Interview with Mark Reeder
Interview with Mark Reeder
The release has been also available as download package since the 29th of June 2012. Full release infos including buy links can be found here.
As I discovered much later, I hold the honour of being the first and only Englishman to ever make a record in the communist GDR. I made the album “Torture” for Die Vision during the declining twilight months of the GDR in the East Berliner AMIGA Tonstudio, in the Brunnenstrasse, which was a stone’s throw away from the Berlin wall. It was a fascinating experience.
Naturally, at the time we were not aware this this album was also going to become the last record of the GDR too. During the recording of this album, the GDR was slowly imploding upon itself. Of course, that political changes were going to have to be made were obvious to see, but no one could have predicted the fall of the Berlin wall. It was difficult enough for me to listen to the latest news from the studio staff or the band when they were talking about friends or relatives suddenly disappearing. I could only view it all as an innocent bystander and besides, if it all got to be too much I could always return to West Berlin at any time without difficulty.
We began the recording of Torture in summer 1989 and because we had to work in true communist style shifts, I finally finished the recordings on 2nd November 1989. The wall fell on the 9th November 1989.
Before the final mixdown and production, I decided with the studio technicians that we would take a short break while I went on my holidays with writer Dave Rimmer and Trevor Wilson.
We left Berlin in the night of the 8th November for our Eastern Bloc holiday. Destination, Nicolai Ceaucescu’s Romania, via Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary.
Without any kind of precognition, we had no idea that the wall would fall the following evening and while we spent our afternoons strolling about Krakow, we didn’t hear a word about it. So you can imagine our incredulous surprise and excitement when we first heard the mammoth news about fall of the Berlin wall many days later while in Hungary. No one had said a word to us. Our own personal Disneyland was gone. We thought that probably because we were “Wessies” people automatically assumed we already knew.
Suddenly, the world appeared to be different, Berlin was definitely going to be different.
Dave wrote a book about our experiences on that trip “Once Upon A Time In The East”
After we returned from the ruins of all the former communist countries, I agreed to mix Torture in a West Berlin studio, as this was the express wishes of the Brunnenstrasse studio engineers. I wanted their dream to come true too. This probably made Torture the first post wall East-West joint venture album too.
During this whole production process, I was able to get to know the people of the now one time AMIGA, and it was through this opportunity I was able to start my label MFS.
Directly after the fall of the wall, all the commie bosses of VEB Deutsche Schallplatten were given indefinite holidays and
AMIGA was renamed ZONG. When I heard this embarrassing name change I was horrified, sadly my suggestion that they should have called the label ZONY was not well received, simply because I don’t think they had a sense of humour at that moment.
I was impressed at the new possibilities of this label never the less and I tried to convince the A&Rs there that they had to move with the times and motivate them with the newest sounds which was currently being played in all the coolest clubs in Berlin. Underground techno Music.
They hadn’t a clue what I meant. I was confronted with a series of confused questions about techno and 12″ vinyl.
“What is teshnoe?” “Komputermusik?” “what is a tvelfintch? Isnt that like an LP?” “What? Only one song on one side? what a waste!” All this was completely baffeling to them. The only 12″ officially available in the GDR was an import of the Russian national Anthem and no one had that in their collection (except me I guess). I thought they would eagerly take the opportunity to be the first East Berliner techno dance label to feature East German musicians, but after a series of unproductive meetings with the head A&R I realised I would have no other option than to start it myself. I asked if I could at least use their infrastructure and founded my own label “Masterminded For Success”.
I wanted to use the letters MFS from the very start. I didn’t want these three letters to disappear and wanted to use them in a different context. I knew that they would cause controversy too. I knew that the Germans have a passion for shortening long words into their initials and I also knew that the AMIGA (sorry, ZONG) would never suspect that Masterminded For Success could be shortened into MFS. Indeed, I understood that some of the people at ZONG would not be very happy.
On the day of my first press conference, I plastered the streets with posters that declared “MFS – We are back!” there was nothing anyone could do. Afterwards I had to go to each member of the company and explain my reasons for calling my label MFS, so that they knew it didn’t have any political background. I think I really only got away with it because I was considered a “craizy Englishman” and was able to convince them with the music. The only problem was the realisation that regardless of the fall of the wall, virtually all the eastie kids didn’t have computers or even instruments to make techno music on…
I suggested to Piet that I take all their vocal tracks and rework and rewrite them in this manner and that is how ReOrdered was created. In actual fact, this is not a traditional remixes album, where a song is turned into a DJ clubtrack but the reverse.
