Hyponik

Norman Nodge: In Conversation

Robust and recondite, a unique blend of sound that both protrudes and pulsates. It’s Norman Nodge, fabled Berghain resident and full-time lawyer.

It’s a unique mix of occupations, and the two probably don’t come in to contact with each other very often, but with Nodge, “both are equal parts of my personality, I don’t see myself as a lawyer who DJs. Both things are very heavy and sometimes extreme in themselves, in regard of both formality and excess, but they keep a good balance for me.”

It’s as he sets the EP Embodiment – his first solo release in seven years – free from its shackles, that I managed to ring-fence some time with the artist who graduated from promoting and coursed his way to techno’s revered.

A seven year independent release hiatus is somewhat substantial in today’s production-rich industry, yet Nodge didn’t break from producing as the abstinence suggests, “There was no break during the past years. I had contributed to two MDR compilations (e.g. BB 1.0 for Marcel Dettmann) and one Ostgut Ton compilation, and I have made several remixes, for example I remixed Dark Manoeuvres for Envoy.” So Embodiment has come at the right time for a man who juggles court with the rigours of Djing, “I have been busy travelling around as a DJ and together with the residency at the Berghain club and my day job as a lawyer, I am happy that Embodiment is being released on the label of my home base, Berghain.”

But as the titling of the EP suggests, Embodiment “puts the body at the centre, and so I wished to have a human body on the cover” (the cover shows a shoulder donning human teeth marks – a classically vague, yet intriguing Ostgut sleeve). “The artist, Eva Vuillemin, did not produce the image for the EP in particular, but I find that it fits well to my music as the bite mark signifies passion, transgression, and excess.” And it is this melding of transgression and excess that embodies Nodge’s productions. Often cited as being a source of ‘deep, narcotic techno’, Nodge refers to his own sounds as “organic: my music, albeit electronically produced, is not tight and accurately measured, but is growing, changing and developing, like a plant that is finding its way through the ground.”

And with that pioneering into oneself’s own creativity, tracks like Discipline are born. Keeping the listener on a precipice for the majority, Discipline exercises exactly that; it is a lesson in holding momentum, a rarity in an industry plagued with tracks that rely on excessive build ups and predictable drops, “Indeed, I had in mind the continuous effort it takes to hold a momentum, like running, like dancing, like other embodied activities.”

It is this intrigue of the body’s relationship with music that has fuelled Nodge’s productions, evident with his 2011 release Body to Body, “I have always been interested not only in music but how it is perceived in the moment, in the club, by dancers. During the past years I discussed this with my fiancé who is a researcher with a performance studies background, so naturally I started reflecting in different ways about how music is perceived through the body, as a visceral, embodied experience. Dancing to techno music means understanding the world through music and movement. In a similar way, the Embodiment tracks emerged from experience, and I did not work along a structured plan. The four tracks on this EP are all different from each other, each has its distinct nature and sound, connecting via the idea of embodiment.”

Yet as other DJs would dedicate their weekdays to recuperating from hectic weekend schedules and exploring new avenues of music, as a self-employed lawyer Nodge dedicates his working weeks to the court. On the face of it, it is perhaps difficult to grasp any similarities between the two professions, but unsurprisingly, Nodge draws insightful parallels, “Recently I read a study about what lessons managers can learn from DJs, with regard to the interaction between leaders and followers and the overall interaction and atmosphere. This certainly works for lawyers. When I enter a court hearing, I immediately register facial expressions and the mood of participants, the judge, state attorney, other lawyers, witnesses and clients. So, on entering court, I go in and start working with the process, with the people, or ’embodied minds’ that are present. In a trial, it is not only about files or ‘records’ or verdicts, but about the people and the process. This is similar to the situation in a club where DJs work with people and their mood.”

This balanced sense of perception may be a trait commonly picked up from experience, but not with Nodge. He was an influential presence in the early careers of both Marcel Dettmann and Marcel Fengler, with both artists citing him as a mentor-like figure. “It is good to see that they are successful! I don’t have the time to consistently mentor DJs, but I have been working with Fabian Garrido aka Rifts, a young producer and DJ who mixed my tracks. Such an exchange is always mutual because there are new insights on both sides with regard to knowledge on techno music and production processes.”

Nodge graduated to mentor and DJ from his initial role as a promoter in the early 90s, pushing parties across Berlin just as techno began to tighten its grip on the city. Promoting today is a far cry from his own manual process that put the party at its heart, “Things continuously change. Social media marketing has, in most cases, taken the place of flyers and posters. This is not bad in itself, but I have noticed that the appearance in image, video or picture seems to be more relevant sometimes than the party itself.”

And so as Nodge returns from DJing stints in Tokyo and Seoul and Embodiment finds its way onto the record shelves, he plans on using one of Berlin’s infamously extrovert parties as the record’s baptism, “My next Berlin gig is with Pornceptual in December. I always spend Christmas in Berlin and I’ll also use this time to work on my music too.”

So with lavish thumps of the kick drum and a plethora of incandescence, Embodiment by Norman Nodge is out now.

Buy it here.

Words: Samuel Asquith

Featured Image: Sven Marquardt

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