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INTERVIEW with the singer, songwriter and DJ Damae, the former singer of Fragma

Growing up in a musical family, from an early age onwards Damae was fascinated by any kind of music, starting with musical films of the 50’s, Elvis and the Beatles, up to Rock and Punk music. Her first musical steps were solo parts in the school choir. Besides she learned classical ballet and began modeling for the German youth magazine BRAVO. She received a lot of attention and offers from film and music producers, but her priorities were her classical singing education, while at the same time she was singing and songwriting in a punk band. This proves that musical flexibility is not contradictory but foremost an advantage. So it’s no big surprise that through her passion skateboarding, she met musicians who inspired her interest in Hip Hop, Reggae and Dancehall. 

Shortly after that, Damae developed a deep love for electronic music and was very present in that scene, where hit producer Gottfried Engels (Tiger Records) offered her the part as the main solo singer in the project “Fragma”. Their first common single was an international smash, reaching #4 in the UK charts, which is quite notable for a German singer. In the aftermath, two albums, several video clips, and worldwide tours with gigs at renowned venues and huge festivals followed until 2012. Concurrently, she was the presenter of her own TV show “Dance District” at the Europe-wide TV station ONYX, and she even was a guest host at VIVA’s “Club Rotation”. Frequently, she surfaced with songs of her own or as a featured artist with other acts. At the moment she’s working on Germany´s NO 1 EDM Label Tiger Records with different producers, like Dave Kurtis, Mauro Mondello, Mekki Martin or Lissat & Voltaxx. 

Her positive outlook to life has made her a symbol of success for many women in the music industry as well. Despite being extremely busy with her future project Damae has found the time to reply in our questions and we are deeply pleased to have an interview with her right here and learn more about her past, present and take short glimpse of her future plans as well. Welcome to the world of Damae.

Interview was written and conducted by Dimitri Kechagias, Music Journalist and Radio host at 1mix radio

Dimitri: You are coming from a musical family that loved music. Can you tell us a bit more about this and in what ways you believe this has influenced you to get into the music business?

Damae: My dad plays the guitar and I used to sing with him all the time. My mother used to write lyrics. Music was always very present in our family; I started singing in the school choir, did ballet lessons everyday and I was impressed about the film stars from the 50's like Fred Astaire, Marilyn Monroe and wanted to become an artist, who can act, sing and dance. I was also a huge Michael Jackson Fan. Nearly danced with him on his History Tour.

Dimitri: It would be so great to go back in time and remind us how was to be for instance model for BRAVO magazine, singing in punk bands. What you remember the most from those early years of your career? 

Damae: Well I was quite kind of a rebel with funky clothes I made myself and so a famous photographer Frank Lothar Lange from BRAVO Magazine saw me and started shootings with me. I was 14 then and suddenly I got a lot of attention from Film & Music producers. Even PlayBoy Wanted me and I was only 14! It was insane. Film producers from France for the film Undine or big directors from Germany wanted me to act. They saw something like a Nastassja Kinski in me. For example I´ve been asked to sing for Enigma even I would like it now ;-), but back then I declined it. I thought on that time, why do they only want me because I´m pretty, they didn't even hear my voice? I found this strange and I also wasn't like into commercial stuff. I used to listen to the Sex Pistols, Bob Marley and the Doors, a lot of the RAP also ;-) like NWA, Public Enemy and Run DMC, later to Nirvana, Pearl Jam and all the Grunge stuff. I hang around with Skateboarders and Sprayers. Finally I ended up in the first Techno Club in Cologne called Warehouse in the early Nineties…..

Dimitri: You mention in all your socials and in your interviews that the recently passed away Gottfried Engels was a mentor for you. Is it possible to tell us how you met up with him and how and why you decided to start the worldwide known project Fragma and where the name came from?

