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Wolfgang Voigt

Few people have done their research as seriously as Wolfgang Voigt. One of Kompakt's founders as well as a mentor and an ongoing source of inspiration for peers like Michael Mayer and Superpitcher, he is an eloquent and often heard voice in a genre that is usually much more ‘minimal’ about its public expression. Using more pseudonyms then Alexandria's library has bookshelves, this proud Bürger from Cologne has been hunting high and low in all of the various woods electronic music offers. Along the chase, Voigt developed a passion for conceptual work and highbrow commentary. In this lecture at the 2008 Red Bull Music Academy, Voigt talks getting lost in techno clubs, three-ingredient production methods, moving Kompakt forward, and more.

Hosted by Torsten Schmidt Audio Only Version Transcript:

RBMA

Most of you will know him as probably the hardest working man in the techno business, please welcome Mr Wolfgang Voigt. Now, sorry for you lot that don't speak German 'cause we decided on short notice that for comfort reasons we do this in German and subtitles will be on page 320. Actually, we might have to go back to German now and then to use the odd word and we'll try to translate them as best as possible. We have this tendency to come up with these nice little terms that sum up so much in about three syllables and we found the English language not as efficient.

Wolfgang Voigt

Funky enough.

RBMA

Oh, we're going into the deep water straight away. So when we were telling you on the first day that this is also a place where people come together and talk about things, even though they see each other every single day on the way to getting their milk, to yoga, to God knows what, getting their vodka at night, this is another occasion. Wolfgang, you're actually one of the really few people, that live in the quarter of Cologne, that actually are from Cologne. Now, when you have visitors over to make them understand why the city runs the way it does, where do you take them usually? Give us a little tour.

Wolfgang Voigt

Well, I take them to my quarter. Where I live it's very easy because, you know, the territory is very small. When we say everything is very interesting is where you can throw a stone in Cologne. So it's very easy. It might not be as amazing as people might think it is, because what they might know internationally from the musical side or from the culture side. Because it's a very fine, but very small territory, you know? And the important part is much smaller than a city, of course. So it's hard to say. There are just a few places, as you say, a few interesting places, which might not be the places that everybody expects. Big discotheques, or amazing big areas, where interesting new music is running the whole day. It's more like different alternative places, like the yoga place you said. No, like cafes, and of course, our wonderful, let's say, little tower in the centre of Cologne, where we live and where we do all our things together. Me, my friends, my colleagues, all under one roof in a way, and just hanging around in places, which are really close. Some favourite restaurants, some small favourite clubs - but not a big thing compared to, let's say, to Berlin, for example. Cologne is a village, in a way. It's a very nice and fine village, but it's a village, you know?

RBMA

Where do you take them for tourists things?

Wolfgang Voigt

To the cathedral, of course, to the galleries. No, I would say, if we have visitors, or friends business-wise, first of all you show them around in your own house, in your own territory and then you bring them to your favourite restaurant and to a few pubs. There is a certain interesting tradition in Cologne, where the music we stand for, and also the minimal techno scene or the ambient scene, it's much more played in pubs, for example, than in clubs. Because the situation from the architecture side is very difficult in Cologne. Venues are very expensive. They close very fast and on the other hand, there is a certain contradiction in the Cologne tradition: there hasn't been so many good clubs, that people might expect from the musical side which we have. But from time to time, when there are good places and good clubs, they might not be open for so long, because on the other side, Cologne people are very special and very lazy, in a way. They all want to go out inside the centre in a way and don't want to go too far to places, compared to Berlin, for example, where people every night travel many kilometers by trams or taxi to go to their favourite clubs. In Cologne this tradition is different. They're used to go very close, next door to the pubs with few people, hanging around. Secret places, that are not so well-known, drink their wonderful Kölsch, which is a local beer in Cologne, and just hang around in pubs listening to this kind of music and some dancefloors are full with just ten or fifteen people.

RBMA

A lot of talk, less sweat, then.

Wolfgang Voigt

Sorry?

RBMA

A lot of talk, less sweat.

Wolfgang Voigt

Yeah, both. First talk, then sweat.

RBMA

What does the visitor have to do, that you'd take them to the city forest?

Wolfgang Voigt

Sorry?

RBMA

What does the visitor have to do, that you'd take them to the Stadtwald or the Königsforst, or something?

Wolfgang Voigt

What does he have to do?

RBMA

Yeah.

Wolfgang Voigt

Maybe just ask me to bring him there. It depends, I don't know how many people are interested to come into a city and to see a forest because, first of all, this seems to be like a contradiction, you know? Especially, I guess, you asked me because people might know that I got a certain interest in forests and especially in the forest around Cologne. Like, in every big city there is also a nearby forest, I used to spend my free time to get inspired for my work, in a way. But normally, I'm not so much into inviting people to go there, because this is just a private space of inspiration, you know? It's nothing so public, even if it's official and everybody can go there.

RBMA

So it's really a special one when, you know, ”I'm going with Wolfgang to the forest.“

Wolfgang Voigt

You have to do a lot for it, but I don't want to tell you (laughs).

RBMA

Nevertheless, Cologne is a relatively green city due to various historical occurances, and there's been a strong fascination with Germans and their forests for quite a bit now. Now, I understand that you have been looking into that for quite a bit as well. Could you probably enlighten us what the role of the forest is in German mythology, maybe?

Wolfgang Voigt

Yeah, it's hard to say. On the one side, I've got a certain personal relationship to this, and on the other side, in cultural history in Germany, there is a certain tradition, which is well-known for coming from the romantic period of the 19th century, of course, where there is a certain romantic idea of art in pictures and in literature, which built this mood of the German forest in a way. Where people, artists, or maybe even writers find their inspiration in the fantastic way, in myths, in fairy tales, of course. Which is also represented in a certain kind of music and in a certain very serious kind of dark and even sometimes nearly depressive music. If you see, for example, the music of Wagner, which is inspired by these impressions in a way, and also some kind of litarature out of this time. In a way, it's still a living tradition. Even some musicians of today still feel inspired by this tradition, on this side, or it might be even the certain kind of German mentality. People like me, for example, from time to time feel very inspired by the surroundings combined by the idea - based on this historical tradition, on one side, and the personal impression you might have if you just walk through the forest and get inspired by these surroundings to explain your art, your music, your pictures, whatever.

RBMA

Is there some chance already to get something, get to listen to something that's inspired by the forest?

Wolfgang Voigt

Yeah, should be. I think I got the example of this for you here. It's, of course, the release under the name of Gas, which is missing one record. Where is it? Ah, OK. Here it is. You can see there is also a forest build-in structure on the sleeve, which is also the idea to show the visual side of the forest in a way of the electronic loop thinking and structural thinking. This is a track, called "Zauberberg", which is a reference to a book of a well known writer Thomas Mann.

(music: Gas – Zauberberg)

(comments over music) OK, music is coming. Sounds great. OK, I go a bit more ahead. This has, of course, a techno downbeat under the bass drum just as the only reference to techno, and on top there is also natural-based classical sounds, mixed from samples from composers, from the late 19th century. Which also had been inspired at a time when the composer's music also came from certain kinds of German fairy tales, German moods, and the German forest, of course.

(music: Gas – Zauberberg continues)

To make a long story a little bit more short, everybody can imagine that this track is very long, so we might have made some explanations in between.

(applause)

Thank you. There might be two main interesting things to say about this music. Everybody might have heard that on top of the well-known bass drum and the bassline, there are some classical sounds, classical strings, and harmonies in full length on top of this music. The one point why it's so remarkable, why these strings are so much ahead, is to make clear the difference between this kind of music and, let's say, classical ambient music. For example, like Brian Eno or Kraftwerk, because for me, it is very important to understand that the idea behind this is to imagine that the club and the forest is something that comes together. You should imagine that there is a club situation, we all might know from the dancefloor, there is fog, you know? There is only some less light and you can't really see what it is. What I want to combine here is the idea of getting lost somewhere in the forest with no certain address, you know? Somewhere between trees and leaves and combine this with the idea or the impression you might have when you used to go to dark techno clubs. And for me, it's important to say that it's the idea to combine electronic beats and real, old classical music. Not just ambient – so, no electronics, no keyboards - it's real samples, you know, and it's the idea to bring the forest into the disco, or the other way around, whatever. To merge it in a very special and fantastic way.

RBMA

Now, you're taking this whole concept live and you already did in Leipzig. Well, tonight there is another occasion, which is slightly different.

