As a DJ, producer and remixer, Michael Mayer remains one of Germany’s core celebrities in dance music. It’s no secret that he spends his weekends traveling around the globe. It’s likely throughout his career he’s played in front of millions.
As a co-owner of Kompakt, he spends his weekdays deciding what will be released on the label and working with the label’s artists and overseeing Kompakt’s distribution wing – the home of over 50 record labels. Amazingly enough, he manages to sneak into the studio on occasion to produce his own music and remix the likes of Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode, Foals and Rufus Wainwright. And of course there is Supermayer but more on that later. It’s safe to say he loves being challenged and regardless of the pressure is never putting less than 100% of his heart and soul into everything he does.
Though he remains dedicated to the 4/4 kick drum, Michael Mayer is by no means a techno purist but is constantly striving to look beyond one’s own nose, to shift frontiers and to go in depth. His compassion to the scene, devotion to music and his craft as a DJ and producer has set him in a standard that few have been able to accomplish. “A DJ has a certain responsibility. He has to play progressive, contemporary music and combine it with the past. It is all about entertaining people, but you must not under challenge nor overstrain them. You must be subversive and play music that no one would have ever dreamt of listening to voluntarily at the club. You are both, entertainer and educator.”
You’re coming to the UK at the end of August for 3 shows for 3 great club nights. During your down time what do you like to do here (other than travel and sleep!)
I don’t expect to have a whole lot of downtime. But if possible at all I’d love to ride the Helter Skelter in Brighton. That’s been on my to do list for a while…
Kompakt has been going strong for many years with a great label, roster and the amazing shop in Cologne. Do you have any favourite record shops in the UK that you like to get down to?
When I’m in London I’d always try to stop by Phonica. And I’ve heard about a new record store that just opened in Brighton. I’d love to check that out as well. It takes a lot of balls to open a vinyl shop these days so I’d like to shake these brave men’s hands and wish them all the luck.
How is the dance music scene in Cologne? There are many great labels based there.
Actually, this year the Cologne nightlife has reached an all time high. Cologne has always been a rather tricky place for night clubs because the center is very dense and small. It’s hard to find a place where you can be loud without annoying the neighbours. Nevertheless, recently we’ve seen new clubs popping up like mushrooms and they all seem to work pretty well. Most successful nights are based on strong resident DJs rather than big name bookings which is good sign, I think. Cologne still has some trumps up its sleeve as you could see with the well deserved rise of Barnt. He’s been a respected local force for many years before he had his international breakthrough.
Kompakt has grown immensely over the years. How are you involved these days and how do you fit it all in with your touring and productions?
These days I’m mainly taking care of the label and of course I’m still involved in the general decision making for the company as a whole. I got rid of most other duties like my involvement in the distribution department. I’m really enjoying my role as A&R which largely consists of staying in touch with Kompakt‘s artist community. The fact that I’m traveling a lot goes along well with this job. Nothing beats planning a new release over a nice dinner and celebrating it right after at some party. But it’s true…. I’m working A LOT. But both, running the company and my ‘other life’ as a traveling DJ are very rewarding and totally intertwined. As exhausting as it is – I couldn’t imagine to give up one or the other.
What productions are you working on at present? Any collaborations on the go?
Right now, I hardly find time to spend in the studio. The summer season is full on so I’m focusing my energy on DJing. There are two new remixes underway – one for my old friend Mathias Kaden and one for Claptone. In spring, I’ve started a new project with a friend of mine that I’ll hopefully be able to complete this autumn. But I’m taking it easy for now. It’s nice to work on this special project without having a pending deadline or whatever pressure. I like imposing deadlines on others but personally, I fear them a lot.
What is your favourite instrument or piece of technology in your studio at the moment?
I’m deeply in love with my late 80’s Studer mixing console. It not only serves as a mixer – it’s also a very comfortable piece of furniture.
I really loved your track “Roses”, especially the vocal, from your Mantasy album. What was the inspiration for that track?
The sample stems from a psychedelic folk record. I’m buying and listening to a lot of singer/songwriter music from the 60’s and 70’s, especially the more ‘out there’ stuff. When I heard that vocal I knew immediately that I had to steal it. Yes, there is a certain amount of criminal energy inside of me. I’m trying to canalise it by sampling.
We’re well into 2015 now. Where’s been your favourite place to visit this year?
It’s been a very good year so far. Apart from the ‘standards’, clubs I get to visit on a regular basis like The Block in Tel Aviv, Nitsa in Barcelona, Mondo Madrid, Fabric, Panoramabar, Culture Box Copenhagen or Robert Johnson I’ve particularly enjoyed the B2B sets with Roman Flügel, Agoria, Seth Troxler and Solomun on various occasions. I used to say that I’d only share the decks with someone I’d also share my bed with but I’ve started to really enjoy the tension and risk that is involved when you play with someone for the first time.
I was lucky enough to be at your party at The Beat Hotel at this year’s Glastonbury. Did you get to spend much time there and if so what were your highlights?
Unfortunately, my first Glasto experience was a very short one. I saw the first 15 minutes of The Who and some of the other Beat Hotel artists. Shame on me. Next time I’ll know better.
It’s nearly the end of the summer. However, that means we’ll soon be out of the fields and back into the clubs. What tracks from Kompakt can we look forward to hearing over the coming months?
This autumn is going to be hot hot hot. Blond:ish‘s album will certainly turn some heads. It’s not at all what you might expect from them based on their DJ sets. It’s very free-thinking, spiritual and musical. Urgh, that sounds awful. But trust me – the album is amazing. And so is COMA’s second album that’ll drop in October. On the singles front it’s looking very busy too. I’m especially happy with the new Rex The Dog… he’s coming back so strong right now. And there will be some thoroughly pleasant surprises, too. But I can’t tell you any details yet without having to shoot you. Well, I’ll better go down to the studio and sample something.
Well thanks very much for taking the time out to chat to us here at Decoded and look forward to many more years of Kompakt releases.