Michael Mayer: "Melancholy is just one part of my emotional repertoire"
In the beginning of the 90s, Michael Mayer visited a then brand new record store in Cologne called Delirium. He wasn't happy not to be able to find records from his wishlist, and the told that to the owners, who happened to be Wolfgang Voigt and Jürgen Paape. They soon began working together and Kompakt is now one of the most important electronic music labels - in the world. Music by Michael Mayer - solo or together with Superpitcher, trying to save the world as Supermayer - is a significant part of the label's catalogue. But we didn't speak much about that. Let the records talk for themselves, and yet there's so much to ask Michael. He will soon visit Jäger Blow-Out in Opium - I hope I will be able to find out something more.
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Is it easier for you to balance work and family life now, than it was before, or is it in fact harder? Holidays and weekends - how do you deal with those?
Oh, it’s still an ongoing battle against the clock. But luckily everybody involved is very understanding and supportive. Despite all the traveling, studio and office work I’ve managed to maintain a weekly routine that allows me to have some quality time with my kids.
A very nice memory associated with Kompakt in my mind is a free beach party in Barcelona in 2013, at the end of Sonar weekend. It was really a pleasant change of agenda after many overpriced events during the week, and an amazing event all together with such a great lineup. Do you remember why your team decided to host a free party? Was it a statement of sorts?
2013 was the year when Kompakt celebrated its 20th anniversary. So that party was a part of our festivities and a little wink to our history with Sonar weekend. In the earlier years - when Barcelona’s police wasn’t as tough as they are now - we always had these free beach parties at a little chiringuito in Barceloneta. A crappy sound system and some thousand people… we had so much fun there.
'Nothing is more important than friendship. Not money, not fame, not death' - says a wise poster from Robert Johnson club in Offenbach. Do you agree? Did you ever have to compromise friends over profit or other material things, while runnning a music business?
Luckily no. Friendship is the basis of Kompakt. We could never run this business if that paradigm would ever change. I can only agree with our blood brothers from Frankfurt.
Talking about posters! Has merchandising ever made a significant contribution for Kompakt as a business? You even have football scarves and… mousepads — who comes up with the merch ideas for the label? And do you personally use/wear the merch as well?
Oh, I’m loving the football scarves and I’m sporting them all the time. At least when it’s cold outside. It was mostly Wolfgang who came up with a lot of merch ideas for our 20th anniversary. My favorite is still the Kompakt Memoria game. I’m playing that a lot with my kids.
Overall, I wouldn’t say that merchandising made a significant contribution to our business. It’s just a fun side aspect of what we do.
There have probably been plenty - but what is your favourite event poster design of all times? Preferably of an event you were playing at.
That’s a no brainer answer… the posters for my shows at The Block in Tel Aviv are simply next level. They’re outdoing themselves every time I play there.
Another one that holds a special place in my heart is for an outdoor party we did here in Cologne. It was called ‚Kompakt die Badehose ein‘ which is a play on words referring to an old German schlager song called ‚Pack die Badehose ein‘. I did a little doodle of what the poster should look like (a parasol, long chair, cocktail glasses on a table…) and our graphic designer simply took it as it was. Super sweet.
What are your main daily tasks at Kompakt? Do you allocate yourself studio time in advance, as well?
Right now, I’m actually in studio lock down. I’m trying to avoid the office as good as I can. I’m mainly responsible for the label… Classic A&R stuff. Luckily, I’ve got a great team around me that can jump in when I’m not there.
Many use the world 'melancholic' to describe your sound. Where does the melancholy come from - and do you hear it, too, or is it just the press?
I wouldn’t agree to that and I don’t know exactly where it comes from. Yes, it’s true that melancholy has a firm place in both my productions and my sets. But I’d always thwart it with happier sounds or get even darker. Melancholy is just one part of my emotional repertoire.
What is your favourite David Bowie track and why?
It’s tough to pick only one song… This Is Not America holds a special place in my heart. It’s Bowie’s only collaboration with Pat Matheny and to be honest, if you listen to Matheny’s solo output you find it hard to imagine that they get along. But hey, TINA turned out to be a pretty Balearic-sounding dance pop song. Melancholic as f… and so sexy.
What mistakes do you tend to notice in younger DJ and producer’s decisions? Also, do you ever learn from those that have started their careers later than you?
Sometimes these beginner mistakes are really interesting. I really like imperfection in music… to say it with Leonard Cohen: There’s a crack in everything… That’s where the light gets in. And yes, of course I keep learning a lot from old and young. It never stops…
Have you ever had to refuse to play in a venue - after arriving there?
I think I’m not snobbish enough to do such a thing.
Do you usually play a set as long as it says on the itinerary, or do you tend to extend the magic as long as possible?
Try and stop me…
How often does your playlist change completely, or do you always keep a safe percentage of classics just in case?
There’s a constant flow in both my record crate and my hard drive. Although digital technology allows me to always carry a wealth of classics and secret weapons with me.
Pick three releases from Kompakt that you’d put to a time capsule that would be opened 1000 years from now? And then three releases to be sent to outer space in search of other life forms?
The capsule:
Message to the aliens:
And last… Five reasons to visit Cologne?
The Dom
The parks
The clubs
Kölsch breweries
D.D. 2004 - 2016
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