Wolfgang Voigt

Yeah, it's really different. Me and my wonderful video companion and artist Petra Hollenbach, who is sitting over there, did a wonderful animation of the visual side of my Gas project, which she made into one and a half hour video, which hopefully everybody will like. We got a chance with this wonderful invitation, to play tonight in Park Güell, of course, here in Barcelona. Which is first of all, definitely not a typical place where you imagine this project Gas might be shown, might be happening - because normally it's a total contradiction, you know? It's a hall, it has columns and it's stone, it's not wood, it's not a forest. But in a way it's wonderful, because these columns, you might think, if the visual side will work and if we have a wonderful projection on them, it might hopefully look like a forest tonight. It's interesting to find out how this show, this music, this whole atmosphere, and, of course, the pictures might work in this venue.

RBMA

Nevertheless, Gaudi was one of these architects that put great emphasis, like a 150 years before it became fashionable, to build environmentally friendly and to integrate nature in the building, as weird as it may seem, especially when you live in Cologne.

Wolfgang Voigt

Sorry, once again?

RBMA

Especially, when you live in Cologne, like architecture-wise, there is this thought of integrating nature into man-made structures, in a way.

Wolfgang Voigt

Yeah? You think this is very representative in Cologne?

RBMA

No, not at all, that's what I mean.

Wolfgang Voigt

(laughs) OK, yeah. Yeah, it is hard to say. It depends on what you make out of it. I don't see so much contradiction between architecture and nature. I see these borders flowing in a way, you know? Not that hard, like black and white. Even in this music, for me, it's nice and it's very serious sometimes in the same moment. It's friendly, but it's also tired, sometimes in the same moment. This is the same contradiction in the material you use, or the projection you use, so for me it's what I see, what I make out of it.

RBMA

How do you deal with time during these kind of tracks? 'Cause they do take a little bit of space.

Wolfgang Voigt

Hmm, you mean the length of the tracks? This music is meant to be very, yeah, let's say hypnotic? Narcotic, in a way. It takes its time, and you as a listener should have the time to listen to it. The question is interesting, because people might know, of course, I am coming from techno and techno used to get faster in the ’90s, harder, you know? The patterns went shorter and shorter, in a way, and people lose their passion even more and need more information and the music goes faster and faster and this goes back to a very relaxed tradition of music, which is really hypnotic, it's relaxed and it takes time. Normally, it doesn't make sense to step through these kind of records. Normally, you should start at the beginning and listen to the end and then you might know what it's all about. But I don't think we have 15 minutes per side to find this out.

RBMA

At the same time you're using very little elements in there, but at the same time it's a pretty maximal sound. I mean, there is not much space left in the frequency spectrum in it.

Wolfgang Voigt

Yeah, it's filled. It's minimal and it's maximum at the same time. I think, it's very overloaded minimal, if you like. It's minimal in that way, because it's just a few little elements and the beat - as long as there is a beat, not all these tracks have beats - are going on and on, without too many breaks or variations, or whatever, on top there is very elegaic soundscapes running through, which build their own structures, ’cause I let them run in a way, but only in a certain frame. I control this, because I want to fill the whole room. It shouldn't be transparent in the end, but minimal at the same time.

RBMA

Back to the reference points. When the Romans came first to Germany, who actually founded Cologne, they wrote about all barbarians sitting in the trees and waiting to give them a good beating. The trees and the woods, that's all we had for centuries literally.

Wolfgang Voigt

Most of the time, yeah.

RBMA

And it became a little bit more prominent when you said the romantic idea was also to create something bigger, a little bit more unifying thing and it was a certain longing, Sehnsucht is the German word, which is a very strong feeling. It's almost like it was the nations’ puberty, in a way, as far as culture goes. I mean, to a certain degree, you could see parallels between that and what touches people when they start listening to music at age ten, twelve or whatever. Where did you find parallels there?

Wolfgang Voigt

It's hard to say. First of all, it's right what you say, like we already said earlier, that in German tradition and culture there is that certain longing, what certain people think they might find in the forest in a way. But I don't think that we invented this. It's just every people all over the world, you know? They've got their relationship to their kind of nature and any artist all over the world might some day walk through their natural environment and get inspired by trees, or by the ocean, if you like, or by mountains, or whatever. It might be that especially in Germany, such a strong, worldwide well-known tradition, even in literature or in pictures, that's very popular to bring this motive of the forest, this idea and this mood into art. I cannot say if even the younger generations, or whatever, that the tradition is going on, that they all go back to this point feeling inspired by this. What I found out - when I re-released this music, which is mainly around ten years old and it has been released half a year ago again - that it was really great to see a lot of very young people, around 18 to 20, compared to my age, they get into this music and they really like it and they take it and understand it - as far as I can see - as it is what it is, what it's meant to be. Which is a good surprise, if you think of the way people, especially young people listen to music today. If you think of MySpace, youtube, you wouldn't combine that first of all with this kind of music. But it's definitely also happening there, and as far as I understand, they really get into it and they understand it in their wonderful new way.

RBMA

Speaking of wonderful new ways, going back to youth and youthful things, there is a certain parallel in the motives that drove what is happening here (nods to the turntable), and in the same way the stuff that you listened to when you were a teenager, right? Or what were you listening to as a teenager in the first place?

Wolfgang Voigt

Oh, yeah. I listened to every kind of music. It's just for my age, it's a typically long way through the music history. I started listening to and I got educated with german folk music on the one side, glam rock on the other in the early ’70s and then I go via rock music, I came to jazz. I used to listen to jazz music, later to free jazz music and then I got in touch with new wave and pop music, electronic pop music in the ’80s, before I fell in love with acid house music and techno in the late ’80s. Since then, even still, even the techno is around 20-years old, for me, it's still the bass drum [which] is steady and it has never changed. And especially the tradition of techno music, music based on four-to-the-floor bass drum took half of my music life meanwhile.

RBMA

I mean, do you have any idea of how many records you actually did?

Wolfgang Voigt

No. There are some guys around on MySpace, they know. I don't know. Not really. A lot. Maybe because I made most of them in the fast times in the ’90s when we all were very inspired, you know? And we were very wild, too, you did a lot of records, which you're happy you have forgotten today, so this might be the reason, yeah. Too much, I guess!

RBMA

I mean, we tried to count at least different acronyms or pseudonyms that you used and the different identities and even there we got past 20, easily. And, I mean, technically that would mean...

Wolfgang Voigt

Do you know them all?

RBMA

God, I'm not from Russia.

Wolfgang Voigt

OK.

RBMA

Yeah there are some enthusiasts around the world who know them all, but that means, if we would just like to present them all, every single one of them for like three minutes, we would be done [for time], just without any talking.

Wolfgang Voigt

Time would be over.

RBMA

Yeah.

Wolfgang Voigt

Yeah, but it might not be neccesery to show the whole musical spectrum and the variations I did on this music. I would say like five might be enough to show a relevant spectrum of what I did. There are also lots of funny new names, which not only I used, but also of my friends. In the ’90s, it was like using pseudonyms or anonyms, identities, which might be really nice and funny even, if you like, for just a few weeks, or just for two releases and then they're gone. The good thing at this time was that you didn't need to create big identities, you know, just like if you feel you want to make this kind of music now, you know? We learned in the ’90s that some kind of musical ideas, or trends or whatever, might only be interesting for a few weeks and then something new should come. Today, I would say this is different again. It's going back to more solid and more longer terms of ideas of using music, but in the ’90s the short term was also interesting.

RBMA

But despite the short terms, all those identities were pretty defined. Like, you could pretty much differentiate, ”Oh, this is rather a Mike Ink track, or a Studio 1 track,“ or something.

Wolfgang Voigt

Yeah, of course. Maybe the difference is, let's say, fast-working and inspired young techno producers, that some of them might use like ten different names and do ten different records, but they all sound the same. They've all only got different names. In my case, it was like I felt really inspired by this music - and also this easy kind of production makes me very fast working in a good way, you know? But I always tried to make a real difference between a project and a name. Of couse, like you say, Gas is something different to Studio 1, as you mentioned, for example. You can't really compare this. There is only one thing that has the same information, which is the bass drum. The rest is different.

RBMA

Do you have an example, which is as contrary to this as possible?

Wolfgang Voigt

Of course. This is something very different, more fun. You can dance if you like - you look like you want to!

(music: Studio 1 – unknown)

As you see, it's totally different to the example before.

