Considering the uber-commercialized culture musicians are exposed to today, an environment where quality and actual, quantifiable musicianship ranks low, there’s always that sticking question of the which route the next generation will take. Will they buck the trends and do their own thing, or will they simply toe the line and create music that thrives off past glories? Back in the day, before the charts were run by Simon Cowell and the churning Guetta + interchangeable guest vocalist machine, there was a real reserve for the underground and movements that happened away from general culture. But despite all the homogenization, there are plenty of places where the underground influence still rings true today and frankly, it’s those clusters of artistry that we thrive off of.
Frankfurt’s Robert Johnson club is one such place that breeds innovation through its family of DJs and record label, Live at Robert Johnson. The intimate space and their associated endeavours have become a shining bastion for real machine music that gets rolled up into an Italo-boogie package. Next Saturday sees the club bring the party to Room Two as part of the Live at Robert Johnson tour which hinges around three artists who are at the heart of the institutions sound: Roman Flugel, Ata and Lauer; so we’ve taken some time to get to know Phillip Lauer – a man who undeniably owes his biggest influence to the Frankfurt clubbing mecca…
You’re based in Frankfurt, have you always lived there? What’s special about the city for you?
I was born in Frankfurt but I didn’t actually lived there until 10 years ago and now I’ve just moved out of the city to a small village nearby. But somehow Frankfurt is still my hometown - and people do like their hometowns: friends, memories, places. In addition to that, Frankfurt has a rich musical history - especially for electronic music. So, I have been lucky. It’s a nice place.
You then started releasing records about 10 years ago now, when did you actually start producing? How did you get to the point of releasing records?
My first dance record came out in 2000 under a different name; it was called “Kizz My Phillipino Azz”. The tracks on there were basically the first tracks I made - recorded onto a cassette tape. At that time, an old school friend was working for Neuton Distribution and ran a small label. Looking back now, I have to say I was a real trend-setter - but only in terms of sales numbers. Hehehe - my first release was the label's last one.
Before that I was playing drums and bass guitar in bands, mostly punk-rock..
What makes up your studio at the moment your work has a warm vintage analogue feel, does that sound reflect what you use to produce? Or have you integrated with some digital components now too?
I mostly use old instruments and effect units. A lot of them are digital and few are fully analogue. All the sounds come from hardware, recorded into my computer using midi or synchronizing sequencers - that might be the reason. I’m using a few efx plug-ins here and there, too. I’m not a fundamentalist.
What are you bringing with you to Farringdon next weekend for your first live set here?
My laptop and my Samsonite suitcase, which contains a mixer, EFX and some sound sources, I’m really looking forward to it.
Do you find you stick to your tracks as they’re originally composed when you play live, or is it more of an improvisational performance?
I tend to stick to the tracks, I have to say...but there are always some things coming out differently.. we’ll see.
How have you adapted your studio over the years? What’s been the innovation you’ve loved the most over the last few years?
Well, I have collected more and more instruments over the years – and my Tuff City Kids colleague Gerd has as well. These days I especially like old samplers and my midiverb III
I can hear a lot of references to more old school forms of house, italo and rave music will with a very positive upbeat vibe - what inspires you to make music with this sound?
It’s hard to say really, listening to the Radio as a kid maybe? I have a weak spot for 80’s pop music, before it started to be composed for economic purposes and was commercialised. I’ve also got a weak spot for a rough, snotty or if you want: lo-fi aesthetic (which I think is self-protection because I’m not able to make it all sound hifi). A big inspiration also was and is the Robert Johnson Club and especially Ata, who played tons of (in my eyes) important records to me, while I was drunk and dancing there.
Can you pick us a few tracks that are particularly special for you for our readers?
Bobby O – She Has A way
Dinosaur Jr – In A Jar
Cybotron – Alleys of your mind
Can you also tell us about your label Brontosaurus?
It was started with 2 friends in 2006 in coop with Intergroove Distribution , where I still work. There will be a Best-Of-Compilation coming out on Permanent Vacation in late May incl. new material by Exile Missile and Arto Mwambe! But there are no plans to continue after that, I think...
You’re performing as part of the Live at Robert Johnson tour – how did you first get involved with them?
First of all I spent a small fortune about the size of a small family car at the Robert Johnson bar - the club is turning 14 this year! As time passed by I got to know the people there and when we started Brontosaurus, Ata gave us a resident night . Later on we (Arto Mwambe) were asked to record a Mix Cd and we have been members of the team ever since. I did a 12”, some remix work and last, but not least a track for the brand new compilation!
Lauer will be performing live in Room Two this Saturday for Live at Robert Johnson. For more info and tickets go here.