On a hot summer’s afternoon, Lorenz Lindner opens up to Rose Mardit about his music, art, upbringing, work with Kassem Mosse and more.
There is a video of Lorenz Lindner as a doe-eyed 20-something hidden deep within YouTube. It’s a trailer for Erkrankung Durch Musique #1001, aka DJ Of Higher Quality, where a young Mix Mup replete with buzz cut dons a series of form-fitting t-shirts. He postures, twisting the cord of a microphone around his neck and makes faces at the camera. He dances, bopping around with records in hand and kicking high into the air. “Yeah, brand new maxi single by Mix Mup, release in spring 2003. You’ve got to get it,” says a voice (his own, no doubt) recited rhythmically over the puckish electro of the title track and another cut from the record, “Hot Pants”.
Sitting in his apartment in Leipzig, I’d have expected Lindner’s face to go at least a little bit red at the mention of the video, and that’s irrespective of the temperature outside having climbed above 35 degrees. It’s a blisteringly hot day in August, the air so thick and oppressive our plan to chat within the confines of his tar-roofed studio became an egregiously poor option.
But the change in location has proved to be positive. Not only can we indulge in iced tea straight from the fridge, but Lindner is also able to record over a few of the many random, cheap recycled cassettes purchased from eBay which are stacked on the table behind him. He’s making copies of MIX MUP CARCASETTE, a self-released tape made available through his Facebook page. Deciding to check what’s on one cassette before recording over it, he presses play. It’s breakneck-speed ‘90s vocal techno, vaguely Eastern European in nature. We both laugh.
He expresses no embarrassment over this YouTube video though, only mild surprise I had stumbled across the promotional relic. Not that he should have been embarrassed by it, because dated though it may be, it’s simply too charming to say a word against it. In real life, Lorenz is unassuming and mild-mannered to a fault, and this release trailer serves as a foil to that. Aside from its obvious retro appeal, the beauty of it lies in the more tongue-in-cheek aspects of his personality being put so unabashedly on display.
“That record totally flopped, I think they sold like 50 copies. But I was 23. I wanted to do everything.” In an effort to learn about labels and bookings, he moved to Munich to work at Disko B and Gigolo Records, both of which were affiliated with the now-defunct club Ultraschall. This is when he met Mooner, who runs Erkrankung Durch Musique, and where the groundwork for his first two records was laid.
His interest in music was clear from much earlier on, of course. Lindner enjoyed playing music even as a young child, and so, at the urging of his parents, a six-year-old Lorenz began studying piano. “It was a romantic idea, I think,” he clarifies of his parents. He recalls feeling proud and happy after finally managing to play one piece in its entirety without mistakes, but this attitude – with an eye towards flawless reproduction of a specified ideal – exists in stark contrast to the way he now operates as a producer. Mix Mup tunes have an almost live, off-the-cuff quality to them; they live and breathe outside the perfection-driven world of classical music, a world where “people judge you based on how perfectly you play something.”
“That”, Lindner adds, “is not my idea of music.”
There’s a smile in his voice when I bring up Nursery Studio, the title given to his earliest forays into music production. The name is cheeky but fitting, given this experimentation began at 10 or 12 years of age. His very first record, though not released until sometime later, was in fact recorded during this same period, when he was only 16.
“I wanted to make really good music, sound-wise, with good arrangements. Obviously I did it in a very punky way though, with a 4-track tape recorder. I didn’t have much equipment, but with what I had, I wanted to be very, very good.” He finds some of these earliest experiments on his computer, one of which he can date to 1995; spaced out and slightly dissonant, with jazzy piano chords, high-pitched chirping, and the crash of symphonic drums. “This is really old,” he remarks, chuckling. The hip hop influences are apparent, and he cites De La Soul records as particularly inspirational. “I didn’t have samplers, so I really wondered how they did it.”
“The sound on this is not that good,” he says, laughing again and shaking his head at the Nursery Studio recording. “At the time, I went to techno parties a lot, but I didn’t produce any techno,” though apparently they are sketches. “Whenever I start to do a genre-focused track, I have to break out from that. I think, ‘OK, but it’s already (out) there.’ There has to be something that makes it interesting, and for techno, you have really, really great producers. I don’t want to mess with them, you know?” Freely declaring an early admiration for Robert Hood, I ask what other producers he’s referring to. “Oh my god, it’s so hard to drop names. Back then, there was this whole Cologne style, like Thomas Brinkmann. And from Vienna there was Cheap Records, like Patrick Pulsinger and Sluts’n’String & 909.”
For someone who had been listening to music primarily at home, techno parties were a revelation. “I never felt comfortable with the classical disco situation; they weren’t clubs, they were just dance parties with hits from the time, and it was more about getting to know people and getting drunk.” Furthermore, Lindner wasn’t enthused by the one-sidedness of concerts, where the roles of ‘producing’ and ‘consuming’ were so clearly defined. “When I first bumped into a techno party, I was totally thrilled. I thought: this is the future.”
