Dont be alarmed if you feel slightly dwarfed when the name Len Faki is mentioned around you 'he has that effect on people' whispers an anonymous bystander.
After a career and life changing move from Stuttgart to Berlin in 2003, Len Faki has grown in stature and sound. His 3 labels Figure, Podium and Figure SPC all harbour the trademark of innovative and daring sounds that have helped sculpture todays techno into a forward thinking and danceable standard.
Len Faki can also be credited as one of the first residents at techno mecca Berghain, in which he says is a saviour of techno music. Not doubt if techno was to have a hall of fame Len Faki would be one of the first ushered in, framed and mounted.
TEA caught up with Len prior to his London show at Fabric this Saturday to talk moving house, domestic safety, label concepts and Lemongrass.
Tell us a bit Len Faki pre Berlin. Where were you living and what first lead you towards electronic music?
I lived and grew up in the south of Germany, Stuttgart. In the 90’s before I got into electronic music I was totally into rock and punk. Seeing bands and attending concerts was how I spent my spare time, club life was not existent. One day a close friend of mine started babbling about this new style of music he couldn’t really describe. Unwillingly I went with him to a local club where I first heard acid/techno and that was it, one of the key moments in my life, I will never forget that moment. I danced the whole night and into the next day, my first rave. I felt so alive and happy, it was amazing.
What then spawned the move to Berlin?
I was thinking about moving for while. Berlin had fascinated me for quite some time and I always wanted to be part of what was going on there, but hesitated. I was waiting for when the time was right. Besides, the Stuttgart club scene was deteriorating. Lots of police were showing up at almost every party, raids and long checks on everyone before entering the clubs, things like that can kill a club scene atmosphere. The final straw which lead me to move or which lead me to my ‘destiny’ was my neighbours apartment went up in flames and mine was badly damaged, so I literally had to move. This is something I'm really grateful for in retrospect. I was absolutely desperate, all my furniture, a large portion of my records and studio equipment was devastated and alas no insurance!
Your my third Berghain resident I’ve been lucky enough to speak with. You each have your own story of how your involvement with Berghain/Ostgut began. How was it for you?
Before Berghain opened its doors their was a forerunner by the same owners, Ostgut. It was located just 100 meters from where Berghain is today, now a huge ice hockey rink and concert hall has taken its place. I first played at Ostgut around one year before its closure and it was great. The feeling and contact between the owners was one of those encounters where you are on the same wavelength straight away. They booked me three more times during this last year of Ostgut which made me feel more and more at home there. The owners were already talking of this new place called Berghain and what it was going to be like, but of course it had no fixed program. When I moved to Berlin one of the owners (Michael) came around for dinner to talk about me becoming a resident. It was a friendly experience and happened quite naturally. Lucky me I know (laughs).
Many artists cite Berghain as a big influence on their productions. Is this the same case for you?
That’s for sure! To it me it feels like symbiosis, it connects my own style and character. Because of the residency and therefore being a constant part of Berghain for over six years now it has definitely imprinted on me. Two tracks in particular were directly inspired by the club. When producing 'Bx3' I always pictured in my mind the dancefloor, the club and the crowd. The track truly can be considered as a hommage to Berghain. Same goes for 'Kraft und Licht' for Ostgut Ton’s funf compilation. It represents the feeling in the late afternoon hours of Sunday when everybody is feeling that special indescribable joy.
Gee, that was huge. A gigantic sound library that emika created. All that passion, time and enthusiasm, she did some incredible work. It took what felt ages to listen through it all and the one and only element I chose hit me straight up from the first listen. It’s the sound of the main entrance doors of Berghain. As a sound it's similar to a big room snare hit. I loved that sound especially as I knew it was the entrance, the door where the world of Berghain begins and ends is what attracted me to the production.
Do field recordings play a role in your production?
Actually no. I know there are many producers doing this who have my huge and honest, but for me it hasn’t played a part so far. For me it was an interesting and inspiring excursion to take thanks to Berghain and emika’s foley!
How are things going with your Podium night and label? Will this be an ongoing project and what can we expect in the future?
Oh yeah, it has no time limit. I love the idea of having a release with artists that I admire to celebrate with friends at my Podium night in Berghain. A major component of the night is that I’m always involved with a release. Due to a notorious lack of production from my part there have only been five releases and nights so far. It has really surprised me in a pleasant way how nice the reactions have been.
