Random Facts With… Michael Mayer
So you may know Michael Mayer as the boss of Kompakt, the man behind numerous seismic DJ mixes, a global ambassador for keeping techno exciting, and an all round good egg, BUT did you know that he has his own personal belief system concerning the differing speed hair grows at when awake and asleep? No? Well you do now. It's one of several topics we touched as we embarked on a Random Facts interview with Michael. Prepare yourself for a smorgasboard of almost completely useless information, covering everything from rhino sweat, to impossibly long names for phobias, to which of his relatives were involved in Superman films, to witnessing a riot started by disco nice guys Hot Chocolate, to just why George Clinton is wearing Michael's hat on a Parliament album cover. On your marks, set;
R$N: If you’ve got one to go with then lets go!
MM: Did you know the total length of all the human blood vessels?
Uhhh, 5 miles?
Nope, it’s 62,000 miles. If you put all your blood vessels together it would encompass the earth two and half times. Isn’t that crazy?
62,000 miles? That is definitely interesting. That’s just one person?
Yep, just one person.
So not 5 miles then… Did you know that computers have been used to compose electronic music since 1951?
Nope. Who was the first to use it?
Apparently it was a guy called Jeff Hill and he was a computer programmer from the University of Melbourne.
Is there a recording of it?
It was a scratchy recording of Baa Baa Black Sheep. And there was also a truncated version of In The Mood. They’re both thought to be the oldest versions of computer generated music.
What’s In The Mood? Is that Glenn Miller?
I think it must be, yeah.
I’d love to see the actual computer. I bet it would fill a whole house! Who would have thought the first electronic music would have come from Melbourne?
I know, Melbourne of all places…
Did you know that Dolphins have a melon in their heads? It’s part of their nasal apparatus and it’s this round lump of something that helps them with their communication and it’s part of their echolocation system. And it’s called a melon.
I’m looking now and it’s the front the part of their head. I never knew that!
I have a thing for animal TV programs. It’s my favourite thing to do when I’m in a hotel and there’s no German or English speaking channel. It works in every language; I just like staring at weird animals.
I’ve got some good animal facts actually. When Hippos are upset their sweat turns red.
Wow. Well that’s impressive. I’ve got a theory concerning body hair… But after long weekends and I haven’t slept properly it appears that my hair grows faster, so I think that hair grows faster when you’re not asleep.
Fingernails do too.
I tried to look it up on the Internet but I couldn’t actually find anything but it seems to be that the opposite is actually the case and it grows faster when you’re asleep. Do you know though, that all your body hair together grows 30 meters a day.
I did not know that. That’s crazy.
Insane isn’t it? A man also spends 150 days of his life shaving and he cuts 800 meters of hair in that time. So by that, if you were to never shave, your beard would be about 800 meters long.
Is that possible?! Did you know that Polar Bears can eat as many as 86 penguins in a single sitting.
They’d have to eat a lot of carbs too to flush it all out of their system. Fantastic. Another interesting hair fact… We have 200 eyelashes. I thought it would be less.
I thought it’d be much less than that too. I’m looking in the mirror now and I’m having a hard time believing that. A baby spider is called a spiderling.
I’m quite interested in phobias and a couple of years ago there was a double-page spread in one of my favourite papers about scientifically proven phobias and some of them we all know, like Teutophobia – which is the fear of Germans, Francophobia – being scared of French people/culture and Triskaidekaphobia – the fear of the number 13. I just find it amazing that it’s scientifically proven that someone can be scared of the number 13.
Why the number 13?
Glucodemaphobia is when somebody is scared of the skin that forms on the top of warm milk sometimes. But these are all pretty normal. Wait until you hear the next one. Arachibutyrophobia is the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth.
That’s a great one.
It’s just the names of these phobias are so amazing. You’ve also got Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia, which is the fear of 666.
That’s a long phobia for such a small number.
You haven’t seen anything yet. Bargainophobia is another one.
Is it what it says it is?
It’s when you’re scared of sales, yeah! And there’s also Stasibasiphobia, which is when someone is scared of both walking and standing still.
Really?! So what do you have to do? Sit down?
You’re fucked! But isn’t that horrible? You can’t go anywhere or do anything. There’s also the phobia of long words and that’s called Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia. How stupid is that? So you’re scared of long words and so scientists give it that name, then you have to try to explain it to you boss. It’d be impossible!
