Meet Kristian Nord and Malte Hagemeister, Nordmeister. The music producer duo is based in Venice, writing and producing for artists, commercials, and film. If they're not in the studio producing they're making music for their indie band The Great Escape.
Kristian: Malte and I both started out in Hamburg, Germany, having bands, recording records and touring. Then we both began writing and producing for other artists.
Both of us have been exchange students in California and had the dream/plan to come back and live here. So when I was 27 I packed my bags and moved to LA, having in mind that I’d get too comfortable in Germany if I wouldn’t move before I’m 30.
Malte: I came about five years later and we started working together and formed Nordmeister and The Great Escape. I always had the dream to escape German long winters and live by the sea - but maybe the most important reason for me to leave was leaving my comfort zone. Everything was going well in Hamburg, I had my own studio, my own band, worked with Fettes Brot and other German top artists - but I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted growth, surprises, meet new people - change on a personal and professional level. Best decision ever!
Kristian: With the move to LA I pretty much jumped into the cold water. My girlfriend back then started studying at Brooks University and I started meeting people trying to get to know the city. Since I co-produced and wrote on Sarah Brightman’s Harem album that got gold status in the states a year before I had a good entrance, but it took about nine months until the first jobs came along. In that time I definitely had some “Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea” moments, but I kept on going and it paid off.
A friend of mine, Tom Holkenborg (JunkieXL) told me about those music houses like Machine Head and Yessian who need all-round-composers/ producers, so I met a bunch of those and started at a boutique shop called Barton&Holt out of Santa Monica. There I pretty much learned the advertising business and how to score music to picture. Now our work is about 50% custom tailored music for advertising and 50% records and producing our own band The Great Escape.
Malte: Every winter I thought - dang its cold, Hamburg is grumpy, I need to go to Cali! But it took many winters until I finally grabbed the opportunity: A good friend in LA posted on FB that he was looking for someone to rent his house in Santa Monica for 6 months. I called him up and said YES ME! A few weeks later I was in LA. I had to cancel big jobs and promising projects, but I knew this was fate and I had to jump through the hoop.
These six months I met up with everyone I knew (of) in LA, I went to all sorts of events, concerts - I actively scanned the city for people and scenes that inspired me. Not just work wise - I was out there. I quickly knew I wanted to stay for longer.
I went back to Germany for half a year and planned the move - at least for a year - this was the idea. Two good friends from Hamburg joined me, we rented a big house in Venice that soon would be known as “Ze German House”. This was a great setup - we would support each other in many ways. Met some new folks? Let’s have a BBQ next Friday! Tax questions? I got this cool lawyer. Very helpful not to be alone. And Kristian as a local was an important piece of the puzzle.
One year turned into 8 years now - and with kids and family, I don’t have any plans of going back.
I guess I did many things right - being very active, sharing a place, networks, knowledge. The hardest was finding a good CPA (tax accountant) for some reason! Went through a few ha! Finding a place to live gets harder and harder as gentrification lets prices explode but so far I’ve been lucky. Always found the perfect place for the next chapter.
LA is a city that rewards being out there, approaching people, taking a chance. You’ll be surprised how quickly doors open if you come with a good story. Or just a good smile.
Malte: Inspiration first of all. An always trying to create win-win situation, and trying to find a dynamic that creates something bigger then the sum of the elements. Oh and a big one: Don’t work with assholes. Years ago I made this radical decision and it’s been very helpful (laughs).
Malte: It’s funny: I probably learned most about myself. That’s what’s so cool about leaving the comfort zone: it forces you to grow. You have to face you limitations, your demons, stupid old patterns that don’t serve you anymore. So yes - I thing LA has made me a better man.
Kristian: Be open-minded, explore all sorts of scenes, stay curious. LA is full of surprises if you dare noticing them.
Kristian: I’ve been in LA since 2005 and just became US citizen (without giving up the German passport of course). Los Angeles is an amazing, very inspiring city for musicians. The quality and quantity of talent here is unique. And there is so much music history right in front of you. My first session I helped engineering was with John Densmore, the drummer of The Doors. I was in heaven.
On the records of our band The Great Escape you’ll find musicians of Michael Jackson, Santana, Bob Marley, Alanis Morisette, War, Canned Heat to only name a few. It’s so inspiring to make music with those extraordinary people and hear some stories. In Germany you simply wouldn’t have the chance to meet those guys. Here, most of them are only a phone call away.
Also, I feel musicianship and art has a much higher value in society than in Germany. A little fun example: When I’m at the airport in Germany and tell strangers I’m a musician the first question is “Can you make a living with it”. In the US the first question is “Cool, what kind of music?” or “Have I heard something you’ve done?”.
Although I do have to say that Berlin is a crazy inspiring place as well and I like how international it became.
Malte: LA has a great balance of easy going life style with the beach and surf and yoga - and at the same time top notch art and entertainment industries. It is a city full of Dreamers and Doers. I could never quite understand how Germans tend to belittle the waiter with Hollywood dreams - to me it is an inspiring energy that people in this city never stop dreaming big. I needed this energy to buckle up and aim for some bigger goals.
I guess the weirdest thing about living here is seeing the political climate of the US shift so dramatically. We still live in a comfortable bubble - LA is progressive and especially Venice a multicultural haven. But the rise of Trump and hatred is scary and feels close. But even this has a good side - LA used to be so non-political, this has changed dramatically. Everybody talks about politics now and many try to make a change wherever they can.
Oh and of course: Traffic sucks!!! You need ages from one side of the city to the other. So you better choose wisely where you live (and work).
Kristian: My experience here in LA is, that if you’re motivated and you’re willing to put in the work you will get your shot. And don’t see all the talent around you as competition, but as inspiration. I learned so much from everyone I worked with.
Malte: If in doubt do it! What’s the worst thing that can happen? You run out of money and go back with lots of new experiences. And then you can try again ;)
And don’t be intimidated - don’t hesitate to knock on peoples doors. Make real connections, make yourself be seen. Offer you help instead of asking for anything. This mind set got me far.
Kristian: Right now we are finishing up a video for the first single of the new The Great Escape album called “Where Do We Go From Here”. The song is about growth, leaving you comfort zone and going new ways. The video is an homage to first generation immigrants who left their homes and families for a better life. We want to show how great and inspiring those people are, portrait their stories and goals are and how greatly they contribute to this society and make it a better place.
Setting a counterpoint to all the fear mongering of the current administration is very important.
Malte: Breath. Seriously. I should’ve learned mindfulness mediation way earlier! And then jump in the ocean. Surf. Put things in perspective. Stay playful. Wiggle. We’re flying on a big rock through outer space! I mean seriously!