We catch up with Pascal Augner as he busies himself with album number three...
Born in Erfurt in central Germany in 1986, Pascal Augner was, by his own admission, a late convert to the joys of four-to-the-floor electronic music: in his teenage years he was more into hip-hop, and he performed regularly as a member of a breakdance crew. But everything changed in 2006, when said crew were booked to dance at a party where the Wighnomy Brothers were playing.
He'd soon plunged with a vengeance into the worlds of house and techno, and by 2008 he'd begun releasing his own music as Beatamines - the name chosen, he says, because he likes his beats 'vital' and it sounds a bit like vitamins. In 2011 he released his first long-player, In Motion, on Damm Records, and that was followed by another, Echoes, on Einmusika in 2016. These days he's mostly closely associated with the Lauter Unfug label, where he's in charge of A&R.
Ploughing a musical furrow that straddles the house/techno divide and has a distinctly progressive, melodic slant, and equally happy performing live as behind the decks, Augner's star continues to rise. So with a new album on its way next year, we figured now was as good a time as any to grab him for a quick chat...
Let's start at the beginning - how did you get into electronic music in the first place?
"In my youth, I literally absorbed music. From Enigma to [long-running German prog/trance compilation series] Dream Dance samplers, I listened to everything. But I must say that I dived very late into the house and techno cosmos. Before that, hip-hop was my world.
"I had my first contact with underground dance music around 2006, at a party in a former swimming pool. I was booked with my breakdance crew at this crazy venue, and the legendary Wighnomy Brothers were playing. I'd never heard music like that in a party setting before, and the vibe that came up fascinated me. Due to various circumstances, I could no longer practise my passion, breakdancing, and I began to be interested in electronic music."
What age were you when you started DJing and producing - and which came first for you?
"I was 18 or 19, and I actually started producing first! For me, DJing wasn't even in question at the beginning, I just wanted to make music - to dive into a world full of new sounds and create them by myself.
"After my first releases, I only performed live sets in the clubs. It was only when my former booker asked me if I could also consider playing DJ sets, because she got a lot of requests for me to DJ, that I thought about the DJ thing."
You've released two albums, and I gather a third is on its way... what can you tell us about the new album?
"Yes, that is correct, I am currently working on my third studio long-player. I'm really looking forward to this album: it will be particularly special for me because in 2018 I also celebrate 10 years of Beatamines. In this regard my new album will be called X. For my album there will be some great collaborations and a new live set, so watch out and stay tuned for X!"
That's pretty prolific for an artist who's only been around since the late 00s! Are you someone who likes to finish a track and move on, rather than tweaking things forever?
"I'm actually a real nerd in the studio, but I do force myself to complete my projects (tracks). Of course, I often think about one or the other track if I have to do it again... but life is too good and unfortunately too short spend five years tuning a bass drum!" [laughs]
So what's the secret to doing that, because 'finishing' tracks is something I know a lot of producers struggle with?
"If I had an answer to that I'd be in the Maldives right now, sipping cocktails! But my tips would be:
- A good night's rest and a healthy breakfast can do wonders!
- Take breaks, so that your ears can reset.
- Do some field recording! Pick up street noise or any sounds from household/everyday life. This boosts creativity and that's how your track will be sound unique!
- Use reference tracks. Make A/B comparisons betweeen with a favourite track and your own, so you have the opportunity to immediately get feedback about the arrangement, mixing and colour of your tune."
Talk us through what's in your studio right now. If there was a fire and you could only grab one piece of kit, what would it be?
"At the start of my career, I produced everything in the box, but over the years I've fallen in love with a variety of sound generators. My current favourite synths are the Moog Sub 37, Novation's Bass Station 2, my Teenage Engineering OP-1 (very inspiring and awesome for workflow), the Juno 6 and the DSI/Pioneer AS-1. My favourite plug-in synths are: U-he Diva, imaginando DRC and Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2. And Trillian for fat basslines!
"My favourite drum machines are my modded Roland TR-8, my modded Korg Volca Beats and the Teenage Engineering PO-32 Tonic. I'm also using the Teenage Engineering OP-1 for drums, and if I want a fancy 90s groove, I'll unpack my Boss DR-202! It has a strange workflow but sounds very good.
"I am particularly proud of the sound in my studio. I'm using Neumann monitors - KH310 three-way speakers and a KH810 sub - and for mixing I use Klein & Hummel M52's. What would I grab if there was a fire? Oh my God... this is a very difficult question to me! But the OP-1 from Teenage Engineering could be the one because it's the lightest and has the most features due to the size. I hope that I never get into this situation, though. #crossfingers!"
You also do A&R for Lauter Unfug, is that right? How did that come about, and what benefits do you think being a producer yourself has in terms of your A&R job?
"Yes, that's correct. At the end of 2016, I met Pierre [Bellon] at a Lauter Unfug event in Tübingen, a city in the south of Germany. Alex Heide and Riven from the label were also there. We had lots of fun and got on well right away. In the beginning, Pierre helped me with my bookings, and then I started doing some mastering for the label. We quickly realised that our cooperation works well, then we decided that we just manage each other. I am very thankful and proud of our LU crew. We look forward to great releases, events and more in 2018!
"The nicest benefits about it is that both sides, producer and label, can plan the releases much better. The coordination is made much easier. Since sending the demo is getting more and more cramping, where a lot of time is lost, I am very happy to be able to act as A&R at Lauter Unfug."
You also used to run the Impulsa Records label... is that now gone for good?
"That was at the start of my career, when I was doing the mastering for some smaller labels in my region. It was not my label - I was more of a helping hand. Unfortunately the contact to Impulsa is cancelled. But it was a cool time and sound there!"
Where can people catch you live/DJing in the next few months?
"You can see everything at a glance at BandsInTown. I'm really looking forward to upcoming gigs at KaterBlau and Ritter Butzke in Berlin. In Munich, I will be seen at Harry Klein. And of course there will be my X album tour in the summer of 2018, which I'm very excited about!"
Words: Russell Deeks
Beatamines & Johan Mila's Esperanza is out now on Traum Schallplatten. Aki Bergen & Richter's The Key [Beatamines Remix] is out on Lauter Unfug on 25 December.