That’s literally unpronounceable. Yeah, I think you’d be pretty scared of saying that.
I guess they probably had a good laugh when they came up with that.
Do you have any phobias?
Well, I looked at an article yesterday and ended up going through about 500 different phobias and I didn’t have one of them.
Nope. I think I’m a phobia-free person.
There’s nothing you don’t like or try to avoid?
There’s things that I don’t like, but there’s nothing I’m really scared of in a pathological way.
I’ll tell you mine… Peaches. I’m scared of the skin. My girlfriend chases me round the supermarket with them. I get goose pimples when I’m around them. My girlfriend has a phobia of butterflies. She doesn’t like their unpredictable nature because you just can’t predict what they’re going to do. It’s quite funny to watch her run away from them in the street as she takes it quite seriously.
My wife is scared of caterpillars. I can kind of understand as some are hairy and you can get toxic ones too, but butterflies?!
I know, it’s crazy. The Beastie Boys is an acronym for Boys Entering Anarchistic Stages Towards Internal Excellence. I didn’t know that.
Is that serious?
Yeah, that’s true. That’s what it originally meant, but even I didn’t know that. Your turn.
I’ve got some kind of personal facts now. I’m sure that you wouldn’t be aware of the fact that George Clinton is wearing my hat.
Yeah. There’s a record sleeve where he’s wearing my hat.
Which sleeve is that?
It almost classes me as a funketeer. I’ve forgotten the name now, but it’s a mid-90’s album. Nothing too famous but it’s true. It’s a long story though.
(We thought it was this one but unfortunately we were mistaken…)
Well I was still living with my parents at the time and it was shortly before I moved to Cologne. I was already a DJ and a friend of mine thought that it would be a super nice present to give me a Rastafari hat, but it just looked ridiculous on me so I said thanks and then just put it in my room and it never really saw the light of day again. Then one day I invited Eric D Clark, who’s a DJ from San Francisco, from Whirlpool Production, to play at my party and he slept at my place and saw the hat and thought that it was amazing. I told him to keep it as it looked horrible on me, then a year later he did an interview with George Clinton for the German magazine called Spex and the soundtrack was Childhood, and whilst doing the interview he had the hat that I gave him on. Then the first thing that Clinton said to him was, ‘Damn, that hat! I used to have one like this but now I’ve lost it. That was my favourite hat!’
So Eric, the great fan that he was, gave him the hat and told him to keep it and then he ended up wearing it for the album cover shoot.
We followed up with Michael about which hat it was. After suggesting the above this was Michael's response:
I've been trying to get a hold of Eric so I can deliver proof but he's AWOL… I believe he's wearing my hat in this picture but I can't find the record sleeve… Sorry.
Eric mentions his interview with Mr Clinton in this article but no mentioning of the hat.
Now that makes me look like a Münchhausen here… damn! But you have to believe me… why would I make this up? Just in order to come across as the funkiest white dude walking on the face of the earth? Maybe.
I’ll have to look up the album title. I should have bought it really. The party that Eric actually played at for me was when I was resident at Europe’s biggest gay discotheque and that was in 1991.
What was it called?
The club was called Lambda. That’s an even longer story, but the temple of my dreams when I was a teenager was called Drops, it was a big discotheque near the place that I grew up. They’d won contests like Best Discotheque in Europe in the '80s and things like that. It was amazing – they had a full colour laser show and even a Lion and Tiger in a cage. It was like Disneyland, it was crazy. At the time, my neighbour was the DJ and laser operator and he was my idol. He still is actually. So I always wanted to go, but I was too young, and finally when I was old enough and I got there I was in Heaven as it was so amazing. I’ll never forget dancing under the lasers. But then it closed down and it got turned into an Alternative Rock and Metal club, it was so painful to see it happening. Then, some years later, I was going out in my hometown and I went to some bar and suddenly there was this guy chatting me up and I just thought he wanted to take me home or something but then he told me that he was about to open Europe’s biggest gay club and that he wanted me to be his resident DJ.
