deliberately stepping outside of the boundaries of most house and techno?
"Fauna Flash and Voom Voom aren't cancelled but at the moment, everyone is doing different stuff. It's really totally different working alone, because before that, more or less, it felt a little bit like a compromise, and now it's easier for me to work. I didn't think it would sound like that before I started, so I worked on the material for one year, to see how it went."
Your music is light years away from minimal and tracky techno. Am I right in thinking that melody and emotion are very important to you?
"Totally, from the beginning I've worked on this like songwriting. I prepare everything at home, writing the riff, the melodies and stuff. When it's finished in my head I go into the studio with a really brilliant sound engineer, but it's all more or less like songwriting. I think it's very important. I don't think it's necessary to have an album with only dancefloor tunes. To me it was more important to have something to listen to in the car or at home or whatever, and of course with the club aspect too, where you can play it in the club but not only there."
Who's the singer featured on the album?
"Araba Walton, she's my girlfriend's sister, and I've always wanted to work with her. She's spent years living in London as a musical singer, she was the queen in the Lion King, really big stuff. We always wanted to work with her, and I don't know why but up until now it never happened. She had a little guest appearance on Voom Voom's album. I wanted to have an album with one voice, only work with one person, that way you can go further, to have it a little deeper. I asked her if she wanted to be involved with my solo project and it worked out brilliant for me, it was exactly the voice I wanted."
There seems to be a big disco influence at work too – who are some of the artists who inspire you on this side?
"Disco is my old love, I've been collecting for over 20 years, and a lot of old disco boogie stuff - that's originally where I came from. I'm a drummer and I used to play in a band, disco stuff. I listened a lot to Giorgio Moroder, but a lot of the influences came from reading interviews with producers, people like Rick Rubin, that was one of the main influences to think, 'how can you work on material that's deeper?' People like Rick Rubin and the Stepney brothers or the Mizzell brothers that's why I'm really interested in producers."
Were you surprised when 'Dark Soldier' became so huge with so many different DJs?
"I expected nothing, because when you're working on material, you don't expect anything, for it to be for this scene or that crowd. For me, I'm just trying to make music. I can understand that a lot of people like it because it's not techno, it's not house, but it fits in a DJ set. I wasn't too surprised on that side, because I tried it in my DJ set. That so many people picked it up, maybe it was the right track for the right time."
Where did the inspiration for that come about?
"If you listen to the lyrics, it's about those moments where you ask yourself, what are you doing? In your daily life, or your mission, like a soldier, you know your mission but you don't know for who, or for what. Moments that are a little bit lonely, and everyone has this dark, hidden things in their soul, and then it comes up. It's in these moments that you're a little bit scared."
What else have you got coming up after the album?
"I've got some remix projects, which are all under my own name. I'm working on some new tracks, and I'm touring a lot now, going on to Asia. Quite steady at the moment!"