LWE Podcast 90: Ada

Photo by Katja Ruge

Coming from a contemporary, pop vocalist background, Michaela Dippel’s entry into electronic music was not the easiest. Not only did the artist who would become known as Ada have to drop the support of several band members to collaborate with on music, she needed to push herself beyond the regimented confines of the traditional pop song structure, where ideas wrap themselves up within neat, four minute bundles. Forging a strong friendship with the owners of the Areal label in the early 2000’s, she began to produce for the label in 2002, quickly making her name synonymous with the label’s minimal tech house output. Although her records at times seemed to move at will over a broad spectrum of techno and its affiliate genres, the one thing underpinning Ada’s work has been her keen ear for eking out memorable melodies from unlikely sources. This has seen her forge a strong body of work spanning nearly ten years, two albums and over a dozen single releases. Her latest work is the new full length, Meine Zarten Pfoten, an adorably German to English translation meaning “my tender paws,” which tugs at both the heartstrings and restless, sneaker-clad feet. LWE opened up the lines of communication with Dippel to talk about the differences between creating music for dancing and music for headphones, the lengthy process of creation and keeping your neighbors happy during the recording of an album. She also provided LWE with our 90th exclusive podcast, which she titled “Nightime”; a deliciously cosy mix of melodic techno that will warm even the coldest heart.

LWE Podcast 90: Ada (47:09)

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01. Bibio, “Saint Christopher” [Warp Records]
02. Lawrence, “Just Like Heaven” [Smallville Records]
03. Roman Flügel, Dishes & Wishes” [Live At Robert Johnson]
04. Guti, “Sun” [Desolat]
05. Omar-S, “Here’s Your Trance, Now Dance!” [FXHE Records]
06. Soul Clap, “Lonely C” [Studio !K7]
07. Greg Paulus, “Nightime” (Crazy P Remix) [Wolf + Lamb]
08. Tom Trago, “Being With You” [Rush Hour Recordings]

I understand you first started out as a singer before you became interested in electronic music. Were you in a band?

Michaela Dippel: From the age of 18 I was playing/singing in several bands. The first one was a rock band — I remember our guitarist could play the full solo of Dire Straits’ “Sultans of Swing.” The second one was a bossa nova/jazz band I started after I got vocal lessons from a jazz singer. Everybody but me was sight-reading mostly songs from The Real Book. The first musical project that involved samplers and sequencers I had in the late 90’s. Me and some friends rented a studio, an old bunker located in Frankfurt. We recorded some sessions there — more just for us than for releasing. As it was a huge space, each one of us could have our own studios to record our ideas and later we would get together to finish the songs.

So what were the things that lead you to become interested in making electronic music?

It was my friends from Areal Records who brought me into electronic music. They started their label in the year 2000 subtitled “Advanced Tech-Electronic Minimalism.” I had no clue of what this might be before I moved to Cologne. They also introduced me to Kompakt’s music. Songs like Jürgen Paape’s “So Weit Wie Noch Nie” or Michael Mayer’s “Hush Hush Baby” remind me of the time when I moved to Cologne in 2001.

What were some of the things you had to consider in going from writing songs with a traditional verse/chorus/verse structure to writing instrumental tracks?

Assuming my musical history it was a new experience for me to write instrumental tracks. My first tracks for Areal Records were about three minutes long and my colleagues asked me to stretch them a bit, because no DJ would play them. The bending and stretching of my tracks seemed very unnatural to me, so unwillingly I extended them towards five minutes but it was a hard-bitten process and it bored me. It took me a while to discover the beauty of building a track up slowly, introduce new sounds in between and give them space to unfold. Now my longest track is about 10:44 — quite something.

Your first release was the Blindhouse/Luckycharm 12″ on Areal. How did you come to know Metope and Basteroid?

We’ve known each other a long time before I started making music on my own. Michael (Metope) and me grew up in the same district nearby Frankfurt. We hung out quite a lot at a studio in Frankfurt with some other friends making music all day and playing computer games at night.

