With the release of his sophomore solo record Mantasy this month, Alex Cull caught up with Kompakt leader Michael Mayer for a one-to-one on juggling his manic lifestyle, the creative processes behind Mantasy, and his all-time favourite film soundtracks…
It’s been 8 years in between the releases of Touch and Mantasy – have these songs on Mantasy been floating around for a while now or are they very recent creations?
The whole album was conceived in one go between January and July. I’ve put down notes and ideas over the course of the last few years but due to my heavy touring schedule and involvement here at Kompakt, I never really had the time to work them out in the studio. It needed an act of force to empty my calendar so I could focus on the album. Once that was done, it was very enjoyable for me to lock myself away for a while.
In a pre-release interview, you said: “Mantasy is my second solo album, but for me it’s really the first one”. What did you mean by this? Do you view it as a far ‘superior’ record to Touch or a greatly different one? Or, is it just the next stage of a gradual evolution?
In the eight years since Touch, a great number of things changed in my life. I’ve had two children, my musical taste has expanded considerably, Kompakt itself underwent loads of changes, I’ve played hundreds of parties, met thousands of people. All of this influenced my way of thinking and certainly made me a more mature person. What remained is a rather playful approach and a certain innocence when it comes to creating music. As I didn’t release a lot of material since my last album, I still feel fresh and inspired. And yes, I like to take one step at a time; gradual evolution, organic growth… that’s my thing.
What were you listening to around writing and recording Mantasy? Who were your biggest influences?
To my surprise, the main inspiration for Mantasy came from two books I’ve read before and during the recording sessions; Stefan Zweig’s Magellan biography and David Toop’s Ocean of Sound. Both books are about journeys to the unknown, although in a very different way. But yet, they created the frame of mind I needed… Letting things go, sailing with the wind, transcending genre-thinking and fading out expectations.
You’ve talked about soundtracks being an important influence on you musically, and that you listen to them a lot. Are there any particular ones that inspired Mantasy?
I wouldn’t say that there was a particular soundtrack that influenced Mantasy, but Angelo Badalamenti, Ennio Morricone, John Williams and Danny Elfman firmly rank amongst my all-time favourite musicians.
And, what are your favourite soundtracks of all-time?
Twin Peaks, Citizen Kane, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Suspiria, Forbidden Planet, Close Encounters of the Third Kind…
You spend a lot of time on the road, going to different countries and performing, has this inspired the way you produce music these days? If so,how?
As we say in German: “Reisen bildet.” Travelling broadens your mind. It surely has some sort of abstract impact on how I fathom music.
Does it ever get difficult scheduling your performing with running Kompakt? Are you as involved with the label nowadays as you’ve ever been?
It’s never been easy to organize my life. But, I got used to do the splits between office, family and gigging. It needs an almost zen-like mind set to do that for such a long time. I guess I’m kind of well-equipped for that, genetically-speaking. Naturally, in the first half of 2012, I had to delegate most label work to my staff. But now I’m pretty much back in the saddle
While a lot of record labels experience brief halcyon periods, Kompakt has remained cutting-edge and important for a long time now. What do you feel has been key to this on-going relevance?
We never really went over the top, never got carried away by our success. There were moments when doors were open to become much bigger and earn more money, but we’ve consciously declined these offers. We’ve always preferred to remain in full control of our business. My partners and I invested so much blood, sweat and tears in this company that we owe it to ourselves and our fantastic staff to stay vigilant, and most importantly, true to ourselves.
I remember reading that you felt Kompakt should be run from an artistic point of view rather than a commercial one, how has this translated into the label’s output over the years from your perspective?
What makes us happy and proud is the longevity of our artist relations. Working for so many years with great artists like Thomas Fehlmann, Justus Köhncke, Superpitcher, The Field or Gui Boratto proves that we’re doing something right. At some point, we’ve all had bloody noses from working with majors or bigger indie labels. We try not to repeat their mistakes while still providing the best possible service for them.
Finally, if you could only DJ one venue again for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
Would I be allowed to move Offenbach’s Robert Johnson to Cologne? That would be it; perfect size, perfect sound, wooden dancefloor, a terrace, well-equipped bar, no frippery.
- Alex Cull