A keyfigure of early German techno, EBM, acid, and a man of few interviews - so we were buzzing to get him in for one ahead of him playing at White Hotel on Fri 31st Jan!
We wanted to start on a positive note, you’ve been on the ‘scene’ for as long as many of us can remember one. Amongst all the bad press today’s industry gets, from Instagram-focused parties to phones on the dancefloor, do you think there are any elements of today’s techno scene that have actually improved for the better?
Hmm, difficult to say, but in my three decades of being in this business there’s always been annoying stuff, but mainly – at least for me – it was always fun and I am very grateful for what I achieved and what I was allowed to experience. Seeing the world very early on, meeting new friends and fans all over the planet and even getting paid for doing so is as good as it gets. And I don’t follow the press or socialising sites that much to be honest, for me it was always my music that counted.
If we continue to transform at the current rate, what do you see for the future of our dancefloors – do you see things like AI, for example, as a threat or something we should embrace?
Just continue with energy and passion, the rest comes all by itself. These days it’s fine to play with anything as long as you can move the crowd and give em a great time.
Bringing us back to today, we’re talking to you as Thomas P Heckmann, but many of our readers will know you as any number of other aliases. What is it about your sound that makes you feel like you want (or need?) to assume multiple identities?
Back in the days there was a lot of prejudice about me being only Acid / EBM / Techno or whatever, but I was always into all kinds of sounds and different music so that’s why I used “disguises” to have people listen without prejudice. And to this day some still discover tracks they played was me and they wouldn’t have touched it with my real name on it ;-). But also the different projects had different approaches and sound.
One of your seminal tracks has been cited as having a big influence on the trance scene, what is your take on its resurgence in many of today’s techno sets?
Guess you are talking about Amphetamine… I never had anything against trance, though this track was just a tune with a hookline. Most sounds were freaky by any standard back then, but that made it outstanding and had so many producers influenced by it. I didn’t like the commercial side effects, though, a lot of trainspotters had much more success and income with a rip off than I with the original… but for me it’s still the energy of the track that stayed alive and I also prevent it to be covered or re-released again by other producers. There were many offers in the recent years, that I turned down.
You’ve done something that not many have managed to do and built and maintained a long-established and highly-respected career, what advice do you have for DJs and producers starting today that dream of longevity like yours?
Longevity like my career is very hard to sustain these days (and wasn’t easy either back in the days) when you only earn 0,00000001 for a download or a stream. The 90s i.e. where a decade like a gold mine and I made only music that I liked and had the luxury that I released what I wanted and not what the record labels or commercial crowd wanted. And doing all and paying on my own mostly there were always some cash left to continue with the next release. It was pure luck that I had quite a few tunes at the right time without even knowing what I was doing and doing it for me in the first place.
I worked very hard in the 80s to buy even the cheapest instruments, today we have everything at all times. This made the music much more valuable for me to work hard for the gear. I always tell people who ask me this to have a job that pays the food and take it as a hobby. If it’s becoming a success then enjoy it and be grateful for your 15 minutes of fame… but it can be over very swiftly, so it’s always good to have something to rely on.
You’ve talked before about the changes you’ve seen, particularly in technology, and now spending most of your time at a computer rather than a studio – how has your writing process changed in this time? Can you talk us through your methodology?
That is more on the business side than on the studio side. I don’t even use my studio computer for music at the moment, just for recording. I’m mainly using hardware to produce and I’m really bothered with plug ins and programs right now. I prefer the old school sequencers, triggers, CV & gates, knobs, leeds, drum machines, synths aso. It’s just more fun to make music with than moving a mouse about all the time.
There’s a lot of excitement building for your appearance at Meat Free, what is it to you that makes a perfect party?
That’s great to hear and I’m looking forward, too 🙂 The best is to party with and for the crowd and a great feed back from the floor will always make a DJ play better. For me this is not work, but fun, which isn’t always healthy 😉 Can’t wait to play for you Mancunians !!!
Your early influences include 808 State amongst others, so you know Manchester knows how to rave properly! So to round off, what can Manchester expect from you on the 31st Jan?
Sure thing, at least for the newer Acid stuff in the late 80s. I was – and still am – heavily into Factory Records, Joy Division, New Order, Happy Mondays, Inspiral Carpets, Stone Roses, Martin Hannet, and the likes. Factory Records had a big influence on my way of doing things as a musician and my label work. I was always DIY and a one-man-show and wanted to be free of other people telling me what to do. I mean selling loads of Blue Monday 12inches and loosing 50 Pence on each in the beginning because of the expensive artwork and print by Saville is pure genius! Thank you Mr. Wilson 🙂