If you consider yourself a fan of electronic music, let me introduce you to Michael Mayer.
A softly spoken yet effervescent musical legend, Mayer is understandably somewhat of a celebrity in his native Germany. His seminal Kompakt imprint – a partnership between Wolfgang Voigt, Jürgen Paape and Mayer – is well known for breaking all the rules. Originally established as a record store in Cologne, Kompakt is home to some of the world’s most forward-thinking minimal techno and is today the outlet for releases from artists like Superpitcher, The Orb and John Tejada.
Mayer oversees not only the label’s artists but also Kompakt’s distribution wing – home to over 50 record labels. Amazingly enough, he also manages to find time in the studio to produce his own music, and has remixed the likes of Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode, Foals and Rufus Wainwright. Likewise, with Total Confusion, Mayer and partner-in-crime Tobias Thomas established one of Cologne’s longest-running club nights.
“2013 was a pretty exhaustive year,” Mayer says. “I’ve been celebrating that – I’ve also done some specifically dedicated releases as well as played some really cool gigs in a lot of great cities. So yes, things have been very busy, but we’ve received very good feedback.”
That little record store which opened back in 1993 led to the creation of one of electronic music’s great labels, which has just celebrated its 20th birthday. “It is amazing to think that we’ve been around for so long now,” says Mayer. “Creating a compilation [Kollektion 1] to commemorate that great moment is something I took great pride in.”
Indeed, the label is one for the purists, releasing everything on vinyl or CD. “Nothing has really changed there. Sure, the pressing numbers have gone down a bit over the times, but when pressings come, it is a very special moment for me. It gives me a sensation of a new baby being born; if it’s a digital release, I don’t get this sensation. I can’t take it as seriously as a physical release.
“The label now has almost 500 releases and over that time, we’ve gained a lot of trust from record buyers who want to check out what we’re doing. As well as this, we are always doing a broad range of music and that has always been a way of defining us.”
Kompakt takes pride in offering its artists the creative freedom to thrive, rather than boxing them into a particular approach. Mayer isn’t a fan of tags and genres. “It’s music and I don’t like being specific about it. Artists like to act freely and take freedoms as much as they can. In my opinion, genres are keeping us from listening to music – at least this is my thinking.”
With the little studio time he does have, Mayer still enjoys doing a remix or two, but admits he can’t really focus on a full suite of releases right now. That said, he hopes after his imminent Australian tour to take some time off during February and March, and come up with some new music.
But DJing at the weekend remains his first love. “I do need to work all week in the office and on the label; it’s like my step child because I can’t find the time to do everything I’d like. I still get a lot of pleasure from being a DJ though. I guess you can’t have it all.”