Praised as the “guru of deep house”, Langenberg aka Max Heesen proves with every gig and release that he effortlessly transcends the borders between genres, whether he seduces the crowds with his epical DJ sets or as the producer of his truly versatile output on labels ranging from Mild Pitch to Josh Wink’s Ovum Recordings. Having released a vast number of floor fillers under various monikers, his international career not only led him to headline various nights in legendary venues like Panorama Bar or Robert Johnson but also to join forces production-wise with the mighty Steve Bug himself.
Having started his musical journey in the German Ruhr Area, the witty and “rational” sound of Kompakt became the first major influence on Langenberg’s distinguished style. He soon delved into the roots of techno and house music devouring all of the Detroit and Chicago history he could lay hands on. While further developing his very refined DJ skills, Langenberg’s sets evolved into elaborate and crowd-lifting masterpieces built from the pure warmth and percussive deepness always peppered with surprising bits and pieces from his early eclectic freestyle past when he ran secret parties in no-trespassing areas and run-down buildings.
While he steadily gained more and more recognition in the German and international club scene, Langenberg grew fast into his role as an accomplished producer releasing a string of remarkable releases on labels like Dessous Recordings, Liebe*Detail, Drumpoet Community or STHLM Audio. Simultaneously, he co-founds the Mild Pitch label where he soon becomes one half of the seminal producing/live act duo Ribn. The fruitful collaboration with Manuel Tur as well as the label’s success itself not only propelled him to work with people like Sasse (Moodmusic) or Sandrino (Innervisions) and releasing on Labels like “Tokyo’s Finest” Mule Electronic, Styrax Leaves, and Poker Flat but also culminated in being honoured to play live with Ribn as a special guest at the 10 years Resident Advisor celebration “RAX” at Panorama Bar.
Already having relocated to Berlin, he headlined a growing number of events in the world’s capital of club excesses at venues like Watergate and soon was offered to become resident at Club Chalet. Leaving constantly deeper marks in the vibrant scene, Steve Bug invited him to become a regular at his legendary “Play” events at IPSE. The mutual respect of their respective outputs soon led Langenberg and Steve Bug (having remixed early Ribn releases himself) to a fruitful producing partnership, spearheaded by a first joint 12” in late 2017 and an eagerly expected co-produced full album to be released in April 2018.
We managed to grab some of Max’s time to talk about the eagerly awaited album he has produced alongside Steve Bug and some of his production methods. Max has been working on so much music with Steve that he even needed to consciously move away from the studio to speak to me… I apologise for that Max!
I had to ask Max what first drew him to electronic music which he informed me was around 2004/2005 time where he worked for a small Düsseldorf Based Label called Unique Records. “The Label owner also ran a club that was quite diverse in terms of music. On weekends they played almost exclusively Northern Soul, R´n´B, Hip Hop and Rare Grooves. But on weekdays they played more electronic stuff: more sample-driven music like deep house, but also electronic music with heavy synth lines and beats. Even if the nights where musically wise kinda different, all nights were respectfully connected through something that I would call “spirit”. I saw so many outstanding but different artists playing there like J. Dilla, Moodyman, Die Goldenen Zitronen, Eddie Piller and Henry Storch himself, the owner of the club. Trough attending to countless nights at Unique Club I started to understand how all these different genres are connected.”
It wasn’t long before I just had to ask Max about the album he has created with Steve Bug…
“It’s a truly collaborative piece of work. We kinda grew into the idea to produce an album, when we experienced how good our ideas matched. And it’s fair to admit that it kinda happened by chance. After getting a first EP done, we just continued working on new tracks. We had a deep understanding of each other’s visions and one day Steve came up with the idea to produce an album. The result is a full 10 track album with almost exclusively dance tracks, which we produced over one and a half years. Almost every single session we got really nice results, the workflow was amazing and we had a lot of fun during the whole process.”
We went on to speak about the name of the album and how it came about thinking I could tease out some deep dark secrets but Max just informed me that they “didn’t have Milton in mind or other references and it wasn’t supposed to be a statement on something. In general, we’re not people who like to give titles too much meaning. We thought the title works great with our music and leaves plenty of room for interpretation… simple as that.” I was hoping for more gossip but I have to admit I do love the name so in all honesty who cares, as long as the music is good!
We went on the talk about how the album was produced which Max informed me was very hardware heavy… Max and Steve produced the whole album, except some sketches, in Steve’s studio.
“Steve has a bunch of nice synths and drum machines. There was no question we would not use these synths because they were there and they are good! But this approach goes also together with the way we work. Almost every single track on the album is the result of a jam, and jamming is just not possible while sitting in front of a screen.”