(applause)

Thank you very much. But it's also very on-going music, you know? It's very minimal, so I guess everyone can imagine it's going on like this more or less. So we might stop it here to go on with the discussion.

RBMA

I mean, Studio 1 came at an interesting point in time as well. What made you do it, in short?

Wolfgang Voigt

Well, this record is from '96, and this was, exactly like you say, it was a very interesting and inspiring time. The mid-’90s, where most of the main things I did and some of my friends did and other people also did, was happening these days, because music was changing very much in Germany. Techno was the big thing in the mid-’90s and all kinds of people from other cultures, rock culture, independent culture, even from the art scene, they came into techno because they felt inspired. Five years later, of course, like the normal techno kid already was from the early ’90s, but it was a great moment, because interesting people and interesting inspiration came in and yeah, techno gets popular and pop in a good way, these days. Because a lot of, let's say, good and interesting people from different scenes were coming to this music. When this came up it was one of the very early examples of making techno really minimal. Until this point techno was very hard and it was already communicated as some kind of minimal and very simple music, but it was not that much minimal. Here, it was a certain kind of also the arty idea of bringing down, the main techno idea to bring it down to its very basics. To try to invent a music which had as less variation as possible. To strip it down even to the bass drum and rebuild the whole architecture of techno and what we know about techno after the mid-’90s was basically very small and very minimal samples and mostly from very unknown samples - because it's not interesting anymore and it's stripped down to the most minimal way these days. Because there has been no names, no sleeves, even no titles for the tracks. It was just the whole language, the whole secret language of this kind of music, which started working worldwide in the mid-’90s, was just the most minimal loop information - which was as little information as possible. It was the maximum and the minimum at the same time. And it was, of course, a certain kind of aesthetic, which was very, very strong and tough, which has something to do with very minimal architecture, in a way, you know? And at this point the glamourous side of this music, the popular side, which makes people dance in clubs to this and, let's say, the more intellectual arty side, if you want, has come together at the historical point and this was the interesting thing at this time. When me and some other people started doing this kind of music, which later got very popular in thousands of variations under the meaning known as minimal techno - which I have to say is the leading club music meanwhile worldwide, because like the most of you might know, most techno is working very basically, without any vocals, without any information, just sound. Little noises and structures. Which people understand, meanwhile.

RBMA

Yeah, it's a pretty archaic, not a ritual, but an archaic mechanism, I guess.

Wolfgang Voigt

Yeah, it was meant to be as pure as possible. Me, for example, I had an idea to make it as radical as possible. Until the mid-’90s, techno was getting louder, harder, faster, bigger and even less transparent. And then there was a point when it didn't go much more ahead and you had to go somewhere and the idea was to strip it down back again to the basic information, which is four- to-the-floor bass drum, nothing else. And then to rebuild very carefully and control every sound. Just one hi-hat, one clap, one sound, nothing less. The idea was not to use more than three ingredients. If there would come a fourth element, then you've done something wrong. You have to tell them an interesting story in about ten minutes, with just three ingredients. Like, let's say, very minimal soup, which needs only three ingredients, in a way. My idea was to find something like the beautiful art of nothing, or the art of leaving out, if you understand. The art of being really minimal.To explain a story, a full surrounded story with nearly no elements. The interesting thing was to make this music funky and working and danceable with what you have not said in your music and not what you put on it - more than what you leave out.

RBMA

A term you coined at the time was ”die Endeuphorisierung des Tanzbodens“, which translates like 'the de-euphorising the dancefloor', or something like that.

Wolfgang Voigt

What you meant was I think some ideas we had at this time, were to leave out the certain kind of too much hysteric energy of the dancefloor. To make funkyness more mathematic, in a way. Not so much like beating on the drum until everybody is tired. Like, leaving out, like being very organised. It was more like smart techno, like staying cool. It was cool and it was danceable, but it was more like finger snapping - it was not so much hands in the air and it was not even sweaty anymore. This is what I meant at this time, but it was just a beginning of an idea. I am happy to say that the direction that this music takes was very much after this time, it was very much euphoric again and today people really get hysteric to very minimal music. Just to the bass drum and one noise, and this for me is the main information on techno with really nothing, just signals that only a few people might understand on the dancefloor, you have so much effect on it and feedback, of course.

RBMA

A lot of your work is about dealing with contradictions and living through paradoxes. There is always like antagonism to the one thesis and trying to somehow find out what is in the middle.

Wolfgang Voigt

Yeah, of course. Someone said that the most constant thing in my work is a contradiction, in a way. This is why I used so many project names, because you're searching for something, maybe in music or in art and when you find it, then you got it. And then you have to stay away from it and look for something else, even the opposite to make this musical idea more clear. And so this is contradiction is also a style element, in a way. This, for example, is very minimal and transparent. When you did it, directly after you might look for something which is the opposite, which is really not transparent. It's really fat and big, because the contradiction between the flanging inbetween, if you like, is an interesting thing, you know? You're looking for something and sometimes what you search for is not exactly on the point when you try to find somewhere beside, you know? I would explain it like, you're looking for certain rules, the moment you find these rules, you break them and then it's interesting enough, because then it's wild again. You've got an idea what you're looking for, but then you're looking for a certain point when you don't understand it really anymore. And then it's interesting. So sometimes, the main truth to a certain idea in art for me is beside off the middle. It's not exactly that. When I said: ”I'm looking for the absolutely black, or the total beat,“ then it's the only way to search for it that is the interesting thing. When you find it, you got it and then it is not interesting anymore. So you keep this in motion. There is a kind of 'doing a documentary' of the way you're searching for [something]. What I want to show is not what I found, but what I'm looking for, what I'm searching for. So this is always on the way. It is never there, because this is much more interesting. It keeps you alive, in a way.

RBMA

Another one of these eternal quests is, you can call it 'Mensch Maschine' or electronic funk, or this whole dichotomy between having this calculated thing and the funk soul aspect, which is rather the total opposite of it. Now, how are you dealing with those two poles?

Wolfgang Voigt

Both sides, of course, have their truth. When you say the 'Mensch Maschine', for example, we all think of Kraftwerk, which is very quantised machine music with not so much human elements. For example, if you use references from funk music or from music, which is so-called human touch, the interesting thing is to combine it and to make machines human in a way. So combining means, you got today modern music software, you got a lot of buttons that you have to push and then you got a certain kind of human touch. It makes you swing, or it makes you boogie, or whatever, and it's really groovy, but it's not really human. The good idea of using the tradition of techno and using the machines, is always to misuse these machines. To animate them to make mistakes, then it might get funky in a way, it might get groovy. Of course, one thing is that a lot of this kind of music is based on samples. Samples from other peoples records, from other peoples music, which is hand-made and really grooves and has this typically human touch. And if you combine it with this music, it still has this human touch. But at the end you have to have this feeling, you have to have this groove. You understand, while you do it, you know? It's even there if you listen to music in clubs - you feel inspired to dance on certain tracks or you don't. It depends. It's just feeling.

RBMA

Now, as this music emerged at different places of the planet at around the similar time, for many of the people that started getting into music in the late ’80s or the early ’90s, they were looking very much towards Chicago and to Detroit - and who ironically enough were looking very much into Europe for what they're doing. So, how did you find your spot on that map?

Wolfgang Voigt

In the late ’80s until this music was invented, of course mainly in Chicago and Detroit, later in Berlin and so on, there was a very fast move worldwide. You know, techno was a language, which was very fast getting all over the world and people played back their ideas. There might be a certain record coming from Detroit, which might have been listened to by somebody in Berlin, who felt inspired by this and so on, and back again. It's really ironically in the late ’80s there was like a lot of people, me too, for example, we really were inspired and impressed, for example, by Chicago acid or Detroit techno, you know? And when you met these people first, who were responsible for this music, they even were impressed by what we did, or some people did in Germany or in England, for example. It was really interesting and it was the time, when music runs forward that fast, that the history was not fast enough to give the right... - how can I explain that? - there was not enough time to bring all these categories together carefully where it comes from. You know, because it was very fast. There came out so many records in those days, that it took some time later to find out where the roots of something might be, where was it coming from. We used to say at this time that techno is very new, radical, a non-verbal international language, where certain identities, or even pop-star identities, or even a certain kind of language, or even nationality, is not necessary any more. There is only musical information, and either you like it, or you don't like it. Or you understand it or you don't. It was not important so much anymore, because these kind of friendly machines, where we used to produce it, gave a lot of people in a very good and democratic way that chance to produce this music, as long as they feel it and as they feel inspired and they got a certain kind of musical talent, of course.

