Electric Callboy’s Kevin Ratajczak on being accepted by the rock world, and where EDM and metal meet

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WOUB) – Germany’s Electric Callboy is as flashy as the name implies.

The band has built a trademark sound, marrying the bass drops of EDM and techno with the breakdowns and heavy riffs of metal. Formed in 2010, Electric Callboy has been on a steady rise throughout the years, culminating with 2022’s Tekkno.

Tekkno hit No. 1 in Germany, with songs like Pump It and We’ve Got The Moves serving as a dramatic statement of the band’s honed sound.

WOUB’s Nicholas Kobe spoke with Electric Callboy’s Kevin Ratajczak. Find a transcript of their conversation, edited for length and clarity, below. 

This interview is a part of WOUB’s Sonic Temple Art & Music Festival 2024 preview coverage. The festival happens May 16-19 at Historic Crew Stadium (1 Black and Gold Blvd.) 

Find all of WOUB’s Sonic Temple 2024 coverage – including interviews with artists like Bobo of Cypress Hill and Ian Hill of Judas Priest – at this link. 

A promotional image of the metal and techno band Electric Callboy.
Electric Callboy [Image courtesy of the artist]
Nicholas Kobe: If you had to describe Electric Callboy in one sentence, what would you say? 

Kevin Ratajczak: That’s so hard, and it gets harder every time I try this because we’re trying to be so different in what we’re doing. We’re trying to put together so many different kinds of music. I would say Electric Cowboy is making fun music, and we’re here for the good times. I would say we’re a combination of metal and pop music and it’s pretty much danceable metal. It’s like happy mood metal.

You mentioned all the seemingly disparate genres Electric Callboy draws from. Can you tell me more about that?

Ratajczak: I mean we’ve been around for quite some time and I can tell you there were times when we had trouble doing what we really wanted. Whenever we wrote new music it was all about ‘what do the people out there want to hear?’ There were a lot of expectations, but I can tell you that we really felt comfortable when we got rid of those expectations in our heads when we started to just do what we love. That’s music in so many different ways. It’s just daring to dare to do something new. As I said, we had some times when this didn’t work at all. I am pretty sure right now that it was because it wasn’t authentic, because it wasn’t us. Now I can tell you the music we’re doing is absolutely authentic.

So we have a lot of different influences. […] German Schlager music, and pop punk, but most of the time we’re sticking to electronic dance music like techno and EDM and we’re trying to combine that with some heavy riffs and four-to-the-floor beats. We love that. That’s our recipe for good music.

Especially since heavy metal and EDM are the two big parts of your music. What is it about those two genres that allows them to blend so well?

Ratajczak: When we started making music, there were you could either go metal or you could go pop music or whatever, and people were always mad when you tried to combine them. Nowadays it seems like the world of music grows together more and more. Looking at the people in the crowd, I couldn’t tell where they actually came from. Are they into hip-hop? Are they into metal music?

The people start to look alike and that’s funny because that’s what our intention is, to bring people together of different genres and to have a good time together. Coming back to your question about techno music, and the breakdowns in metal music, they have the same vibe because we’re having some choruses that you can sing along with. We have a bass drop or a brutal guitar. There are places where EDM and metal music are very alike and that’s why we think it fits so well together.

That structure you’re talking about, especially the breakdowns and the beat drops, it’s kind of a similar flavor.

Ratajczak: Yeah, definitely. It’s not that we invented that. We are just one of those bands out there trying to be different from all the other bands, but I don’t want to say we are different. We managed to do that, but we found our way of making music and we found our niche in that whole wide world of music. That’s a good feeling.

I’m interviewing you guys before your performance at Sonic Temple 2024. How does your guys’ genre fusion, at least from your perspective as the artist translate to a big festival setting like Sonic Temple?

Ratajczak: I can tell you as a band that has always been in between all those genres, we never really fit. That started as a burden, but now it’s a big plus for our band because we fit anywhere. I love how our show has evolved during the last years. We played right after Ellie Golding, for example and we played right after Arch Enemy. That’s so funny because we play everywhere and the people seem to have fun everywhere and that’s a good thing for us of course. For example, last year we played at a big, big techno festival where usually only DJs take place.

It’s a big stage, of course, it looks big, but there is just this little booth. They invited us because they thought our music would work. They invited us over and they made some space in that DJ booth for show take place and everybody enjoyed it. So I’m very sure that our music can absolutely fit anywhere especially at Sonic Temple. It’s always such an adventure to come over the big ocean and play in the US. We played last year, very successfully and that was a very, very cool experience after 10 years coming back to the US. I think that is such a good tour and now I’m so stoked to come back with the boys. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

You’ve played so many different kinds of festival environments. Is there anything in particular you’d say is unique to the experience of playing at rock-oriented festivals?