It was a different age for music, long before DJs were celebrities, long before the days of Boiler Room. He remembers spending seven or so hours in a club on some nights, without ever knowing where the DJ was situated. “The DJ wasn’t important.” He corrects himself quickly, “I mean, the DJ was important, to play music, but people were dancing around to repetitive music, eyes closed or eyes open, and losing the feeling of time.” Homo-Elektrik – a Leipzig collective from the early 2000s whose members have gone on to work in various capacities at ://about blank in Berlin, Institut für Zukunft in Leipzig, and Mikrodisko, among other projects – comes up repeatedly as a touchstone of thoughtful party-throwing, thanks to their inclusivity, “incredible” locations, and anti-commercial spirit. “I tend to – and many people do – say that ‘it was better back then.’ It is normal that people get bored by something, or that things change and you remember ‘the good old times,’ but actually, sometimes I’m not sure if it really was any better back then, or if I’ve just gotten older and have a different view on it.”
Lindner, though, is happy he grew up when and how he did, and that his process of learning how to produce was shaped accordingly. “I didn’t have access to so much music because before 1990 it was the DDR. We had no access (to anything else.)” Lorenz had some records though, of course. He was a big Prince fan, and apparently analysed every Prince song he could get his hands on. “I knew he recorded his first two albums alone, with an eight-track recorder. He was a bedroom producer – on a higher standard, because he had a studio and everything – but in fact, it’s the same idea. He recorded every instrument himself, he sang, he wrote it all. So I listened over and over to the same tracks, and I couldn’t have been disturbed by any new Facebook posts, or some DJ mix that comes in from I don’t know which platform. I didn’t have a computer. It was clear I needed machines, and I bought some. I don’t have much equipment though. Still, I’m using equipment from back then.”
In general, he seems to think clubs and listeners in Germany today are more preoccupied by the confines of genres, or at least more so than the typical Homo-Elektrik attendee would have been. “It’s not that I want to destroy the flow of a party, I would never do that. But I do what I expect from a good party: that it’s not really all the time crowd-pleasing with untz untz untz, with the straight hi-hat and the straight kick. I want the DJ to confront me with something.” He admits, though, it’s hard to be patient nowadays. “There’s so much music out there – the availability is incredible – so when a DJ is playing and there’s a tune that is not really comfortable for people, or it’s not really their thing, they go off the dancefloor right away to have a drink. Nobody’s waiting and thinking, ‘OK, why is he doing this?’
He pauses, apologises. “Er, or ‘why is she’ doing this?”
“It’s OK,” I assure him.
“Mostly it’s guys,” he says, a bit downcast.
Lindner might not seem like the prototypical revolutionary feminist, but he isn’t shy about expressing an interest in the politics of dance music either: the whiteness of it all, the maleness of it all. Both the Homo-Elektrik and Mikrodisko parties were organised with the idea that at least one female DJ would be playing on any given night. “At the time, I wasn’t happy about these rules, because I felt it became about gender instead of about music. I realised very quickly though that this was one way, and an important way, to change something. It’s so boring that you go to clubs, and they have these huge line-ups but no female DJs. And then the promoters, they’re also guys.”
He remembers one gig, a MM/KM live set at a prominent concert hall for classical music called Leipzig Gewandhaus, which hosts an electronic music festival each year. “It’s for a lot of people, with a huge line up, and there was only one female DJ out of close to 20 acts. We thought it was a shame.” They played anyway, with some misgivings, but not before publishing a statement addressing their concerns – a statement which, Lindner is quick to acknowledge, the promoters must not have appreciated.
I play devil’s advocate, explaining some would think it presumptuous of him, as a white European, to feel he is in a position to campaign on behalf of marginalised groups in electronic music. Lindner nods. “Maybe it is. But I’m not happy with the way things are, and so I try to bring these things up when I can.” Personally, I don’t think he’s behaving presumptuously, but subversively, and more artists could afford to do the same.
He also speaks fondly of Amiri Baraka’s Blues People. “I think every producer needs to be thinking about where all of this music comes from originally, and also what his or her position is in that.” In May, Lindner did his Berlin Community Radio show around ‘Great Black Music’, a term attributed to Lester Bowie. “He said that ‘jazz’ is not an appropriate term for this music because it’s a term which came from white people,” explains Lindner. The idea for the show came about after the murder of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teen who was shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri the summer before – the idea being music might be able to express something about the situation in the United States which words could not. The only reason Lindner didn’t do the show sooner was because he wasn’t sure how best to execute it, but in May of this year, he made the leap anyway.
There’s a five year gap – between 2003 and 2008 – when Lindner wasn’t putting out any music. He offers up a frank answer when asked about the break: “I wasn’t happy with my output, and I was really questioning whether I should be making records.” So Lindner stopped sending out demos, and he wasn’t DJing much either. Incidentally, this was also after that apparent flop of his DJ of Higher Quality release.
