Christian Kleine

James Bernard / Atwater (Remixes) Now Available

 
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James Bernard’s live recording, ‘Atwater’ demonstrated the beauty to emerge from the simplicity and gentle manipulation of modular synthesizers. Such a raw moment captured that day, packed full of melody and escapism, presented a perfect opportunity to invite some of our favorite musicians to remix the original material recorded in North Atwater Park.

The remix lineup was purposefully selected to highlight electronica and a genre that grew from the manipulation of the synthesizer - a new toy for many bedroom producers that grew in commercial success and helped define a new sound in the late 90’s and early 00’s. With this in mind, we invited six producers who go some way in reflecting this approach over the years, with James Bernard’s original synthesizer recordings providing the basis of each experiment.

Arovane opens the release, with a sweet and sharp electronic punch, followed by Christian Kleine’s guitar-hook driven take, who as many will know, were two crucial producers that helped place electronica on the map through their releases on City Centre Offices. Alongside Uwe and Christian, also representing the early pioneering years of the sound and housed by the seminal label, Warp over the years; B12’s, Mike Golding, who takes James Bernard's sound to the limit across 9 minutes of additional modular manipulation.

Joining them, are three producers taking the electronica sound in new directions in recent years. James Clements, known to many under his own name or as ASC, guides us into the relatively unheard realm of his electronica-inspired Comit alias, combining the energy of his drum’n bass-led releases with the nostalgia and escapism heard amongst his ambient works. Bluetech, producing since the late 90’s and known for many approaches from psychedelic to downtempo, turns in an inspired, glistening take on the original, unearthing even more melodic moments. And lastly, Milieu, a firm favorite of ASIP's for many years now, uses nothing but the source material, to create a chugging and serene take on the original, closing out the Atwater remixes.

Buy on Bandcamp

 

Filter Tapes 030 "Out Of Context" by Christian Kleine

 
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The below is a Google Translate (rough) English translation of the article that originally featured on Das Filter in German, hosted by Christian Kleine's long-lost partner in crime, Thaddi Herrmann (Herrmann & Kleine), including an interview by Das Filter's Ji-Hun Kim. 

Christian Kleine's release with ASIP, is available now on double gatefold green vinyl + digital. 

Read Christian's bio + get to know playlist, here. 

Tracklist

01. François Bayle - Erosphere
02. Electroshock Presents Electroacoustic Music, Vol. IV - Tears [by Alexander Nemtin]
03. Acreil - Miscellaneous Synth Demos - 21 Casio HT-6000-Digitech RDS 3.6 (Everything Happens Slowly)
04. UR - Electronic Warfare
05. Electroids - Midnight Drive
06. MEC - Musique Expérimentale Castelroussine - 02 Méta
07. Thomas Leer - Private Plane
08. The Beatles - Mellotron Music No. 1
09. Lizzy Mercier Descloux - Torso Corso
10. Cecil Leuter - Crazy Sounds No. 4
11. Dosh - My Favorite Colors Red
12. Bochum Welt - Fortune Green
13. Labradford - And Jonathan Morken
14. Seefeel - Time to Find Me (AFX Fast Mix)
15. Tone Language - Winter's Thrill
16. Kenny Larkin - Maritime
17. Silence and Wisdom - Oakwood Green
18. Haighinsha - Lusefeea

Interview with Christian Kleine, by Ji-Hun Kim (Das Filter)

The musician and producer Christian Kleine was an important part of a youth movement that called itself the early 2000s Indietronica. Christian released as a solo artist on labels such as Morr Music and City Center Offices and operated together with Thaddeus Herrmann and the project Herrmann & Kleine. With the EP "Kickboard Girl" they succeeded in 1999, a veritable international independent hit. But that's almost 20 years ago. Some time ago Christian's "Electronic Music From The Lost World: (1998-2001)" appeared on the American label A Strangely Isolated Place. And he continues to be a diligent producer, who publishes wonderful albums on a regular basis. For the thirtieth run number of our filter tape series, Christian has developed a wondrously independent language. The Beatles next to Labradford and Kenny Larkin: Always a bit out of context, where music is just starting to get exciting. Ji-Hun Kim talked to him about cigarettes in the Spex, many years at Ableton, the Krux to the Internet, and laptops to bandmates.

Thank you for your beautiful filter tape. First tell a little bit about it. 
It covers a wide range. From 60s easy listening to techno, pretty much everything is there. I was never a purist.

Is there a story you wanted to tell? 
It's mainly stuff I just feel like doing. It was about music that does not cling too much to a time context. I always find it interesting to listen to music where you can not tell if it's 30 years old or yesterday. For example, the record "Silence of Wisdom" by Deux Filles, which dates from the early 80s. But that could be just like last week.

I find the context you open up exciting as well. I would never have thought to hear techno such as Bochum Welt or UR in your mix.
I do not even realize that as techno. Even if that of course fits into the club context. However, I often notice that music, even if freed from the genre costume, can still work. I'm from a small town, Lindau am Bodensee. That's where I started in the early 1990s. There could be no puristic evenings, there were not enough people. So I mixed hip hop, house and techno, but also early jungle and guitar music. We just wanted to hear good music.

