Michael Mayer - boss of the Kompakt empire alongside WolfgangVoigt and Jurgen Paape - touched down in London town the other day to promote his new album ‘Mantasy’ , the first full length from the producer and DJ in eight years, where he played an intimate in-store set at burgeoning record store Phonica. Ellie Hewitt grabbed a coffee beforehand, to talk about the album, DJing and Kompakt’s continual, organic growth.
How would you say ‘Mantasy’ has progressed from ‘Touch’? It's been eight years since the last one, what has changed? Well it has been a long time but I’ve been incredibly busy, ‘Touch’ is something I can’t really relate to anymore.
What as the inspiration for the concept behind ‘Mantasy’? Well I read this book, I found it in a hotel room actually (I left one in its place), it was the only German book in the room. It was about a man named Magellen, a famous discoverer and adventurer. Anyway this book just really captured me, it was about one man and his dreams of the fact that there was a hint of distance between the Atlantic and the Pacific. He just got 6 ships and a couple of hundred men, and sailed off into the unknown. It’s a really romantic, beautiful story, about one man chasing his dreams. It inspired me to just go into the studio, into the unknown, shut out the outside world and make a journey.
The last album ‘Touch’ was made in a relatively short space of time, do you agree that sometimes the best tracks pieces are the ones that come naturally, without much overthinking? Well no, ‘Touch’ was more just a compilation of things. ‘Mantasy’ took seven months.
You called it Mantasy so is that the Michael Mayer 'fantasy'? [Laughs]. Not exactly, it’s just an unknown destination of mine.
What’s your biggest fantasy? Honestly, I am living my dream, I dreamt from a very young age of being a DJ, it was my obsession, so I am living out my fantasy.
Lametuswa is the second track on the album – can you tell us about this one, doesn’t it relate to an early musical memory? It was the name of one of my favourite songs I heard when I was very young, it’s actually ‘L’amour, c’est toi’ but when your little you just join together the words. It’s so sad, I couldn’t find a copy of it anywhere. I could never trace it.
Rudi was a punk, what phases of music did you go through as an adolescent? I actually never had a rock period, I do like The Pixies and My Bloody Valentine but I never went through a rock phase, as it were. This song is about my late Uncle, who was an anarchist, a true punk, a bit of a black sheep of the family and this is a tribute to him.
You were born in the Black Forest, tell us about growing up there? In my neighbourhood there was an amazing discothèque in on the French border, it was one of the leading nightclubs there and I go really lucky as the Black Forest is not always such an accessible place.
You've been DJing since you were 14, your set up must have changed a lot since then? What were your first turntables? Old technics 1210s, I bought them second hand when I was just 15.
What do you use now? I still use them! I can’t leave the house without CDs now though, it’s too dangerous to leave without them, often the turntables don’t work.
Do you still feel the magic that you did when you first started? When I come to a new club I still get excited, I check the lighting, first time in any new club that’s important. It’s about the show, the atmospheres. You can have dancers and ponies on stage but at the end of the day it’s the music. I’m a traditional DJ in that sense; it’s about the music, not the visuals, though I don’t mind them.
What were the '90s like for you? Well, Tobias Thomas and myself, we cultivated a style that was in between techno and house, I never understood why there was a separation.
So Cologne is your home, where do you hang out there? There are beautiful parks, it’s a very green city, even in the centre. There are beautiful museums, if you like Italian food, you’d be very happy there, there’s a lot of amazing Italian food.
Tell me about Kompakt with Wolfgang and Jurgen. It's so successful, it’s been going since 1998, you have over 50 labels under the umbrella...I was pretty self-confident about it as an empire when we first started out, the actual growth really did happen in a very organic way. We took slow small steps, which is why it’s successful now. Especially with our artists, there’s a family vibe there.
Do you have any soft spots for any of the labels? Obviously with labels like Dial and Freude Am Tanzen, who have been with us for a really long time, it’s a very close relationship.
What’s it like between Wolfgang you and Jurgen? It’s a bit of a miracle but then again not. We’ve been running the business together for a really long time, we’ve never fallen out and there’s a huge amount of trust there. We are like brothers.
Are there any genres of music you don’t like? Almost everything that’s played on mainstream radio in Germany, it’s dreadful.
You've been a resident at some of the world’s most famous clubs, any memorable nights you can tell me about? I’ve never had a bad night, my residencies are very important to me.
Any advice for all those future , up and coming names? Don’t go the easy way! Show some edges, be proud of what you’re doing, don’t wait for someone to help you. Run your own parties, create your own job. At Kompakt we literally did everything by ourselves. It’s still the best idea we’ve ever had, we are truly independent and we don’t need to ask permission - from anyone.
Finally, any last words on ‘Mantasy’? It’s just an offering of my music - it’s for you to decide!
Mantasy is released on Kompakt Records on the 22nd October.