You are playing fabric this Saturday. How often do you play London and how influential do think clubs like Fabric and Berghain are on electronic music today?
What can I say! I’m always happy to play in London. It’s the city that did and is making electronic music the way it is today. I had an amazing time playing Fabric last year. I love the feeling of communication between myself and the people. London is as a city for music and Fabric is a club institution,. Regarding techno I truly believe that Berghain saved techno, why? Because of its reputation and the spread word through mouth. The atmosphere, the industrial technoid look, it really revitalized the whole scene. Young artists have been inspired all over the world to dare and produce techno again.
That’s right, I started Figure fresh after my move to Berlin. A new start with the new surroundings. As you said originally Figure was intended as a platform for my own productions. Over time it has smoothly and healthily developed into an artist oriented label, taking other artists on board and having a nice sound and community whilst maintaining the idea of providing great dance music. Music we love and want to share. The next step is to get even more artist oriented with closer relationships with certain artists and the introduction of albums. This will help form a close circle of artists and great roster who will support each other.
And the concept behind your Figure SPC imprint? Tell us about that.
Figure SPC is special to me as I received a large amount of music by great artists that made great music. A lot of the music didn’t really fit the kind of sound that Figure was known for. The sound on SPC is much deeper and housier, transporting more timeless sounds. The focus is not to have music that is only for peak time dance floors. It can be clubby but it doesn’t have to be, it’s more for the feeling. I have to be careful not to confuse people when they listen to a Figure release as I don't want then to have an expectation of what they’ll hear. On the other hand I didn’t want to let these great tracks pass me by just because they didn’t fit to the current Figure style. So the idea to start a stream of special releases was born aka Figure SPC. I’m so happy that I have a medium to release a range of music without confusing my audience.
How do you go about deciding which artists will suite which label?
I’m very open in general and love to be surprised. I love artists that are daring and try new things, it’s all about the music. It’s not important what you have done before or where you are coming from, the music has to speak to me personally. This is unpredictable and predictable at the same time. Of course I have a personal taste, but it varies. I prefer artists with which I can connect with on a personal level, that plays a huge role for sure. I like it professional, but friendly. It’s like a package that contains the music I love from a very nice and easy going person.
I’d like to speak a little about two of your artists in particular. The first is Markus Suckut who burst on to the scene last year, how did you first get in touch with him?
Nice to hear you mention him! It was quite extraordinary for sure. He sent me a demo and that was it. I say extraordinary because of the flood of demos I receive and it is not usual that a release happens this way, well at least not from my experience. It usually happens because of recommendations or some sort of personal contact. So Markus sent me an email at the beginning of last year introducing himself with some of his material. I was very impressed with him straight away, he really has his own unique style and since then we have stayed in touch. A few months ago he sent me some material that blew me away and I wanted to release it no matter what. He is a very nice person and I can only talk highly of him, so be sure there is more to be expected of Markus Suckut.
And the brooding talents of the Japanese A.Mochi. How did things happen there?
He is such a great guy. I’m always happy to support and praise his amazing talent. I was lucky enough to recognize this right from his very first release. I sent him my thumbs up via myspace and he told me that he loves my label so from then on we wrote back and forth. A very nice myspace friendship followed. He later sent me some new material which I released. We always meet in person when I’m in Tokyo. He definitely is one of Figures artists who has a strong bond to the label musically and personally.
He recently released his Primordial Soup EP parts 1,2 and 3. Did you ever think about releasing this as an LP?
Funny you ask. It was conceptualized as an album but for obvious reasons you might consider it as an EP. Reason for doing it in three parts was because of the love for vinyl, but due to the bad economic situation of the vinyl market we figured it would be smarter to release it in a three part series. For asia we were able to keep to the original album format with a special cd version. Watch out for some upcoming remixes for the album too.
What is next for Len Faki
The very next thing is an apartment move, no fire needed this time (laughs). Quite a move with all my records and studio gear. As always their will be ongoing label work and of course getting back into my own productions for Figure as well as a new Ostgut Ton project. If time is on my side a Cocoon maxi is in the works so the Len Faki wheels are in motion.
What is your favourite tea?
Green Tea with Lemongrass and a shot of Honey. Thanks for asking.