German rave pioneer WestBam, aka Maximilian Lenz, celebrates his 55th birthday today (4 March 1965), and with that in mind, 909originals has dived into the archives to uncover an interview the Münster-born artist gave to Frontpage Magazin in August 1995, to mark the tenth anniversary of his Low Spirit imprint.
“At first we didn’t even have the idea to create our own label,” Lenz explains in the interview. “We wanted something like a record deal, but we didn’t have that. The major companies had a completely different idea of dance music. Dance was even frowned upon by the independent labels. […] The idea of a dance underground didn’t exist.”
From the outset, Low Spirit was a label that didn’t take itself too seriously, with released like Disco Deutschland  , And Party andThe Roof Is On Fire earning the label criticism from techno purists.
“It has always been so,” says Lenz. “There are always people who follow what other people do with a Stalinist precision.
“We always saw ourselves as a ‘DJ music’ label and to me, this term is different from techno. ‘Techno is music that sounds like machines and not machines that sound like music’, is Juan Atkins’ definition of techno. That doesn’t apply to Low Spirit’s music or the way we play.”
At the time of the interview, the upbeat style of Low Spirit had very much become part of the mainstream, helped by the growth of Berlin’s Love Parade as well as the Mayday raves, which Lenz helped to organise.
“Since 91/92, the aesthetic foundations for everything that should follow have largely been created,” he explains. “We wanted to keep the other big promise of our early days, namely that all of this should also become the relevant popular culture.
“In fact, historically, a ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ [released by Marusha in 1994] is much more important than an ‘electronically correct’ underground track that has not revolutionised anything, but only reflects an attitude that no one remembers today.”
Conducted ahead of the advent of digital DJ software, Lenz also offers some interesting observations on the role of the DJ in the digital age.
“The DJ live set dates back to the early days of hip-hop and disco, the early 70s. Since those days, there has been continuous experimentation, with the addition of a third turntable, a keyboard, an effects device, a second DJ or whatever. Ultimately, most DJs always felt a little overwhelmed with this extended task.
“It always goes back to the fact that in the end the DJ stands with his two turntables and his mixer. […] Everything that has happened in terms of further developments has happened on the dance floor. I do not think that the further development of the DJ results from the addition of technical gimmicks…”
With the pop charts of the time dominated by so-called Eurodance, Lenz also notes that be believes a change is imminent in the dance industry. “I see the future perspective for our label about thinking how we can completely reinvent this music,” he says.
And as for whether the hard-earned success of the label has ‘changed’ his
attitude to music?
“We have always been guided by the principle that money and time are irrelevant. Certain things cannot be changed…” 🙂
The full interview (in German) can be found below – click to open in a new window.