Hailing from Germany’s prolific Rhein-Main area, Frankfurt’s M.in gained his momentum as global player over the last 2-3 years. As producer, DJ and label head his modern house and tech-house style clearly owes to the Frankfurt heritage, yet M.in never claimed that promotional tag. He’s sitting firmly in the driver’s seat when it comes to his very own style. You can easily dub his beats trademark, bowing to the craftsmanship M.in has developed and refined with his dozens of releases.
His artist name playfully quotes the minimalism that ruled for long time in German electronics. In fact, M.ins tracks are far from minimal. The only minimal formulae is his credo demanding “the groove to carry the whole track from the core”. From there on, anything can happen! And M.in is known to churn out tracks that conquer hearts and souls with various ingredients: groove, swing, bite, humour and musicality. “Every track has to have a vibe first”, he says. Well, easy to sign that partition… yet hard to accomplish the task M.in so easily masters.
We caught up with My Favourite Freaks co-owner M.In to talk about his career, Frankfurt and the release of his album Year of the Ape, available via beatport
Hi Markus, thanks for finding time to chat with us at Decoded Magazine. How are you today?
Thanks, I am fine. Had a long day with my wife and son so was nice.
Growing up in the heartlands of Europe, we understand your first rave experience was at the infamous Omen club in Frankfurt. Can you remember who was playing?
I think I was 17 until my brother took me the first time to his favourite club. I think Toni Rios and Frank Lorber were playing, but not really sure. It was dark, hot, wet, and it was great! I was already running my own parties at this time and already joined an underground house party at Hasengartenstraße in Wiesbaden.
However, it was no club, only the basement of a private house which was designed like a small club. This one was legendary in my circle of friends. Omen (Sven Väth’s club) was my first real club experience. Funny thing is, Toni is now a good friend of mine and we’ve already produced together. We also played together last week at Technodisco in Wetzlar, where he grew up.
How would you say the Frankfurt scene has changed over your lifetime? Who are the standout acts that typify the Frankfurt sound?
Frankfurt has changed completely. In the beginning, there was a lot of trance music like Sven Väth’s label IQ Recordings and local hero, DJ Dag was very popular. Now there are more off locations or Berlin influenced clubs like Madame Renarde but also some more techno clubs like Tanzhaus West or the ever popular Robert Johnson.
Nevertheless, there is not the vibe anymore we had some years ago, where I played mostly at U60311 or also Tanzhaus West. Sure, you will find good parties but it is different. Also, the music changed a lot but thank god that “Beatport deep house” is dying and techno is coming back again. For me, artists like Reboot, Markus Fix, Meat, Chris Wood, Karotte, Einzelkind or Gregor Tresher stand for the typical Frankfurt sound.
We were recently in Frankfurt for World Club Dome. In these times of European uncertainty in the aftermath of Brexit, do you think the German club scene will suffer from a drop in music tourism?
I played at the first World Club Dome at the Frankfurt Football Stadium and it was great, but also very different as the headliners were David Guetta, Avicii, Hardwell, Steve Aoki and other who had never played in Frankfurt before (except David Guetta). They brought EDM tourists to Frankfurt and I do not think Brexit will change that party tourism. Sure, the English party people will have more controls at the airport or border but they will find their way to have a party around the world!
We’d love to come back to Frankfurt soon. Where do you suggest we go for the complete experience away from the tourist traps?
My tip would be the open airs like Heimspiel Open Air in Dreieich (near to Frankfurt airport) or Homerun Open Air in Gelnhausen. Also Tanzhaus West is still a great location for the more underground people. Or go to Das Rind which had one of the oldest house parties in the Frankfurt area. They also do an Open Air this year where I’ll play too.
Tell us about your journey learning to DJ. What challenges did you face, and how did you overcome them?
I started DJing very young. Every time when my brother went to friends I used his old vinyl players. By the time I was 15 I made my first Hip Hop Jam and at 16 my first techno party. A year later I was part of the Tinnitus Liga, a DJ collective that organised their own parties in Mainz and Wiesbaden. With them I also started my own first club residency at Basement – Wiesbaden, a legendary club that’s still alive. It was a long time until I started to play as a live act and then produce techno music.
In 2003 I released my first track on Semi Automatic, the label of Ibrahim Alfa. I’d also started to play also outside of Wiesbaden and Mainz, but it wasn’t easy to get popular as I didn’t produce so much and in my home town a lot of people talked bad about me. That was also a reason why I moved to Frankfurt and started my own label Kaufe Musik together with my friend Alexander Kaufmann.