RBMA

I mean, obviously after listening to glam rock, etc., which is just a little bit about the main ego there on stage that totally buries it all, there is something, as you said, pretty radical about this stand of taking the persona totally back and creating some sort of avatar character that just acts so that you just have some sort of information to differentiate things.

Wolfgang Voigt

Yeah, yeah. Until techno, in pop history it was really necessary to understand the instrument and to have a certain identity, to have a certain knowledge, and you have to build an image, and you have to convince a mighty record company what you did to bring out the record. You know, with techno it changed radically, because people start with really less money and easy alternative, radical, and anarchic ways to produce their music. They don't care anymore about what people said. They just did it on their own, they press a thousand records, you know, which started to get affordable at these days and so this makes the music market very wide, wild, and radical and makes all these old structures not necessary anymore. You don't need companies, or some big guys in the record industry, who will tell you that your musical idea is worth bringing out or not. They just did it and this freed a lot of people all over the world and inspired people: "Hey, this is really great, I can do this on my own," you know? And it makes an idea of the free-flowing inspiration of art in a way which has never been like this before. You know, just because the production is getting easier, getting more alternative, and most of all people don't care so much about sales anymore, they just want to do this music, no matter if they get their money back or not. Fun was much more important than, let's say, selling records, or whatever. And this was really good for the music.

RBMA

Nevertheless, the market was big enough so that all these different characters somehow could afford at least to press the record, more or less. Nevertheless, sales were big enough that if certain characters pressed the record, even in small amounts, it was enough to go and do the next one.

Wolfgang Voigt

Yeah, it was just a non-profit thing, it was just because of the music. You know, you could be happy if the money you spent on the record you did maybe let's say last month comes back to afford the next one.

RBMA

Obviously, you had to learn a lot of these things, as far as the production process goes. Can you still recall the tribulations of pressing your first one or two records?

Wolfgang Voigt

The first one was really an adventure, yeah. When we started producing our own records in the very early ’90s, at the beginning it was a bit more like an adventure, you know? I remember we had to do it all on our own, do the mastering and go to the certain pressing plants and it was, yeah, it was a lot of jobs to do in the early beginning. But it started getting easier because there were structures built very soon in the early ’90s - even distribution, production plants, and studios, which made it a lot easier, because there was a certain kind of worldwide alternative market started, which made all these things possible. In the beginning it might be a bit difficult, you have to learn a few things to do this all on your own, because before there was a lot of people between you, your music, and the production of music. And then you start doing it all on your own. But it was a very fast thing, that people learnt these days and just with a little bit of knowledge and a little bit of strength and power, you could do it on your own.

RBMA

I do sense a bit of euphemism in there, because I mean, you kind of refined it to a stage where even in this building the people that haven't ever heard consciously one of your records would know about Kompakt as a label, or Kompakt as the mini empire. Now, it's kind of a harsh reality, that in this independent market, you have to put in a lot of effort to get to a certain stage, and then, as soon as you get to a bottom minimum, where you can live off it, like all the haters are coming down on you again. And you're like: ”Oh, hang on, we're just trying to give people jobs here in a way with what they're doing.“ Can you take us in like a short installment of the process of how you learned to integrate all these things in your own house, literally.

Wolfgang Voigt

Yeah, when you first see yourself as an artist, or as a musician, and then at a certain point things happen that we spoke about and you make a decision to produce - to make your music free, to produce on your own, take your own risks and try to involve as less people as possible in the production and even in the outside of music – yeah, then one day you have to make a decision and then you make your first tries and then you build your first labels, of course. Let's say, we, me and my partners, my friends, we have been involved in this music since the very beginning, so we have always set up the parallel to the whole movement at the very beginning. And it was in a very natural way we built up our own label, our own company. And step by step we built all these departments because we found out it's really better to do it on your own and not to involve too many people. Because it's easier, because you got a very hard break-even point of those kind of productions. So less people involved, the better it goes to protect your production and even your money, if you like. And so you slowly build up your record company in a way and start thinking about the business side of these things because you have to be organised, otherwise you can not afford to do your own music. So you have to get in contact, or to build certain structures even of marketing, of publishing, of licensing and all these things which might sound also boring, in a way, because these was all these points that you want to run away from, because you don't want to get in touch with so many music business people, you want to do music. On the other side, you have to learn on the point that you have to do these things and to learn these things in a certain way, even in another way, like generations before, an alternative way - just to survive in this music. And in the ’90s when this music got popular and DJ culture was really big, and vinyl gets a strong market and there was a worldwide DJ and dance market coming up, we have been lucky to be a part of it, with our special Cologne department and our Cologne idea. We've been involved in the international techno from the very beginning, but we always had this idea to find our own sound in the borders of techno. We always said there is a typically Berlin sound, Detroit sound, Chicago sound, why shouldn't there be a Cologne sound? So for us, especially for me, it was important to invent a known slang in this international music language techno, we tried to find our what we call 'Cologne slang'. Like others found their Frankfurt slang, or the Detroit slang, or whatever. And at the end we found out that was the best what we could do because people really mentioned that we didn't try to copy other peoples music, or not to try to sound like Detroit, or whatever. We tried to take this wonderful inspiration, we took this ball coming from Detroit and kicked it back with a certain kind of Cologne attitude or whatever. And this brings us a good feedback and real respect from the other side of the world. So this is, I guess, why labels could work, when they find their own style, their strategy and their own kind of music.

RBMA

Can you recall certain key moments when you understood, like: ”OK, there is no sense trying to be Juan Atkins or, god knows, Larry Heard - but I can do only Wolfgang“?

Wolfgang Voigt

Yeah, for me as an artist, I went to discotheques, I went to galleries and I felt inspired. As an artist, you need inspiration, of course. You get into clubs, you listen to something and with this idea of the last night you go into studio the next day - but yeah, it depends. There are a lot of techno producers who really are brilliant in sounding like this one, or that one, and they're doing it in a good way. And it is also possible in techno to work like this, but for me it was always the other way around. I never had an idea to copy anybody's music in that way. Of course, there is a certain sound, there are rules, there are certain kind of instruments. If you use an 808, for example, a drummachine, or you use a certain machine, like whatever, like a 303 or today, if you use Ableton, if you like, of course, there are similarities in the sound. If you take the same sound, of course, you sound like somebody else. But it is not important that there are certain elements in the music, which sound like somebody else, it's important what comes on top. What is your own part in your music, what do you make out of it? Also, it's not important who you sample, it's important what you make out of this sample. I'm happy to say that in techno, there are a lot of people who might not really understand this in a full way, but they understand by heart that there is something very special in this music, that somebody has their own idea in their own musical language. But this was not a strategy I might have someday or for somebody else, it's just my nature, you know?

RBMA

Now, people do learn generally a lot through emulating things, and so as a good German, you now and then try doing music that moves you in the hip region isn't exactly our most nature-given thing. I mean, Germans by nature aren't the funkiest people on the planet.

Wolfgang Voigt

Of course not, no.

RBMA

 If you look at the body of your work, you dealt with it quite offensively and went through like very particular elements that are as far away from the funk as possible and try to incorporate them into a dancefloor scenario. Can you elaborate a little bit on that?

Wolfgang Voigt

Funkyness is a very special thing. We had, also in the ’90s again, we had a lot of discussion about...

RBMA

Damn those ’90s, oh God!

Wolfgang Voigt

Damn those ’90s, like, what is funky? Funky is a certain kind of rhythm and feeling, of course. First of all, funk is black music, coming out of the disco tradition from the late ’70s, but it's just to explain a certain kind of groove. You can be funky with machines, of course. Today you got plug-in’s with certain patterns - they're funky, because the software is programmed like that, you know? So it's hard to say where is the border of being funky. Of course, a lot of my music has been funky in a way, or people thought it was funky. There is a lot of ways of being funky, you know? It's hard to say - still the bass drum is steady and it's very mathematic. There are more mathematic, let's say, more German groove ideas like we might know from Kraftwerk, for example, combined with funkiness. If you just scratch around with beats and listen to it, then you see if you co-operate with the sample and your machines right, then it might get funky very fast just by accident, or by influencing or pushing machines to make certain kinds of mistakes. So grooves get laid back and so we are very fast into funky music, which does not mean, for example, me like not funky, normal German, I play bass - educated like a funky bass player from, you know, from the human side here. It's combined with machines.