The Moog Sub 37, Dave Smith Sequential Prophet 6, Studio Electronics Omega 8, Roland Juno 60, Juno 106, and TB 303 were all used before the entire album was mixed down with engineering legend Hannes Bieger at his studio to make use of his analog mixing gear.
It is clear to see (and hear) when speaking to Max that both him and Steve are serious hardware lovers and this clearly shows in the music they produce. Max spent some time talking about his love for the sound of the Roland Juno 106. “This machine brought so much warmth to our music and we used it in almost every single track. Most of the time it’s not too obvious but more gentle. Speaking for myself, I think that the Juno 106 carries emotional contents like melancholia, confidence, and hope in our music.”
Check out a preview from the forthcoming album below:
Working as a duo on productions is not something that is unfamiliar to Max. He working alongside Manuel Tur under the guise of Ribn, and the pair created some absolute gems on labels including Systematic, Poker Flat, and Plastic City. I asked Max if he preferred working as a duo and he added… “I work with people who I already know and like. Through our friendships we know how to deal with each other and with both of them, Manuel and Steve, I share this special kind of understanding that also results in an amazing workflow. Both of them are very open-minded, calm and intelligent people who made it easy for me to connect and go to action with.”
As a huge fan of the productions from Ribn I had to ask if the project had been laid to rest or if we could expect to hear some new music from the pair in the near future. Max didn’t let me down here and certainly triggered my excitement…
“I am more than happy that there will be news from Ribn. Unfortunately, I cannot reveal much at this point. But stay tuned as it will happen this year and I cannot wait to share the news in detail.”
After grabbing a brew and calming myself down after the Ribn news I thought I would throw Max and bit of curveball and chat about a recent feature article Decoded Magazine published about mobile phone use in clubs. Max certainly did not hold back on this question about mobile phone use…
“I might have an old-fashioned opinion on that but I honestly think that they are useless. For me, clubs should be a space to collectively enjoy a moment in and a place for face to face, or body to body communication. In my opinion, it should also be a room where people don’t feel observed and smartphones are often used as an observation tool. While taking a picture you just can’t ask every person in the room if they are fine with it to be in this picture. To protect a certain spirit of freedom I would refrain from using smartphones in the club. For sure I’m speaking more about the use of cameras then the use of smartphones in general. There is nothing to say against the exchange of a phone number or to write down the track id of that tune which made your feelings explode.”
We went on to speak about the lovely deep house mix that Max has compiled to accompany this interview. He informed me that he compiled the mix from new music and all-time favourites that he likes to play out at gigs regularly. “I’ve chosen tracks with a more hypnotic and subtle aesthetic to create a functional but gentle vibe, peppered with some more challenging tunes like I:Cube’s ‘Òu Ailleurs’, which creates this special moment when the beat drops again after a while.” When talking about his DJing style he goes on to add “this could definitely be a representative mix of my style, but for sure this depends on the place and the people I´m playing for. For me, being a DJ means to catch the people’s vibe in a certain place, to challenge the audience but to make them happy. I think I’m a more complicated crowdpleaser.”
As we begin to draw the interview to a close I asked Max what he likes to do in his downtime, as he is a man that is often on the road with gigs etc. He was quick to tell me about his love for the arts from music to architecture. Max added, “Berlin offers a lot of nice museums and galleries and a lot of my friends are part the vibrant art scene here. I also love to go to the theatre. We have an outstanding scene here as well. But next to this brainwork I also love to do almost any kind of sports as well. By night you can also find me hanging at a bar discussing whatever some friends are up for discussing!”
Before we parted ways, and me being a huge fan of Max’s work, I had to ask if we could expect to see him on the White Island this year… maybe alongside studio partner in crime, Steve Bug! I mean, how good would that be?! He cheekily added that he would love to and gave me his booking agents email… so if any of you promoters over in Ibiza are looking for some quality deep house music nights who better to book than this man, maybe alongside Steve?
We both thanked each other and ended the interview… all I would like to add is that it was a true pleasure speaking with Max and talking about his music. I hope you enjoyed Max’s mix as much as we did in the Decoded Magazine office.
01. Chocky – Double Dip
02. Lil Tony – Kokoto
03. Brothers Vibe – La Timba
04. Francis Harris – Minor Forms (Valentinoo Mora Underwater Rephase)
05. Chaos in the CBD – Gaden of Terrors
06. I:Cube – Ou Ailleurs
07. Alex Danilov – Unknown Numbers (Fred P Reshape)
08. Tim Engelhardt & BOg – Synchronicity
09. Fort Romeau – Secrets and Lies
10. Osunlade – Idiosyncracy
11. A Made Up Sound – I Repeat
Steve Bug & Langenberg’s ‘Paradise Sold’ is out 6th April 2018 on Poker Flat Recordings – Pre-order here.