When I first heard them, Extrawelt were making the kind of music I never realised I was missing from my collection. Signed to James Holden’s seminal imprint Border Community in the mid 2000s, their brilliant take on minimal was like machine funk and took the world by storm almost overnight, winning them plaudits and fans the world over. The inclusion of Zu Fuss from their duet release in Sasha’s ground breaking Essential Mix that year ensured their ascendance would be swift.
Its not often, despite their rather enormous tour schedule, Arne Schaffhausen and Wayan Raabe make the trip over to England for this Saturdays gig on the 11th alongside fellow country men Micheal Mayer, Robag Wruhme and Alex Niggemann they will be in East London Saturday July 11th for the We Concur party at The Oval Space. We caught up with them ahead of that appearance to talk about their sound, their incredible live show and the state of the music scene today.
Hello Arne and Wayan, thanks for finding time to speak with us at Decoded Magazine. So whats a typical week in the life of Extrawelt like?
Arne: The beginning of the week depends a lot on how the weekend before has been. Monday is our Sunday usually and starts most definitely with a extra-large cappuccino and then being lazy. Maybe checking some mails, doing interviews like this.. I don’t do much music-wise.. That happens on Tuesday and Wednesday again.. Certainly priorities changed since I became a daddy and I’m still struggling doing music in daytime. Mostly, I’m starting late afternoon and it turns night until I’m really getting into it. Thursday often is strange as it’s the last day when something urgent of any matters can be done before the weekend starts again.
Tell us about your formative years. We understand Arne was into graffiti and Wayan’s parents ran acid house raves. Where did you guys meet, and did you become friends immediately?
Arne: I was into a lot of things and each period seems like a century of its own in retrospective but actually lasted only a couple of years. Hip Hop, Graffiti, Skateboarding, Punk/Hardcore and then Techno came into my life and felt like the holy grail. My first experiences where actually with UK Breakbeat and Hardcore Techno back then, after that it got a bit more digestible. We met at first on parties and then later when we were DJing, only since we hooked up our few pieces of equipment we started to really get to know each other.
Wayan: It sounds pretty lame but it’s true: I did spend most of my life with or around music. My father was some kind of a hippie. So my first and most influential contact with music was all that 60’ and 70’ portentous lyric songs. I still like listening to artists like Steve Miller or The Grateful Dead sometimes. I earned my first money playing the trombone with a german umpa orchestra. Than of course there was radio. In 1991 I discovered a BBC show called “The Steve Mason Experience”. That was the first stuff I discovered that really made me crank up my shitty HiFi system. Everybody else hated it, first and foremost my mother! Two years later her boyfriend was deeply involved in the organization of illegal raves. Even if Arne and me both attended to those parties, we really got to know each other some years later when Arne’s former DJ partner Marco took me to Elmshorn and we shared some serious listening sessions. That was probably 96/97. After that we immediately started fighting about rare vinyls at the stores and exchanged new or even unreleased tracks that we recorded to DAT. So most time we spend with music one way or another. But we also talked a lot about society, politics, moral standards and what not. Since I was an inbreed of the scene and wasted a good part of my teen age living only techno and trance, I discovered a lot of really cool stuff hanging out with that guy as he showed me everything I missed between Hippierock and the Technorevolution.
Some important events shaped your future career in 1991. Arne, you heard The Hypnotist – Pioneers of the Warped Groove for the first time and for Wayan, you become the butt of your classmates jokes for your prized mixtape ‘Accident in Paradise’. What effect did the music have on you as young men?
Arne: My friend and later DJ companion Marco Schmedding bought that record and brought it to my place and we just couldn’t stop to play it over and over again, getting totally ecstatic with it so unbelievable and unheard it appeared. It was also him who had the connection to the London Breakbeat Era tapes which had an similar impact on me. I was about 3 years younger than the rest of the bunch and at school for example, I started to feel like I have a superior secret that I then started to introduce proudly to my classmates. I still remember that I even tried to convince my teacher that this is a music revolution and she answered back that it’s ‘devil’s music’ and I should get away from it. She was seriously worried about my well being!
