Kyle Geiger: Sometimes you have to close a door before another one can open
This Sunday, Intellephunk's celebrated Sunday evening techno event Communion returns to Sound Bar in downtown Minneapolis for its opening party. Since 2007, Communion has played host to a vast array of local and international artists alike. For this year's opening party, Indiana-born and Berlin-bred DJ and producer Kyle Geiger will be bringing his unique brand of techno soundscapes to the patio.
Geiger has been quite busy lately, between the creation of his own label, Cubera, and working on his yet to be released debut album. He will be returning to Minneapolis on the heels of his performance at last week's Movement Festival in Detroit. While catching up with friends back in the states, Geiger spoke to Gimme Noise about the very beginnings of his interest in electronic music, and how his career has evolved from DJing at high school dances to writing and releasing his own music and performing on an international stage. Here's Geiger in his own words.
On his introduction to Nine Inch Nails:
Kyle Geiger: At our freshman dance in high school, I heard Nine Inch Nails for the first time. I said, what on earth is this? I had been listening to a lot of Metallica, and I was like, this is the coolest parts of Metallica and the coolest parts of dance music altogether. It just felt right. I became this huge Nine Inch Nails fan. My Mom took me to a concert of theirs. It was definitely eighth grade. She said, "You're not going to Nine Inch Nails. The only way that you can go is if I go with you." She even understood how embarrassing it is for a child to have parents.
At the time we didn't understand that biologically it's impossible to not have parents. Anyway, I just said, meet me at the cash register when you buy the ticket and then go away. So we sat in like, row 3, and she sat in row 18, or something, so she could keep an eye on us, but she was out of our hair. I took like six of my friends in a minivan to a Nine Inch Nails concert when I was in eighth grade.
On finding out about DJing for the first time:
We found out about the possibility of DJing at high school dances, and DJing at weddings. It was strictly an entrepreneurial idea, when we found out how much they got paid to do these events. We were like, gosh, we love music, we love playing music, and all we have to do is get a sound system. I mean, we buy all these CD's anyway, so let's go for it. How do we find DJ equipment? I lived in Indiana, so it wasn't exactly a bustling metropolis. I went looking for catalogues.
There was a magazine called DJ Times, and I bought the magazine strictly to get the numbers out of the back of the catalogue. On the cover was this guy sitting on a mound of records, and his name was Frankie Bones. I said, wow, this guy is actually playing records! What kind of DJ would play records still? I read the article, and it was talking about these raves in Brooklyn, and how they would go in these warehouses and hook up a generator. At the time I was just seeing this really cool story that happened in a foreign country that I had no access to. Indiana and New York are very, very far away when you're a fourteen-year-old kid.
On getting closer to his dream:
There was a three-day rave going on at a ski slope in Indiana. Some friends invited me along, and we drove up there. I had no idea what to expect. That was just...it was game over at that point. I saw a DJ actually DJing, and I said, I really need to figure out how to do this.
Freshman year at Purdue, there was a guy that was living in my dorms, and he was carrying what I thought to be DJ equipment up the stairs when the freshman were moving in. I was just so curious, and it almost came off as desperate, to keep going down this road. I said, are these turntables? I'm really interested in this. Can I come watch you DJ in your dorm room?
He was playing hip hop music, and he asked if I wanted to mess around with his tables. I went to the campus record store and bought a Basement Jaxx album, Remedy, and the big single from that was "Red Alert." It was a double pack record, and that meant that I had two records to mix back and forth. I just miserably failed at mixing those two records back and forth for a long time.
Summer into my sophomore year, I worked a job, saved up money and bought turntables and a mixer, and that's all I did that summer. I can't recall anything else that I did that summer, other than DJ in my bedroom. I remember bringing numerous friends into my bedroom at my Mom's house. I'd say, I'm practicing DJ'ing, and you're welcome to come by, but I'm not really interested in going out. That was the start of it, and it just kind of evolved from there.
On turning DJing into a career:
The reality took about a year to settle in. I realized that this was not sustainable, and I could do it as a hobby, but not as a career. I was mainly DJing. I was dabbling in writing music. I was told that if I really wanted people to book me, then I needed to write music, I couldn't just DJ. I started getting into production, because that was kind of like the Trojan horse to get your foot in the door.
I was still DJing for recreation, and I played this party in Bloomington, Indiana. The party was just awful. It was everything wrong. It was like this manifestation of how bad the rave scene had gotten. The cops busted the party while I was playing, and remember being thankful. That was the first time where I was like, man, the cops did the rave scene a favor by breaking this one up. I was like, I'm done. I'm just going to DJ in my bedroom. I'm done playing for people. I'm just going to start writing music. And this decision was what made me get into the studio. Now, I'm playing gigs that are worth playing.
There are some people who have a career that explodes overnight. Mine has not been like that. Mine has been a slow growth. It never felt like it was time to be a full-time musician. It was actually because of my wife. I always had this idea that if I was going to meet the person to spend the rest of my life with, that my music would probably take a backseat. Interestingly enough, she was the one that said, when are you going to actually take a chance and do this? She was really open to moving to a foreign country, and she knew that I loved Europe, and specifically Berlin.
So, we did it. There was never a time where I felt like this was guaranteed success. I knew in the back of my head that this could go really wrong, and there were some months where there were no indicators that I'd ever DJ another gig in my life. The first year we moved to Germany and January came, I did not have any gigs. I had one gig in February, then none in March. You're sitting there saying wow, my wife really believed in me, but now I'm starting to doubt myself.