Wolfgang Voigt

Interview by Stephanie Peh
Photographs courtesy of Kompakt

Gui Boratto – Plié (feat. Igot Cavalera)
Total 11 (2010)

When Wolfgang Voigt, Jürgen Paape and Michael Mayer founded Cologne-based electronic music label Kompakt in 1993, they had no master plan, except to give to the world the music they enjoyed. Sticking by their guns, they’ve progressively pushed the boundaries of electronic music, exploring the edges of sound.

As a tireless producer and music artist, Wolfgang Voigt believes in finding new sounds in usual places. The label never puts a clear definition to the sort of record they will release. As such, in this conversation we turn to the maker of the music himself.

Wolfgang Voigt conversation

Hi Wolfgang, please kindly introduce your main team members, their specific roles and the various divisions in Kompakt.

Since we started as a small record shop in early 1993, the company has moved twice to bigger buildings, because it was until the late nineties that we were constantly growing. Today there are more than 20 people working full-time in different departments. There’s the shop and the mail order. There’s the physical and digital distribution, a label department, promotion and our own publishing company. And of course the booking agency for our DJs and artists.

Wolfgang Voigt conversation

What was the minimal techno/ambient scene in Cologne like, back in the nineties? Would you say that it was more unshaped, raw, and hence creative, as it was seeking to refine its identity?

I think Cologne has always had a very independent and individual spirit in art and music since the sixties. For me the typical Cologne minimal techno, which became a worldwide success in the nineties, was not a result of the necessity of some people who mainly wanted to sound different than others; it was a natural thing of mentality.

Wolfgang Voigt conversation

Today, minimal techno is internationally known, people immediately link it to “German dance music”—it has achieved some sort of a veteran status, you don’t get the same experience in a club in Paris or London, as you do in Germany. Yet it varies from Cologne to Frankfurt to Berlin. Where did it all originate from?

Even if Germany has a very long tradition in electronic music (Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Daf, etc.), which goes back much further than the nineties, Techno was the first kind of music that gave German music producers the freedom to create an internationally accepted dance music which kept up with Anglo-American pop music. I think back in the early days, it was not successful because it was from Germany, it was successful because people in those times were very open minded and democratic and derivation/parentage and language was not as important anymore. A few years later “German Dance Music” then became a trademark.

Read more in N˚4: Flight.