I had to rewrite virtually all the tracks and create my own elements, as many of their original sounds didn’t fit the concept. In turn I made proper songs from their DJ tracks.
It is such an honour to remix DM and at first you think WOW!, then simultaneously comes that feeling of pure horror.
Naturally I wanted to make something that I, as a DM fan myself, would like, that’s why I decided I wouldn’t try and be clever and try and rewrite musical history as many others have tried to do in the past. I don’t really like it when a remix is so dismembered that it has absolutely no resemblance to the original in any way and is completely unrecognisable. In my opinion, I wanted it to remain a ballad, like the original. It is a slow melancholic ballad and it must be treated and handled in such a way and differently to making a dance track.
I tried to use as many elements from the original version as possible, so that the sound would be recognisable. In the classic sense I remixed and rearranged them and replayed parts to give them my own sound.
I put so much energy in this remix. Similar to my John Foxx and Bad Lieutenant remixes, we had to cut out every single word and every sound we wanted to use and carefully reposition them by hand so that each sound or word would fit. The original song was played live and so there is a lot of tempo change, it starts at about 80 BPM and finishes around 87BPM and if that wasn’t difficult enough to do, all the instruments were tuned to martin’s vocals, which actually meant they were 53% out of tune! I think that’s probably the reason no one wanted to remix this song for DM Remixes Vol2 album. Phil Kieran had a go at remixing Sweetest Pefection but wasn’t able to do much with it. I guess you can’t put a square peg in a round hole.
If all that wasn’t enough stress for me, a few days after we had started the remix, my 90 year old father fell and broke his hip, the doctors told my mother that he probably wouldn’t survive the operation and my mum had a small stroke through all the worry. Crass indeed!
I had to immediately stop making the remix and go to my parents.
My father survived the operation but sadly died a few months later.
I had to make my DM remix under these circumstances.
As for the actual album, I had been translating the subtitles for the controversial Herbert Achtenbusch film “Heilt Hitler” from Bavarian into English, for Werner Schroedel and during this process I had explained my idea and wish to make an album in 5.1 surround. He was very impressed with the idea and that is why the album has been released on Kennen and not MFS.
Of course I try at least to treat each song individually to give it its own colour,yet in this case, my only criteria was that I make the tracks in a similar way as i made music back in the 80s, with a limited collection of instruments and sounds.
Luckily, I was able to convince Micha that we should try it. Unfortunately, that also meant we had to remix all our remixes from scratch. Not an easy task, because with 5.1 you have to choose exactly where each sound is going to come from, where does the reverb and echo go and where you position each instrument in the mix. The key is to get the balance right. In the end though, it only depends on how the consumer has set up their own hifi system.
I used similar methods as I did in the past to get an authentic sound. Back then we had fewer instruments and therefore we had a limitation to the choice of sounds. We had to create everything ourselves and that is what I’ve done with these remixes.
What connects me to this time are many different things. I lived in Berlin entirely throughout the 80s. I was able to experience and do things then that are impossible today. The 80s were a very innovative era, especially in Berlin. We had new wave, synthpop, avant garde, acid house and at the end techno. Berlin was abstract, rebellious and unconventional. Martin Gore was also very impressed and lived in Berlin for a while and that he was deeply inspired by this city can be heard in his music of that time. I got to know many artists like The Pet Shop Boys and I had the honour to have been involved with Die Toten Hosen at the very start of their career as their live sound engineer and I also helped to bring them to play illegal secret concerts in communist East Berlin.
Besides, after over 20 years of techno, I wanted to do something else. I never thought that I would go back to making 80s sounding music though. It simply just happened. What was apparent though, was that making music like this was much more difficult back then than it is today. We had synths that would constantly go out of tune the moment the humidity changed. We didn’t have total recall on our 24 channel mixing desk and almost no midi instruments. Everything had to be recorded live onto a tape machine. Making music today is luxurious.
Producing is a lot of fun, especially in 5.1 surround. I made techno and trance for over 20 years and that’s why I am in no hurry to make a techno record. Besides, I think others can probably do it much better than I could.