Wayan: True! Everybody was worried or just couldn’t understand what techno was all about. Sure, there already has been some stuff on the radio like The KLF, Snap or Technotronic but even if I didn’t disliked it, I considered that to be pop music with a techno touch. So if I played my friends and classmates an early mixed version of “Accident in Paradise”, telling them that this is some of the best stuff I recently heard, there was really just one of them who didn’t thought that I’m completely nuts. In retrospective, it was truly healthy that most people around us didn’t consider techno to be ‘real music’, it gave us a sense of rebellion and revolution, we were allowed to be outsiders. That felt great!
Hamburg, where we understand you both now call home, has a proud tradition within the German Underground scene. What were some of the best moments for you both growing up in the city?
Arne: Actually, I grew up in a smaller city 30km away, but Hamburg was like a magnet. I started early to go there to buy my sneakers, to skate and visit my first larger concerts. It was just the natural consequence to move there one day. And sure Hamburg has it all, it might not be like Berlin or London but it has a very vital and healthy underground scene with all its facets. You just have to know where to go when.. My sister dragged me to my first club experience in 1990 which was called “Brainstorm”, a Hardcore Techno cellar club in one of the side roads of the Reeperbahn. A truly dark and heavy place for a 13 year old!
Wayan: In 1994 my moms boyfriend took me to a small illegal acid trance party somewhere in the city and when I entered Emmanuel Top’s “Turkish Bazar” was playing (which still makes my hackles raise). I immediately ran to ask the DJ if he could tell me the name of that hell of a record. Some hours later I asked the next DJ if he could play that track again. Please please please! Answer: No! That track was already on tonight. So I would never play it again as WE DO NOT REPEAT OURSELVES! Basic underground lessons to be learned by a 15 year old, well understood and internalized that night in the City of Hamburg.
Your first record was released in 1999 as Midimillz, but you really became big during the minimal explosion of the mid 2000s and it was the Soopertrack EP on Border Community that got things moving. Of course the inclusion of Zu Fuss on Sasha’s Ableton Essential Mix which probably helped too! Interestingly, Extrawelt was at the time a new project, so the attention you got straight away must have been wonderful. Talk us through those few weeks, did you notice an upswing in attention towards you?
Arne: We were really happy, proud and surprised when James mailed back that he wants the tracks and when it was released the feedback and attention felt wonderful, but then almost nothing more happened for a year. We had sent our next tracks to James but he didn’t want them for a release and then we decided to go with our friends from Hamburg who just were about to start their own small label called Kompass Musik. Luckily the release of the Fernweh/Drehfehler 12″ was almost equally successful, after that it was when we got in touch with Traum and Cocoon and everyone else. We both had already our short DJ careers behind us and gathered a good amount of experience with our production projects after. Surely it was on a different level but we were successful too already and learned that all that praise and ass kissing isn’t real and not helpful to find your own path, so we were already alerted and aware of not giving too much on all that.
Shortly after you worked on another seminal Hamburg DJs production – 51 Poland St by Oliver Huntemann (as H-Man). How do you go about putting your own stamp on a track of that calibre?
Arne: Usually we just grab what we like of the original track and use that to build our own track around it. The better I like the original, the easier it is to find a way to make an own version of it.
Tell us about signing to Traum and Cocoon. When you make new material now, do you have a label in mind?
Arne: No, not at all, but when a track is finished we decide to which label it might fit and send it to them. Luckily Traum and Cocoon leave it up to us, especially when it is an album we are free to do it however we want. If I remember well I had sent a demo to Riley from Traum and fortunately he liked them, with Cocoon we got in touch because they licensed “Soopertrack” for one of Sven’s Seasons compilation, after that they asked for unreleased material and so it came that we released the “Titelheld” 12″ with them.
How do you go about writing a track? Do you have a tried and tested formula, or is the finished product the result of many hours of jamming ideas?
Arne: Maybe our formula is not to have one. Sometimes its jamming, sometimes it’s a rhythm or a sample that is the starting point.. I don’t need those prepared libraries or presets of trademark sounds and I really enjoy the process of getting somewhere on different ways and sometimes I’m really surprised how a track comes out of all the chaos.
Talk us through the development of the live show. What are you using on stage, and which software are you using to control everything?
