Filed under: Interview
The German techno scene, Frank Muller once lamented to us, is “criminally underrated”- despondent words from one of its chief architects, but ones that hardly play out when it comes to the snowballing recognition surrounding Aksel Schaufler recently. Better known as Superpitcher, this inheritor of the Westbam lineage of post-punk techno has been making seismic shifts into the dance music scene since his 2000 emergence on Kompakt’s Total 2 compilation with the production “Shadows”. At a time when the words sensuous and Kompakt might have seemed as incongruous as Aston Villa and silverware, Michael Mayer’s minimalist label found its emotional resuscitation in Superpitcher’s glitchy yet layered, impulsive yet textured production work- from the bass driven 2004 hit “Happiness” to the richly contoured soundscapes of his last album “Here Comes Love”.
Aksel’s production work is a firm fixture on the endorsement lists of many industry heavyweights, and the crowd responses to the synergy of shoegazer guitar rock, angular techno, and a pervasive pop undercurrent that lies at the heart of his live sets should be enough to debunk the myth that the German techno scene is in any way underrated. Had Mr. Muller been at Unit last month for the “Pseudo Harmonia” release party, no doubt he would have agreed. We met up with Aksel before his set to hear what he had to say.
Interview & Introducion by Matt Cotterill (HigherFrequency)
HigherFrequency (HRFQ) : We would like to say thank you for your time. We are excited about tonight of course.
Superpitcher : My pleasure. It’s nothing.
HRFQ : You were in Japan two years ago and now you’re back again. What is the draw with Japan? What do you see as the good points about it?
Superpitcher : There are only good points for me about Japan. I am here for the third time and last time was two years ago, which was my second time I do believe. I always have a great time and was overwhelmed by many things. Even beside the music with cultural things and attitude of the people which was very new and so different from what I was seeing before, even with being to far away places from South America to Australia. It was the first time I really discovered Asia, especially Japan because I think it is different to the rest of Asia. It was kind of a rush for me which never really ended. Also I really love to enjoy food and Japanese is one of the most sophisticated cuisines that I know of in the world. It’s so different and I don’t know, it just suits me so well.
HRFQ : You are playing your music this time around as Superpitcher the DJ, how often do you appear as Superpitcher the producer?
Superpitcher : I never do. I’m not sure if I ever will do it even if it is on my mind. I am kind of collecting ideas on how it would be possible to do it. I’m really looking for a form to present my music live, which I would really like to do but it seems to be not so easy. Not right now anyway, maybe it just needs some time.
HRFQ : Could you talk us through the differences between Superpitcher the producer and Superpitcher the DJ? Is it a different identity, or is it the same?
Superpitcher : It’s kind of different and it’s kind of a struggle as well sometimes. They were always kind of separated from each other but still truly affecting each other. Sometimes when I DJ I don’t even use my tracks. It would be great and something totally different to present just my music live. So it is this struggle which is sometimes nice, sometimes hard, and most of the time not easy.
HRFQ : Schizophrenic almost.
Superpitcher : Especially after the album was released, some promoters advertised my DJ sets like a tour for the album but I never wanted that. Then I realized when so many people were asking for tracks from the album and I had to explain [the difference] sometimes. At that time it was getting quite schizophrenic. Still nice though. I like the fact that it can be so different but at the same time not really so different. There is still a sense [of Superitcher the producer] even when I am playing a more techno set, there is a range of music in my record case and it can go from very deep to even very rocking. This is related to club culture, the nightlife and the party itself, which is the most amazing thing. Being a DJ, I play maybe a thousand times and it’s never ever the same. Never ever. This is kind of super exciting, I really like that about that DJing world.
HRFQ : When you started producing you used a lot of old Atari equipment, now the advances in technology have proliferated so much how has this changed your angle as an artist? How have you grown with the technology?
Superpitcher : It was never too hard for me because I was never really, how do you say, a nerd. So it was always about the idea and the feeling, to be somehow able to put that into music. My first big help was Atari and later it was not so easy anymore to get new Atari’s and they were crashing down quite often. They do still exist; I still have one that is almost in fully working order. At one point I decided it made no sense just out of nostalgia so I bought an Apple and I used new software which was bringing many more possibilities. But in the end I still use it like a very simple instrument. Like a tape recording machine actually. All these things that come by and people tell me I have to check out this new software or plug-in and they do sound quite good. But really honestly I don’t use them. I still write like I wrote before. I still produce my own samples and I have a pool of samples from records I have been collecting through the years. Most of all I just use the technology to just help. So it is nice and sometimes a good plug-in comes along for an original synthesizer that you have that isn’t working anymore, so I use that but this [technological advance] is definitely not what I am thinking about.
HRFQ : Can you comment on how the music you grew up with like Glam, Metal and Rock has influenced your current music?
Superpitcher : I’d have to say a lot. Maybe not the Metal and Hard Rock things, but the Glam and the real English 80’s pop bands I am still listening to at home. That kind of energy or atmosphere was really influencing me. It was kind of talking to me and it’s still like that. From the beginning on it was more to bring these kind of emotions into a form that fixes to this club nightlife, dance music. It wasn’t really planned but it was very very important to me.
HRFQ : Your single ‘Happiness’ became huge, did you ever expect it to get that big?
Superpitcher : Not really. Me especially, I really do nothing about that [success]. I’m really working hard on music even if it is to in the end just to reach a feeling that is really right and you can relate to. If I have something I was never thinking that this could be big or that this should be big. People told me that it was really nice but from there on it’s kind of out there and I was really really really happy about it, but I was not expecting it like that. It was more like I was really really happy for people to like it like I do because that meant that they understood it and for me that is the most beautiful thing.
HRFQ : Let’s run through a list of DJs who have sung your praises; DJ Hell, John Digweed, James Holden, of course Michael Mayer, Miss Kittin and Sasha.
Superpitcher : Even I was so surprised for a few of them. Thanks for that!
HRFQ : Your music has been described as having a warmth or heart that makes it stand out against other Kompakt releases, do you feel that your music is somehow a little different than the rest of the Kompakt label?
Superpitcher : Yes, somehow I think it is but it’s not meant to be. I don’t produce it to be different, it’s just what I do. The exciting thing about it is that it happens on the Kompakt label which is more known for real minimal dance music. But this is another story, the connection between these people of Kompakt. So I don’t think about it all. If people say that, I could admit that even though I love lots of the music from this label that it is a little bit different.
HRFQ : You’ve done a lot of work with Michael Mayer and you’ve also teamed up with Westbam, who’s a really nice guy…
Superpitcher: Yeah, he’s my clone.
HRFQ : Working on a solo project is obviously different, how do you think the creativity energy works between you and Westbam and with Michael Mayer?
Superpitcher : It’s really really something I like. I was pretty much working on my own and I got really close to going mad sometimes. Then the other thing is sometimes you think it would be so helpful if you could work with somebody. But still it really needs to be someone you are really connected to. With Michael it is completely different than with Westbam. Michael and I have done a lot of things lately because we have built new studios that are kind of next door and he just comes over and we do something, which is really great and it’s a new experience. With the music in the end, we achieve really nice things that neither of us ever imagined. With Westbam it was a little bit different because it was a long planned idea and we were writing lyrics via mobile phone over a few months. It was a nice long journey to the point of actually producing it. I really like this kind of thing, not just for music but for everything. For friendships, for relationships and for work.
HRFQ : It’s been really great talking to you and once again thank you for your time.
Superpitcher : Really really a pleasure.
End of the interview
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