The Paradox

A talk with Terence Fixmer.

We caught up with French producer Terence Fixmer, known for seamlessly blending raw energy with intricate soundscapes, crafting his unique brand of dynamic, club-ready techno while also acknowledging the EBM influences that profoundly shaped him since his teenage years. This occasion marks the release of his brand new album, “The Paradox in Me,” set to release on June 21st, promising to encapsulate the full spectrum of his sonic identity. With photographs by Marco Giuliano of Terence Fixmer’s memorable opening act for EBM legends Front 242 & Nitzer Ebb in Munich.

Listen to Soundscapes vol.156, curated by Terence Fixmer

Your live performances are known for their intensity and the opening act for Front 242 & Nitzer Ebb on November 16th in Munchen was simply mind blowing. How do you usually prepare for a live set, and how do you keep the energy flowing throughout the performance? Did you have a more special preparation this time in particular in any way?

For the Front 242 and Nitzer Ebb concert, being the opening act meant I had a short set to make an impact. So, I crafted a set that represented my sonic universe while also catering to fans of Nitzer Ebb and 242. My sound leaned heavily towards EBM, with fewer vocals due to my role as a non-singer, relying on compelling instrumentation to fill the void. Despite this, I maintained a recognizable sound, blending dark, energetic, or melancholic elements with a highly synthetic nature. Regarding live preparation, I keep my arrangements flexible. I have a general direction in mind, but I adapt based on the mood or atmosphere of the moment. This might result in a raw, energetic performance or a deeper, introspective vibe, always ensuring my music reflects my personality. My approach is never fixed; it evolves gradually over time.

 You stated that when you first heard Front 242, it was groundbreaking and you realized that that was the music and style you actually liked. A while after you created the project with Douglas McCarthy called Fixmer/McCarthy and in November of last year, we personally witnessed another milestone in your career, I can imagine the culmination of a dream in some way: performing as the opening act for Nitzer Ebb and Front 242. Can you share a memorable moment or insights from that night that stands out in your mind forever?

The most memorable moment for me is simply seeing myself, recalling those teenage moments of listening to 242 and Nitzer Ebb on repeat, and realizing that over 20 years later, I’ve carved my path as an artist. It all began with a remix of Nitzer Ebb, then creating the Fixmermccarthy project with Douglas McCarthy Nitzer Ebb vocalist, and finally remixing Front 242’s “No Shuffle.” So, it made sense for them to choose me for their opening act. Being their opener for both bands is a tremendous honor. Life is incredible, and consistency and passion make anything possible. This experience was superb, almost a culmination for me. I couldn’t dream of anything better. And for the audience, I believe there was a sense of coherence. What I remember a lot is spending my time backstage, going from Nitzer Ebb’s to Front 242’s, chatting about anecdotes with the band members.

Were there any turning points or decisions that you believe had a profound impact on the direction your career took?

When I created my label, I didn’t know that I would become the main artist on it. I originally wanted to focus on being an A&R and release music from other artists. Unfortunately, a good friend of mine, whom I had planned to feature, fell into drug use, and I couldn’t rely on him. Consequently, I decided to release my own music on the label. Another significant event occurred when I released my “Electrostatic” EP (1998) on my label, Planete Rouge. I sent out three vinyl copies—one each to Sven Vath, Hell, and Westbam. Hell, found my contact on the sleeve, called me wanting to re-release it on Gigolo Records. I hesitated at first because I didn’t know much about Gigolo Records, given it was a new label. However, I accepted the offer, and “Electrostatic” went on to become a massive worldwide hit in the techno scene. Following this EP, Hell requested more from me, leading to the creation of “Electric Vision,” “Body Pressure,” and “Muscle Machine” on Gigolo. These various releases made a mark on the techno universe, introducing a new style characterized by their sonic blend, merging the club aspect of techno with the energetic or atmospheric elements of EBM. The term TBM, short for Tech Body Music, emerged as a result. Therefore, signing with Gigolo did indeed have a significant impact on me.

Out of sheer curiosity, why did you initially choose to study Economics? Looking back would you take a different decision?

I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do; I wasn’t a scientist, and I didn’t see myself as a doctor as well. So, studying Economics seemed like the obvious choice for me. Looking back, I think I might have chosen to study something different, perhaps physiotherapy, lawyer or something similar.:-)

Tourcoing (FRANCE), Rotterdam (Netherlands), and Berlin (Germany). These have been the three cities that marked three different stages of your life. In the first, you grew up and took your first steps into EBM; in the second, you combined the pleasure of music with duty, pursuing studies in Economics; in the third, you recorded the album that brought you to international prominence, namely “Muscle Machine” (2001). What were some challenges you faced, and how did you overcome them?

I wasn’t really aware of the challenges when I started making electronic music; it was purely a passion, something I did for fun. At that time, I didn’t know I would become an artist. Making techno was like engaging in a sport; whenever I had free time, I would focus solely on this moment of joy: creating sounds. There was no pressure, and I felt completely free to bring to life the sounds I imagined.The only challenge, I would say, was perhaps fully committing to being an artist, knowing the uncertainty of this profession. I had to finish my studies first. Then, creating my label, Planète Rouge, and launching myself was the challenge, believing in my sound.

As the founder of Planete Rouge Records in 1998, what criteria do you use when selecting artists to feature on the label? How do you see the role of independent labels in today’s music industry?

To me, it’s mainly about how I connect with the music and the artist’s vision that I’m considering releasing. I don’t care about trends or hype; it’s really a personal choice. Of course, I also need to know the artist and have a good rapport with them. I believe independent music is stronger than ever now. We can release music and communicate everything through the internet; we don’t need a team of employees. We can control all the communication the way we want and have direct contact with the fan base.

The cinematic quality of your music suggests a visual dimension. Are there specific visual or cinematic influences that play a role in your creative process, and do you envision your music as part of a larger visual narrative?

When I create music, I have a cinematic vision that comes through in the atmosphere and soundscape I create. I aim to evoke emotions and tell a story through my music. This is the art—inspiring the audience to form images in their heads from the sounds. Of course, everyone will have their own interpretation, but at least it should stir some emotion.

For his second anniversary, the Italian label KR3 presented in 2021 the second instalment of his Various Artists series with contributions from 8 artists, including you: Vortex Chronologies Evo.2. Each artist involved was asked to represent their Sonic Idea of a Vortex, resulting in a selection of tracks different in sound but connected by the same concept. Your track is called “Blizzard.” Could you share the story behind it? Also, what are your thoughts on the Italian techno scene?

When I make tracks, I don’t start with any ideas initially; I let myself be guided quietly while searching for sounds and sequences. Then it’s always difficult to find a title, so depending on the atmosphere of the track, I try to find a title that could match the sound ambiance. I really love the Italian scene; there are many excellent artists with a well-defined sound universe.

Choose your fighter among your releases for Ostgut Ton and the reason why: “Aktion Mekanik Theme Versions” (2015), “Beneath The Skin” (2016), “Force” (2017), and “Through The Cortex” (2018).

Aktion Mechanik probably, because it was a track I made in 2003, which was the theme of a compilation released on the Belgian label Music Man, featuring classic EBM, New Wave tracks that strongly influenced me (Nitzer EBB, Fad Gadget, Front 242, The Normal, etc.). This track had a second life over 10 years later, as Kobosil played it a lot and asked me if he could remix it. The track was played a lot again and rediscovered. It was released on the Ostgut label and it was my entry into Ostgut Ton, followed by different EPs and one album.

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