Artist To Artist: Michael Mayer & Roman Flügel
There is very little left to be said about Roman Flügel and Michael Mayer as respective artists of which has not already been spoken. The two have helped to pave the way forward for German club culture and electronic music for decades and are arguably two of the most influential artists on the circuit at present. Each has their own take on the evolution of sound but both share an array of similarities in regard to musical sensibilities. On the 28th of October both artists will release LP’s with Dial and !K7 respectively. However, the pair have worked closely over the years having played back to back on several occasions, in fact Roman Flügel actually appears collaboratively on the opening track of Michael Mayer’s new album ‘&’. Given the corresponding dates of their album launches it seemed appropriate to kill two birds with one stone. Here is everything you need to know about the illustrious pair at present as they reflect on their relationship over the years. Read below:
How do you see Kompakt nowadays since the company itself has become sort of a ‘living legend’ after all these years?
Oh, you know… for me it’s just my second home. I’m glad that I still feel this way after all these years. When I travel a lot I start missing this place. I rarely look back on what we have accomplished or not. I’m 100% focused on the now and of course, the phuture.
I’m trying to remember the first time we met but raving has had it’s price and I’m simply not capable of doing so. What I do remember from a long time ago is, that I was immediately impressed by the fact that you, Wolfgang Voigt, his brother Reinhard and Tobias Thomas embodied not only a different kind of electronic music but also an alternative perspective on what Techno actually stands for. What do you think is the reason for this?
I remember when and where we first met. It was in 1993 at a pretty lousy rave in Krefeld. You were playing as Acid Jesus and I was there with my friends Wolfgang (Voigt) and Jörg (Burger) who played a 150 BPM acid live show. Those were the days, right? It’s funny that I had the same impression as you when I saw you there. I was like, hey… I’m not the only raver who finished high school. It felt very encouraging to see that you don’t need to be show-off with fluorescent hair to get a main stage slot. I think already then we all started carving our own niches, like planets coming into existence after the big bang. And we’ve been spinning in the same orbit ever since.
As a DJ you’ve been through multiple stages of your career. Is there any particular musical style you’ve started to play and later regret?
My evolution as a DJ has been rather coherent. I’ve had a very short flirt with early jungle and hardcore breakbeats. Stuff like Shut Up And Dance, the amazing Chill label or early Moving Shadow releases that evolved out of bleep techno at the time. The more the tempo went up the more I lost interest in it. But je ne regrette rien.
From eating meat to vegetarian back to meat again, from smoking to not smoking and vice versa. Life, for many people, is spiced with having different mind sets, fighting personal demons, obsessions, addictions, etc. Is it OK to fail?
Absolutely. It’s one of the things I love about Cologne being such a catholic city. Confession is a very healthy principle and you actually don’t need a priest for it. If you fucked up – just don’t lie to yourself about it and learn how to forgive yourself.
As a DJ you’re one of the few who are capable to play very long sets without leaving me behind bored. How do you prepare yourself for the weekend and how do you decide what ends up in your musical selection and what not?
I’m in constant preparation. On weekdays, while working at the office I’m filtering through quite a lot of music. Come Thursday, I usually spend the night re-listening to what I caught and see where it fits. I call it internalization. Every track has a particular function and value. It helps a lot to really understand what your tracks can do before playing them out, especially when you’re in for a longer ride.
Cologne is known for it’s relentless way to celebrate carnival. As someone who’s been living in that city for so many years but actually was born somewhere else do you think carnival in a Cologne style is easy to adapt?
To be honest, I’m still struggling with it. In nearly 15 years I never found a way into carnival. Maybe it’s because my parents were heavily involved in the black forest version of it. I’m like Obelix, I fell into a cauldron filled with magic potion when I was a kid. I’ve had more than enough of it. Also, I’ve got plenty of bacchanal in my life as it is.
For your latest album you decided to collaborate with some of your favourite producers and musicians. How did you manage to do so? Did each of them pay you a visit in your studio or did some of the work just happened online?
