Michael Mayer on His Legendary Kompakt Label: "Breaking Expectations and Formulas"
If Germany has dominated techno since the turn of the millennium, it's thanks in no small part to the enduring influence of one label: the legendary Cologne-based Kompakt Records. Launched in 1998, Kompakt artists would marry ambient electronica's abstract, hypnotic sound design with driving four-to-the-floor beats to spawn the minimal techno aesthetic still in vogue around the globe today.
Among the label's pioneering founders is Michael Mayer, a celebrated DJ/producer who continues to command international dance floors via the Kompakt sound.
Crossfade: How did Kompakt first come about? Did you have a concept for the label when you first launched it?
Michael Mayer: Kompakt started out as a record store in 1993. The name was still Delirium at the time, and we ran a consortium of about ten small labels. In 1998, we decided to relaunch the whole company as Kompakt. Nomen est omen -- we've bundled all our activities under one umbrella. We've liked the idea to release all the different kinds of music we love on one and the same label. Like this, we've managed to create more attention to less popular styles, like ambient music.
Our release schedule has always been quite dense, but you never knew what next week's release would sound like. I think that surprise element adds a lot of excitement, even after more than 400 catalog numbers. Breaking expectations and formulas is something that we find quite entertaining.
So how has the label evolved over the years? How have you adapted to changes in the music industry and the evolution of electronic dance music scene as a whole?
Naturally, the label evolved a lot over the course of the past 21 years. At the beginning, it was just four ears and a fax machine. Now, we've got 23 employees and four fax machines. Running an independent label has become a completely different beast. The administrational side has become much more complex. In the beginning, we'd pay out a flat fee of around one Euro per pressed record to the artists.
Nowadays, we're juggling with millions of microscopic numbers for downloads and streaming. The work we have to put behind a release has increased tenfold, but the proceeds have dramatically shrinked at the same time. The whole process of marketing and promoting a record has changed. But apparently we've adapted ourselves pretty well. The one thing that hasn't changed is our love for the music.
How did you first hook up with Miami's Danny Daze? What can you tell us about his upcoming release on Kompakt?
He first came to my attention with what I believe was his debut record, "Your Everything," for Hot Natured. I used to play it all the time. Then I ran into him at last year's Creamfields festival in Lima, Peru. I really liked his energy, and the moment we found ourselves glowstick-dancing on the psytrance stage, I knew that he's a good sport. He's going to appear on our In Your Face techno subdivision of Kompakt Extra, and I can firmly say that he fits in perfectly with his rough and muscular sound.
You'll be playing with Danny at Trade this Friday. What can we expect?
Glowsticks and psytrance? Rather not. It'll be the first time that we play together. That adds the little extra adrenalin that'll hopefully bring out our best. Color me pumped.
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Michael Mayer and Danny Daze. With Hardline and Thunderpony. Presented by Link and Miami Rebels. Friday, May 16. Trade Club, 1437 Washington Ave., Miami Beach. Doors open at 11 p.m. $15 via residentadvisor.net. Call 305-531-6666 or visit trademia.com.