Quite a mix of the contemporary sound.. I was born in the 1970s and as many might know there was quite an interesting variety of music happening back then. I remember my family’s and their friends’ taste being around pop, folk, some disco as well as jazz. Hanging out with friends was versatile – with some it was more about the contemporary Rock music, while others got some Disco or Soul tapes from their older brothers. I think I already checked the music for rhythms and basslines – and I was into certain emotions in music. I guess that’s still a bit of what I’m into today.. After a transition via the popular Neue Deutsche Welle Sound which helped the ‘German’ vibe in music become popular, in the early 80s the music became more and more electronic. The earlier Hiphop music arrived from the US and some people were doing breakdance in the streets, even in Germany. With friends I was getting into some of the styles and started collecting records and checking out radio stations for the hot tunes. Around that time we made our first dj experiences and went out to local parties and then clubs. We already developed quite a taste and distinction of styles and habits. Some of these are still present in today’s music and culture.
It’s hard to say when that started or what you’d exactly call creation of music. As many 80s kids I used to have a computer at my place and did some computer games on it as well as some programming which we had to do at school. But there was also some super basic and gritty sounding music software available. You could make sounds that would have been pretty nice in later techno or electro music, for sure. I was already into that special kind of funky rhythms that could be found in old Funk and Soul music or the new sampled Hip Hop records that the DJs played on the radio or later in the clubs. We were totally into finding out how to do this and at some point I got a very lo-fi sampler extension for that Commodore computer and started to either sample some of the cool rhythms and sounds and put them together.
Also House music came into the game around the mid 1980s. It was not as much about sampling as Hiphop but it had such an abstract energy. There was a new discovery every day! Later a very simple mixer and a 4-track recorder were added to improve production. It was all very basic and still a new thing for everybody. In the very early 90s I bought my first professional sampler which I used for many years, among other instruments that I started to get .. there was an effects unit with delay and reverb, a drum machine, then some synths.. A simple setup but it did the job.
Creating music has always been a process for me.. also a skill, a style of cultural understanding and social interaction. So yeah, as said it’s hard to say when all that actually started..
Well, that’s nice.. you might know that the name Microhouse came a bit later to the game. It was given by the journalist Philip Sherburne. When I started to do the music as Losoul we didn’t give it a name. The expression Minimal is coming from another era of music and art, actually the 1960s. Robert Hood and others were adopting it and also other electronic music artists found inspiration in reduction. Back in the mid 1990s a friend of mine once showed me two records of the time, which were a Basic Channel/Chain Reaction 12” and a part of Richie Hawtin’s Concept I series. He asked which would be the way to go for me. I was rather into the more dubby music of Basic Channel and of course into House music, especially from the US. As an artist, my approach to reduction was in the feeling for funky details in rhythm and subtle harmonic aspects and developments that lived in the space around the sounds and beats. The music needed that space to let all these things happen.. it’s hard for me to describe my own work after almost 25 years, you know. But it still resonates as it did back then. Of course, the world and the scene have changed a lot but many things stayed the same or even came back to where we found them a long time ago. As we say in Germany it is a ‘two-bladed sword’. On the one hand you find a way for music out of your own background and later you see quite some people influenced by the energy that you used for your music at some point. I am influenced by quite a lot of music as well. Still I want to create music that doesn’t actually emerge from other music too much, especially not from the same genre. As I said in another interview a few years ago, I think if you don’t bring anything from outside to the music world, it wouldn’t support our culture very much. It needs to develop.
Yes but it’s not just that. The project names – and there are even a few more – are also related to their situation. They have been used at a certain time. For example, I was using the Don Disco alias as a DJ name way back in the early 1990s when we had a soundsystem called Super Bleep 3000. It was about Detroit Techno, Acid, Breakbeat and also early House. Back then it was more usual for djs to play various styles in one night or even in one set. I remember Jeff Mills playing a raw and funky techno set in the earlier 90s but at some point there were piano lines in it! Still funky and definitely raw but uplifting. I was into classic Disco styles which came up in House as well, and as our soundsystem’s djs had each their different way of playing I was often very much on the House side of things – and so I found my name in the tribe. Later, a few records have been released under that name, too. For sure these were influenced by our abstract psychedelic background but again with that disco groove and space.The name Silhouétte Eléctronique was an idea of Ricardo Villalobos. It wasn’t the name of the project – it was the title of an EP we shared in 1994. Also the Lomotion release came out around that time. For Losoul I was inspired by the idea of a grass roots way of working, the use of simple ideas and technology to achieve authentic and comprehensive results. Especially back then when we found our own styles and allowed new ideas to happen that was the way to go – and it still feels right today.
Actually I found it when I was touring, I think that was in London and I was also visiting a friend who lived there and was my special company for some quiet time. I showed it to the Playhouse people for a cover idea and we soon agreed on this going well with the music. It shows a technician doing some repair on a bicycle while it is obviously right in the middle of the race. I found that to be a nice allegory on collective work – aside from the bicycle theme in the history of electronic music, of course.. The picture is an appreciation to the community of supportive interaction in the process.