Luckily, most of them made it to my studio. There were a few hopeless cases like Andrew Thomas from New Zealand or Hauschka who would have had to move his prepared piano from Düsseldorf to Cologne. I’m still astonished that everything panned out so well. It was quite a challenge to get everything together in time. As I chose to release this album not on my own label I had to keep to the deadlines !K7 gave me. The making of this album took me beyond my limits but it still feels exhilarating to be just an artist. It’s the first time since 1998 that I don’t need to worry about marketing, promotion or distribution of my own music because I can totally rely on !K7’s great resources.
Some famous Dj’s are known for their expensive or extravagant hobbies. What are your’s?
I’m very sorry but I don’t have anything to reveal here. My life doesn’t leave me much time for extracurricular activities. A walk in the forest is my extravaganza.
It’s easy to feel a little trapped in that huge and unforgiving machine that is called ‘music business’. What helps you to set yourself free from everyday life sometimes? Sports, classical music, red wine…?
Sports and red wine are great but what really helps me recalibrating myself is being with my kids. They instantly sense when I’m somewhere else in my head and they know exactly which buttons to push to get my full attention.
What’s your favourite movie character and why?
Strangely, Wile E. Coyote came to my mind first. You know, this loony tunes character that tries to catch the Roadrunner. He’s coming up with the most brilliant, absolutely sure shot ideas of how to catch that annoying bird and they always backfire. Still, he never gives up. I empathize a lot with him.
It seems to me that finally after all these years you’re getting the wider recognition you dearly deserve. Could that be due to the fact that you’ve started releasing regularly under your real name? Do you regret working under so many different noms de plume before?
Regret doesn’t help really. I actually had more time to develop when I was flying under the radar for some time. But you’re right, a career is probably shaping up faster when you decide to use just one name instead of 10.
My first DJ name was M. Higher. Did you ever feel the temptation to become Roman Wing?
Almost. A person I know once suggested Novel Wing but luckily I was able to resist.
How did you handle your large array of projects before? Did you get up in the morning and put on… let’s say the Soylent Green hat or were you just hoarding tracks and assigned them to your pseudonyms later on?
It was like that! The monikers defined a certain style and thinking of them before the production actually started helped me to get into the right mood.
After ending your long standing creative partnership with Jörn Elling Wuttke, do you sometimes feel lonely in your studio?
Not really. Making electronic music was something I did on my own years before I met Jörn. It was actually a certain kind of freedom and one of the reasons why I stopped playing in bands. I like to compare the situation in the studio with a painter who sit’s in front of his canvas. Usually he’s the only one to use the brush.That doesn’t mean I’m not thankful for the time I spent producing with Jörn in general.
How did you spend the ‘Rocker’ millions?
Haha good joke… most of the royalties I earned from the sales with Klang Elektronik went back into the company again to support the label since we were starting to have big problems. Several distribution companies we worked with back then went bankrupt around the same time. It was a mess. And it didn’t work out very well as we all know today.
Like me, you’ve resisted the call to move to Berlin and remained in your hometown or at least close to it. What is it that keeps you in Frankfurt, a city that – seen from the outside – has changed quite dramatically in recent years.
The city has changed and has become increasingly popular since the area is quite prosperous. But besides my friends and family there’s a strategic advantage and that’s the international airport. I can fly almost anywhere without stop over’s and that makes things a lot easier.
When I hear you DJing, I sense what I would call a righteous toughness you won’t expect based on your productions. Is there still a lot of Omen in your heart?
Oh yes! I grew up with a lot of powerful techno in my ears. The Omen nights were an exchange of energy on many levels.
With Sister Midnight, you’ve started your own brand of parties. What is that all about?
At the moment I curate line up’s for parties in some of my favourite clubs and venues like Robert Johnson, Panorama Bar, Nitsa or the Village Underground. It is probably just the start for something else. I also might want to use Sister Midnight to release music in the future.
Here comes the yoga question! I know you get up terribly early in the morning to exercise. I’d love to do that, too. I’m especially attracted by the combination of meditation and yoga. Does meditation play any role in your working process?
The form of Yoga I practice can be seen as the foundation to a deeper level of meditation. I’m not using meditation or yoga to get me into the right mindset during the production process. But I’m pretty sure that the steady practice of yoga and meditation has a profound impact on the everyday life of every human in general.
I’m close to completing my biggest achievement yet, the invention of the time machine and I’m offering you a free ride. Where would you like me to take you.
Please take me to the future! Remember ‘Forward Ever Backward Never’..?