Damae: Well I met Gottfried also first in the early Nineties. He organised the first Techno Parties, later on my favourite House parties called Vanity, where he used to get as one of the first DJs from abroad like Carl Cox or Armand van Helden. Gottfried also had with his wife Andrea a record-shop in Cologne called Music Man where I started to buy vinyls and started DJing, a lot on after-hours at my friends DJ´s houses. I met him here and there all the time. When I was very young my boyfriend was Dieter Dierks ( producer of the Skorpions ) and we met in his studios. Years later he remembered every single time when he met me, like when I went into Music Man and asked him for a vinyl of 'Rene et Gaston - Vallee De Larmes' and he gave me the bootleg. He saw me getting into a meeting with Dieter and I throw the Dieter´s Ferrari key on the table. He told me all this years later and I was gobsmacked that he remembered, a brain like an Elephant !….When I met him together with Ramon in the studio and they were looking for a singer for Fragma we all liked each other immediately. The feeling was right and we started working on the follow up for 'Fragma - Everytime you need me' and 'Reach Out' from the first album Toca. The name Fragma means in Latin something like Border. It means to be different than other acts. Gottfried was always the one who gave advise and he could be very strict and loud but he wanted to protect his artists and he was right most of the time. Gottfried had the biggest heart. We were like a family, together with Blank & Jones, Bellini & Paffendorf and he worked his ass off day & night. When he believed in something he fought for it and he always stayed true to his words. This is very unusual in this crazy superficial music business. Gottfried was different. There is, to be honest none like him anymore. His musical skills were enormous. He knew so much. Sometimes he called me up in the middle of the night and played a track to me on the phone and said, listen to this, this is a hit, don't u think? He lived for the music.

Dimitri: As Fragma you had worldwide success and it would great to choose for us your absolute Top 3 favourite Fragma records and tell us if there is a story or funny or sad incident behind the scenes of these tracks?

1. You Are Alive: because it was my first release with Fragma, it was a huge success and changed my life. I also think the video which was shot in Sri Lanka, the vibe and the message of the song is still magic.I just amazing memories.The Video Producer Phil Griffin and his team, everybody at Positiva Records like Kevin Robinson, Sid Lee or the tons of people working for the promotion in London, London itself, all the crazy popstar stuff that suddenly came up, like Top of The Pops, Pepsi Charts Show, Party In The Park, Interviews, Shootings, it was insane !!! I loved it and the UK I just met in Ibiza town a guy from Ireland who was selling beautiful self-made Jewellery and he recognised me and said „You are alive" was always the most sophisticated song and video of Fragma. That made me smile;-) 

2. Memory: because it was my Mothers favourite song, she used to listen very loud in her little Cabriolet when it was played on the Radio, in the Klaas Remix mostly on BFBS which was a British Force Radio Station in Germany. When she was dying 4 years ago of cancer, I put all my strength together and I was with her at her bed and sang Memory to her, along with You Are Alive and Lonely ( Schiller ). It was insane but its amazing how people get the power to survive this pain. I thought I had to be strong and don't cry so she could let go and fly to heaven. I also sang these three songs on her funeral in an acoustic version with guitar. I had to do it. She was my biggest idol, my supporter and she always got my back. A wonderful strong woman with the biggest heart. I miss her like crazy every day.

3. I actually quite like Deeper a lot which was the B- Side of Toca's Miracle 2008, I love the vibe and I recorded it after a hard party with Sven Väth at 'Blauer See' or 'Risk my Soul' when I wrote the lyrics heartbroken, but to be honest I like them all. Every song has his story and meaning. 
Dimitri: In UK you have many fans and you even have chart success. Does this chart success and recognition has changed your character and personality? What do you think of artists that change when they become successful and suddenly are isolated in themselves and are not so approachable?

Damae: For me I think I never really changed, I always knew where I came from and I never had the feeling I am better than anyone. For me everyone is special. I just think I work very hard and I have to make many compromises even I have amazing experiences and I could travel the world.The reason why some artists get carefully or even isolated is because sometimes you don't know if the people love you for being you or because of your fame. I was quite disappointed sometimes, that´s why I have friends still before my career started. I´m a very open mind person and I have to be careful sometimes not letting too much in and out, but this is how I am.

Dimitri: Why you decide to stop Fragma and how the Damae name came from? I’m sure that not many fans know that.

Damae: After 12 years with Fragma I guess it was about time to do something new independent. As an artist you develop and grow and sometimes and change means you can start something new and fresh. I really enjoy being independent and work and do what I want. I don´t even have a manager. As far as the name concerned my surnames are Daniela Marina Elisabeth and I put the first letters of these names together and in that way Damae turned out;)

Dimitri: As Damae you have collaborated with beloved talents like Kyau & Albert and Schiller to name just a few. How these collaborations came about and did you met with these producers in the studio or you worked by distance?

