Dial Records undeniably holds one of the best reputations out there for advanced music output, especially when you pair that with the aesthetic presentation of the records themselves. Positioned as a follow on from the minimal and stripped back sound that was so prominent in the 90s; the range of sounds you hear on Dial really filled the tonal void of minimal with colour and a kind of playfulness in melodic structure that at times are pretty breath-taking. Saying this, it’s still incredibly hard to summarise the output of a label that to date has put out over 100 releases since it was founded in 2000, but it’s pretty safe to say we’re more than huge fans of what they do.
With all this preamble, it’s clear that we’re pretty excited about the upcoming Dial Records night in Room Two this Saturday where lead protagonists Lawrence and Roman Flügel will be taking the stand next to newly arisen NYC talent John Roberts, whose latest EP, Ausio has been ticking our boxes (and a copy of which you can win in our competition here). This date was actually intended to be a launch party for Roman Flügel’s next long player on the Berlin based imprint – but as often happens (it’s not a straightforward thing, getting an album released y’know?) the stars didn’t quite align for us this time to be able to share in that moment of celebration.
Still, we have for you a kind of mini announcement of what’s to come in this conversation we set up between Lawrence and Flügel, where we set the long-time friends talking head to head. It was all done in the spirit of fun and uncovering more of the individual’s personal interests where they took the opportunity to chat about what we can expect from the latter’s upcoming album, the influence of a little known Vietnamese instrument on some of the label’s output and, most importantly, Lawrence’s esteemed fashion sense…
Lawrence: Hi Roman! It's kind of a weird idea to have an interview between us as we know each other since almost fifteen years. Anyway, to make it easy: let's talk about places. What is your favourite place on earth?
Roman Flügel: Not a simple question at all to be honest. But since I'm travelling quite often there's nothing like coming home again. My favorite place is a little hill close to the city where I was born. It's called "Prinzenberg" ("the prince's hill"). Sitting up there in the nature overlooking the region makes me just happy.
But talking about places I was surprised to hear that you as an original "Hanseat" (A person born in Hamburg) are in love with Frankfurt am Main so much. The city where I have been living for the last 20 years. How does that come?
Lawrence: Yes it's true I love Frankfurt a lot. Somehow it's the perfect city- for any discipline you've got the perfect spot. With the world's best club Robert Johnson around, one of the most important art schools, a few really great bars, Frankfurt is the only German city with a proper skyline. It's just so not German which I love. The airport is Europe's number one connection point for the delivery of foods. So my favorite Isakaya places like Iwase and Mikuni are based in Frankfurt serving kinds of fish you would never find in any other cities outside Japan.
How do you feel about Japan? Isn't it somehow THE place to go when you're sick of Europe?
Roman Flügel: Japan is definitely the place to be if you want to feel distracted from a European lifestyle. And it's always full of surprises. I once played a gig in a small venue in Okinawa. It was a Monday night and when I entered the club it was full of smoke from a fog machine and techno was played at 150bpm. The promoter took me backstage and told me he prepared a little present for me. After some time I was guided to a table where they had prepared a full German dinner including frankfurter wurst, sauerkraut, mustard and beer. Everything was ordered on the internet from some special distribution and everyone around me seemed to be very happy watching me while I was chewing these little surprises.
Lawrence: Oh that’s hilarious, Okinawa as the Caribbean looking south of Japan is definitely not the place you would get homesick starving for German sausages. This reminds me of a rather depressing experience I've had in Vietnam. I was hardly looking for this traditional one-string instrument "Dan Bao" while i was travelling all through Vietnam. Nobody could help me to find it so I gave up. One day at that crowded restaurant in Hue a band played some western evergreens for the tourists. There it was: a girl playing "Que Sera" on a Dan Bao!
Back home in Hamburg I ordered one on Ebay. It was shipped all the way from Vietnam.