Wayan: To be honest we copied the basics from our friends and mentors Marcus and Jan (X-Dream). We’ve since used a setup developed in the early days of affordable hard disc recording. The software doesn’t really matter, could be anything solid, simply able to replay multitrack and midi-clock. As it is simply impossible to recreate the original tracks completely live with only two people and without using a truckload of equipment, we try to play as “live” as possible without changing the tracks original character beyond recognition. Unfortunately, there is some stuff coming out of the computer but we try to use and touch it as little as possible, concentrating on the jam parts we are actually able to play live like drums, baselines and samples and so forth. And of course we use some effects to hide our mistakes.
Does the time of the day affect your show or will the London faithful be witness to the full power of Extrawelt?, which we understand was recently likened to a bulldozer!
Arne: We decide a bit on space and time what kind of set we play and often add or exclude some tracks shortly before the show.. but it can be only within the limits of our catalog, which means often to have too many choices but still sometimes you figure out that a certain kind of track would be helpful to have. We always want to play the latest tracks too but sometimes we just can’t find the right spot in a set to make it fit the dynamic and suspense of the whole. We have always a couple of actual sets with a variety of versions of those and they are like big ever changing organisms.
Can you tell us a few cool tour stories?
Wayan: In 1999, we bought our first laptop to replace our studio desktop we used for our live shows. One of our first gigs we took it was our first gig in Osaka. It was a small place called “Bayside Jenny” and the two Japanese promoters where our age – pretty young. During the show, the brand new Powerbook G3 refused to continue playing the multitrack and midi clock. So the music stopped. Three times. We where totally embarrassed and since the evening wasn’t sold out, we offered the promoters to cut our fee by half. They refused and insisted to pay us the full amount, there was just nothing we could do to convince them that it would be ok to take our offer. Despite that disastrous night they continue to book us several times during the next couple of years and we became friends. 16 years later I call one of them a truly dear friend, his wife makes me dinner and I play with his kids whenever I’m in Japan. Maido!
What’s forthcoming on the music front this year? How do you find the time between touring and everything else to make new tracks?
Arne: I don’t really care what’s the next big thing as long I find music that I like and that I do plenty. I guess i’m an true addict and spend a lot of time searching everywhere for good stuff.
Time is precious indeed. Finally the new EP will come soon after it had a long delay due to the overload of the pressing plants and other things. A bunch of remixes are ready too so that there will be constantly something coming over the next months and maybe this helps to withhold a bunch of tracks that might lead to a new Extrawelt album.
With streaming becoming ever more important in terms of marketing and PR for your brand, what plans do you have in place to capitalise on the way in which the new generation of dance fans consume their music?
Arne: I think it’s good that there are so many ways to enjoy music nowadays. Sure it’s a big income loss for musicians and labels, but more important is that people are listening to it at all. The only thing I dislike about most of the new ways of listening is that all happens in lower quality.
Two artists in Eastern Europe have now been outed as bigots after posting hateful messages on their social media. Firstly, should the political thoughts of an artist be attacked if they appear to be controversial; and secondly should that attack effectively end their career? Are they open to criticism because of the medium used?
Arne: There are plenty of cases of unfair and hysterical shit storms which are horrible and wrong but everyone who’s writing something publicly on an social media account should be aware of the consequences too. I for myself like to know if the guy who’s music I listen to is a good guy. At least on the subjects of tolerance like in this case but also if the guy would be a anti semitic or a fascist I definitely would feel betrayed. Music is personal and usually you assume that the guy doing the music you like is likeminded at least on some level. If techno music has a message at all I guess it would be freedom and that includes everyone’s appearance, dance style, origin, age and surely also sexual orientation. Techno simply wouldn’t be what it is without the gay community and their massive contribution especially in the early days, so to me it’s kind of paradox for an Techno artist to say something like that.
Well, its been fantastic talking to you. Thanks for being so open and honest with me. Finally, where can we see you perform this summer?
Arne: We are just preparing our first bigger US Tour in September, gonna play at Symbiosis Gathering near San Francisco, Decibel Fest in Seattle a.o. but before that there are lots of gigs in Europe, please check here!
Extrawelt – Breaking Bricks EP on Halo Cyan + Remixes by Ulrich Schnauss, Joey Beltram, VRIL
Landside – Wasteland (Extrawelt Remixes) on Just This
Stephan Bodzin – Blue Giant (Extrawelt Remix) on Herzblut