Damae: Kyau and Albert were fans of Fragma and shy young talented boys from Eastern Germany who came all the way to a party from Alphabet City in Mönchengladbach to meet me and ask me if I like to sing on Velvet Morning  I loved the song and the guys came again all the way to my house with their laptop and a mic, I cooked for them, we opened a bottle of wine and my vocals were recorded in my living room. Done ! Actually, Kyau & Albert had their first hit with Velvet Morning.

I met Christopher von Deylen( Schiller ) when I interviewed him for my TV Show Dance District on Onyx TV in Berlin. We had a great time and he told me that he loves my voice and the Fragma productions. A couple of years later he called me and ask me to sing on his album 'Sehnsucht (Desire). I wrote with my friend Dee Jacobee the lyrics for 'Lonely' and recorded the song in 1 or 2 Takes in Christopher´s studio in his beautiful apartment in Berlin. Same Story we opened a bottle of wine and chat all night about god and the world. Christopher is a highly intelligent and sensitive person. It was great.

Dimitri: Your Damae project has been developed mainly at Tiger records, the label fronted by Gottfried who suddenly passed away. Can you explain to us what exactly meant for you this great person and why he was so loved from all his artists? Do you have any incident maybe to recall that involved Gottfried that will stay in your mind forever and shows the greatness of this mentor for you?

Damae: Yes, Gottfried was about to push my solo career as Damae and of course I feel sometimes a bit lost, even I enjoy my Independency, Tiger Records as a home base and Gottfried's protection. I learned so much from him, I admire his loyalty and big heart, the way he lived for his passion, the music. Also his big sense of humour. There will be none like him anymore. A lot of people keep saying this. With Gottfried a part of Dance Music has died.

Dimitri: Of course life goes on and you move forward. Your latest release is a collaboration with Luca Debonaire & Mike Ferullo called We're Not Alone on Tazmania records. Would you like to tell us the backstage story of this top record?

Damae: Luca Debonaire is one of the producers Gottfried worked a lot with and after his death we decided to keep working on some different projects.

The idea was that Gottfried asked me to write on Robert Miles Children, which was released already on Tiger as 'Damae Children ( That Same Old Line )'.

I wrote the Lyrics to We´re Not Alone but after Gottfried death we decided to release in a new housy production with Mike Ferullo.

Same Story with Human Nature. It was Gottfried´s originally idea which we followed and it came out as Saint Tropez Caps feat Damae 'Human Nature'. It was a big honour, on one side to full-fill Gotffried´s idea on the other cause I used to be a big Michael Jackson fan.

Dimitri: Are we going to see more collaborations coming up with Luca Debonaire or other producers? Do you work on any new material at the moment?

Damae: Yes we covered early this year 'Better Off Alone', we covered 80s Club Hit 'Fascinated' and Urban Collectives 'The Key The Secret'.

Dimitri: Many singers in electronic music develop their DJing skills and they usually DJ and sing as well in the gigs. What is your opinion about them and are you interested to develop your DJ side as well? Have you ever played in front of a big crowd in a club?

Damae: Well I used to DJ with vinyls and I keep getting my skills now. This was the plan I had with Tiger Records to release remixes and productions not just only with my voice. 'That same old line' or 'Nothing Left Between Us' was the beginning. As an creative person its just a normal process that you involved in the productions, the writing and the Djing. I keep working on it ;-)

Dimitri: It would be so great to let us know from where you got the inspiration to write these beautiful lyrics. Are there specific situations or events in your life that inspired you or something else maybe?

Damae: I guess it has to be right feeling, even a very sad feeling, like when u just split up with someone could help to write the best love song ever, but I have to be in the right mood. 

Dimitri: On which song the lyrics were very easily to write them down and on sing song it took a long time to finish them? 

Damae: We´re Not Alone came easily. Children was very inspiring, it was this mystic, longing feeling. When I get an instrumental which doesn't inspire me I cannot write on it…

Dimitri: Nowadays in the age of the internet do you usually meet the producers in the studio or you record the vocals and send them via internet? Can you explain your approach and process in this? Do you get the instrumental and record vocals for it or even you record first the vocals and then the producer adds the appropriate background.