Roman Flügel: I'm wondering now if you ever played a "Dan Bao" on one of your records.. Speaking of records: John Roberts just recently released a new 12" on DIAL and I was totally blown away by its intensity and found the music quite unusual for the label catalogue. What did you think when you listened to his demo of "Ausio" for the first time?
Lawrence: The Dan Bao is in permanent use while recording our improvisation "Jazz" band with Christian Naujoks and Richard Schulenburg.
There's always the unusual or let's say unexpected around Dial Records. So far we've been releasing Techno, suicidal guitar songs, spoken words.. my labelmates David Lieske and Bianca Heuser even dream of an R'n'B act on Dial these days haha! John Robert's EP offers this happy party smasher on the A-side, I love the most though!
It took some time to get into your upcoming album as well. I remember for how long we discussed the running order, I almost felt like an A&R guy haha. Now I'm absolutely happy about the result. You always told me, you did something completely new you've never done before -after all your diverse projects- and I thought this is the essence of Roman Flügel!
What was so new about it for you?
Roman Flügel: I was actually very keen to hear your opinion when I sent my tracks for the next album because I knew it would cause a little confusion after the release of "Fatty Folders" three years ago. During the production of my new album - which will be entitled "Happiness Is Happening" - I was trying to get rid of influences considered to be 'Jazz', influences which played definitely a role for "Fatty Folders". I refused to play any solos and Bongos and the overall groove is a little more 'stiff' in a kind of Krautrock or New Wave manner. The production in general is more rough and electronic not as organic as "Fatty Folders". I guess it's less connected to any kind of musical tradition compared to any other release I've done. You can hear some distortion here and there and the music does not try to please you in an obvious way. It's also the first time that I hardly used any pre-sampled material. I tried to give the album a unique texture by creating my own sounds and samples plus it's the first time in years that I used my own voice within some tracks. I'm still not singing though...
I also have to say that I'm very proud to have a painting of Sergej Jensen as the cover artwork.
One very important aspect of DIAL recordings is always the artwork. Why?
Lawrence: Starting a record label, you deal with all the extra parts you to be filled with content: interviews or covers. As we have been into arts since forever, it was just obvious to ask our friends and artists we really love to contribute their works. The record cover as an art display works so well, people just adore it! There's no matter whether music and artwork fit together it just has to be good on both sides.
I love walking through the fields and genres. It's like you've had the best party the night before, would you go to the museum or a botanic garden the next day or spend more techno hours at some afterparty. Somehow good afterhours for me were always the ones watching a Klaus Wildenhahn documentary or hanging at an art gallery rather than listening to House Music all day. Do you ever listen to Clubmusic at home, let's say while you're cooking?
Roman Flügel: Klaus Wildenhahn is truly highly recommended. Even sober. If it comes to cooking I sometimes like to connect the music to the menu. For example if I prepare sour cream and boiled potatoes (topped with some linseed oil) I prefer to listen to Johann Sebastian Bach. If it's Indian Dal there has to be vedic chanting coming from the stereo. Club Music doesn't play a major role during cooking since it is not easy to integrate into that concept.
Let me ask one last question, since our time is running out: I know you as one of the best dressed men in the scene of electronic musicians (and this is NO irony!). We were once talking about your favorite trench coat and you did not mention Burberry. Which brand was it again?
Lawrence: Oh, Roman, you make me blush. But honestly I can return this compliment to you right away. I always adored your style! It's just gorgeous how we can resist a certain DJ look and make the Techno world look slightly better hahaha.
The Trenchcoat you mentioned is from Aquascutum. My friend Martin Hossbach, who is the music director of Berliner Festspiele and a great journalist too, told me about Burberry and Aquascutum having this dispute on who's the originator of the Trenchcoat. Maybe it's my favorite tool for travelling. You can even hide so much stuff under it when you fly nasty Easyjet haha.
I bought it in London where we're going to meet next week for playing at beloved fabric club. Maybe we should do some essential shopping before the show!