“I started making music quite early. For the time, back then, I was successful for my age, or at least, I had a high potential.” He was performing live and singing live, with what Lindner describes as a “cute, punky touch,” but he felt trapped in that mode of creation. “I had been very preoccupied with making ‘good’ arrangements, so I had to get rid of all I had learned in order to experiment. You learn, and you get really perfect with this stuff, and then you realise, ‘ok, this is totally uninteresting.’”
“When I first bumped into a techno party, I was totally thrilled. I thought: ‘This is the future.’”
Lindner goes on to reveal when he first met Gunnar Wendel, aka Kassem Mosse, in 2003, they shared a similar background but not the same education. This was at a time when the former had already released a few records, whereas Wendel was in the process of experimenting with gear. “Gunnar would say, ‘ah, you know what you’re doing when you are playing the keys and everything,’” Lindner recounts, adding, “he may have had some, how do you say, envy about my knowledge…”
Lindner continues, “I envied that he didn’t have this need to unlearn. Then he came out with his first records and I thought, ‘damn it, this guy!’ I was in a crisis over the fact he had come up with this stuff.” Of their friendship, he adds: “we work together so well because we have the same approach to music, the same idea of going to clubs – like how important the DJ is, how important the people are,” Lindner says. “We both like going out and being able to hear new and refreshing music.”
He recalls their performance at The Long Now, a special 30-hour closing event for Berlin’s MaerzMusik festival, held overnight – camp beds, emergency blankets, and all – in the Kraftwerk building. For it, they reprised their Chilling The Do project to beautiful effect, though Lindner says they weren’t sure about the event. “We thought it would be like the Atonal thing…” he says, adopting a bellowing, cartoonish voice, “…industrial man behind machines.”
They had reservations about the type of crowd this event might attract, and wondered, “what can we do to avoid this situation of the stage; nerdy guys standing there, watching us; watching our equipment. We were both like, ‘this is the worst thing! We don’t want that.’” To counter this, they invited eight people – mostly close friends who were involved in music and art, including Peruvian sound artist Maria Chavez and Mikrodisko producer Diashi – to come on stage.
“We didn’t know what they would do. They had a TV screen and plants – it was very relaxed – and we had been talking about what could be done against this clearly very white, male, heterosexual event.” The result was intriguing: letters being strung up as a banner, one by one, which read, “let me play the big slot”. That very signage would apparently later be used at a female:pressure event at ://about blank, held two months later.
I was moderately disappointed at not being able to see his studio, but Lindner assures me he is no gear nerd, preferring restrictions on the possibilities of what he can do. That same studio is also used for art, which Lindner studied formally. He sees visual art as being connected to music, even if the reception to each is different in nature. “In a club, you see the people and you are with the people: you produce something and you have a constant reaction. In the club, you have so many people of different backgrounds; some intellectual, some not. It’s a mixture, and everybody is having a good time.”
“In the art world,” he laments, “it’s mostly intellectual.”
There has been overlap, of course. The artwork for his Beach Hotel De Haan 12” on Meakusma was once upon a time posted on his Tumblr as a work in progress. And his goals in creating both music and art are similar: to move people emotionally, or in the case of music, to literally make people move. He has a new project, due out on Ominira next month under the name Molto, which presents a conceptual 18-track album which is decidedly not made for dancing. The cover features an image of sculptures Lindner created, and it will be accompanied by text from writer Claire Potter which discusses the music in terms of an imaginary art exhibition.
“This may describe the connection between art and music in my world, better than what I can try to explain in words. I’m very much looking forward to it. It’s not totally different from the Mix Mup stuff – I’m sure people can realise the music was produced by me – but it is kind of a special interest thing,” Lindner explains. He’s right. It’s weird and playful and very much Mix Mup in tone and flavour, but it also feels different from his other releases.
A skateboard-inspired MM/KM record, released jointly by The Trilogy Tapes and Palace, has just landed. “It’s got references to California, and a reference to a movie from Powell Peralta, The Search for Animal Chin,” Lindner explains. Separately, another MM/KM track by the pair will be included on a forthcoming various artist EP on Mikrodisko, and multiple Mix Mup solo releases are also in the pipeline.
“Sometimes I wish I had a ‘normal’ job. In some ways, it would be so much easier,” he feels, but I don’t quite believe him, suggesting there is nothing exciting about pushing the 9 to 5.
“No, that’s not exciting at all, but my work is sometimes too exciting,” he responds. “I’m interested in so many things, I don’t want to break it down to, ‘I do electronic music. House.’ Like house…’”
“House-ish,” I offer.
He repeats it and smiles. “Yeah.”
Interview and photos by Rose Mardit
Mix Mup on Juno