Wolfgang Voigt is one of electronic music’s most prolific and celebrated artists.
Best known for co-founding the Kompakt label, his work as Studio 1 and Gas represents some of the the most influential music of the late ’90s, from snap-to-grid, right-angled techno to padded woodland explorations. Delve deeper into his catalogue, however, and you’ll find endless amounts of gold, from glam-inspired collaborations with Jorg Burger to one of the all-time underated sampler records in Love Inc.’s Life’s a Gas.
This Sunday, April 3, the duo of Voigt and Burger take to the Queen Elizabeth Hall at the Southbank Centre, London, to headline a Kompakt night that also features The Field’s Axel Willner (playing a live ambient set), and special guests from the Kompakt roster. For more information and tickets, click here. Read on for FACT’s interview with Wolfgang, conducted this week over email and centered around five treasured records from his collection.
01: T. REX
Is it fair to say that T. Rex had a big impact on you when were you younger? I don’t just mean the music, but the glamour, the attitude…
“At the age of nine or ten, I found out that pop music and most of all Marc Bolan has more educational authority to me than my primary school teacher. Of course glam was also an attitude.”
Did you pick this when you were a kid? Do you still have the same copy?
“When i say ‘best of’ I mean I always have been a massive fan of the T. Rex hits (‘Hot Love’, ‘Telegram Sam’, ‘Children of the Revolution’, ‘Get it on’) and not of their albums or their earlier period, which some people think is the “better“ T.Rex. I used to collect the seven inches.”
People used to talk a lot about the influence of glam on the rhythms and drum patterns of early Kompakt records. Was this something you were conscious of?
“Of course. The glam rock shuffle beat was one of my first rhythm experiences. In some of my later techno works I used this beat feeling in several ways and so other techno producers did.”
You sampled Bolan’s ‘Life’s A Gas’ on the Love Inc. track and album of the same name. Can you tell us a bit more about that album and the concept behind it? It’s a wonderful album, and criminally little-known today.
“The album was something like a coup against the dictate of functional DJ music. I wanted to bring back a little pop feeling into techno. I wanted to get in connection with my personal musical history via sampling.”
02: SCRITTI POLITTI
CUPID & PSYCHE 85
Was this another childhood record?
“Of course not. I was 24 when it came out.”
Were you conscious – then or now – of the earlier, more political/post-punk-sounding Scritti?
“Yes. I also enjoyed the earlier records like ‘The Sweetest Girl’, or ‘Songs To Remember’.
Scritti were always very impressive in the way they combined the avant-garde with a pure pop sensibility, especially in this mid-’80s period. Is it this combination/paradox that has appealed to you over the years? It seems to apply to a lot of your work too.
“Apart from the amazing sound and groove concept and the Arif Mardin production, I was fascinated [by] how Green Gartside uses the classical three minute pop/love song as an example for philosophical (structuralism) and political theories. I feel a lot of affinity to this in some of my musical and artistic works.”
03: ROXY MUSIC
It’s easy to see the influence of Avalon on Kompakt, Love Inc, Burger/Voigt and the “pop ambient” sound. What did you think of the album when you first heard it, which I guess was before you knew about ambient/techno/electronic music? What was your “innocent” reaction to it?
“I heard this record when it came out in 1982. I loved it from the very first time ’til today. It’s a timeless masterpiece of my lifetime charts. The Burger/ Voigt album Las Vegas is also a tribute to Avalon.”
It’s ironic that Roxy made their most spacious, “ambient” record after Eno left the group, don’t you think? Are you an Eno fan as well?
“Eno’s okay, but honestly apart from Bowie’s Low album I never really listened to Eno.”
Where have all the big groups gone? Do you think we’ll ever again hear pop music as grand as Roxy, T Rex et al?
“That was then, but this is now“. Martin Fry, ABC
04: J.S. BACH
How and when did you discover Bach’s flute sonatas?
“I always liked baroque – also renaissance-music like we all know it from thousands of historical movies. In 2000 was the 250th anniversary of JSB’s death. That was the time when German radio and TV was full of Bach features. I remember myself sitting at home, listening to a radio special about Bach’s flute sonatas. It hits me like punk or acid house. Suddenly I understood the overwhelming brilliancy of this composer. Since than I listen to Bach constantly. To sonatas as well as to the Brandenburgische Konzerte or other hits.
Do you feel like Bach has influenced your work at all, solo or Burger/Voigt? What about classical music in general? Obviously with the GAS project, you were sampling a lot of German classical music, preserving its mood while taking it to a completely different place…
“I don’t think Bach has influenced me. From time to time I feel very attracted by some kind of classical music. And as a Popartist I like to play with these references in my own music.”
There’s a lightness, a delicacy, a freedom to the sonatas – they sound very playful, very lively. Do you think there’s a connection between that and your work on Kompakt?
“The lighness of the sonatas relax my nerves. It’s a contrast to my own music, which I feel is mostly deep, dark or arduous.”
05: MILES DAVIS
Obviously Miles was one of the greatest improvisers and live performers. As a live performer yourself and in Burger/Voigt, working with electronics, do you find it’s difficult to create the space for improvisation? When you perform live do you feel truly “free”?
“These days, in my own music, while working in the studio, I found a way back to a certainkind of very minimalstic improvisation and artistic freedom. When we play Burger/Voigt live it’s machine music, but there is definitely space enough for impovisation and the chance to make very “nice and charming mistakes“ which people like a lot.”
In a way, I’m surprised that you’ve chosen this Miles record, one of his most wild, insane, funky records, rather than one of the bluer, cooler, smokier Miles records (Kind of Blue, In a Silent Way, etc), which have more of an obvious proto-ambient feel. Why is Live-Evil a particular favourite?
“I love the wild, insane funkyness of this record. Live Evil has a very raw, tough, subversive and sexy atmosphere, but it would have been more apposite, if had voted Miles Davis in general. He was an enormous genius. I like a lot of his records, of course In a Silent Way, and not to forget the sensational Ascenseur pour l’echafaud soundtrack.”
The artwork by Mati Klarwein is incredible. Which of your own album/12″ covers are you most proud of?
“I made so many cover-artwork in my life that it would be impossible for me to pick out one or two. The covers i made which I am most of the time proud of , you’ll find here.”