Michael Mayer is synonymous with dance music. In fact, you would be hard pushed to find anyone within the industry who has contributed as much time and effort on an international scale. As an artist, he has toured to millions and to this day remains one of Germany’s core musical celebrities.

His work as a producer and label owner has shaped, reshaped and continues to shape the genre of techno whilst also contributing to a wider range of music including remixing the likes of Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode, Foals and Rufus Wainwright.

Mayer and his team are also behind the infamous Kompakt. A record label, an artist agency, a distribution wing and for many a symbol for everything dance music should stand for. Evolution and forward motion have been at the core of everything Kompakt stands for.

On May 31 we invite Michael Mayer and his Kompakt family to London to The Cause for what will be an epic all night long dance party. Ahead of the date, we thought it was time to talk to the man himself and find out what is behind the headphones.

We are super excited to bring you and your Kompakt family to London. You will be joined by Patrice Bäumel & Anii. The music is an integral part of what Kompakt is about. However, as an outsider looking in Kompakt is bound by much more than music. What values do you look for in a person when considering bringing them into the Kompakt family?

If you dig deeper into Kompakt’s catalogue you’ll quickly realize that we’ve never been signing artists purely on the basis of a particular musical style. The range of genres we’re covering is pretty elastic. What we’re looking for while listening to as many demos as we can – we receive around 50 a day – we’re looking for the artist’s personality to shine through their music. Often enough, I don’t get to meet the artists in person before signing them. But I’ve developed a keen ear over the years. The majority of the artists we’ve signed turned out to be really nice people. too. Values I like in an artist are an abundance of creativity (obviously), good work ethics, friendliness and modesty.

As the co-owner of Kompakt Records and Kompakt distribution, you must have a vast array of music passing through your hands. Is there a track, album or EP that stands out above the rest, for better or for worse?
Oxia’s Domino comes to my mind. When that demo came in, the A&R duties at Kompakt were still split between my partner Wolfgang and me. We had a huge argument over this track… Wolfgang was hell-bent on putting it out and I was totally against it. Gladly, Wolfgang got his way. Domino became the best-selling 12″ in our 26 years of history.

 

Kompakt in the eyes of many has defined a genre. In an interview, you are quoted as saying, “What I would like is for people to think that the label gave techno music a more human face; a smiling face, as opposed to the machine-like music that people seem to connect to the genre.” Looking back after 20 plus years do you think you have achieved this?
Ha, that’s a really ancient quote! Yes, I believe we’ve managed to carve our own niche and hopefully helped some people with having a good time. But the battle isn’t won yet. Isn’t it funny that some folks pin us down like an old school label while championing styles that sound way more retro than anything we’ve done? Everything is so 90s nowadays, be it the massively popular big room acid techno, the Dutch Italo deep house and electro wave, hell… even the early UK Intelligent Techno is facing a big resurgence. Kompakt’s sound is clearly post-90s. Forward ever, backward never.

 

We recently spoke with Steve Lawler and he said the thing he missed most about dance music in its early years of illegal raves was the sense of the unknown. DJs, promoters, and dancers no one knew what they were doing everyone was ‘winging it’. Do you think dance music’s move towards a corporate industry is for better or for worse?
I can understand where Steve’s coming from. A lot of that corporate business feels a little bittersweet to me as well. But then again, I’m under the impression that some of today’s kids feel the urge to return to that DIY spirit of the early days. In the end, it’s a matter of attitude if you prefer dancing at a streamlined 10K capacity event or if you want to dig a little deeper. Somehow, the scene has always been divided like this. Personally, I hated the 90s corporate raves. But hey, nobody could force me to go there. I’ve opted for throwing my own parties back then. We’re all free to make choices in our lives.

 

Who has been the most influential figure in your career?
That has to be Wolfgang Voigt. He taught me how to be creatively and economically independent, to embrace the fact that I wasn’t born in Belleville or Brooklyn and how to translate that into a unique musical language.

 

If you could look back 15 years. What advice would you give a young Michael Mayer to succeed as a DJ?
Dare to be different. Spend your energy on finding your own sound and perfecting your craft.

 

…and to succeed as a person?
Don’t take yourself to importantly. If you managed to make a living from your creativity you should be eternally grateful to your supporters for making that possible.

 

Dance music has over the years been a form of expression used to unite and drive social change. What role if any do you think music plays in modern society?
Dance music has permeated our Western society. Sometimes we tend to forget how it all started and that there are still places in the world where dancing can be considered a political act. I’m convinced that our scene has more power than we think. Last year’s events in Tbilisi were a perfect demonstration of that power. Also, we’re all used to flying across the globe to attend some cool party somewhere. This freedom to travel shouldn’t be taken for granted. It also comes with a high cost for the environment. Don’t forget to VOTE for those who protect your freedom and try to find solutions to this planet’s overwhelming problems. Get involved!

 

Finally, if you could collaborate with one musician past or present who would it be and why?
Alan Parsons. His oeuvre soundtracked my childhood and influenced me on so many levels. I’m still finding myself going back to his catalogue on a rainy day.

 

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