You’ve recently released your second album, Meine Zarten Pfoten. Tell us about the album and how you feel you’ve grown or changed since your first album, Blondie.

By the time I made Blondie I was totally overwhelmed by the new possibilities of using sequencers/samplers and creating music and especially beats on my own. Some songs might sound well structured and harmless but most of them are very playful with lots of uncontrolled noises and bleeps, and the recklessness that comes to light when I hear those sometimes makes me laugh nowadays. I wouldn’t say Meine Zarten Pfoten sounds more grown up. I could have bought dozens more machines and play around with them, but in the end this is just a sport and has nothing to do with creating music. Actually using guitars, flutes and my own voice brought me closer to making music that pleases me than arpeggiating weird noises.

I read an interview with you where you said Blondie was largely made on headphones out of consideration for your neighbors. What can you tell us about the recording of Meine Zarten Pfoten, was the process a bit more free and without constraint?

I remember my neighbors knocking on my door from time to time when I recorded, Blondie but in the end we made our peace. For recording “Meine Meine Zarten Pfoten I mainly used headphones because I wanted to create intimacy. There are some songs on the album I can only listen to with headphones because in my opinion they need to be this close to the ear to unfold completely.

Blondie also included a cover of Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “Maps.”

There’s also two cover versions on my new album. I like the idea of putting a song into a new robe without losing its spirit.

And you’ve released the album on Pampa, did you feel it was a better fit with the label than with Areal?

If not Pampa I would have released it on my own label IRR (sub-label of Areal Records). But I also was linked to Pampa since they started the label and had constant interchange about the album with Koze. In the end I found that Pampa is the perfect home for “Meine Zarten Pfoten.” But surely I will go on working with Areal and IRR. We just released my new 12″ called “Me and the Three.”

Do you feel you get to explore different sides of yourself when releasing an album more so than with releasing singles?

I think lots of people who like my first album don’t know about the singles and remixes I have done later on. It’s people who probably don’t go to a record shop every week, they want something they can listen to at home. The same for me — at least once a week I enjoy listening to music on headphones and concentrating just on this.

How do you typically go about writing a track? Do you find you think of vocal melodies a lot whether you use them in a track or not?

It’s usually a longer process. Before I write a single note or work on a sample there’s a lot happening. I take some time for thinking about the idea of the track — it’s shape, mood, instrumentation, color. When these things are clear to me (weeks might pass in between and meanwhile I might start writing another song) I start searching for the beginning of the track. The first tunes, harmonies, timbres. Then I would work on it for weeks sometimes months until one certain moment I think about another song. Back and forth…

You put out the Kompakt Adaptations mix a couple of years ago. Do you DJ much or do you mainly play live sets?

I mainly play live sets. The DJing is more like a gratification for myself.

What does your live set consist of?

My live set consists of stripped down versions of old and new songs as well as unreleased stuff.

What can you tell us about the mix you’ve put together for us?

The mix is entitled “Nightime,” like one of the tracks by Greg Paulus. Opened by Bibio’s wonderful “Saint Christopher.” It’s how I imagine an early night’s set in June.

And what can we expect from you over the next year?

Besides performing myself I’m hoping to have lots of performances with my new band project, Cologne Tape.

JL  on July 4, 2011 at 4:07 PM

What a lovely mix and a lovely 2nd album by the lovely Ada. And that’s no bull…

Karl  on July 5, 2011 at 3:59 PM

I love Ada. The new album sounds promising at this early stage. Looking forward to hearing the podcast and reading the interview.

sotek  on July 10, 2011 at 6:35 AM

yes! she’s one of my faves! proper mix. will check out the album fo sho.

Henderick AKA Thelonious Funk  on July 11, 2011 at 1:50 PM

I must say that Faith & Happy Birthday are the standout track on the LP.


LWE Podcast 90: Ada is archived this week | Little White Earbuds  on June 24, 2012 at 10:01 PM

[…] that, according to her, is how she imagined an early night’s set in June to feel. Be sure to add it to your collection before it’s archived this Friday, June 29th. » Lauren Cox | June 24th, 2012 Tags: ada, […]

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