I grew up in the Ruhr area and even there it was much more eclectic. I think it is retrospective but not that bad either. In Berlin, there were already small-scale techno camps in the 90s. 
Total. But I also thought it was a pity that Berlin was not a little more fluffy. That one did not just say: the main thing is good music. That can be anything.

Although I was amazed at how consistently you have published the past years records. I know your stuff well from the beginning of the 2000s and heard it a lot. 
Since I started with music - that started in 1995 - it was important to me. I never wanted to start a great career. I always wanted to do something, so I can look back to see what I've done in times past. I once won a competition, that was in 1998, and then went to the Winter Music Conference.

Competition? Where, when? 
Marlboro.

I almost got involved in a Marlboro USA road trip at the age of 19. At that time they were allowed to.
There was an ad in the Spex. I participated and actually won. At the time I had started with the production, first pieces and was totally looking forward to the journey. That must be supercool, I thought to myself. Daft Punk was there, all the drum and bass people from London who thought at the time that they would take over the world. A fun time. But at the same time, I was standing in the Hilton hotel, where the conference was taking place, watching the action, I almost as an outsider - because that's not what I really belonged to - and saw how the music industry works. So I asked myself if I really want to play along. Is it something that drives you? Somehow I found that pretty awful.

Do you still trust the industry today? 
At the time I asked myself: is this a life plan? Is music producing a complete life plan? Do I want to be a musician? But then I decided against it. Simply for the reason that the music industry is just strange and I also consider music as a kind of balance to the real life out there.

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It should be mentioned that you have been working at Ableton since the very beginning. 
Yes for about 17 years.

What exactly are you responsible for? 
I started as technical support and then I took care of the Max for Live division and programmed a lot for it. Today, I also do a lot of prototyping for native instruments and effects implemented in Ableton Live. Say everything that has to do with DSP processing. I'm currently working on the basic ideas. Today this is also called UX, User Experience.

That is already nerdy. 
As a matter of fact. I'm quite a nerd, too. I touched almost every synthesizer in the world at least once. But actually I do not like the word nerd.

If you've seen a success story like Ableton backstage for so long, how does that work? 
For me, that feels like I've lived through four or five companies. There have been deep changes over time. Within the industry, within the company, within the society. The perception of how people use computers has changed a lot in the last 15 years. But also the kind of people who use such things.

At the end of the 90s you were in Berlin. It started with people making music on laptops. Labels like Morr Music became known. Indietronica was suddenly a thing. I always notice that today many people have never perceived Berlin as an indie city. Berlin bands like Contriva were totally inspiring for me. Today, most people shrug their shoulders. 
It no longer exists in the perception. It seems to me that this was totally ousted from the canon. The indie and electronica scene was a big pillar of this city. Culturally urban historical, if you can say that, but that does not matter anymore. What a pity, but techno just rolls everything flat. That's fact. For me, the Indietronica thing was a plant that needed to be cared for more carefully.

Even more mainstream acts like Paula have emerged. 
It was perceived throughout the world. Indietronica from Berlin attracted attention in Japan, USA and also Canada. That was relevant and I found that so exciting. It was not just a Berlin-related thing. Often Berlin issues have that to them, that they never come out of Berlin and are only occupied with themselves.

If you travel internationally, is it for music? 
First of all, it was all friends and mates, so the big industry was far away. City Center Offices was not Sony Music or anything right now.

Are you missing the road? 
I miss it already. But it was also very exhausting, because I have always put the tours on my free holidays. If you join this for a few years, there are hardly any free weekends left. That sounds like whining at a high level and probably is. But with a full-time job and the music at the same time - you can get close to burnout. From time to time I still give concerts, but that is not comparable to that time. But I am glad that I had it. That was a lot of fun.

Nevertheless, you have managed to constantly produce your own albums in recent years and publish yourself. 
Everything on Bandcamp. I had the claim of myself to continue to produce music, also because it is simply important to me. I've applied here and there for a few labels. But because I was completely outside the context, nothing came of it. That was maybe three e-mails. Among other things, I asked Mute Records, completely megalomaniac (laughs). "First of all start with the little ones." Of course, nothing happened, but thanks to Bandcamp you can do that pretty well today.

You still have to discipline yourself. 
I agree. That's pretty strange, too. Because there is no feedback, far and wide. You're the maker of everything, from music to cover, and most of all, there's no one who reflects that. There is also no one who reviews this because it does not appear on any well-known label. That's me and the internet. The Internet itself gives you no feedback.

It is said that the Internet brings all countries together. 
Yes and no. Of course, I am happy when someone from Argentina writes to me and is happy about my music. But that's a different process than meeting someone and talking about your music, either because that person has a label. The internet does not give me anything. Since I have no personal reference to. After I was no longer with Morr Music - until then everything fell into my lap - I first had to learn to make everything self-sufficient. That was an important process.

You just recently released your record "Electronic Music from the Lost World" with pieces from the years 1998 to 2001?
I have a bag full of old DAT tapes. 40 to 50 tapes are in there. Four years ago, I started listening and digitizing the old tapes. Then I spoke with Thomas Morr, who also wanted to publish that first. This then drew because things have intervened time and again. Then I started talking to the label A Strangely Isolated Place from Los Angeles. Through Arovane, Uwe, I came to the contact and so it came to the release. After 20 years, I thought, it was time. I am glad it appeared in the form on double vinyl. It represents a completely different time. It was all innocent much. (Link to buy!)