With the first release, I produced together with Der Schmeisser from Kassel. We got a German-wide booking from it which included our first Berlin gig; 2006 I think, at the Golden Gate Club. We also became residents of U60311 in Frankfurt and played often at Tanzhaus West. But three years later I decided to change my sound back from techno to house and decided to start my solo project M.in. This was the best idea I ever had as I suddenly became popular with the first remix for Basti Grub – El Gitarrro on Basti’s and my label Merkesdir.
I did a lot together with Basti but we ended our cooperation after 1 year as he wasn’t a good team player. With my first EP on Off Recordings, Andre Crom became a good friend and I had a big success and got internationally popular. But the name M.in wasn’t really helpful as you couldn’t find me on google. I think the most results you found in the time was “I’m in love or I’m in Paris” or something like this. That is why many promoters didn’t know how to contact me.
My first gig outside of Germany was at Space – Ibiza. Two years later, I released my EP on Desolat and then you also found me as an artist on Google! My name got stronger, I got more gigs outside of Germany, and so I had gigs in North America, South America, Korea and all over Europe. Around this time, my wife gave birth to our son and it was not easy for me to hold my line anymore. I lost a lot of energy as I travelled a lot at the weekend and during the week I had to care for my family.
But thank god I met Lars Brankatschk again my partner and head booker of My Favourite Freaks. We had a booking agency years ago but then we had no more contact with each other. Then we met in Berlin again and he told me he would love to work as a booker again and this was the time My Favourite Freaks was born (back then we called the agency Weplayminimal Booking but later changed it to MFF). Lars is like a father to me, he helps me repeatedly to find my center.
Do you remember your first gig? What happened?
My first gig ever was at a private party of the Tinnitus Liga at Gerbers Café in Mainz. I was playing house music on the second floor. I still was very shy and did not really look at the people, only to my vinyl. When friends came to me I said hello, maybe drank a Jägermeister together and then I looked down again and my face was like “oh my god, please don’t make a mistake.” Hahaha I still have a video tape of it. When I played the first vinyl, I was so nervous that my hands were shaking so bad, that it wasn’t easy to turn the records without making them jump. But after everybody was screaming, I was better.
Groovy drums and catchy melodies have become the hallmark of your productions over the years. Can you talk us through the arrangement of your tracks and the details you focus on to make your music so unique?
For me, it’s always important to start with a groove that’s why I try to build some cool drums and a good bassline first. I use the Waves Plugins to push the pressure of my drums and to make them sound punchy and sometimes crispy. If I use percussion’s, I love to use the Ozone 5 plugin as percussion’s like bongos and congas sounds more wooden. As soon as I have the right groove I start adding some sound into the empty spaces to make it groovier. Sometimes I look for some vocals or record my own voice, something I put on my synths and search for the perfect sound that could work in this groove. I never work the same as I don’t like to have a thousand tracks that sound similar. That’s why I let the groove decided what’s happening next.
Sometimes I find a great synth melody and start to delete the rhythm elements to focus the synth much more like I did on “Make Some Noise” from my new album. This synth needed a lot of space to unfold. I think I had 4 or 5 versions of this track until I send it to Marquez Ill who added some vocals and effect sounds on it. When I produced the tracks for my album with Bruno Gentile we started to switch on the analogue gear and jammed around till we found the AAAAHH thing. We recorded some tracks and over the next few days I worked on it without him. I love to catch ideas together with friends but when I finalise a track I have to work alone as it is boring for my friends to see me working endlessly toying with one sound to give it the M.in touch.
I don’t use the swing in Ableton that much and I record my sounds mostly live without quantize, or if I use the piano roll, I draw the notes freehand or move them a bit back or forward to create a swing. For example, if I record my claps I normally use more than one clap. I layer maybe four claps and move every single clap a bit out of time and also change the volume a bit that makes the clap sound more alive. I love to randomise my sounds that’s why I bought the Doepfer Dark Time Sequencer as I always work like – “okay put this one on, and this one on too, no, now this, and that and here another note, no better this one, now this and aaaah I got it!” I never really know what I’m doing but at the end it sounds good!
