Martin Dolgener

The Creative Mind of Martin Dolgener [interview]

David Frabutt Interviews

It is hard to describe the ever evolving spirit that is known as Martin Dolgeners music. Some words that come to mind though are “Relentless”, “Otherworldly”, and “Forward-Thinking”, just to name a few. The Toronto based technonaught has always had a unique perspective on creating bold and original techno “noise” that, in my opinion, was clearly ahead of its time. Even well before his 1st album “Witness” was released in October 2007 on Humanjava Enterprises, he was creating sounds, rhythms, and atmospheres in the mid 1990’s that rival the electronic music that is created with modern day technology (and that was created with old school samplers, cassettes,  and programs like Soundforge, not the luxury of today’s DAW’s like Ableton, Logic, etc). His work ethics revolve around creative programming and using imagination with skill over fancy applications and “top of the line” gear. His work strays far from the typical 4 on the floor type music with his own original brand of dynamic, electronic techno noise. The post-apocalyptic spectrum that his work spawns from is usually filled with dark (and occasional eurphoric) rhythms, deep in percussive depth over the essence of mechanical, electrical circuitry malfunctions sculpted into hypnotic grooves and glitches that draw you into the music while your Mind and soul journey through his personal dystopian world, an alien world some might revere as a place not meant for mankind.

Over the years Martin has released many tracks and albums on respected labels such as Reloading Records, Hex, Dystopian Rhythm, Heaven to Hell, Darknet, Teggo,  Nachtstrom Schallplatten, and more as well as founding the novel “Cast Project” label. While music is his paramount passion, his creative enterprises have also spanned into the worlds of graphic design and the computer/video game industry over the years lending hand to everything from album art, game design, and of course layering sonic soundscapes to PC/video games. Martin has also worked with the most respected names in techno delivering roof shattering bomb after another. As people speculate to what the next direction dark techno will evolve into, Dolgener’s work is a great place to consult and envisage what the future of electronic “noise” holds and is sure to be emulated in the days to come. Despite all he has achieved and the talents he bears to name, Martin Dolgener is as humble and down to earth as any regular guy. We are thrilled to have been able to share some time and insight with the solitary sonic craftsman.

PT: Thanks for taking the time to share some words with us! How have things been for you recently Martin and what kind of projects have you been working on lately?

Martin:  Ah thanks for the invite Dave. Things have been moving, never stopping. I am always making noise or working on some kind of project, or planning new ones. My biggest involvement, and challenge I guess, has been starting up this unique vinyl project with some of my mates called “The Cast Project”. We launched last May, people are starting to listen and the support has been positive both from the fans and the artists involved, it’s a rare collaboration without remixes, each Cast release is unique and welcomes versatility unbound by genre or style, it’s been pretty kool so far. A signal sound can be anything, and when you get four artists with a bunch of singular sounds with no reference or history, amazing things are created, yet there is still unity heard within, that is “Cast”. We are just pressing our 3rd release now, the 4th has started and 5 and 6 are locked n loaded, and fuck, some awesome shit is coming!

Currently finishing off a 5 track collab EP with Fahad (Measure Divide) we’ve been talking a few years about doing this, so yeah both of us are really excited about how it’s coming together!

Martin DolgenerPT: Can you tell us more about that?!?

Martin:  hmmm…filthy, industrial infused beats with a hint of emotion, there will be some more info on that in the coming months. Nixon Helix is an ongoing project whenever I have time, focusing more on dark wave, punk, industrial hybrid stuff with some vocals here and there. Really, it’s just another outlet to express. There are no planned releases as of yet, it would be nice to finish an EP but there is no rush. Cides is a special little collab with Jesse Loyd (and my partner in Cast) we have done a few little jams together, and the shit was sounding sick! S o we are planning to get a release ready for later this year, I think there are a few other remixes and a few other collabs that I don’t want to get into just yet, but yeah lots of stuff happening this year.

PT: Tell us your story, what sparked your interest in electronic music production and how did you get involved in the techno scene?

Martin:  Well, my dad was a rock n roller. He played guitar and I liked it.  I thrashed around a bit, but it wasn’t really my thing, but I do remember the moment I wanted to make electronic noises. I was with my dad in the car, must have been 14-15yrs old, listening to the local radio station (Midland, Ontario) this song came on, electric snares, cool synth lines, I loved it!  It was Wishing, by A Flock of Seagulls. That Christmas I got my first keyboard, the Yamaha SHS-200 Keytar! I hooked that up to my ghetto blaster and recorded a lot of syncopated grooves for many years. I guess that’s where it started.

I never really stuck to one style of music. I grew up listening to rock, metal, industrial, punk and rap (I was well rounded). It was my early 20s when I was introduced to Autechre, Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, Bochum Welt and Plastikman. Those were huge inspirations for me, I obviously didn’t have the knowledge to produce well, but my heart was in it. Anyway from there I started going to parties, Jeff Mills, Carol Craig, Carol Cox, Ritchie Hawtin, Frankie Bones , D&B events and raves etc…and slowly through all my musical influences, a good assortment of drugs, friends, life and shit…I started to experiment with ‘techno’.