For me, you are musically but still an indie musician and guitarist, who simply got into the wrong circles in Berlin. 
That's right (laughs). I always hated computers. Until I realized that you can make music with it, but until then I did not want to have anything to do with it. Ironically, if you look at my job of today. But yes, actually I come from the guitar corner. The fact that I started using computers to make music was mainly due to the lack of musicians with whom one could have formed a band.

To bring four people in Berlin regularly in a rehearsal room is also an impossibility. 
I totally understand that. But yes, maybe electronic music is just an urban thing. It was like that in New York and London. Electronics was already the basic tenor in Berlin in the 90s. But I never had any connection to Berlin guitar scenes. When I produced Drum and Bass in the late '90s, I only knew Thaddi's radio show. Then I got drunk with my tapes and I tried to turn it to him, so he plays it. It all started.

~

Mix artwork by Julian Priess

 

Christian Kleine / Electronic Music From The Lost World: 1998-2001

 
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A slightly new style of music for ASIP,  but for those that know me, City Centre Offices and the people that made up that label and the IDM/electronica sound of the late '90s, are big inspirations. We're very happy to host a home for some of Christian Kleine's early works - a time machine back to the early days of music software, when 808's were all that mattered and studio sessions with Arovane,. Thaddi Herrmann and Ulrich Schnauss were the Sunday norm. 

~

1998, Berlin was a pivotal time for Germany’s Christian Kleine and electronic music as a whole. Growing-up amongst a divided city’s bleak aftermath, alongside hedonistic tendencies that birthed the likes of Loveparade, it was easy to be both inspired and rebellious at the same time. The influences of Detroit techno and rave culture started to travel, and artists were turning to new techniques and machinery, at a time when the bedroom, started to become a studio. 

Christian would end up developing a new and unique sound, alongside a small but impactful community that eventually formed a cult artist roster on the City Centre Offices label. His background began in New Wave and Punk, eventually transitioning into DJ’ing in the early 90’s and then, into more electronic productions, with Jungle and drum’n bass his first muse. Christian was on the hunt for something different to what Berlin had to offer at the time, and with his first synth, (Nordlead 1995) and an Atari computer, Christian was creating his first drum’n bass tracks, sending them off to the local radio station, (Kiss FM) where he met future production partner and CCO label head, Thaddeus Herrmann

Sunday morning studio time alongside Thaddi (as Herrmann & Kleine), jam sessions with Arovane, and coffee with Ulrich Schnauss, continued to inspire and push Christian’s style. This small but influential group of producers would go on to define a melodic, and introspective style of music that now has a cult status amongst IDM, ambient and electronic music fans.

Becoming tired of functional productions, Christian was always interested in finding his own place and language, and continued to experiment further. Taking his inspiration from drum’n bass, and the company of City Centre Offices artists, Christian defined his unique style we know today. Intelligent drum programming met an ethereal and melodic synthesizer style. A delicate and introspective listen, or a hazy layer of bubbling activity and color, Christian’s music defies function and invites you into a world of personal reflection. 

This collection of music is Christian's own moment to reflect. Going back to a time he misses; an intense period when producing music was the only thing that mattered. This is music that never saw the light of day; recovered from DAT and pressed on vinyl; A Strangely Isolated Place and Christian Kleine present 'Electronic Music From The Lost World: 1998-2001'.

Wish you were there...

Available on transparent green double vinyl and digital download. Mastered by Rafael Anton Irisarri at Black Knoll Studio. Featuring original Berlin-brutalist inspired artwork by Noah M / Keep Adding with photography by Midori Hirano.

Buy at Bandcamp

Buy at Juno (UK/EU shipping)

 

City Centre Offices: The final transmission

 

Countless hours have been spent exploring and collecting the music to be found on the infamous City Centre Offices label. Should you have missed it, even the ASIP name is a rip of an album by one of CCO's most successful artists. The label's impact and inspiration on the music here at ASIP, is second to none. 

CCO pushed a style of music that was relatively new at the time and the label went on to host many of the names that have graced the blog pages and even the releases here on ASIP including, Ulrich Schnauss, Arovane, Herrmann & Kleine, Christian Kleine, Bitstream, Miwon, Casino Versus Japan, Xela, Marsen Jules, The Gentlemen Losers... I could keep going.

These names were brought together by a group of friends between two thriving music cities of the late '90s; Berlin and Manchester, in what was perhaps the worlds first truly international, independent (DIY) electronica label. But at the time, they didn't know of the impact they would eventually have on the music world.

Unfortunately, the end of CCO is here. You may have already thought that CCO was long gone, and it was, until label co-founder, Thaddeus Herrmann decided to release just one more record under its mighty guise this year. That record, a sublime slice of electronica by Boy Robot titled Final Transmission, echoes CCO in its purest, and arrives March 24th 2017.