RBMA

Nevertheless, this is probably an interesting point, not everyone learned to play jazz in somewhere near the southern states near the Mississippi, or the blues, or whatever, and most of us here come from somewhere else where the music that they idealise is actually coming from. What are the tactics in doing you and putting your own influences and your own identities in there?

Wolfgang Voigt

Yeah, with sampling, for example, with the production way of sampling, you can use the whole music history in a way - even, if you like, in a respect-less way. Like, a big supermarket where everything is available. Of course, we all are influenced and educated by English and American pop music from the ’70s and ’80s, and these were the main influences, of course. In the end, when you start doing your own music, me, for example, I never tried to be like my idols from the ’70s or ’80s, or whatever. As you already said, I tried to combine it with my own ideas and tried to mix traditions and styles and also I always tried to mix contradictions. For example, let's say funky-based music, coming from disco music from the ’80s or ’70s combined with, let's say, even with German SchlagerorVolksmusik, which inspired me to combine the music which is normally forbidden to combine, or it might be a certain contradiction, which you might not understand.

RBMA

You would need to elaborate on Schlager or Volksmusik because they're probably not the most well-known terms around the world.

Wolfgang Voigt

Not the most well-known terms, yeah, of course, yeah. I heard that the term Schlager or the term Kitsch, for example, is a very well-known term. Yeah, it is typically German language- based pop music, which my parents used to listen to. I don't know what an English world is for Schlager because I understand why this term is not existing in a way in the international music language. Even, let's say, like marching music or maybe like polka music, or folk music, even though the influences might not fit techno or funky music, but for me from time to time it was interesting to combine these tendencies, which are

RBMA

On the interesting side...

Wolfgang Voigt

How would you explain German Schlager music to the people?

RBMA

I think, it's not really...

Wolfgang Voigt

Unfortunately, I have no listening examples of this kind of music, which I might play to you.

RBMA

But I guess it's probably, I don't know, adult pop music, in a way?

Wolfgang Voigt

Sorry, what?

RBMA

It's probably adult pop music in a way. It's pop music for people that aren't into youth culture.

Wolfgang Voigt

It's pop music for your grandmother, you know?

RBMA

The interesting thing is, I mean, obviously it's hugely popular and Saturday night shows are filled with it, and interestingly enough, the steady bass drum, the electronic steady bass drum rules supreme in that genre these days. You can't listen to any of those Volksmusik shows on TV without getting electronically produced beats in there.

Wolfgang Voigt

Yeah, well, meanwhile the four-to-the-floor bass drum, it's existing in any kind of music, even in trivial ways of music and into strange entertainment music, you know? And what we call beer-tent music, for example, and for drinking hymns and whatever, it's all based on a certain kind of techno. Even the worst and strangest and most trivial things are based on techno beats. Not all of these tendencies are really worth listening to, but some I found are not so uninteresting, in a way, because it also shows how far techno has gone meanwhile.

RBMA

That’s probably a good way to come back to Studio 1 and some of your older productions. Those were, to a certain degree, almost a political statement, as well as for that little irritation for years people have been fighting to make techno a major force in popular culture. And all of a sudden there it was, so popular, from those Saturday night evening shows to a million people at Love Parade and walking tampons and giant inflatable mobile phones and all these atrocities. That was like: ”Hang on! Is this really what we want?“ So before, there was this almost political element to reducing it to strobe light, the fog machine and the bass drum, in a way.

Wolfgang Voigt

Yeah, I've always felt that we have to see that every musical trend has to move forward in a way to stay interesting. On the one side, of course, techno comes from very underground. It was very pure, minimal for a certain kind of so-called well-known people, or the ones that have been there. It was very alternative, minimal, radical, and at the beginning it was just strobe lights, bass drum and a few people and then it's getting more and more popular. I would say, when the direction techno takes, when it gets more into pop music and it gets to a very, even into Love Parade, to a million people dancing on the street to techno. In the very beginning for me it was a good direction, because it was the music we stand for and it was good to see how popular it could get. Of course, the more popular any music trend gets, you know, the more problems come. The more people get involved, also the more silly people maybe get involved, of course. But after all these years when techno has been very commercial, it has also shown very strange and, let's say, very ugly sides of getting popular, it still exists, for me it's not new anymore, but it's still the most important kind of dance music worldwide. I think that techno is still very fast, still able to get back to its roots again and again - to get stripped down back to the underground, to the basic only, to the bass drum and invent itself new every few years. Not that it's much anymore like in the early years, of course, but if you see other musical trends tendencies, like I don't know, rock music , or whatever, they never been refreshing and getting underground again and again like it is with techno music. That's my feeling. Normally, after 20 years, a musical trend is definitely dead and it's only established. Techno for me is established on one side, but it's still the most radical dance music available. This might be only because there is nothing new really which comes instead. Normally, after a trend, the next trend comes. For me, in the musical history, techno was the last cultural trend which mobilised a lot of people worldwide. And so at the moment we got to the point that it's not new anymore in a way, and there might be a lot of people who stay away meanwhile, but there is nothing newer available. There is no alternative. I like to say after techno always comes techno.

RBMA

So jumping 12 years back to the first Studio 1 releases, you're quoted as saying: ”After six years of producing music technically and aesthetically everything is said and done - it's just about the refining it.“ Now, this is 12 years later, so twice the time...

Wolfgang Voigt

At this point you mentioned, for me after a few years of getting really inspired from a lot of records and a thousand variations, there was a point that from my side everything was said and done in this music. Which does not mean that I was not interested anymore, it was just that I wanted to stop my career, [or my] creativity in a way and fix on another point. And I got interested in the marketing side and starting building up the label and the business side, which was also a big chance. And it was interesting for me after years of only doing music, getting a bit more organised. Also pushing a lot of young artists, young producers, which surrounded me in these days and sent out wonderful inspiring demos, most was based on this kind of tradition in the kind of new techno music, which I wanted to do like this, because I felt like I'd already did it. Also, I found enough fresh energy and fresh ideas in younger peoples' techno productions, which I, me and my friends decided to push and to bring forward and to release on our label Kompakt, in Cologne. And for a few years, I concentrated just on creating a certain frame, a platform for other peoples music, but it still was techno and it still was progressing and it was still coming up with new ideas from fresh young producers. Even, if it was only a new generation of software and a new generation of the way they produce, there was still enough things to say. It was not that glamourous anymore and not that radical and new and revolutionary like it has been years before - but it was still the most revolutional option we might have. Because for me it was never the question to go back to jazz or to rock music.

RBMA

Did you at any stage or [was there a] moment where you thought like, ’Oh damn, I used to be Mike Ink, the producer, and now I have to be Wolfgang, the business person’?

Wolfgang Voigt

As we said already before, my career has been full of contradictions so it was not really difficult for me. I could combine this all in one person, all under one roof. So it was really not a problem.

RBMA

But earlier, when you started elaborating on this, I saw a few alarm bells going off, like: "Damn I want to be a producer. I want to be at my studio, doing my thing and, ahhh, contracts, excel sheets, all that stuff - can someone else please take care of this?“

Wolfgang Voigt

No. At a certain point, yes. After all, I've done this and I found out how to handle excel sheets and statements and whatever you want and I fell in love with the bureaucratic side of music. It was really interesting for me for a certain time, because I handled it in away like art. In a way, for me it was like... Yeah, I did it with the same energy I used to do my music. Before I used to handle these more boring things and all these excel things, like you say. Until a certain point, every period needs its certain time. I really felt inspired and had to say a lot of these things, it was fun with my friends to build these companies, these structures - and on top of this - give a lot of people the chance and the platform to bring out their wonderful music. But then a certain time comes, when I said now it's enough. Meanwhile I was surrounded by good people, who supported and helped me like it is in the traditional companies - they get bigger and there are people who might come in and do this job much better than you, organising all this paper work and other stuff, which gives me the chance to follow my upcoming feeling again to get back to my creativity and get back to my music. When the break was long enough, your creativity comes back and your ideas come back and the need and the strength and the power to go back to your own music. When it's strong enough it finds a way and then there is only one way to go back to your music.

RBMA

When you've ever found yourself surrounded by businessmen or in one room full of businessmen, you'd be surprised how many times you hear the word ”creative“. And everyone is like an artist in there. Can you run a company creatively?