I also love the XoXboX (303 Clone) as if you change the tempo sometimes it runs out of time but this is what makes the XoXboX so special, you randomise your sounds without noticing it. But never stop and start without recording the sound. Maybe it will sound shit if you do. I love that “out of time” groove a lot and when I collect some new ideas I start to record my prepared patterns in live mode in Ableton. After this I delete some errors and start to fill parts that still needs some more sounds or maybe vocals. Then I start to work with effects like Simple Delay, Lexicon Hall, FabFilter Pro Q, Ozone 5, some Waves Plugins like GTR Stomp, JJP Drums, PuigTec EQP1A, Korg Legacy Collection or I use my analogue Lexicon MX200 or a Boss Digital Delay. If I still miss anything at the end I rework the track again like a new bassline or new synth.
As someone who’s been a music fan for a long time, I love a good bootleg. A few years back I remember one you made (Cristian Vogel vs Macromism) which blew my mind. Have you noticed though recently, DJs don’t seem to be creating their own edits as much? Is it from laziness, or is it that there’s so much new music the need for everyone to make a unique version has gone?
As I play a lot with three or four decks, I use some old tunes together with a loopier track to create a better drive on those classic tunes. After I played those together I thought “wow, what a fucking cool mix” so I recorded them again together in Ableton to have it for my sets. So I created the edit of Cristian Vogel with the Macromsim track and an edit of Detroit Grand Pubahs – Sandwiches vs. Nic Fanciulli. Some of my all time favourites need a better groove or more pressure for instance, I reworked Daft Punk – Rollin N Scratching for my sets.
Some DJs blow my mind with a special edit like DJ Emerson who made an edit of Cristian Vogel – Never Too Late (Cari Lekebusch Remix) which I still playing in my sets. Maybe it is because some DJs / producers love to play new tunes and some also the classics but to make them work again they need to be reworked a bit. You can find some of my edits / bootlegs here.
We’re really looking forward to the new album. How much of a learning curve has it been to curate a whole album experience compared to an EP?
As it is my third album, I already have some experience in doing an album. With my first album, I wanted to do something totally new for me, that’s why I worked together with a classic pianist. On the second album, I wanted to come back to tech house but also tried to make more as only a club album. This time, I wanted to do an album for the dance floor but still with different styles and all tracks should have a similar sound.
When I started to produce or play as a live act back in 2001 – 2005 I used a lot of analogue gear but then I moved on with Ableton only. Now I need analogue stuff again to get out of this boring Ableton producing. An EP can be really easy as you need 1 – 4 tracks which can work together but with an album, every track should have a similar or same sound. If you always use the same samples this is easy but this is not me. That’s why I bought the new studio gear.
You can hear the exclusive premiere of M.in featuring Bruno Gentile – Something
Do you think we as artists place un-achievable pressure on ourselves to create a lasting legacy through our music?
The longer you make music, the more pressure you build around yourself to create your music. It isn’t that easy way of producing anymore like I had in the beginning, as I want to make my tracks sound perfect now. In the beginning, you were happy if you just made a good track! So yes, we do!
My Favourite Freaks continues to impress. Tell us about how you started the label and your goals for the first year?
Lars and I worked a long time around the label until we said, now it’s the time for our own label. The booking agency was strong enough; my promo pool is already internationally well known and maybe one of the best, and the podcast was the first step to establish our imprint on Soundcloud to have a better base to start the label.
Our first release was a compilation we used also for label showcases / tour. We got tracks from Macromism, Rhadow, Ruben Mandolini, Agent, Danny Serrano and me together with Patrick Kunkel to name a few. That compilation directly entered in different magazine charts like Faze Mag (Germany) November Issue 2014 where we reached #2, #8, #12 and #29 of their Top 40 monthly chart. We also got many features in different magazines.
The Rhadow remix of my first EP on My Favourite Freaks was long time the most sold track on our label. I think Rhadow is definitely one of the most popular artists of us but he is doing so less music. A bit more and he could be a big artist. Also, the Danny Serrano album was a great success but I think now the label is more established and more interesting even though we still doing the same label promotion. We spend a lot of money for this promotion and put in a lot of our energy.
We’ve been looking through your roster, it’s pretty impressive, to say the least. Who has been the biggest surprise signing?
Christian Smith. Because he was the one who pioneered tech house for me. I think I played his music since maybe 1998 or 1997, I can’t remember. But to have this really nice guy in our agency is a pleasure for me.
A world renowned record label, promo agency, podcast and agency, plus international gigs and a recording career, you’ve certainly ticked off a few personal goals. What’s been the single most important thing that’s balanced you and kept you focused?
Definitely my wife, my son and my partner and booker Lars.
Well Markus, it’s been a pleasure to meet and chat. We wish you every success with the new album and My Favourite Freaks, in closing is there anything you’d like to add?
Just a big THANK YOU!