909originals catches up with Kompakt co-founder Michael Mayer

As the co-founder of legendary label Kompakt, as well as an accomplished DJ, producer and remixer, Michael Mayer is one of electronic music’s most acclaimed artists.

Last week saw the release of his latest remix contribution – a reworking of André Hommen’s Pantone, from Hommen’s recent More Than This album, which also features remixes from Donato Dozzy and Manuel Tur. You can download/stream it here.

909originals’ Emer O’Connor caught up with him. Over to you, Emer.

Hello Michael, how are you? We have met several times – I think the last time I was dressed up as a zebra for Halloween and you were playing Pygmalion Dublin with Lil Louis… ha ha. Well, let’s get down to business – welcome to 909originals. So, André Hommen invited you, Donato Dozzy and Manuel Tur to contribute a remix package called More Than This Remixes Pt. 2, which was released on 15 April. Was this a Tuesday night studio job, or and how long did you take to do it?

Ha ha yeah, it was on Tuesdays, it took maybe three Tuesdays. The track, Pantone, kind of has this druggy component, it’s housey with metallic undertones.

You have quite a comprehensive back catalogue – 23 EPs, 170 remixes, three LPs and a number of officially-released DJ mixes. What are you up to these days?

I don’t have much more time for production now. I’m getting ready to go on tour after almost two years off, being idle at home. So I’m ploughing through music, downloading so much.

You’ve always been quite the grafter from a very young age – growing up in the Black Forest region of Germany in the 70s and 80s, taping tracks off the radio. But I believe you were quite entrepreneurial about that?

I started doing gigs from the age of 12 years old. I even developed my own lighting equipment – using bits of wood and car parts, I created my own mobile disco.

You moved to Cologne in 1991 and you discovered a record store called Delirium, owned by Wolfgang and Reinhard Voight and and Jürgen Paape, but I believe you didn’t think much of their music selection?

At that time, they had a very basic set-up – just a few boxes, with mostly their own productions. I wanted more choice, so I told them and then they gave me a job. I started producing myself a few years later.

1998 was a pivotal year for you, as resident of the Total Confusion club night at Studio 672 with Superpitcher and Tobias Thomas, which helped put Cologne on the clubbing map. What was your fondest memory of that nightclub?

It was a tiny, special place, with just one basic room, and it attracted some incredible people. It was a melting pot for people who wanted to discover new music.

So what made you decide to call a halt to the club in 2014, after it was so successful?

Well, it was a very, very long run. Every Friday we put on these parties, so it meant we couldn’t really travel when we wanted to. We were coming to a stage when we wanted to spread our wings.

When it closed, how did Cologne fill that gap?

This city is pretty well equipped with nightclubs – there are two more about to open this year. There are several different crews running parties, and it’s very diverse, sound-wise. There’s a lot of very hard techno, but there are also house parties at the same time, so the scene stays fresh.

Kompakt was born in 1998 too; what triggered you and Wolfgang to set-up the pioneering label?

We were operating a handful of labels, and it got increasingly difficult to explain to people what what we were doing. It was the perfect choice of name. We started our own distribution company at the same time.

The Kompakt: Total series has had 21 editions now.

Actually, we just finished working on Kompakt: Total 22.

Who is involved in 22?

I cannot reveal this yet, but I can already tell you there are some old familiars coming back on board, as well as some fresh meat.

And will you have the infamous ‘Total Party’ to mark that occasion too?

Yes, we’ve already booked a venue in Cologne for the party in September.

I look forward to my invitation, so! I wanted to ask you about Fabric 13, as it’s one of my favourite compilations. What story did you have in mind when putting that together – with tracks like Superpitcher’s Mushroom, Richard Davis’ In The Air and my favourite, Westbam and Nena’s Oldschool, Baby.

Well, it was a long time ago now, but I remember I wanted a different groove and insisted on Westbam’s Oldschool, Baby, with vocals by Nena, of 99 Luftballoons fame. I was a big Nena fan from when I was a young boy – it was such an unusual collaboration. Fabric didn’t want it played, they said that it wasn’t the right sound for their club, but I insisted. And then the roof came down in Fabric London when I played it – it turned out to be the most popular track on the album.

The time you played Pygmalion in Dublin in 2018, afterwards we had a great chat about our love of cycling around our hometowns, and also about radio. At the time, you had a show called Cosmo on WDR – are you taking a hiatus from that or what’s happening there?

Well, I just recorded an hour there last Friday. Cosmo is the pop arm of WDR, and there were major changes made to their programme. They looked at the direction of the whole station – budgets were cut across the board. They let lots of people go. It was really tragic.

Then, last week the boss called me and said there was an opening and maybe we could start doing it again. I got to play there for one hour and now we’re waiting for the feedback, to see whether the bosses like it or not.

It must have been tough for you to stick to one hour – I know you hate to play a short set.

Ahhh, I’m used to having one hour radio shows – I can live with that.

Would you consider doing a podcast?

I’m talking to other stations right now. There will be a new radio show at some point – I’m just looking for my best options right now. I’m quite busy with everything and it’s OK to take a break, so I can focus on other stuff before I come back to radio. But it is a beautiful thing, a fabulous medium.

I read somewhere recently that when you were a child you thought you’d grow up to be a composer. Would you still like to write an opera?

This was sparked by a record by the band Propaganda, from Trevor Horn’s label ZTT, which produced Frankie Goes to Hollywood. I was striving to compose an ‘immortal’ piece of music, or something like that – that sort of idea resonates with me. I thought one day I probably would, but right now, nope…

You must also be very interested in artwork, many of your album and compilation covers are really unique, like your collaboration with Superpitcher (as SuperMayer), Two Of Us. Who designed the artwork for you?

I discovered Kat Menschik through one of the major German newspapers – lots of dark drawings of artists and pop musicians. She draws inspiration straight out of movies that are played on a particular day; it’s magic how she manages to capture a whole movie in just one little picture. We decided to reach out to her and see if she was up for doing a record, and that’s how the Supermayer cover came about.

Thank you so much for joining us on 909originals, and the very best of luck with all the upcoming gigs, I’m sure you’re going to smash it. Let us know when you come back to Dublin again.

For sure, looking forward to that. Cheers, and thanks a million.

André Hommen – More Than This Remixes Pt. 2, featuring the Michael Mayer remix of Pantone, is out now and can be downloaded/streamed here.

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