Wolfgang Voigt

Of course, of course, business and creativity for me is no contradiction. It goes very well together. I've been always very creative while also being a business man, you know? Because this is where my energy comes from, you know? I never started being interested in some sort of business thing and it was never my main goal just to rule a successful company, just for business, or just for money, you know? I would say, yes, we have been successful in what we did - because we said music comes first and then comes money. Of course, it's important if you want to have a free and successful company, you have to understand some certain business things, of course, it's important. But it's not the main thing. The main thing is to understand music and to understand how to handle music.

RBMA

Can you probably give us an idea of the way we are now? Take us on the virtual tour through that building that the people on the streets of Cologne call ”Der Bunker“.

Wolfgang Voigt

”Der Bunker“?

RBMA

Yeah.

Wolfgang Voigt

You mean from the business side, from our building.

RBMA

No, let's just say we open the door, what are the things have we got under one roof?

Wolfgang Voigt

Under one roof. What have we got? Yeah, we got our wonderful company Kompakt, of course, which is for Cologne more or less a wonderful big building in the centre of Cologne. Yeah, what he says by "all under one roof" is that we live and work and eat and produce and sell, or whatever, our idea of music. Which means that we got our wonderful record shop downstairs and the distribution, where we handle all the physical techno market with records and CDs. We got a big creative floor on the first floor with all our offices, with all our departments, booking and licensing, label work, artwork. All these things. Production. Yeah, and then we got a wonderful communication at the second floor, where we got our kitchen, where we all come together around like 20 people, who are working for us, in our still alternative music company. Yeah, on top of the roof, we got our living areas, of course - more like a factory. I would say a factory, where living and working comes together, without any certain borders and in the basement we got our top secret production studios where we still try to invent new music all the time.

RBMA

It looked like someone was trying to break into those studios ’cause I think for about two years there were big diggers constantly, right in front of the building.

Wolfgang Voigt

Yeah, we had to do a lot to build the studios, because the architectural situation was very difficult and we had to fix some certain laws with the government, because we had to build some strange things to get allowed to build. The laws you need, especially in Cologne, are very strict and very hard.

RBMA

So at that stage had you ever have any moments when you were like: ”Oh, gosh!“?

Wolfgang Voigt

Yes, of course. I had more than one time. Sometimes it was really too big, it's too much work and too much unnecessary work. But when it's done, you know why you did it and then you feel well.

RBMA

OK, but in the second when you can't really see that it will ever be done, how do you keep going on?

Wolfgang Voigt

When you’re stuck in the middle of this production process and you see the big diggers standing in front of you, saying like: ”Hey, what have you done? Is this techno anymore?“ But, yeah, you started and then you get to the middle then you just have to do it.

RBMA

Now that studio is finally done, who are you sharing your rooms with?

Wolfgang Voigt

Yeah, I share my room, or we share our rooms, of course, first of all, with our in-house producers at Kompakt in Cologne, which is of course my old colleague Jörg Burger, maybe somebody might know him from his production The Modernist. My brother Reinhard, Michael Mayer, of course, and a guy called Superpitcher that somebody might know, we're all stuck together in the studios, downstairs in the basement. We all got our rooms and we got the center and a recording room and we got a little bar, which we need, everybody can imagine. And from time to time we got some guests, national guests and international guests, which we produce over there or produce together just get creative. And we also got real natural instruments in our studio, like real drum kits and real bass and stuff, not only computers. For hand made music.

RBMA

Yeah, there is handmade elements and there is also a little club area as well in one of the rooms.

Wolfgang Voigt

Yeah, in my room there is standing a real club PA. First of all, it's a big fun having your own discotheque in the house. This is always good when you produce music like this and, of course, you need it just for technical reasons, because you need a realistic reference. If you want to produce club music, the best thing you could do is, if you have a chance while you're producing to listen [to how] it would sound in clubs, therefore you need a club PA. And the difficult thing is when you live in the centre of a private house in the centre of a big city, you can imagine you need really special isolated rooms to rule a club PA in your rooms, because you got neighbours, you know?

RBMA

Now, Jörg Burger and you are collaborators for quite a while on and off. And I think the first time people heard about you was when people like Sven Väth and DJs in Berlin as well started to play Burger/Ink records in like, what? '91 was that?

Wolfgang Voigt

Yeah, right about '91 we had our first relevant, let's say, successful record, which really DJs, like you mentioned, they really played it. They liked it and it was like the first step in this kind of music where we both, me and Burger, were getting popular with this music, yeah.

RBMA

Getting back to the influences on how you do you, [do you] remember this great Jörg Burger quote when he talks about seeing his first 909? You know that story?

Wolfgang Voigt

Tell me.

RBMA

Ah, OK. I hoped for the first person account. But I think in essence he tried for quite a while to get certain kinds of drum sounds and a certain punch and so on and listening to records and trying to imagine, like: "Uh, what is this thing?"

Wolfgang Voigt

”How did they make this?“ Yeah, when this all started, it was really a secret how certain producers, especially for the Detroit producers, how did they do this, you know? And we were wondering in studios trying to find out what kind of machines did they use? Because it was not really known. There was not really communication around, via magazines, for example, and we couldn't read [something like]: ”OK, this producer is using this instrument,“ like you have it today. Today, if you want to know how a new producer is working, you just look through certain magazines and you know, or to his website, or whatever. But back in these days it wasn't possible. It took you a long time to find out how they used it. We tried to do this music, definitely with the wrong instruments and never sounded that good like our idols, you know? Until, of course, my friend Burger, who was much more involved in instruments and equipment in those days, he found out about legendary Roland machines like the 303 and the 909 and the first time we touched machines like this was really like getting contact with God.

RBMA

I also remember him being slightly disappointed, and like "What?"

Wolfgang Voigt

”What, that's all?”

RBMA

Yeah.

Wolfgang Voigt

Yeah, yeah. It was really this little machine that makes wonderful sound, you know? I never was interested so much in learning an instrument. It was not so much my thing and Jörg said I was too lazy to learn all these manuals and stuff. But the first time I got the 303 and I was a massive acid fan - on the first view it looks complicated, but for me it was totally clear - you have to learn this, you want to understand this machine and I did. I really got disciplined to learn this machine, it was very important. But it was the first time, the time before I used to play drums. Just these sticks and you push on the drums. It was a lot easier, you know?

RBMA

So, how long did it take you to realise, like: ”OK, we don't get that fat, booming 808 or 909 sound, but we might have something on our own that's worth something“?

Wolfgang Voigt

You mean before we got these instruments?

RBMA

Yeah.

Wolfgang Voigt

Yeah, until the moment we got them and we heard them the first time, we used to go to a studio in Belgium in those days and produce our first tracks and then...

RBMA

How did you find out about that studio in the first place?

Wolfgang Voigt

We used to work together with a German producer, who lived around the corner and he invested in our creativity and said: ”So you want to do this music?“ We gave him some demos and then he found out the right studio, which was the one in Belgium in those days and he sent us there. And then we got in touch with those legendary machines for the first time. And at the moment you pushed the buttons, you found out that you can never sound like your idols, or anybody else's record, if you don't have these machines. Because it's the only way to sound like this.

RBMA

And then, how did you find your own machines? Was it more like techniques and the way you used other things?

Wolfgang Voigt

These days, these machines would be already what we would call today vintage, you know? You have to check out the second hand market, because these machines at this time already were a few years old and the equipment market is really fast, they were already sold out. You couldn't buy them new in the shops, because they were coming from the early ’80s, from hip hop music, of course. Yeah, and then you have to check the second hand market and these instrument are getting very fast, and very expensive these days - because the guys who got these machines found out that they're very rare and popular. They don't get reproduced anymore by Roland, for example. So they get very expensive, very fast. Even more expensive in second hand than the price was when they were new.

RBMA

Now, unlike Jörg, you're not the biggest gear head in the world. How do you actually use your tools?

Wolfgang Voigt

Oh, I would say like, very anarchistic. No, it's hard to say. Normally, when I used to produce together with Jörg, he was much more into his equipment and I am lucky to say that he was the one who builds all the situations and combines the stacks and he was able to link a midi situation and all this stuff. I was always the one who came in when it was done, in a way. In the early days. Later, when we started working more with our first computers with all these early programs, like Creator, we learnt in parallel and then I got much more educated into these things.

RBMA

Speaking of education, is this probably a time to give voices a rest and listen to some Profan, for example?

Wolfgang Voigt

For example, it depends what you want to hear. I have some examples from noise to nice. Hard to say...

RBMA

Noise, nice, where do you wanna go (asks the audience)?