Now felt like a good time to look back on the label and celebrate its success and last hurrah, with label co-founder Thaddeus Herrmann.  From his home in Berlin, in between many emails and his work on DasFilter, the CCO mastermind took the time to respond in depth to a few questions we sent his way, looking back on the might of electronica's finest, City Centre Offices

As one of CCO's biggest fans, I pulled together some of my favorite tracks from (& associated with) the label in this Spotify playlist, to accompany your read and remind us all how brilliant, timeless and pioneering their catalog truly is.  

Did you know at the time that the sound of CCO was so unique and forward-thinking? 

Thaddi: First and foremost: It’s great to hear that what we did or tried to achieve over the years left such a positive impression with people. Musically, there was no master plan. We had a clear idea though which got the label started: We wanted to try to marry the 7" format with electronic pop music.

If you think back to the late 1990s, electronica was very popular, “PowerBook” music as I call it, I’m aware this may be oversimplifying, but you get the idea. At the same time, there was a renaissance of the 7" format. Many new labels and imprints were curating this exact type of electronica I was describing.

The 7" fascinated both Shlom Sviri, my label partner, and myself. We’d grown up with that format when we were kids. You’d hear a song on the radio, go to the shop and pick up the 7". It was both cheap and a cheap thrill, so to speak. Two tracks, hardly ever taking more than ten minutes of your time. A moment of excitement, a little something, a treat, a way to escape from whatever it was you were doing. This was exactly what we wanted to resurrect - the excitement.

We both felt this was somehow missing in the electronica and 7" scene at the time. We thought that maybe we could contribute something to the mix. It was not supposed to be a serious operation, let alone a business. We just wanted to put out 7"s and not lose money.

I hardly ever go back to the CCO catalogue these days, but I do hope that at least some of the releases stand the test of time and don’t sound dated. If that’s the case, I guess we’ve achieved something - something which might have been triggered by our original approach: pop music on the 7" format.

From what I know, CCO was conceived between a few friends in Berlin who simply wanted to release music. In your own words, how did the label come about?

Thaddi: This is gonna be a long story, but I'll share it anyways, because it has a recurring theme to it which has always been very important to us since we started the label: friendship.

A very good friend of mine, who I’d known since the 80s here in Berlin (and who I was also in a band with), went to Manchester in the mid-90s to study for a year.  There, he met another German guy, Oliver, who was also at University. As far as I remember, Oliver knew Shlom Sviri (CCO co-founder) somehow, probably through a room mate. A couple of years later, my mate was back in Berlin and had a garden party – a yearly tradition. Shlom and Oliver came over, and this is how I met them. Shlom had just finished Uni and was about to open Pelicanneck (a record shop in Manchester). He had the insane idea of booking my band to play the opening party of the shop. Of course we went, and stayed with him for a couple of days. We were talking about music all the time and the idea of the label came up. It was one of those "what if"-moments, one which is usually followed by something like: fuck it, let’s give it a try. So we did.

Oliver was the third guy, taking care of the design. Being a student of architecture, he had a brilliant approach, making the 7"s look and feel very precise, technical and bleak, yet personal at the same time. We couldn’t have done that individually. It was a team approach, again, it was all about friendship. Every 7" was assembled by hand, which was quite common in those days, yet I believe we went the extra mile; sourcing the black sleeves from one company, the large stickers from another, the small stickers from yet another. Even my mom chipped in, putting stickers on black sleeves in front of the TV.

Did you have a goal for the label when setting out?

Thaddi: It was clear from day one that it could be anything. We just needed to like the tracks. What sounded like a big promise in the early days, really transpired later on, I guess, when we were working with bands like the Florida-based hip hop group Cyne (a story for another interview), or Italy’s best indie band Giardini Di Miro. We moved on soon enough, while other labels were still stuck with that electronica sound. I don’t mean this in a disrespectful way, we just felt the urge to move on. Or maybe we were just always interested in other things musically as well.

How did the label name originate?

Thaddi: It took us some time to come up with the name City Centre Offices, and I don’t remember who’s idea it was in the end, but it fitted quite well. It was an international label from day one, run from two countries, UK and Germany, from two cities, Manchester and Berlin. We had this crazy idea that if the label lived on for more than one release, each artist would open up a new city centre office in his or her home town, creating a network of like-minded people. Years later, we did a website based on this idea and also had t-shirts made with an abstract map of the world, our CCO world.

Until the very end, we never had offices, btw.

As it turned out, the label did live on for more than one release. Not just that, people really seemed to like it. We started to receive demos and quite early on, we decided to give up our 7"-only policy and look into other, more established formats. 12"s and albums. This was when things started to get more serious.

Suddenly, we needed of think of designs on a whole different level, about promotion, royalty statements and serious distribution. Basically, we needed to put much more money into a release, deciding how to spend it in the most efficient way. We hardly knew anything about how these things were done, let alone how to do them properly. We didn’t care, we just wanted to release the great music which was piling up on our desks. And, yet again because of friendship – we were able to cope with the initially overwhelming tasks. Until the very end, we never had offices, btw.

Did you have to balance CCO duties with other jobs? 

Thaddi: I’m a journalist by trade. During University, I was already working for the radio and later on, I joined De:Bug, a monthly print magazine for electronic music and culture, as an editor. This was my main job. CCO took up more and more time, but I never wanted to do it full-time. It just didn't feel right, and I still think that was the best decision.