PT: What were some of the earlier devices that you used to create music when you first started out and what do you use these days in your current set up? Is there any gear that has been with you since the beginning?

Martin:  From the key-tar back in the late 80s, I guess it would have to be mid-90s, when there was a need for a sound designer for the PC gaming/software company I was working for called Microforum. I got introduced to Logic (when it was still available for PC) yet for a while I was just making full MIDI tracks, no samples, which I remember was a challenge, back then General MIDI synthesis was so raw, especially the cheaper PC soundcards, experimenting by pitching the sounds in attempt to make a cool bass kik or snare. that was a long time ago, but I recently I found a gameplay video for Dagger’s Rage (1995) on YouTube, if you want to have a laugh… most graphics and video sounds and music was done by yours truly, no quantizing, spastic song structure, I obviously didn’t know what I was doing, I still don’t. Maybe have a drink first haha –  start at 1:50 that’s all midi… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5rBwz-6ixU

Well, eventually they took the sound design more serious, so they got me a Akia S2000, a few hardware effects box, can’t recall the name, a Korg N64, and the Korg Prophecy. Soon after we created New Beat Trancemission ( HYPERLINK “https://archive.org/details/ntbmdemo” https://archive.org/details/ntbmdemo), this was a fun project, over 200 sounds and sfx, edited to loop and be in pitch with each other, it was pretty fresh for its time, it actually was sold globally, I still have a German version at home, it’s too old to run anymore, but a great keep sake. OK that was a little off topic, but this gives you an idea where I came from.

So what do I have now? The Prophecy is still with me, which I recently fixed. However, the arpeggiator is gone and one key is fucked, but she is a sweet machine, when I fire her up she easily brings me back to those early days. She has a lot of flexibility for a ‘virtual analog’ monosynth. Then the MiniBrute, which I use for that aggressive raw, face punching noise or the dirty sludgy grimy tones, she is a beast! We get along well. I have a few efx pedals, but that is about it for now. I do have a 5-piece drum set that I want to move from the living room into the studio, as well as an electric bass, acoustic and dulcimer. I need some good mics, and then I can do some new recordings.

I create, reuse and edit all my own sounds, I like to beatbox or make synth sounds with my voice too, not professional of course, but to get ideas out, I’ll record them, re-listen, and sometimes I will edit them, maybe drop some effects and use them in a track. Over the past 20 years I have amassed a great collection of samples, field recordings and loops that I revisit often, then I rip them apart and create new ones, drop them into Ableton and see what happens. A lot of producers ask me what VSTs and effects I use, I’ll be honest I don’t really use them, I create my own ridiculous chains with just the standard Ableton efx and tweak the shit out of them, I have created a few chains that work well for me but flexible enough to change and adjust. Haha shit that was all over the place, but I think you have your answer in there somewhere.

PT: You have an EP recently out on the Michigan based “Hex” label in a collaboration effort between you and Monktec, now from what I hear this is a special release for you, tell us the story behind this EP and what the techno community can expect from this EP. Additionally, do you have any plans to release anymore future releases on this label?

Martin:  Ah, Imposing Mutant, it was actually created a few years ago, yeah this one is a little special, I think I posted about this earlier in the year, but ya I came to the online social world in 2009, and didn’t know anybody, so you know, you start introducing yourself, you get your SoundCloud and Facebook page up, and spread your shit. Long story short, I met Danielle (Go!Diva) super awesome person, he hit it off right away, become good friends sharing our ideas, and such, through her I met Flo and Mario (A-Brothers) and Markus (Cortechs). I remember we did a few online conference calls it was complete jokes, good times, that was my ‘euro circle’ haha, funny I didn’t know anyone on this side of the pond, but eventually met Jason (Monktec), super awesome dude, always very supportive, we started to share ideas. So I think it was 2012 Jason and I decided to work on a track, this is the track. We got the “euro circle” onboard and did it up!! Jeremy also a good mate of Jason and I, at the time launched his Hex label, and he was on board with the release, so yeah it’s kinda special that way, even though we don’t all speak like we used too, we still support each other, and now we having something tangible we can share. What can you expect? hmmm just have a listen, and you can decide for yourselves.

PT:  How is the Toronto techno scene faring these days? Is there anything you like or don’t like about how Toronto club and event promoters do business these days?

Martin:  I don’t get out much, I may not be the best person to ask, but from my experience the artists that roll through here are awesome to what kind of style I like, we don’t have the big crowds, so its intimate, which I’m ok with. That said I don’t think we have a big scene, compared to Europe of even west coast, but I know that the promoters are now starting to working together and planning events in the city, so two parties aren’t on the same night, this may help with future attendance too.

PT:  I know you also have experience with Creative Design Applications, you also have amazing album art for all of your own artist releases, remix projects, and releases from the Cast Project. Did you do all of the artwork yourself for these releases or do you work with a team of people?