Wolfgang Voigt

Noise, nice? Get awake, or wanna sleep?

Participants

Noise!

Wolfgang Voigt

Noise? You wanna have a noise example? Loud noise. I'll give you something really special. (looks through his records) OK, where we got this... You know, I'm the best DJ in the world, I don't find any records. By the way, I've never been a DJ, you know? I was never able to combine music with two record players music because I'm only a producer, you know? I never understood, how they could do this. I was always impressed. OK.

RBMA

Nevertheless, you seem to favor vinyl heavily.

Wolfgang Voigt

Yeah, vinyl?

RBMA

Yeah. What did you call it, the ”king medium“?

(music: M:I:5 - unknown)

Wolfgang Voigt

You like that? Where is the master? Get awake again, don't we? It's on maximum, unfortunately (commenting on sound). If you want, you can sing - there is space enough! Ah! Now I found the right buttons - maybe I can DJ now. OK, go back to bass...

(applause)

Thank you. It's good to get awake again, isn't it?

RBMA

Yeah, Michael Mayer beware, there might be some competition in your own house now.

Wolfgang Voigt

Of course, he might get jealous.

RBMA

Um, questions, anyone?

Participant

What is that record called?

Wolfgang Voigt

That record is called M:I:5. Originally, it’s from '92, this is a repressing from '95 on the label called Auftrieb.

RBMA

How do you translate that, into English?

Wolfgang Voigt

Sorry?

RBMA

However do you translate Auftrieb into English?

Wolfgang Voigt

 Auftrieb, hmm.

RBMA

Air that lifts you up?

Wolfgang Voigt

Yes, air that lifts you up, but it's coming from somewhere else. Normally, Auftrieb on the one hand means, of course it's a German word, it means air that's moving up, it's the push from coming on, the air that's coming on. And the second meaning is when in Bavaria the [farmers] bring up the cows in spring, for the summer season, into the mountains, you know? To eat the grass. What they do this is called Auftrieb, to bring the cows up the trieb.

RBMA

So, what's M:I:5? Is it another section of the KGB or C.I.A. or?

Wolfgang Voigt

Yeah, yeah, it has two meanings. On the one side, it means Mike Ink #5, and then it's, of course, MI 5, the English secret service. I only can explain that in German its called "Maßstab eins zu fünf". It's a term out of, can you explain it? What means "Maßstab eins zu fünf"?

RBMA

It's measures, right? If you use a map, it's like something that's magnified by a ratio of five to one.

Wolfgang Voigt

Yeah, and it's coming more out of the architecture language and this record is not a good example. I'll give you one last example for something, what I mean with M:I:5 is. Under the project name M:I:5, I used to use a certain theory in music while I used to push the rhythmic sample based on the loop, just ’boof boof boof’, you know? I let it run on the original key in the original speed. And then on top of it I push the same button five notes below, from C to G.

RBMA

That's a fifth.

Wolfgang Voigt

Yes, exactly, exactly. This gives a certain kind of relation in rhythm to contradicting beats which run together and builds a new beat. And this is the relation one to five, because it needs five notes down. Now, I can give you an example for this. Might be interesting. This is what was later popular under the name abstract techno on the label Profan. This is just drum beats, combined in the measure step of five notes below, which sounds very strange, of course.

(music: M:I:5 - unknown)

What happens here is that two beats meet at the certain point; after something like five bars they meet at the point where they started. And because these drum loops have their own character, which I can not and will not influence when I sample them, they do what they want in a certain way. I just controll them very basically. But what they do, these certain kind of beats, they understand just by chance, by accident, if you like. (comments over music) One note up. OK, this is how music, M:I:5 sounds when it's only beat. Then it sounds very easy and you can understand it. The same idea, or the same method sounds like this when there’s also harmony involved.

(music: M:I:5 - unknown)

It's a bit like hip hop for people who can not dance. Of course, it's very abstract and you can imagine, not so many DJs will play this music.

(applause)

Thank you very much.

RBMA

Do we have some questions from the floor, please? Where is the mic? There is a mic.

Wolfgang Voigt

Yes?

Participant

I'm not really a great fan of techno, but I'm a great fan of house music on the whole. I was wondering if like, in terms... OK, let's look at me. I feel like the music that I make, I feel very emotional , sometimes. I was wondering, is there any particular emotion that you would describe, you feel every time when you make that music?

Wolfgang Voigt

You mean, what kind of emotion...

Participant

Yeah, what kind of emotions, yeah, yeah.

Wolfgang Voigt

I would say, I never could imagine, or I don't remember that I ever did music without any emotion, or without any emotion getting involved. It depends on what kind of emotion. I absolutely understand if anybody doesn't understand the emotional aspect of what I do, or what anybody else might do. It's a very private thing. You know, like emotion is, it's very subjective in a way. On the one side, I've got a very theoretic thing going on also. This is very much about thinking, for most of the music I did, but it never happened without any emotional side or aspect. For me, this is all full of feelings and emotions and I used to say, I never did any music without giving my heart blood into it, you know? I've never made cold music. For me. I've never listened to cold music. But, of course, this is a question of taste, you know? Even in techno music, music which might think it's cold... I will give you an example, which might be interesting. Where a lot of people might say: ”Where is the emotional side in this kind of music?“ Because there are no harmonies involved and there is nothing. It is a very radical example for a minimal track, which I think is one of the most emotional tracks I ever did and I'm known for. I guess, you might not hear what I mean, because for me in a very fantastic and emotional way, it's really nearly nothing - but in the best way you could imagine what nothing could be.

(music: Wolfgang Voigt - unknown)

You think it's emotional? OK, what do we have? It's absolutely minimal, you know? I can stop it here, because I can explain it. It's nearly like an endless loop, you know? I could really have cut it like a loop. But it's happening very rare thing. Just a little bit of emphasizing of really nothing. The ingredients are definitely cold. It's coming from a Yamaha machine. It's even not sampling, you know? So there might be a lot of reasons why we can say this has no certain warm quality. No heart, or emotion. But it's full of emotion, you know? I'm standing in this loop feeling surrounded by tons of emotions. But, of course, you have to feel it and it's a question of taste. I understand if everybody would say: ”I feel nothing with this.“ I understand. I even take it like a compliment, in a way.

Participant

Yeah, I must say, I really found it interesting that you feel very emotional in this art of nothing. I like the term that you put like the art, you know, the minimal art, you know? ’Cause you can feel it's a very solid product. To someone else it would feel very emotional, or doesn't make sense. To some people, I find people wouldn't understand my music as well. But you'd find me in a state of crying sometimes, but someone else would be like: ”Hey you're mad, you crazy.“ So, you know, yeah.

Wolfgang Voigt

Of course, I think it's really clear that it's easier to explain to people that, say, a wonderful ballad of Smokey Robinson might be more emotional on the first view, first way of feeling, than this, of course. I would agree on this, because I love ballads of Smokey Robinson, for example. But for me this is also full of the emotion, because I'm not able to produce any music, any art without an emotion. You see all these great pictures hanging around here? Which is only to isolate the acoustics. For me, they're totally warm and nice. Because I like this grey very much. It touches me. For me, it's full of emotion. And it's a question of taste, you know?

Participant

Yeah, thanks very much.

Wolfgang Voigt

You're welcome.

RBMA

Looks like good German steel.

Wolfgang Voigt

Warm steel, yeah, hehe.

Participant

Hi.

Wolfgang Voigt

Hi.

Participant

I'm not either a fan of techno music. Actually, like this last week, I've been listening to more techno and house than in my whole life. Since you talked about Kraftwerk many times, and I'm a big fan of Kraftwerk, I'd like to know why this drum pattern in the electronic music like dance music has never changed? Kraftwerk had many different patterns, like that influenced Miami bass, and all that funky stuff.

Wolfgang Voigt

You mean by techno, why it's always the same beat?

Participant

Yeah, I mean, I get many differences of the synthesizers and a rhythm as a general, even in percussion and all that, but I would like to know, why you think that it never changed. The same bass drum like straight up.

Wolfgang Voigt

Because this is a heart of techno, you know? The main thing of techno is four- to-the-floor bass drum. If you leave that out, it's not techno anymore. This is, you know, this is the main idea. This is - how can I say? - this is a religion of techno, if you like.

Participant

This was like at the beginning it was set up. OK, everybody, who is doing techno have to have this straight up drum pattern.