What was Berlin like back then for starting a label? Was it hard?

Thaddi: It was surprisingly easy, mainly because I was lucky enough to have a lot of contacts and friends who were happy to help. If you decide to start a label, you need basically three things sorted: mastering, pressing and distribution. Distro was the easiest, since Shlom had his record shop and took care of the UK side of things. But what about other countries? What about Berlin? I was friendly with the guys at Hardwax over here and as well as being a regular customer, I had interviewed some of them about their own music whilst working for a music well respected music magazine based in Berlin at the time, and somehow this opened a door.

Reviewing early Arovane records on DIN, a label operated by two guys working at Hardwax, helped, too. They were up to distribute our 7"s, which really helped. Their reputation pushed the label from day one. If you ask me about who to trust in this industry, they are among the very few people who I’d mention. A couple of years ago, I started working with them again for the label I run on my own these days, and they're still the best. So trustworthy, so on point. Without the support of Hardwax in the early days and Thomas Morr of Morr Music coming in a little bit later, CCO probably would not have survived that long.

In order to get heard, you need to be everywhere, first and foremost: online. If vinyl is right for you, look into your options. Make it special somehow. And try to offer it as cheap as possible. Make it accessible.

Thaddi: But how to press up a record? And fucking where? I remember calling a pressing plant in Germany, asking for a quote. The agent on the phone literally hang up on me. We emailed a pressing plant in the Czech Republic, infamous for everything. Their vinyl was poor quality and it was a somewhat dodgy business in general. They'd press up anything if you paid in advance. And they didn’t care about collecting societies, mechanicals to be paid etc. Bootlegs? Check. Nazi scum shit? Why not. Electronica 7"s? Of course! Stefan Betke aka Pole was kind enough to master the first three 7"s before we sent off the masters to the Czech Republic. We hoped for the best and were disappointed rather quickly. Things needed to change...

I had a friend who had just started a label and in the process stumbled across a woman who’d just started a manufacturing broker service called "Handle With Care". A company which is blossoming today, taking care of big productions for both major and indie labels. Back in the day, she was just starting up on a very small scale. I was her third or fourth customer. She took care of our records from then on, putting them through proper pressing plants, giving us more options and quality control. The pressing plant in the Czech Republic is still there. Universal Music is one of their biggest clients. I wonder if they know their history, but mainly I wonder how they survived.  

Running a label myself, I’m interested in how the vinyl process happened back then and how you come to work with Loop-O?

Thaddi: As I mentioned before, the first three releases had been manufactured in the Czech Republic – a quick and dirty job, but at least we had records. With the fourth release, we were facing a problem. It was a 7" by .snd. Shlom was very friendly with them, great guys who somehow felt a similar vibe between the early 12"s on their own label and CCO. They had this idea for a 7" consisting of a regular track on one side and some loops on the other. Loops need to be perfect. Endless. So, obviously the plant in the Czech Republic was no option.

The problem was that back in the day, they could only handle DMM – Direct Metal Mastering. They could not process regular master discs, cut on dubplates. Therefore, they took care of the cuts themselves and I couldn't trust them with the loops, let alone anything else. I was aware of D&M, the cutting room established by Mark Ernestus and Moritz von Oswald – both of Basic Channel fame – here in Berlin and the engineers working there: Mark & Moritz themselves, Monolake, Pole and Rashad. It was legendary, because up to this point, people had been raving about cutting rooms and engineers far, far away, in the UK or the USA. However, Germany was not on this list.

Ernestus and von Oswald, based on their Basic Channel fame, created a safe haven for electronic music, located conveniently on the same floor as the Hardwax record shop. At the music magazine I was working at the time, there was a guy in charge of marketing who'd just moved in with a guy called Andreas Lubich who’d just started working at D&M. He introduced me to him. “Can you cut loops? I really need some loops to be cut“, I asked him. “Of course I can“, he said. This is how I met Loop-O, someone who shaped the CCO sound tremendously from that moment in time onwards.

Every single release since that infamous .snd 7" has been cut and mastered by him. I consider this to be very important. To have a go-to guy, someone you can trust, someone you know understands the musical output of a label, its history, its vision. I attended every session. It’s very time-consuming, but it’s time well-spent. It’s that moment when you get to know the music you’re about to release in a completely new way, you’re living with it. You witness how it changes, how it is being processed and then cut to vinyl. Also – bonus! – Loop-O has the best handwriting ever, which has always been crucial for CCO releases. Ever since the first-ever 7", we always included messages in the run-out grooves and those need to look good.

Talking about looking good – we also switched to a pressing plant over here in Germany at the same time. It’s the best. I love the way their vinyl feels. Those edges are special. Comfy. And the metal works and actual pressings are special, too. They are real experts. They’ve been around for ever. I still have stuff pressed up there to this very day. Over the course of years, Loop-O has become a dear friend of mine. I trust his work and judgement way more than anything else. He left D&M years ago, yet I still put every release I work on through him and his new home, Calyx. I still attend those mastering sessions too!