To be honest I like the album as a whole. For me it reflects its time and I could tell a little story about each of the tracks. But then again it’s up to the listeners to understand them for themselves.
Quite some people might be interested in ‘Overland’ as it uses a short sample of a well-known song. This was a more common way of working back then even happened that several producers used the same sample. Some used them for drawing attention by the original – others tweaked the sample so much that no one could even recognize the source anymore. In fact ‘Overland’ doesn’t use the sample for the effect of its famous bassline. It was sampled from an old 7”-single that I found somewhere at a flea market – you can even hear all the scratches and the crackling from the worn-out vinyl. Obviously the sound pressure of somebody else’s bassline wasn’t what I was after. In my track I responded to it and reflected its reputation to have an altered view on it. In the arrangement I laid down some classic electronic drum patterns, some melancholic chord pads and synth stabs from a Roland synthesizer that might remind of a Detroit Techno vibe. I also added some joining psychedelic sound textures. Looking back the result can be described as an ambivalent approach to Soul music in House and Techno. Then I was always happy with ‘Taste Not Waste’ for its steady but smooth pace and subtly pulsating groove. I think a close friend gave me some deep inspiration around that time.. It sounds very old-school these days, doesn’t it? Have you heard anything like this in the meantime? I think I haven’t. Also I still love ‘Sunbeams and the Rain’ for its melancholic and natural beauty. It was an emotional but very active time back then and I don’t want to miss it.
The mastering of the rerelease was done by Pole aka Stefan Betke at Scape Studios. He is a long time artist and sound engineer here in Germany. He provided his skills to a lot of sophisticated records over the years. Also for ‘Belong’ he did a great job and he definitely improved the sound of it. The original mastering was good for its time. Some of the early digital plugins have been used for this. Compared to today’s knowledge these have been very handy to use and neutral sounding but didn’t bring the mojo and edge you can get with selected analog gear in the hands of the right studio engineer.
Stefan took a nice ride through the tracks and nicely brought out the individual production methods of the early days of reduced electronic music. He gave it a great presence to be listened to on today’s media. A great balance between old and new qualities.
To be honest I am not very much looking for ‘that record’. For sure I have favourites but there is still very good music from many eras that I keep on finding. For example, there is an album by Bohannon that I bought on one of my last tours before the lockdown in New York. It has an uptempo 12-minute- track album with instruments doing unexpectedly weird solo actions in the middle part – crazy.
I can also always turn to music that Bill Laswell is involved in. He is one of my all time-favourites, a musical link between so many decades of our culture that it’s hard to get your mind around. He worked with countless musicians - some have been around since the 1960s - and still remains active on the scene until today. He gained direct experience for more than half a century and contributed to hundreds of productions. So his works give you a glimpse on quite a large part of the musical universe. He worked in many genres, such as Reggae, Dub, Hiphop and classic Electro (Celluloid Rec., Herbie Hancock etc.), NY No Wave and 80s Electronic Dance (as Material), Ethno, Ambient, Triphop, Pop (he produced the first ever appearance of Whitney Houston), Jazz, Abstract as well as on further musical experiments.
Among some more recent music I like last year’s release of The Battles on Warp. Their vibe is all about activity and space. Indie Rock that feels like Techno. You never really know if that’s meant to be funny or serious. But that’s not exactly the question as the energy and the perspective essentially make it stand for itself.
In my dj sets I don’t really have particular tracks that I’d call favourites. As a dj I play sets for several hours and there it’s more about the whole journey and the way the energy and atmosphere develops. Of course, there are tracks that I particularly like when they give me versatile options to use in a set. Also there are producers that I appreciate for their work and labels that I always check when I find a release in the record shop. It’s hard to give you names as there are very many. As you know from my club productions I prefer tracks with a soulful vibe as well as dubby elements and a certain openness for proper combinations in the mix. I guess that’s one of the reasons why my music tends to be on the minimal side of things.
I especially like the tracks that mess up the flow at a certain point as they give way to change in that particular moment of the night.
The album “Belong” again also contains music that is not exactly meant to be dj material. It takes the experience of a club night to other places but keeps a similar vibe.
I am always in projects. Right now we are still working on the last bits of organization of this album’s rerelease. It means quite a lot to me as it was my first album and it founded my approach to the album artform. Back then it found quite some attention among people of different cultural backgrounds which I still appreciate very much. So it’s great to have it presented as a 20-years-anniversary edition now.
It is the first release associated with the new label Two Dreamers that is intended to focus on a more independent approach to electronic music – and I think ‘Belong’ is a proper statement for this as well as a bridge between the times. It brings up some of the special aspects of the scene back then and I think some of these are still – or again – valid today.Then there is also a new release coming out on my club label ‘Another Picture’ which is going to be by Losoul again after 12”s by other artists. The tracks have quite a deep and moody vibe this time but I couldn’t get away without keeping it a bit funky still..Then I have a few remixes coming up. Making new versions of other producers’ tracks or songs has always been something I like very much.