Sometimes I think life is really strange, especially when I find myself standing on stage playing an old Nitzer Ebb track with the singer of Nitzer Ebb. I find myself thinking what is this? Because I remember once going to a Depeche Mode concert where Nitzer Ebb were supporting when I was really young and I never thought that one day I would be on stage with him.
Almost 20 years after he first saw EBM pioneers Nitzer Ebb in concert, and ten years after he launched his techno career, French producer Terrence Fixmer is one of the biggest names in the thriving European (new) EBM scene Equally acclaimed as a DJ his profile looks set to rise even further with the imminent release of his latest project Between The Devil, an album released under the band name Fixmer/ McCarthy. The McCarthy in the band is one Douglas McCarthy, singer of legendary EBM pioneers Nizter Ebb, a band Terence admits had a profound impact on his life and career.
I always listened to lots of Nitzer Ebb and really loved Douglas voice, I used to think which voice would fit the best on my music and I always thought Douglas had the perfect voice, he says.
I liked his energy and thought it would fit with the energy in my music so when I met him it was like meeting a legend for me. Some people are big fans of someone like Dave Gahan from Depeche Mode, for example, well for me it was Douglas McCarthy.
The two met in London where Douglas had started a new career, working as a director and assistant director in advertising and rapidly agreed to collaborate, Terrence handling the music and Douglas the music. Two years later, the resulting album Between the Devil is about to come out on S.P.V., prompting Terrence to speak to Skrufff from his hometown of Lilles, Northern France.
Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): When did you finish the new album?
Terrence Fixmer: We started making it 18 months ago, then first finished in January though we added a couple of extra tracks in March. When we started I was living in Berlin and playing a lot of live solo shows and Douglas was in London, where he also works, so it was difficult for us to meet, to work on the album. We needed to find time when we were both free which is why it took quite a long time.
Skrufff: Douglas does the lyrics, you do the music, is that split strict?
Terrence Fixmer: Yes because at the moment I consider myself to be a musician, an analogue creator so I take care of all the music and the sequences and how I think its good because I also know a little bit about the techno scene so I like to make the music for the dance floor. Then Douglas comes in and listens to the sequences he likes then after that he writesthe process works well because weve clicked together well; he really understands my music and I immediately like his melodies and lyrics.
Skrufff: Douglas has a great past and legacy as one half of Nitzer Ebb, how are you affected by that musical legacy?
Terrence Fixmer: I make the tracks like Terrence Fixmer. Because I live in Northern France my first musical education came from EBM (electronic body music) in 1984/ 85 when I was a teenager. At the time I only used to listen to bands like Nitzer Ebb and Front 242 and these bands belong to my electronic education. Then came Nu beat and techno and when Nu beat came along I saw it as something completely new so I completely quit EBM music and stopped listening to it altogether. I then started making music and techno though from the start my music always had EBM influences. I really loved the energy and tension that early Nitzer Ebb music had and I tried to put that into my music, but in a modern way. So when I make something now with Douglas I dont want to sound like Nitzer Ebb, because their music cant be bettered, so I just tried to make Terrence Fixmer style music with Douglas tied together.
Skrufff: Youre performing Nitzer Ebb songs when you play live though?
Terrence Fixmer: Yeah, we play our album as well as a few old Nitzer Ebb songs. If I was a fan I would be really happy just to see Douglas on stage and Id also be really happy to hear one or two old Nitzer Ebb tracks. Even these days in the techno scene some DJs still play Join In The Chant. We do one or two old tracks, but we do them in a modern, different way.
Skrufff: When you met Douglas the first time, was he a hero to you?
Terrence Fixmer: Yes he was a virtual voice for me, When I met him it was strange for the first half hour then after that you forget hes the singer of Nitzer Ebb and see him more as a normal person, and now were really good friends. But I never thought that one day I would be on stage with him.
Skrufff: Did you dream of being a rock star when you were a kid?
Terrence Fixmer: No, I never dreamed of being a rock star at all, for me the music is just an expression of what I want to say, to be a rock star isnt a goal for me, I want to make the music I like. For me to be a rock star means nothing. Being recognised for talent is good.
Skrufff: Youve called the band Fixmer/ McCarthy which isnt exactly catchy. .
Terrence Fixmer: We were thinking about band names, for example, considering names like The Machines or the Fridge but we thought people know my name Fixmer in the techno scene and Douglas McCarthy is known from his Nitzer Ebb days, so we chose Fixmer/ McCartthy as an easy band name.
Skrufff: The albums called Between The Devil, why?
Terrence Fixmer: The title came from the track You Want It, it came from the British expression between the devil and the wide blue sea. It means when you have two hard choices.
Skrufff: Do you believe in the devil and God?
Terrence Fixmer: Yeah, of course I believe in good and bad things. But all the lyrics and titles come from Douglas, I express myself through the music, he uses words.
Skrufff: Are you sitting in a studio with a blank mind?
Terrence Fixmer: Totally, I think of nothing and start experimenting with sequences. But I only make music when I feel like it. Two months might go by when I dont even turn on the machines, then Ill get inspired and might work two or three weeks working really hard on making one track.
Skrufff: I understand you see Fixmer/ McCarthy as a proper band, how different is that from being a DJ or solo techno producer?
Terrence Fixmer: When I play live as Terence Fixmer I play mainly in the techno scene, I dont sing and mainly perform with a laptop. When Im with Douglas its different, theres interaction between us on stage, we look at each other and improvise. Thats why its more like a band feeling.
Skrufff: Douglas talks a lot about sex, drugs and rock & roll in interviews, are you planning on going on any big rock & roll tours in the near future?
Terrence Fixmer: I dont know, I know that Douglas is from an old rock & roll style band. The techno scene is different, of course, there are drugs but its more about the weekend so Im used to playing on Friday or Saturday whereas Nitzer Ebb were touring on buses, going day after day after day, non-stop. This way is different. And of course, Douglas has many experiences from the past though hes still young, hes 37. It depends where we play, either the alternative or techno scene its different.
Skrufff: Lots of DJs and bands like Peaches, Chicks On Speed and Richie Hawtin have moved to Berlin, why did you leave Berlin and move back to France?
Terrence Fixmer: I originally moved to Berlin three years ago because I was playing a lot in Germany then also I met a woman who was living in Berlin so I decided to live there. It was a new experience then after two years I started missing friends from home and it didnt work out too great with my girlfriend so I decided to go home.
Skrufff: Berlins techno scene appears to be reducing certainly in sales terms, how do you see techno right now?
Terrence Fixmer: Techno has changed a lot over the last four years. When I started ten years ago there were no vocals, it was just electronic sounds, then over the last few years some old sounds have come back. There was a time when everything was new until 80s sounds started coming back with more feeling and more soul. Now I think everything is possible again with techno, there are no limits again.
Between The Devil is out on September 13 on S.P.V. Recordfs.
Jonty Skrufff (Skrufff.com)