So CCO really was a family operation? I feel like it’s this human, manual, delicate process that makes pressing vinyl so rewarding. What piece of advice would you give to anyone looking to follow in the footsteps of CCO as a label?

Thaddi: First of all, to just give it a go on a small scale. You can burn a couple of hundred $ and might end up with 300 records in your bedroom, but that’s not the end of the world. I guess the most important question today would be, if vinyl is actually the right and best format for whatever you want to release. Pressing vinyl just for the sake of it, is definitely the wrong approach. In order to get heard, you need to be everywhere, first and foremost: online. If vinyl is right for you, look into your options. Make it special somehow. And try to offer it as cheap as possible. Make it accessible. That’s a tough thing to do, I know, because you want quality mastering, the best cut and great vinyl. 

The moment Coca-Cola calls you to license a track for a TV commercial, you realize that you’ve accomplished … well, something.

What would change if you started CCO today?

Thaddi: Actually, nothing at all. Some years ago, I might have said starting a label is the worst idea ever, but today, I would probably do everything as we’ve done it almost 20 years ago.

What’s the story behind the infamous CCO stickers?

Thaddi: Yeah, the stickers. Being based out of two cities, we wanted to represent that somehow and the stickers were an obvious solution. With each 7", there is a set of two, one from Manchester, one from Berlin, based on whatever theme we could come up with: kebab shops, mini cab services (that’s before Uber, kids!), record shops, general sights, obscurities, hidden gems. Come to think of it, it was quite a European idea, long before Brexit, the refugee "crisis", or even Trump. Raising interest in weirdness or simply weird company names, trying to get people to dig a little deeper. It’s something which has never been more important than today.

Was it important for you to add this new dimension to releases?

Thaddi: We didn’t do it consciously. Adding small things to the actual vinyl, like sticker or inserts was a very common thing, stressing the DIY style of both the releases and the way labels were run in these days. That was all. One could argue that both Berlin, with its techno culture and love for anonymity, and Manchester with labels like Skam had an air of mystery around them and we were to break this bullshit with little stickers displaying names of local supermarkets, but that would just add more BS to the mix.

How was the first release with Arovane formed?

Thaddi: I’d first met Uwe before his first releases on DIN. For a couple of years, I was co-hosting a drum and bass radio show on KISS FM Berlin. He was really into that sound and also producing tracks, so he sent over a tape for us to play on the show. We did, and at some point I went to his house to meet him. He’d just moved to Berlin and did not really know many people yet. He played me all these amazing tracks in all sorts of styles and I picked some to give them to Sascha and Torsten who were running DIN. They called him straight away, as far as I remember. Uwe and I really got to know each other very well, so when CCO was about to become something real, I asked him if he’d want to do the first release.

Xela (back) and Ulrich Schnauss Birmingham 2005, and Ulrich in Manchester 2005. 

Xela (back) and Ulrich Schnauss Birmingham 2005, and Ulrich in Manchester 2005. 

How many were pressed and was it a big risk for you at the time?

Thaddi: We started with 500 copies. I honestly do not remember how much the production was, it somehow must have been ok. The tricky thing back then was that with the pressing plant being located in the Czech Republic, had all kind of import duties, because the country had not yet joined the EU. Whoever calculated these, was high and drunk all the time. But we did ok. We soon repressed the 7” as well, something I’m sure we would not have done if we’d been in the red already.

For some time, the 7”s did really well for both the label and the artists. I guess we were just there with the right product at the right moment in time. Deciding on how many copies to press up for a release is always risky business. You either hit the sweet spot, or you under/over-press. Back in the early 2000’s it was much easier though to repress quickly. Pressing plants had a lot of free time on their hands. Making this decision in 2017 is a completely different story. If you have to wait for 3 months to get another 200 copies, you do not actually know if you’ll be able to sell those, because people might look for something completely different 90 days ahead.

Did you ever expect Arovane’s final release on CCO to be as defining and classic as it’s become?

Thaddi: Of course I did! Kidding. Putting out music, you always hope for the best. It’s as easy as that. We were pretty sure that it would do well, that people would like it, especially because it once again showed “the other side” of his work, not too technical but more free-flowing. Nobody can compare any track off Lilies with Autechre, for example. I think what makes his two albums for CCO so special is the fact that those were real special projects for him as well. Both albums were done in a really short period of time, there was an urge in him to get it finished, you could really feel that by just talking to him. Working with the Japanese singer Kazumi on the vocals was something very close to his heart. She was his biggest fan, and probably still is. Listening back to Lilies today, I feel that it is one of the records in the CCO catalogue still sounding fresh and valid today. If people consider it to be a classic: I’m all for it, but could not possibly comment.

It’s pop music in the best sense of the word. And CCO always was about pop music. So … there it was, the perfect album.

Tell us about Ulrich Schnauss and how his classic albums came about on CCO. At what point did you realize these albums would be as popular as they are today?

Thaddi: Ulrich is another one of our artists who I’d met through the radio show on KISS FM. He would also send in tracks for us to play. At the time, he was already an established producer, very versatile. At some point he played some tracks which would end up on his first album for CCO, “Far away trains passing by”. I was blown away instantly, so was Shlom. It took some time to put the album together though. Ulrich might very well disagree with me on this, but as far as I remember, he needed some convincing that it was a good idea to actually release these tracks. The album did do very well, something we all had hoped for, but still came as a surprise. People started talking about Ulrich Schnauss. Who is this guy? What’s with this music?