Then, being a bit stupid and naïve I just said to forget about it, I’m not gay, it’s not going to happen and I wasn’t going to do anything he wanted me to do. But he was being serious and he eventually got round to telling me it was what used to be Drops and from that moment I was sold and I said I’d be his resident DJ, no problem. I was so excited to get to play in this temple. The opening night was amazing and there were loads of international guests, fashion designers and models. Then on the second weekend, the place probably had a capacity of 2000 people, we probably had about 150 people through the door… To be honest, it probably wasn’t the right area to open Europe’s biggest gay disco. It was somewhere in the countryside near the French border. On the third weekend I moved to Cologne and the deal was that I keep coming back on weekends to fulfil my residency duties but after that weekend I took off as the gay club thing wasn’t really happening in that area and they decided to open the place to the wider public. But to pull in a more hetero audience they booked Hot Chocolate to perform live!
Flogging a dead horse…
It did kind of work as there was a big crowd outside. But then Hot Chocolate’s manager said that they wanted half of the money in cash, up front. But obviously they didn’t have that kind of money as they were broke, so then they said, ‘fuck this, we’re leaving.’ and Hot Chocolate didn’t play… But obviously the club was full of people that were there to see Hot Chocolate, so then my poor partner, the other resident DJ, had to make an announcement that they weren’t going to be playing any more and they wouldn’t be getting their money back. So then people started getting a bit pissed off and basically dismantling the whole place and taking machines, boxes of beer, stole lamps and basically anything that wasn’t fixed down. They just robbed the whole place basically. The other resident actually secured one of the turntables because he thought it was mine, although that wasn’t the case, but since that day I’ve had two turntables haha!
You still have it now?
Yeah, it still have it!
Brilliant. There’s a big hoo-ha about residents again in London now. I mean, there’s always been the resident culture, but it’s just being marketed again. But how do you feel about that? Do you still have residencies anywhere?
I have some loose residencies. I used to have my residency in Cologne at the Total Confusion parties that ran for about 15 years. For the first nine years it was a weekly thing every Friday and it was an amazing time but it wore me out and I wanted to do things like travelling. But that was my only real residency and since then I’ve only had loose residencies where I would be playing somewhere about four times a year and places like Nitsa in Barcelona, Mondo in Madrid, I played twice at Weetamix in Geneva, which is one of my favourite clubs on the planet. Then also at The Block in Tel Aviv, I’m supposed to be playing there three times a year. Just stuff like that really.
Any in Germany?
Uhh, nope. No more residencies in Germany.
Okay, cool. More facts then: So, did you know that John Steinbecks original manuscript for Of Mice & Men was eaten by a dog?
Wow. I’m guessing he had to write everything again…
Yeah, I imagine so. Don Quixote is the best selling novel of all time with over 500 million copies sold.
Wow. I’ve got another personal one now. My Father-In-Law was a stuntman in Superman movies, the old ones. He did the stunt where Superman was flying the plane. Superman wasn't just flying the plane, he was hanging at the tail of the airplane while my Father-In-Law was piloting the plane.
Wow, that’s a good job. Well, probably quite scary. So that was his actual job?
Yeah yeah. He was a pilot as well but I’m not sure how he ended up becoming a stunt man. He didn’t really pursue it though and ended up becoming a private jet pilot and he was flying with George Michael and Duran Duran and such like. He’s full of amazing stories.
I bet. Sounds like there’s a book there. So what’s going on with you at the moment then? Any new stuff?
Ummm, not really. It’s the summer season so I didn’t really get to spend much time in the studio. There’s two remixes coming out though, one for Claptone that I think actually just got released and another one for Mathias Kaden. He did a track with a guy called Rocko Schamoni who’s a German Punk legend who then turned to writing and acting. Maybe you heard about that band Fraktus?
He’s one of those guys.
Ah okay, right.
So I couldn’t say no to that really.
Are you still involved with the A&R with Kompakt?
I’m in charge! Jon is working closely by my side, but I’m fully involved with everything yeah. I’m spending my weekdays at the office like always. Nothing’s changed there. I guess I kind of need that though.
Yeah, of course. I’m looking forward to hearing the Coma album; I really enjoyed the first one. It was wicked.
Yeah, it’s a good one. Did you hear the single, Lora?
Yeah, Felix sent me that and few other bits. What else is coming up? I’ve been a bit out of the loop.
On the album side there’s going to be a Blondish debut album, which is going to be magnificent I think, and it’s completely different to what you’d expect from their DJ sets. Then there’s shit loads of singles until the end of the year. We’re drowning in great music. It’s become a bit of a problem.
It’s a good problem.
A luxury problem. It’s still a problem though. So much work.