This week’s insider has one of Germany’s established names in dance music discussing his creative process, recent work and sharing a few thoughts on the Romanian club scene. We’re happy to welcome him back on June 6th at Blaj aLive and eager to see what the man who believes that DJs are entertainers as well as educators has in store for us. Yes, it’s Michael Mayer we’re talking about, DJ, producer, remixer and co-owner of one of the world’s leading, genre-defying labels: Kompakt. With more than two decades of mixing under his belt, juggling an intense party schedule with label work and set on „updating tradition” from a musical point of view, Michael Mayer ultimately reshaped the 4/4 universe.
You might want to take in this good read with some good music.
This is what feeder would like to know about you:
Disco lights… The feeling’s right when the music’s tight…
Kids these days… are alright.
My favorite spot in the house is… the kitchen.
What keeps me going every day… curiousity.
I love the smell of… black forest ham.
Every studio should have… a good venting system.
Time flies… when I’ve got a day off.
A special place in Cologne… Stadtgarten
I’m a stickler for… the perfect mix.
3 recent releases that caught my attention…
Thee Satisfaction – Earthee
Golden Teacher meets Dennis ‘Dubmaster’ Bovell at the Green Gate
The Orb – Moonbuilding 2703 AD
Violeta Nazare: Hello, Michael! We’re very excited to be talking to you, especially with just a couple of weeks to go until the Kompakt showcase at Blaj aLive. Thankfully, this isn’t your first time in Romania. Having played in two of Bucharest’s most prestigious venues, Kristal Glam Club and Studio Martin, what impression did the Romanian public and club scene make on you?
Michael Mayer: One thing is for sure… I’ve only had a tiny little peek at your nightlife so far but what I’ve experienced then was brilliant. It’s a shame that it took so long to come back. From the outside it feels like the scene has picked up a lot of momentum since my last visit, more and more Romanian artists had their international breakthrough. Just last weekend I had the pleasure to play alongside Premiesku.
VN: In late January you played at Amsterdam’s Studio/K, for the All Under One Roof event. In an interview, you said that you were asked to create and decorate the venue and chose to re-create your 80s dream discotheque. That, in turn, prompted you to do a set combining old-school disco with contemporary music. So how much does the appearance of a place influence the music you play? What were the most appealing clubs you played?
MM: In case of the All Under One Roof event I knew pretty much exactly what to expect as I was so much involved in the making of this party. This is a very rare occasion though. I usually check where I’m about to go when I never played in that club before. But one should always expect the unexpected. That’s why I’m travelling with tons of music.
Technically, I’d be able to play anything from a wedding party to a techno dungeon, warm up, primetime or end, sundown or sunrise set. It’s one of the aspects of DJing I enjoy the most: Improvisation.
VN: Spanning more than 20 years, your musical career had you playing everything from small clubs to mega festivals. Which would you say is your favorite setting? Where do you feel you can really go all out and get the most satisfaction out of your performance?
MM: My heart will always belong to medium-sized clubs. Anything from 300 to 1500 capacity is where I feel home. Playing a big festival stage is a completely different beast. I’m getting a lot of excitement from this. It’s more like a quick rush… after two hours it’s over. By nature, I’m more of a long haul DJ.
Playing long sets brings the best out of me and it gives me a much deeper satisfaction… it’s like the true magic unfolds after four hours. There’s a carthatic quality to playing marathon sets.
VN: You recently partnered with longtime colleague and friend Reinhard Voigt to produce Time Is Running, a two-track 12″ combining your track ‘The Stickler’ on the A-side and Voigt’s ‘The Buddy’ on the flip. Since it’s your first solo release since 2013’s Mantasy, does this mean that you’re focusing on producing again? Is there a new album in the works?
MM: I’ve actually had a pretty productive 2014 where I actually broke my own remix record. It must have been between 8 and 10 remixes I did in one year. But as far as original material is concerned, I took a little break after Mantasy. Now the hunger is back and I’m spending quite a lot of time in the studio. That means in my case that I spend one night a week and a couple of afternoons there. If I wanted to do a new album I’d have to take several months off from touring and get rid of my responsibilities here at Kompakt. That needs to be planned long ahead… But still, I’m as productive as I can be and most importantly, I really enjoy working without exposing me to any pressure or deadline.
VN: Is there a process you stick to when it comes to production, a creative schedule of sorts? What influences your choice of gear and what do you regard as an indispensable tool in your work?
MM: I’m a very intuitive musician. Technology is merely a necessary vehicle to express what I want. I’ve never been a geeky guy… 19″ talk goes right through me.
I always begin with a sample… most times it won’t be part of the track at the end. Samples catalyze ideas – more than scrolling through preset sounds in a soft synth.
The key element in my studio is the Studer 24 channel mixing console from 1981. It’s serves as comfortable piece of furniture, heater and analog mixer at the same time.
VN: By now, the story of your first visit at Delirium in Cologne and how your abrasiveness sparked off the fateful collaboration which would lead to the birth of Kompakt has become notorious. Your musical expertise was a vital element for turning the record store into a success; nowadays, what do you think it takes to make a record store stand out?
MM: A great record store has a vast, very diverse but most importantly hand-picked selection at offer. Only the most exciting news and a deep backcatalogue. And there should be at least one person who knows what’s where. Good coffee and an eye-catching design are facultative.
VN: Since you’re still in charge of A&R, what do you look for in an artist to sign him or her on to Kompakt? Do you think that there are any Romanian artists which would fit in the label’s roster?
MM: The artist’s personality needs to shine through. And there’s got to be something in the music that makes it unmistakably his (or her) music. The rest is mainly depending on gut feeling and metaphysical aspects. There might very well be a Romanian producer that fits to Kompakt but I haven’t found him/her yet.
VN: For the label’s 20th anniversary, Cologne-based multi-instrumentalist Gregor Schwellenbach was enlisted to reimagine 20 Kompakt classics as chamber music. What was the motivation behind this experiment and how was it to hear your tracks reinterpreted in such a way?
MM: Gregor Schwellenbach approached us just at the time when we were planning our 20th anniversary activities. He outed himself as a distant admirer of our music. For many years he transcribed Kompakt tracks for piano – just for fun, as some kind of experiment. He had recorded some tracks and played them to us. We instantly fell in love with the way he managed to conserve the originals simplicity. There are lots of ‘techno goes classic’ projects these days and most of them are as terrible as Classic Rock was in the 80s. We thought that Gregor’s approach was very humble and witty… two attributes we like a lot.
VN: Looking back on Kompakt’s history, how would you say basing it in Cologne influenced the sound and overall development of the label?
MM: As much as I love Cologne… I don’t think the city had a direct impact on our music. It’s rather the gathering of a group of kindred spirits that prepared the grounds for everything else, this mix of DIY ethics, ‘think different’ and ‘don’t take yourself too seriously’ mentality. Cologne certainly had a visual impact on us… that two-headed eagle used to be Cologne’s coat of arms until the city decided to have it re-designed. The old one looked so much better than the new one… so we just took it for our Speicher series.
VN: Feeder.ro is celebrating its 11th anniversary this year; what was Michael Mayer doing 11 years ago?
MM: Sorry for not having a more exciting answer at hand: I did more or less exactly what I’m doing right now. Wait… actually, I might have been working on my first album ‘Touch’.
editor – feeder.ro