Wolfgang Voigt

Yeah. There is one non-verbal worldwide main language, which combines people in techno. This is the bass drum. Anything else on top of the bass drum, even thousands of beat variations are allowed on techno, but you can never change the bass drum. It's an untouchable rule in a way. This is very important for this music, otherwise it's not techno anymore. In other ways of music, even in hip hop, you know, they got so many interesting amazing great beats and they've got many opportunities of doing variations - being faster, being slower. Being laid back and steady and very abstract and it's still hip hop, 'cause you will recognise hip hop on different sides. But in techno it's still the bass drum, you know? There is a certain idea, when you run around on the side of clubs, or you’ve been in the parking lot in front of the techno place, but you always hear the bass drum. When your neighbour listens to techno, it's the bass drum. The rest is free, you know?

Participant

OK, thank you.

Participant

Hi, I was wondering about Kompakt. Two things really. Just generally, I'm curious about where you are taking Kompakt next in the future, next couple of years? Also I am wondering about all the sublabels, it seems that they've been kind of shifting shapes lately. Like, a sublabel for Kompakt that would be known for putting out really hard techno and then would release an ambient tune, all of a sudden. And a sublabel that was known to release new artists would release really old classic Kompakt artists. Was that like a conscious thing to confuse record buyers and listeners? I'm curious about that and the future of Kompakt, if there is any plan.

Wolfgang Voigt

Maybe the second question. Of course, we're well-known for surpising people. You know, we invented these sublabels, first of all, for a certain kind of sound idea. Even for hard techno, or for ambient stuff. At a certain point we feel like surprising ourselves and even our audience, yeah, with surprises in breaking these rules. As I explained in the different example earlier, when rules get established, we all get bored from rules. First our own, as artists, the one who did the label, then our audience. And then sometimes we have to wake them, you know, and surprise them with an ambient release on the hard techno label. On the other side, we have to face the market reality, because the musical market, especially for the physical, for records, as most of you might know, has changed radically in the last years. In the earlier years it was much easier to sell records because records were the main way to transport this music. Meanwhile, we got all these files and all this mp3 culture, which makes it harder to sell physical records. So you have to be very careful and have to make decisions, unfortunately for marketing reasons, which you might not have done years earlier, you know? And to come to the first part of the question - the future of the label in general is, first of all, to go on like we are, to stay interesting, to surprise ourselves and our audience and the people. But, of course, also have to face the reality and also the problems in the market. Also the market has changed our release policy, of course. But I think as long as this music is existing like this we will go on like this.

Participant

I just like to add that also one of the biggest techno tracks of this year by Patrice Bäumel"Roar" - I don't know if you heard it - it's on Get Physical, it has no kick drum.

Wolfgang Voigt

Oh. But it got still a four-to-the-floor feeling measure.

Participant

Kind of yeah. And I think he was a [Red Bull Music Academy] participiant as well.

Wolfgang Voigt

It's interesting to come back to this question. From time to time, let's say, every ten thousand techno release, it's even possible to leave out the bass drum between another two tracks with bass drum. If you go on thinking of this idea of techno, it's very radical, of course. It's possible to leave out the bass drum like in breaks, you know? In techno the bass drum only goes out to come back, you know? When you stand on the floor, it's wonderful, just to come back. Very rarely and in very good tracks it's possible to leave it out - to use this special release between other tracks, but you keep the feeling, the DJ can keep the feeling. It keeps existing even if people don't hear it. But the feeling is still techno.

Participant

There are some of very interesting rhythms in this track that sort of just take it away from the bass drum and I think it's cool, but thanks.

Wolfgang Voigt

You’re welcome.

Participant

I would like to know if you're in love with some kind of special analogue equipment from the ’60s, made in Germany (laughs).

Wolfgang Voigt

Yeah, there is still this nostalgic thing we all have with all these old instruments, like the Moog’s. It's not even from Germany, but also the well-known German machines. For me, I never had such an emotional relationship with these kind of machines like some friends I know, who have them in glass furniture and clean them every day and kiss them every morning, you know? I never had that emotional feeling to machines. I was always in love with the sound they make. And when I listen to records, which I really love and they influence me and I found out, 'OK, it's this machine', I've got to have it, you know? But I'm not the one who is praying every day, 'Thank God for these machines'. I like them, but honestly, I can also live without them.

Participant

Thank you.

Journalist

Hey, I wanted to ask whether there is a sexuality Kompakt? Whether it's camp, or one wants to be kind of ambiguous and whether that comes from, say, the history of Cologne clubs, or whether that now comes out as a kind of personality, that was played out in the new Pet Shop Boys release that you guys have?

Wolfgang Voigt

You mean the sexual side of Kompakt? Where we stand?

Journalist

No, just whether that is a part of the stylistic part of the aesthetic?

Wolfgang Voigt

Of course, for us it's very important to be very open-minded. We always used to look for very good roads in every direction, you know? This is just one reason why we represent the whole palette, if you like, and a very optional, every direction, of course. We got no certain direction and we're not afraid of any tendencies.

Journalist

Yeah, ’cause I think there is an interesting kind of thing, if you got certain kind of a very camp feel in some kind of Italo disco, and then that kind of world you can have this kind of Detroit techno being quite masculine and male. But if I think of all of you guys, you, Michael and Axel and things, there is a bit more fluidity, you know? There is conscious desire to be ambiguous.

Wolfgang Voigt

Aha, yeah. I can not really explain where it's coming from. It's just our feeling, our life style in a way, which you feel in a way do to music, you know? It's for certain times we are looking for these kind of musical languages, styles and sometimes more on the other side, I can't really explain it. It's coming by nature, you know? There is no certain, how can I say, no certain idea or...

Journalist

Is it maybe more real on the dancefloor?

Wolfgang Voigt

Yeah, it's really. It's just happening.

Journalist

Thank you.

RBMA

Any more participiant questions in the place? And yes, for the record, Cologne is a gay capital if that's what you asked. We're happy with that, all of us.

Participant

So in the Kompakt building, in the basement, you have a room with a cool PA system and it's completely sound isolated . So sounds like a great place for after-parties there.

Wolfgang Voigt

You mean in our shop?

Participant

Yeah.

Wolfgang Voigt

Yeah?

Participant

So do you have after-parties there?

Wolfgang Voigt

OK, sorry. We used to have this earlier. To be honest, this tradition is gone a bit, but in earlier times and earlier years, we used also to have spontaneous after parties, or parties directly in the shop, you know? In front of all the best records you could get, it's easy to do. Yeah, drink some beers with the customers and then you close the shop and the party starts. Today it happens really rarely. We’re equipped to do this in the shop and, of course, we're allowed to do this. But honestly, after all these years it's getting more rare. In the earlier years we had this like every day. No, twice a week.

Participant

Cool.

RBMA

Which brings us probably to round this off into a new paradigm, 'cause obviously you talked a lot about earlier, about this youthful energy and stuff. I mean, obviously without hinting at anything, but you're definitely not 17 anymore and a 17-year old definitely has a totally different life style. Nevertheless, a lot of your music is consumed by people at their peak of energy levels and stuff. How do you prevent, despite being techno with body and soul, becoming a Rolling Stones character within a techno scenario?

Wolfgang Voigt

Maybe it’s one of the first things that we find out that it's possible to become a Rolling Stones character in techno, or I might get to Cologne, the Mick Jagger of techno. I don't know. I don't think that age, really, and I say it really from the bottom of my heart, it's not important in this music, it's no question of age, you know? For me it's a question, of course, of credibility and the question of life style. Of course, I'm not 17 anymore and, of course, I'm not so much interested in having a party like a 17-year old guy, because the energy is totally different. But on the other side there is really a constant connection in techno, between all these generations. I mean, we have three, four or five - depends on how you see it - generations in techno and there is still a strong connection. I live in techno. I do nothing else. I'm involved in techno every day more or less in different kind of ways. So it's just a question of, yeah, credibility. If people don't want that anymore, or don't want you anymore, or don't feel you're credible anymore, you will find out very fast, in a way. It's a combination. On the one side, you're getting adult, in a way, and older with techno, and you find new positions, even in supporting younger artists and pushing them. But on the other side there is still this wonderful experience, where we are all the same on the dancefloor, you know?

RBMA

Well, I'd say raver fists in the air and thank you Wolfgang Voigt.

Wolfgang Voigt

Thank you very much. Thank you.

Wolfgang Voigt

A little schaffel for the way home? You like schaffel?

Everyone

Yeah!

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