I consider his first album to be the absolute peak of electronica. Not just because it’s produced so beautifully, but mainly because the album opened so many doors. It is a defining album, bridging a lot of gaps, bringing things together. It appealed to all sorts of people, humble and bold at the same time, accessible yet complex. It’s pop music in the best sense of the word. And CCO always was about pop music. So … there it was, the perfect album.

You mentioned that you never really had any expectations of the label, but what do you think was the defining point of the label? The point at which you realized it was making an impact?

Thaddi: I think the label received a lot more attention as soon as we started to do albums. Back then it was still the format people were actually paying attention to. Releasing albums also changes your infrastructure by design. You need to hire PR to promote the releases, you need to manufacture promo CDs for press and radio, you need to sort bigger-scale distribution. All kinds of things change. Do we need barcodes? How do we get barcodes? What’s this little 5-digit number on the back of albums. What does it do? How do we get one? You realize that things just got a lot more serious. Suddenly many things become very bureaucratic. Applying for a US tax-ID, so that Apple could pay your royalties in full. Our accountant learned a lot, so did we.

After the first couple of albums, people got in touch. Other labels wanting tracks from our artists, or to sign them straight away. At some point, there were so many 7” labels out there, just swapping artists back and forth. It nearly killed the scene. You need to talk to your artists, advising them that maybe it is not a good idea to do a release with label x. Not because you want to keep them exclusively, but because it is doing an artist harm if they release ten tracks on eight labels within two months.

After having released Ulrich’s first album, followed by Static’s debut, things really changed. We realized that we were probably in it for the long-run. You start to think about certain things in a new way. Artists come back to you with their follow-ups. You realize that you might actually work with some of them for longer, which was great fun. Put simply: The moment Coca-Cola calls you to license a track for a TV commercial, you realize that you’ve accomplished … well, something.

I remember mix CD’s by Sasha and Nick Warren (to name a few) that included CCO tracks and undoubtedly helped spread word on the label. Which was your favorite mix inclusion?

Thaddi: I couldn’t really name my favorite one, simply because there were a lot. We always let the artists decide whether they were ok with it. If they weren’t, we would need to turn the offer down. I remember Nick Warren being a big deal at the time and I’m sure it had a positive effect in the end, but frankly, we did not care too much. Because Sasha and Nick Warren weren’t “our people”. Whenever someone we liked and respected – like Andrew Weatherall – wanted to include a CCO track for a project, we were really proud, though. It’s funny you ask about these compilations, because I still get licensing requests for Ulrich’s “Knuddelmaus” on a regular basis.

How did your relationship with Christian Kleine come about? And why did it end?!

Thaddi: Christian was another one of the people I met through the radio show on KISS FM. Only difference was that he did not send a tape, he just knocked on the studio door. Thank God we heard him. He lived down the road from the radio station, so quite often, I would hang out before the show at his place. I was looking for musical direction with my own music at the time. I had done some releases, but I wanted a fresh start. I couldn’t really get it off the ground. So we developed this habit of meeting on Sundays in Christian’s studio to just jam. It was difficult in the beginning, because he was working in a different setup, but maybe this was key. We found our roles quite easily.

The first e.p. was done in just a couple of weeks, people liked it. When Thomas Morr approached us to release a record on his label, I was really happy. Not just because I really liked him and his label - he was helping with distribution for CCO as well, but mainly because I was not comfortable with the idea of releasing my own music on my label. I did not want to waste resources we could have used for other artists.

I really enjoyed working with Christian, he had in parts a very different musical background. He knew all about hip hop, I did not. He had an MPC, I had not. He was into US indie stuff, I liked UK indie stuff. But things got complicated, purely because of me. I had personal issues at the time, which I tried to channel through the music. It worked quite well, but everything else didn't. It was difficult for me to be around other people. Having released the e.p. On Morr Music and the album afterwards seems like a miracle to me now. We – I – drifted apart.  We got to see the world though, played many great shows.

One of my favorite tracks of yours is with Christian, “Leaving You Behind”. Why didn't this make its own release? And how did the Japanese train station samples come about?

Thaddi: This might very well be our last ever track released. I still like it a lot. When we were touring Japan, I was fascinated by the fact that everything just talks to you all the time. So much noise! I had found the recordings earlier though – we’d used some of them in our live shows. I remember opening our gig in Osaka with one of the samples from Osaka main station – people loved it. It would have been great to have this track on a 12”, giving it a bit more dynamics and loudness. Ah well, there is another project.

Most people thought CCO had gone into permanent hibernation. Was your plan to always release one more? And why is the Boy Robot record the last one?

Thaddi: I never intended to release another CCO record. CCO is no more. I still handle digital for some of our former artists, but whenever one of them wants to exploit his back catalogue himself, I hand over all rights in a heartbeat. The new Boy Robot just happened.