Damae: Yes most of the time I get the Instrumental and then I decide if I like it or not. Sometimes I work with different songwriters, when I like the song but somehow it doesn't inspire me too much too write on it. Most of the time I record here in Cologne with which is the best vocal producers Alex Strasser. When I record with Lissat and Voltaxx I record in their studio, cause they are in Cologne. Same with Florian Süselbeck who has his studio in Bottrop or Patric La Funk in Bochum. They are  not too far away and I can visit and work with them. Also I work with the legendary CJ Stone from Berlin. Fans should follow me on socials to keep updated. More great music coming soon.

Dimitri: You have been very successful TV presenter as well for the show Dance District with great interview skills and Club Rotation. Which episode of these TV shows you remember the most and who was the best artist to interview as well?

Damae: They were all great because we used to get funny locations and not in a studio. I played Gulf with Paul van Dyk. Went in a Jacuzzi with Jean Jaques Smoothie, danced with Westbam in his desk at Low Spirit office in Berlin, went with ATB to his flight hours and Tiesto was exclusively and first time he played in Germany. I loved it and I guess the DJ´s kind of trusted me cause they might thought I´m one of them, a musician..

Dimitri: Are there any plans to start a new TV show maybe now that electronic music is so popular all over Europe and Germany of course?

Damae: Well the idea came up, but to be honest I´m so busy with my music and family..we´ll see ;-)

Dimitri: You have performed countless live PA’s in clubs and festivals all over the world. Can you pick your Top 3 live performances of all time and maybe tell us an incident or what you recall the most from these live performances?

Damae: Oh yeah this question;-) So difficult to say. I loved Space in Ibiza, same with David Guetta at Pacha. I also loved my Australia touring, the UK, Party in The Park in front of 1000 Thousand, Scotland always fun, my Dance Nation Tours in the UK. Pacha in Argentina sames as original Pacha in Barcelona, Spirit in London Festival in Brasil, the Millionaire Parties in Russia, Portugal, Finland, Sweden,Estonia, Lithuania Thailand, Malaysia, Norway, Poland, Romania, Czech Republic, France, Bulgaria, USA, the awesome performance in a talent show in Lebanon and so many more. Same with the songs, different stories and experience but all great.

Dimitri: In a recent interview you said that you feel that you are successful in Europe and not in Germany. What is the current situation for your music in Germany and do you see that club scene is developing and is healthy and flourishing?

Damae: I think its typical that you are not 'Exotic' in your own country, but its OK I can live with no Paparazi here ;-) and I'm quite proud and happy that the British people accepted me so nicely as a German singer in their country and home of music.

Dimitri: This year in the Eurovision song contest Germany with a magical song didn’t manage to win many votes. What is the reason behind Germany’s bad performance in Eurovision and are you interested to take part like Cascada did before some years?

Damae: I think sometimes the Eastern Countries like to give the points more to each other, but I guess the ESC is changing, getting more younger and modern, also with Justin Timberlake performance, I'm invited to the Eurovision Song Writing Contest Camp of my lovely songwriter friends Greig Watts and Bruce Robert Francis Smith. We will meet up in the Netherlands and write, record with incredible songwriters and, producers and artists. I´m curious what I come out with, I might sing for Germany or another Eastern Country , my mum was originally from Romania, so the roots are there and the votes are better ;-) Or I just have 2 or 3 great new songs ;-)

Dimitri: Final question should be about your advice to any young singers who want to get involved in the music industry. Which steps you think should follow according to your extensive experience?

Damae: BELIEVE IN YOUR YOURSELF ! BELIEVE IN YOURSELF ! BELIEVE IN YOURSELF! Don´t care what others say or think negatively ! Don't give up ! Work hard !

Thanks so much to Damae for her precious time to answer in a such long interview and I hope the readers will enjoy it as much as I did.

This interview is dedicated to the memory of the beloved friend Gottfried Engels that we lost last August. He is always Alive in our memory!

Please note that in my interviews at Flux BPM Online, I always try to include music videos uploaded on the official channels but for many tracks mentioned in this interview there are no official uploads so I used the uploads from YouTube users. 

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