The city of Cologne sometimes slips through the body of conversation when speaking about Germany's musical output. There is a tendency to place sole focus on the cultural importance of Berlin when it in fact sits amongst a landscape of dynamic and creative cities throughout the country.
Electronic music has long been a staple of this town and John Harten explains that the identity of the city truly flourished when Karlheinz Stockhausen began working at the Studio für Elektronische Musik of the Westdeutscher Rundfunk. Originally founded in the 1950's the studio acted as a gateway to the generation of musical ideas, concepts and creativity. This ethos remains at the heart and soul of the city's roots to this day and has led inspirationally to the formation of new sounds, labels, clubs and artists.
Magazine was founded as a label by John Harten, Daniel Ansorge and Jens-Uwe Beyer in 2006. The three first met in the Northern town of Kiel which lies around sixty miles beyond Hamburg. John is keen to explain that whilst this was conceptually the moment of formation for Magazine it was some time before the three would release a record. He explains the nature of the the crews early relationship.
"It was in the mid 90's. We had already started our first projects during that time. Though we had quite different musical backgrounds we all found a common ground in experimental electronic projects like Wolfgang Voigt's GAS."
Born in 1961 it is no surprise that the three hold the work of Wolfgang Voigt in such high esteem, his influence and importance in Cologne's electronic music community remains prevalent. Across the year's he has released on the likes of Warp, Harvest and his own co-founded label Kompakt which he runs to this day alongside Michael Mayer and Jurgen Paape. It isn't difficult to imagine how aspirational a figure like his must have been in the mid nineties, let alone in the present.
Magazine HQ Cologne
Magazine emerged in 2010 with a collaborative release from the three men behind the label themselves. Operating under aliases both John Harten and Daniel Ansorge adopted personas: Crato and Barnt respectively. Alongside Jens-Uwe-Beyer, and in collaboration with several others the "Cologne Tapes" project was born.
"We were a bit bored by techno at one point and the Cologne Tape happenings gave us a way out. When we started the project about ten years ago it felt kind of releasing to us."
There are rumours of a re-emergence of the project in 2017, whether that implies a current disenchantment with modern day club music is left unanswered. Given the fact that the label has just this month released a heavy metal come drone LP there might well be an argument to suggest it could be the case. However, the label do themselves make clear to indicate that the way in which they release music is not aligned or limited by genre.
"We seek for energy in music. If it’s lacking we get bored. Whereas boredom again is a good base for energetic music…We grew up with the idea that music is based on youth movements and youth movements are based on music… and genres always mattered. Magazine is not a genre specific label, though."
Another important concern of the label is archival. There is a value attached to evolution and to what has come before. The label's titlle itself indicates such attention to this detail.
"The basic meaning of the multilingual word ‚Magazine' (from it's arabic origin Mahzan) is storehouse, depot, repertory, which – in the sense of ‚archive' – represents the main idea of the label: collecting important contemporary comments in all directions like a concert-hall or hallway."
From a conceptual perspective this is also carried through the appearance of each release: from the artwork to the intricate references and catalogue system there is a great deal of care in ensuring that the overall body of releases is treated as a collection of works. The visual identity was created by John Harten.
"The concept is to treat each artwork separately – it stands for its own.and having the catalog number on the front like a title is part of the "archival series" label concept. All images are chosen for formal and aesthetic reason. It's all about the relation of images and its effect. Just through the work of formal aspects a contingent selection becomes a necessative statement, which, additionally, seems to combine with the music."
The open mindedness of the record label in its release policy has long been one of the most appealing aspects of its existence. There are few who might be prepared to take such risks in regard to the variation of musicians which have featured on the label. Up until this point those who have appeared have either been friends or involved in the label in some fashion. In the last few years the likes of Jaures, Wassermann and Naum Gabo have all put records out with Magazine alongside the labels most reputable stalwart, Barnt. John describes the relationship across locations between the three in the present day.
"Very roughly you could say Jens-Uwe is based in Cologne, John in Berlin and Daniel is basically traveling around the world as our minister for foreign affairs.. that seems to be a good mix."
There is a sense of humility amongst the team behind Magazine. It's almost as though they don't know just quite how good they have become as a label. Who knows what the future holds, as John explained earlier boredom incites energy, music changes and tastes expand. The label has just released a heavy metal album, anything could happen, believe that.
Visit the Magazine website HERE.