Michael Zorn and myself started to work on some tracks years ago. The original plan had been to do an album, but that never really happened. I was never a member of Boy Robot either, I still do not know who put my name up on Discogs! Michael and Hans Möller met originally at work. Some years later, Hans went back to Sweden, so I was supposed to replace him in a way. It seemed like a nice idea, because Michael and me had done music together before for another label. Anyways, we had the tracks ready and we decided to do it. CCO seemed appropriate, so we went with it.

This e.p. is definitely the last ever record on the label. The music industry is such a different place these days and I don’t want any part of it. I have been running a small label for a couple of years now with 13 releases as of today, but I kind of went full-circle, back to the beginning of CCO. Vinyl only, small editions, putting them through Hardwax. That I can handle. Everything else? No, thanks.

So what’s next for Thaddi?

Thaddi: You never know, right? These days, I still mainly work as a journalist. For my own online magazine (dasfilter.com) which I co-founded with some dear friends of mine in 2014. We do a lot of work for external clients as well, some are music-related, some not. I like that my relationship to music has gotten more and more abstract over the last couple of years, since I’m not running the label anymore and also left the music magazine. I don’t have to listen to everything anymore. I do miss the radio though. For the last 7 years, I was lucky enough to have a bi-weekly show on a great radio station here in Berlin. That job just ended. And I miss it already. What’s next? Maybe even less music and more books? I don’t know.  

~

Final Transmission, by Boy Robot will be available on 12", March 24th, on City Centre Offices.

Thank you to Thaddi for taking the time  to entertain us, both here, and over the many years behind the wheel of CCO. 

 

isolatedmix 61 - Christian Kleine

 

Classical trumpet. New wave. Post-punk. House. Hip-hop. Detroit techno...

It seems right to introduce Christian Kleine by describing his early influences, especially if you are familiar with his work. He could quickly become pigeonholed as an early pioneer of IDM and electronica, with legendary releases on Morr Music and City Centre Offices, but whilst this assumption is true for many of us, to this day he prides himself on his openness to musical styles and its many potential influences on his productions.

Christian's most notorious efforts can be heard alongside DJ Thaddeus Herrmann, as Herrmann & Kleine, or as a producer on Arovane's infamous Tides, but Kleine's detailed electronic productions have always remained true to his beliefs and signature sound. Listening back to his first album, Beyond Repair (2001), or his most recent release Coreal (2016)the ambient textures still hold strong amongst the mix of instruments, crunchy beats, glistening melodies and the odd Japanese train announcements. James Holden dropping Leaving you Behind in his Balance mix  (arguably one of the best mixes of all time) proved the timelessness of the sounds to come from Christian and Herrmann. Fifteen years of Kleine so far and we're still left wanting more of the same.

"I try not to exclude any kind of music from being heard in my life. Even at an early age I had a special interest in everything that's different from the ordinary. So at some point, when I was around 16 or so, I found no contradiction playing Detroit techno records in addition to (for e.g) Dead Kennedys, at juvenile punk parties. Some people had a different opinion and tried to stop me, but eventually some began to see some similarities in vibe and sound.  

I try to keep this sort of practice as a general principle in my life; to soak up what’s beyond or before, or what the connecting elements and attitudes in music are. As punk/post-punk, 90s hip-hop, drum&bass and later electronica were big inspirations for me, so was music which is just what it is - music not trying to be classified in any way. This kind of music can often be found from artists who are driven not by fame or money, but by passion and interest in melodies and sound itself - that’s where the most intimate and inspiring forms of music have their home and it’s a pleasure to dive into it. Just drift and let go…" - Christian Kleine.

Christian's ethos is both eclectic and unapologetic when embracing music and it just goes to show how superb both your productions, and your mixes can be when approached with such openness. Isolatedmix 61 is a detailed dive into a multitude of granular styles, with early classical and library influences, soundtracks and more recent ambient and electronica; all forming smaller parts of a bigger picture that Christian sets out to paint. 

Christian Kleine's latest album Coreal is now available on Bandcamp, or if you're more interested in his approach to production, jump into his Ableton software project Max For Cats

Download

01. Kagel - Nah & Fern (Montaigne - 1995)
02. Morton Feldmann – Two Hands/Intermission (Another Timbre - 2014)
03. Walt Rockman – Dangerous Deep Sea (Sonoton - 1980)
04. Tone Language – Winter's Thrill (Korm Plastics - 2000)
05. The Focus Group – Leaving Through (Ghost Box - 2007)
06. Christian Kleine – Endless Nights
07. Bola – Aguilla (Skam - 1998)
08. Gene Moore - Carnival of Souls OST (Citadel - 2006)
09. Dorine Muraille – 07 (FatCat - 2003)
10. Takagi Masakatsu – Flows (Karaoke Kalk - 2002)
11. V.A. Heroin – New Years Eve (Staalplaat - 2001)
12. Zbigniew Karkowski + Kaspar T Toeplitz – Le Depeupleur (Recordings Of Sleaze Art - 2000)
13. Raymond Scott – Sleepy Time (Basta - 1999)
14. Kawabata Makoto – I Miss You (Ochre - 2002)
15. Ooze Bap – Track 05
16. Jacob Druckman - Crystalline 

Christian Kleine Web | Bandcamp | Soundcloud | Max For Cats