Ratajczak: I can tell you people that listen to rock music are very open-minded, as I experienced. I can’t judge all the other genres might be the same, but I can remember when we were struggling, I told you being in between all those genres, not feeling to fit anywhere, we came to Wacken as one of the biggest metal festivals in the world  and people just accepted us right away. That is now over 10 years ago.

That is my personal case where I found out that rock music is a place or is a crowd, is a community where there’s a lot of tolerance. People accept you no matter who you are, no matter where you come from. That aligns with our ideas of why music should bring people together. I can tell you that’s not only for me, for the six of us, we feel very comfortable at rock festivals in general

That’s good to hear. As you have gradually ramped up in terms of your popularity, but also in years of experience doing this, how have you changed, so far as your sound or the way you approach putting on a live show?

Ratajczak: Well, of course, we got older a little bit and that makes you wiser. I hope I can move the same way that I used to when I was 10 years younger, but I think we got the electric cowboy of today is the essance right? The essence of what we used to be. We tried out so many things and not everything was fitting, not everything was feeling good. I can tell you we know what music works for us as a band, what brings fun to us, but also brings fun to the people. I’m telling you what brings fun to us first because I’m very egoistic when it comes to our music.

I’m convinced by the fact that you have to like your music in the first place to transfer that passion to the people. It makes no sense to me to just make music for the people to enjoy and I’m absolutely fed up with it. I can tell you for the live show, there’s a little bit more money to spend because we always invest in our live shows. We just recently bought a big LED screen last year. We have a cool production with fireworks in Germany or in Europe in general. We’re always trying to bring at least a small setup of that show to all the other countries that we’re traveling to. So this is something that has evolved. Music wise, there is no compromise for us. When we want to do something, we just do it. There’s no fear When you decide to have music as your job, you quit your real jobs, then you say music is my way to go than you are making yourself dependent on that music.

It’s much easier when a little success has kicked in that gives you more freedom to just be yourself. That is the point where we are right now. I can tell you I’ve never enjoyed making music more than now. It’s such a good time to be alive in this band.

As the band moves forward, are there any other sounds or ideas that you have floating around that you want to incorporate into this project?

Ratajczak: Oh yeah. I just recently listened to a metal track that had a saxophone in it. I was confused, but I totally liked it. I don’t want to say we want to use a saxophone, but we’re always having our eyes open and I’m searching for new music. When I’m listening to well-made electronic music, sometimes it’s just the melody or a drop that makes me drop my jaw. I’m trying to keep that in mind and put that into my creative process or I’m telling the other guys and everybody’s doing that.

Wherever you find your inspiration, maybe other bands, DJs, or whatever. Sometimes it’s just a chord progression. We just recently went back to the studio to start working on a new album, and it’s that vibe again that you can’t listen to music without analyzing it. Whenever I’m listening to a new track now, I’m analyzing it. Is it cool? Will it work? I put it in my notes on my mobile phone and all that., I think that is very important as a creative person to have your eyes open all the time. I’m very stoked for what we have written so far.

One last question: what’s your long-term plan for the future of Electric Callboy? Where are you guys hoping to be in 5, or 10 years?

Ratajczak: That is a good question. I’ve always asked that myself and we all do. The goals shouldn’t be too big, but it’s just the small goals. When we played some youth center shows in our hometown, it was like “holy shit, we want to have a 1000-capacity show one day” or “We want to travel or tour in a night liner in a sleeper bus”. Now we achieved so many of our dreams already.

Right now I’m looking at my golden record, this gold award we got for Hypa Hypa last year and it’s still not real to me. It’s crazy, I’m still having goosebumps when I think about the day that we got awarded that. Right now I’m happy and I want to establish the success that we have. I want to try to be entertaining as long as possible because I couldn’t ask for more. Right now. I can live with my family happily, I can do what I love as my job, I can save for something and I can go on vacation once or twice a year, so I don’t want to be greedy. I’m happy as I am. For the band, it’s like maybe a stadium show.

We played arenas but I’ve never played a stadium tour. Why not try that? I can tell you the arenas are, for me, the perfect combination of having a crowd, and an infield without losing contact with the people. Most of the time it looks like a bowl and you don’t see every single face, but you see them in a stadium. Never say never, but, this would be cool: Our festival, Escalation Fest in Germany, we want to make that festival grow in other countries. We want to bring it to other European countries. Our idols, are Slipknot with their Knotfest. This is a dream for us to establish that festival. That’s pretty much it. Write a cool new album, be happy with our music, and stay successful. That’s pretty much all the plans for this year.