Martin:  Yeah I do all the covers and logos on my own, most of the time the labels or artists give me carte blanche which is great, it is another creative release for me, but if I can add some visual element to their music projects, and they dig it, that is a great reward. As a designer and noise maker, I love audio that comes in a nice package, vinyl is a great for that! and this what we are trying to do with The Cast Project. Using raw organic imagery to contrast with our logo, vinyl and jacket’s formed structure, to resemble in some ways the individual artist’s raw voices through to the finished, tangible and unified audible experience of all the artists. We have gotten back nothing but positive remarks on the covers, so I guess we are doing something right.

PMartin DolgenerT:  Did working with creative design open your eyes to new ways of making music? What did you learn in the designing world that helped you become the musician you are today?

Martin:  hmmm as a designer when I’m at work, there is much more planning involved, limitations, pleasing suits, sometimes I can convince them to go a bit edgy, but most of the time its sticking with standards, corporate, mainstream acceptance shit. When I design at home, I can just go off, and I do the same with music. no rules, no plan…just create and see what happens, not sure if that answered the question?

PT:  Looking back at your own catalogue, what one piece of work would you say defines the music of “Martin Dolgener”?

Martin:  To narrow it down to one piece, hmmm, ok, it was made in 1997 with just Sound Forge, and a few samples I created/edited, it was later released on mate’s label in 2007 as part of a collection of tracks I made from 96-07, some IDM, electronica shit, it’s embarrassing, again I had no idea what I was doing, weak EQing, mastering is nonexistent, but this track – LOOP1 its short, it has all the elements and sound ideas that I think can still be heard in my newer stuff. If you want the track let me know.

PT:  What do you enjoy the most from working in today’s techno scene?

Martin:  I do not work in the techno scene, or any scene really, I just make noise, and people can define it as ‘techno’ or whatever they like. However, what I do like about the scene or this music community, is hearing artists evolve and grow, no matter if they are starting out or been running the track for a few decades, always inspiring.

PT:  There has been a plethora of hardware introduced to electronic musicians in the last few years with even more on the way in the future. Are there any hardware devices or modular components that you are interested in adding to your set up in the near future?

Martin:  At the moment, not really, sure I get a little jelly when I see my mates with their Sub37s, or Mother32s, but I have a lot to experiment with, once the drums, bass and shit are in and I get my studio setup properly, I’m sure I will get lost in the possibilities. it does not matter what you have, it’s what you do with what you have. give me a stick and tin can, lets rock that shit!

PT:  If you could change or modify anything about today’s underground techno scene, what would it be?

Martin:  You can’t change the beast, Look, I know we all start somewhere, and it can be quite rewarding to create music, and that’s kool but personally I think it’s over saturated with wannabes because they hear ‘techno’ is cool, a lot of it sounds the same to me, it’s seems systematic, and without purpose.  that said, through the shit, there is still some awesome amazing artists out there that are passionate and full of drive. Its artists like this that keeps it alive for me.

PT:  It seems like techno has dozens of different meanings these days. It just seems to get thrown around a lot.  What does the word “Techno” mean to you and? Also, how do you feel about genres and labeling certain “styles” of electronic music?

Martin:  I’m not a “Techno for Life” guy, I’m more of “let’s see what I can make with this noise” guy. but ‘Techno’ gave me some amazing times, and every so often still does. However, it’s not the label “techno” that defines what I like, but the artists who make the noise, a lot of the artist I listen to are rooted in techno, but with strong dark wave, industrial, EBM, EDM influences. Labeling…ah fuck, I think a few years ago, artists and record labels were labeling their stuff hard techno in order to get on the Beatport top hard techno track list because the top techno list is stuffed with tech house, and other stuff. I haven’t paid attention to BP for a while maybe it’s changed.  Anyway fuck lists, if your making music to get on a list, then I don’t think you are really grasping the full appreciation of making music. Make it for you, don’t define it, just make it. If its techno, infused, wonderful, if not, wonderful. Music is self-expression, just let it flow man. I’m done haha.

PT:  Lastly, who are you listening to these days and who are some artists we should keep an eye on in 2016?

Martin:  Haha, I’m all over the board, let’s see at the moment (opening playlist) – Ancient Methods, Broken English Club, Silent Servant, the last few Jealous God releases with Damien Dubrovnik, and Terence Fixmer…Ansome, Myler, Aycarana, T47, Martial Canterel, Nitzer Ebb, Skinny Puppy, Windhand, Ministy, YouthCode, Surachai some older Aphex Twin stuff and as always gotta have some Wu-tang!!  Who to look out for?  Hah, I’m usually late to discover new shit, I’ll hear promos or previews and make my choice right there whether I want it or not, I’m still buying stuff that came out a few years ago and beyond. There is a lot of amazing noise out there, just go explore find your flavor.

PT: Thank you for taking the time to share some words with us Martin and we look forward to all of your future projects and wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors!

Martin:  Thanks man it was fun! All the best to you too. Cheers

Martin’s LINKS
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL3_Zg9-FHedK5ITHCGHMtKs0xl7iaEpLC
https://m.soundcloud.com/martin-dolgener
http://www.deejay.de/dolgener
https://thecastproject.bandcamp.com
http://sounds.beatport.com/pack/project-techno-002-feat=dolgener/6786