The Berlin techno scene of today owes a good deal of gratitude to Mijk van Dijk, who as well as releasing music under the guise of Microglobe and Marmion (alongside Marcos Lopez), was one of the instigators of the ‘trance’ movement, with the compilation Tranceformed From Beyond in 1992.
Still making music to this day, van Dijk has recently turned the Microglobe concept into a label, and earlier this year rolled back the years at the epic ’30 Jahre Berlin Techno’ event, which is available to view at Arte TV.
909originals caught up with van Dijk to discuss his formative years in music, how he drew inspiration from the likes of Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Thomas Dolby, and the early days of the Berlin scene.
Part Two to follow tomorrow.
Q. Growing up, what were your musical influences?
I grew up in Soltau, a small town somewhere in the nowhere between Hamburg, Hannover and Bremen.
One of my musical influences was the local record store. You could play early video games like Donkey Kong and Galaxian there and listen to the latest albums. In the early 80s, I enjoyed synth bands like Soft Cell, Heaven 17 and Depeche Mode and German bands like DAF and Fehlfarben.
I would listen to radio shows like Soultrain by Ruth Rockenschaub on NDR (German) and John Peel and the UK Top 40 on BFBS – there were British troops stationed in our area.
I discovered German Kraut Rock bands like Neu, Harmonia, La Düsseldorf, Guru Guru and, of course, Kraftwerk, through our local library because you could rent vinyl discs there.
I played bass in a funk band of small local fame, and although I could slap and pop the bass, I also bought a Moog Prodigy synth in order to play those phat synth bass lines I loved from Zapp, The Gap Band and Imagination.
Then I moved to Berlin.
Q. Was there a particular album or track that sent you on the road to electronic music?
The works of Prince, but also musicians like Jean Michel Jarre, Thomas Dolby and Matt Johnson (The The) made me aware of the idea that one musician can create music all on his own with electronics.
I loved Heaven 17 for making synth pop with an attitude and running one of the first proper artist-owned independent labels, BEF. Their lyrics were political and their image and marketing was smart and forward thinking.
I discovered a similar attitude in the works of Trevor Horn for Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Propganda, whose debut albums I absolutely adored. I found remixes and edits on 12” singles really impressive – the idea that you could remix any song any way you wanted, such as Frankie’s The Young Persons Guide to The 12”-Mix of Rage Hard, or Imagination’s Nightdubbing album.
So there were many influences really, not that one record that changed my life.
Q. What clubs, if any, did you used to go to back then, and what was so good about them?
In the countryside we had a village discotheque. After I had moved to Berlin in 1985, I would go to clubs like The Chic, a funk disco for mostly black G.I.’s at Adenauerplatz, and The Grex in Kreuzberg, where DJs played an eclectic mix of funk, wave, EBM and proto-house… Prince, DAF, Anne Clark, M/A/R/R/S.
With the arrival of acid house, suddenly the club scene exploded.
Q. When did you decide – ‘this is what I want to do with my life’?
Ha! At the age of 13, I had a friend in my home town. We would tinker guitars out of plywood, cigar boxes and rubber bands and would pretend to play them while listening to hard rock and glam rock like Kiss, T-Rex and Slade.
Back then, I told him that some day I’m gonna make a living with music.
After I moved to Berlin I wrote as a music journalist for city magazines like Zitty and !Hype and Germany’s first dance magazine, Network Press. Later also for the legendary ‘Techno bible’ Frontpage. But really I wanted to create music, not just write about it.
When my first records on MFS became popular and I got more and more offers for gigs in 1992, I decided to take out all the stops and go for it.
Q. You’ve been described in some circles as being one of the ‘founding fathers’ of trance – did you think you were creating a new genre with your early music?
When Cosmic Baby and I created the compilation Tranceformed From Beyond in 1992, we firmly could sense that we were working on something special, also due to the inspirational guidance of our visionary label manager Mark Reeder.
However, in those years, producers were treading on new ground with almost every new production. There were no rules or formulas yet and when you used a sample you would probably be the first one to ever use it.
In 1991, in Berlin, we still all wanted to go harder and faster, it was almost like a contest. I contributed with my productions on Low Spirit with DJ Tanith, on his label Bash Records.
But I had the urge to create deeper tracks on the path of melodic Detroit Techno by Kevin Saunderson (E-Dancer), Derrick May’s Strings Of Life, or Speedy J’s Evolution – tracks with pads and harmonies.
The term ‘trance’ was dubbed then for melodic, trippy softer techno. For me though, it has nothing to do with the music that was called trance some years later, from 1996.
Q. What led you to come up with the concept of the ‘microglobe’?
The project name just caught me, because already back then I felt that our planet was becoming smaller and smaller by the means of transportation and communication.
Techno records were being produced in several parts of the world and then mixed together in one club somewhere else.
Also, the conflict between East and West had vanished by the fall of the wall and in those first techno years it seemed like we were finally going towards a golden age of love and peace and understanding.
But there were also setbacks: the war in the Balkans, the war in Iraq. Refugees from the Balkans and other countries came to Germany and we got our first taste of xenophobic riots.
And I became aware of environmental issues. My first album, Afreuropamericasiaustralica, dealt with these issues. I wanted to put sense into techno, just like Heaven 17, Thomas Dolby, The The, FGTH or Prince did.
Q. What did the concept mean to you then, and what does it mean to you now?
I wanted to use vocal samples with sense and meaning – not just random words about ‘party’ and ‘ecstasy’ – and present it in a constant, conceptual mix.
This was also influenced by my work on Tranceformed From Beyond, and my experiences listening to albums like Welcome To The Pleasuredome or Pink Floyd’s The Wall.
I was very proud of my accomplished work and still am. My new label, Microglobe, will follow that path with vocal tracks. So I’m kind of going back to my roots now.
Q. How did the Marmion collaboration with Marcos Lopez come about?
I met Marcos at my publicist studies course at the Berlin university and knew he was a DJ.
My very first Microglobe single, High On Hope, on MFS, was a strange hybrid – techno at the beginning and at the end a lovely melody.
Marcos Lopez asked me for two copies to lengthen that final part in his DJ sets. I also had the intention to remix that track, so I offered him the opportunity to work on a remix together.
The result was the MDML-Remix on the High On Hope Summer Remixes EP. Since we had a lot of fun during production we decided to produce original tracks.
[Check out Part Two tomorrow on 909originals.com]