Perhaps because there really is nothing there, the story of this invisible place becomes ever more vivid to the inner eye. It sounds like a curious tale of the hinterland, certainly one to the taste of Keiling, whose interest in social geography takes up quite some time of his current schedule at the University of Mainz. Interestingly, it also seems to connect to Keiling's own artistic trajectory: Leaving behind the limitations of his parochial surroundings must have been Keiling's impetus all along. But being born into an age of economic well-being, he wasn't hard-pressed to abandon his home in order to make it in the world.
In fact, the 27-year old producer likes to see growing up on the countryside as an advantage: "I think my artistic identity owes a lot to the secluded way I spent my childhood and adolescent years. I had to explore it all by myself, find out what I liked and what not. Here in Mittelfischbach there was no peer pressure, no cliquish techno-is-ok-but-drum-and-bass-is-not attitude. I guess that way I was more open to do the things I wanted to do."
Initially electrified by tacky techno from the likes of Marusha and Mark O., Keiling took his first steps as a puerile producer doing lo-fi sequencing with the Nintendo game Mario Paint. Years later he gravitated to big beat and then to drum & bass. The internet played a vital part in Keiling's socialisation in the electronic scene: "After the turn of the century I became very active in newsgroups, tackling topics like how to EQ a bass drum properly. The internet allowed me to tap into all kinds of sources and to connect with people. It was a great facilitator; it allowed me to overcome my natural shyness."
In 2009, his friend Marcel Mertel introduced him to the slow house tracks by Mark E. and The Revenge. Having carved out more experimental tracks under the name of The Dark Side of The Meat, Keiling took the ridiculously pompous title Erdbeerschnitzel for his new house productions. The name, which sounds a bit like a German carnival squad, translates to "strawberry schnitzel." Keiling's new tunes grabbed the attention of Under the Shade's honcho David Griffiths, who released his productions on the new sublabel 3rd Strike. Mirau's Marco Niemerski, AKA Tensnake, and Stephan Lorenz were the next to salivate. "Tim sent us 'To an End' via Myspace, and we were immediately hooked. Then Tim sent us 'I Wonder,' and we were going hurray, we so want to do this release." recalls Lorenz. It was around the same time that Gerd's 4 Lux imprint jumped on "Suave."
tools. It's the tracks with a
song structure I'm after."
So swift was Erdbeerschnitzel's rise to prominence in 2010 that one could be led into thinking that here was another star-struck youngblood, a German Floating Points or Space Dimension Controller in the making. "It somehow all came together last year, but really, some of these tracks I had in my shelf for quite a while. I've been doing this for a long, long time, remember, I went through different phases. It was a slow and gradual process," explains Keiling. Is he comfortable being touted as one of slow house's new breed? "I'm certainly glad I've had some success, but I don't like being pushed into a corner. I realize now what it means to be hyped. Especially after 'To an End' I really started to feel people's expectations. The question is whether you should fulfill people's expectations or your own? I'd rather live up to my own."
Erdbeerschnitzel's dense, melodious electronic tunes are complex. There are micro-bits of transmogrified R&B vocals mingling with lush synth washes. A sense of dreamy wavering informs it all. And, of course, the right amount of dirt. "What's striking in Tim's sound is the groove," says Mano Le Tough, another young producer of the avant-house guild, who has played with him twice in Berlin. "His tracks really swing. The drum programming is loose and alive. There's a strong pop sensibility, too, a lightness and fun which makes the music attractive to a lot of people." It was after a live show at Horst Krzbrg last November that Swiss producer Quarion complimented the Schnitzel man and later told Mano that it was the best live performance he had seen that year. "That was really uplifting," recalls Keiling.
In his bedroom studio in Mainz, Keiling gives a quick introduction to his live set, twiddling knobs and flicking switches on his Akai controller. "I really like to build the tempo slowly to around 125 BPM and then break it all down after 45 minutes to 105 BPM. At that point, punters are usually so worked up they can digest the throttling down." Keiling would love to employ a more freewheeling approach to timekeeping within his productions as well, but is well aware that changing the tempo within a track comes with risks. Some DJs already complain that his tracks are difficult to integrate into their sets. Does he care? "Yes, but I wouldn't go so far as to make them more DJ friendly. I'm not interested in building tools. It's the tracks with a song structure I'm after."
Speaking of love, Keiling admits that he would gladly welcome James Blake as a vocalist. He chuckles again, apparently at the improbability of this happening. But it seems much more likely than Tiësto playing out one of his productions. Even if, in a way, the trance superstar already has. Keiling recently edited a video to show the Dutch DJ playing one of his tracks. "Tiësto plays Erdbeerschnitzel track 'The Edit' LIVE in front of one million people or so. Nice," announces the byline on YouTube. In a similar fashion, Erdbeerschnitzel coaxed characters of the classic '50s Romy Schneider flick Sissi into critiquing the sonic structure of his track "Cotton": "We need a break" speech-bubbles a stately guy in a Bavarian Loden jacket. "Kinda get rid of the bass, ya know?" Sissi's boisterous father agrees and instructs the butler to "serve the break," to which the Bavarian adds, "Please with them arpeggio bassline?"
This is fun to watch, but the video also holds a more subtle message. "There are people in Germany who identify themselves so strongly with Chicago house and Detroit techno, that when they have booked a flight to the Motor City, for instance, they think they have seen it all. I don't understand this fixation. Why can't people stand to their roots? Our own country is not so bad really. That's what I tried to ironically convey with this over-the-top Bavarian atmosphere."
Naturally, the Erdbeerschnitzel project transcends the hilarity. Beyond the humour, here's a self-critical, down-to-earth and talented producer at work. Because let's not forget to mention that Keiling actually produced all the tracks on the Suave EP lying on a mattress. It still amazes him to think that people actually boogie to those fabrications: "To think that people sweat it out to the tracks I made sitting in my underpants, is something that puts a big smile on my face."