Connaisseur has been a constant for nearly twelve years in the electronic music scene always putting out quality music and providing artists with a platform to introduce their music to a wider audience around the globe. One of the persons behind the label is Alex Flitsch, the currator, selector and definitely the soul of the Offenbach based label, who gives others the chance to boost their career, but enjoys being in the background by choice not putting himself above music or anything else. Alex looks back to the early days of the label with humbleness and gives an insight claiming that it is not always easy to run an Indie label. He does it with heart though and follows his gut feeling, rather questioning himself than praising his work. Torture the Artist spoke to the family father and music lover in an intimate and honest interview about the upcoming Livingroom Techno 7 compilation, Connaisseur Recordings and about himself.
Listen to an exlcusive premiere of PHCK’s track ‘Aeris’ here:
Back in the days success was measered by sales. Nowadays it is measured by the hype created around it.
Part I: Alex Flitsch on Connaisseur
Torture the Artist: You founded Connaisseur back in 2005, what was your motivation to found a label?
Alex Flitsch: First off I have to say that I founded Connaisseur not by myself, but together with my dear wife Hilary and my best friend Martin. The reasons were just an interaction of different circumstances. I had just come back from the U.S.A. trying to get a foot into a family business that had not worked out for me, so I was a bit aimless when I came back to Germany, but also adopted the plan that working in the music business or with music in general – my biggest passion and distraction in hard times – should be my goal. Another reason to found Connaisseur was that three acts in my narrow circle of friends had released their music on renowned imprints and encouraged us to start the label. So something that had been on our minds for quite a while turned into reality.
The ability to suffer and having no interest in money at all!
Torture the Artist: Many of the labels founded at that time lost their relevance or do not exist anymore. What is the story behind your success?
Alex Flitsch: The ability to suffer and having no interest in money at all. Just kidding. There were and there will always be times when you do not see the light at the end of the tunnel and you just want to quit what you are doing. You question the whole idea and the concept of anything, but in the end it is always the music and my artists that keep and kept me going and has provided me with enough motivation to continue what I was and am doing.
Torture the Artist: Connaisseur‘s very first EP ‘Eve By Day‘ by Patrick Chardronnet was what the scene would call a proper start into the label business. From your point of view is it still possible as an Indie label to repeat the success and have any Connaisseur releases ever come close to the label‘s first EP?
Alex Flitsch: Back in the days success was measered by sales. Nowadays it is measured by the hype created around it. So in order to be successful the trick is it to create a continuous hype for a longer period of time. Of course, it is rather difficult to create and hold up an artificial hype as an Indie label, because a lot of factors and influences determine whether a track is successful or not in the scene. Basically you can say that you have to have the right track, at the right time from the right artist that is at the right stage of his/her career. And honestly that does not happen too often. It happened to ‘Eve By Day‘ and it was surprising, but with the experience that one has gained over the years, you feel when a certain buzz is created just as it happened to Human Machine‘s track ‘146‘.
I have always considered my actions to be situated in the background.
Torture the Artist: As an artist you have never put yourself to the foreground, but rather gave other artists a platform to boost their career. Has it always been your intention and has there never been a time, when you wanted to become more active in a club context yourself?
Alex Flitsch: I have been DJing more than half of my life and I am still happy to play whenever I get the chance to do so. Nevertheless, I have always considered my actions to be situated in the background. I have produced only little by myself and all of my releases were done with different studio partners. Of course, there were times when I questioned what I was doing and if my decision to mainly work at a desk was the best choice. The potential to start a DJ career was existant, but if I had taken that path, all my other activities in the scene would not have come to terms and I would not have been able to work on the label or other things refering to the music business. I must admit that I strive for a regulated daily routine. I love to start working early in the morning and finish work not too late. So I am sort of proud to live after those values.
Torture the Artist: Connaisseur is an international operating label that currently gives home to Italian artists such as Musumeci, Olderic or Lehar. By looking at the label‘s backstock catalogue one can see that the label is multi-cultural. Would you say Connaisseur lives the globalization and goes with certain tendencies and trends within the scene?
Alex Flitsch: Seriously I have never thought about it, it just happened and I am happy about. And I do not care too much whether it is a tendency or trend within the scene.
Until an artist or trend can gain recognition here [in Germany], the artist fills entire venues in other countries.
Torture the Artist: When breaking down the concept of internationality to national and local, one realizes that your label does not have its biggest success in Germany or the Rhine-Main-Area but abroad. A little bit exaggerating now one could cite from the Bible: “Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” How much truth lies within these words when speaking about Connaisseur?
Alex Flitsch: In order to make a label relevant at a local level, it needs local artists. Connaisseur has never really had local artists or rather a posse in the region. In fact we had a residency at Cocoon Club and were involved in an open air festival series called ‘Le Bonheur‘, but without a headliner or a whole DJ-Crew that is present here and represents the brand or label makes it rather difficult in the long run to be relevant at a local level. Another aspect is that our bureau is in Offenbach, but the label co-owners Mark and Ralph, who became part of Connaisseur in 2009, are in Berlin and Hamburg and represent the label there. Taking this into consideration I must say that the concept local has a different meaning to us and is alienated. When it comes to internationality Connaisseur is quite present in the Mediterranean area and London or Amsterdam that is owned due to the fact of our artists and the label‘s sound. Germany except for Berlin is a bit conservative, when it comes to new artists and trends. Until an artist or trend can gain recognition here, the artist fills entire venues in other countries.
Torture the Artist: After all these years in the music business where does your motivation to run a label come from?
Alex Flitsch: Our current artist rooster is my biggest motivation. First there was Lehar, who brought so much energy combined with a positive vibe to the label that I almost became dizzy in a very positive way. Then Musumeci and Olderic joined the label and I was and still am so overwhelmed by the loyality all three artists have shown. That is something outstanding and hard to find.
Torture the Artist: Where does the way of Connaisseur including its sublabels Superior and Outils lead?
Alex Flitsch: We shut down Outils, but revived Superieur to release more of a timeless sound on it in the future.
Running an Indie label is something rather egoistic. You want to release what you like best. If someone else shares the same taste, the better for you.
Part II: Alex Flitsch on personal aspects
Torture the Artist: What has the electronic music scene given to you and what do you want to give it back?
Alex Flitsch: Let‘s put it this way “Techno ruined my life, but in a good way.“ It is meant in a funny way, but it holds some truth in it. I do love music and the scene has given me some great moments I do not want to miss in my life. Through music I got to know some great people and traveled to beautiful places. When I turned 40 last year, I questioned some aspects in my life. What would have been different, if I had chosen to live an ordinary life. Of course this led to some mind games, but in the end I must say that I am happy the way it is now. What exactly and if I want to give something back to the scene, is something I have not really thought about. Maybe that approach is too hippiesque. Running an Indie label is something rather egoistic. You want to release what you like best. If someone else shares the same taste, the better for you.
Torture the Artist: What goals do you want to achieve as an artist and person when it comes to music?
Alex Flitsch: When it comes to music, I trust my gut feeling. Even though I am a very conceptional person, the careful consideration comes after. That approach has not really let me down, but when that was the case, I could still trust my partners Martin and Ralph, who sat in the same boat and put an end to my groundbreaking intuitions. Of course they were right! So I must say that I do not really follow a clear aim, things just happen.
Torture the Artist: As an Rhine-Main-expert (editor‘s note: the area around Frankfurt/ Germany), where do you go out and what can you recommend to our readers?
Alex Flitsch: If I go out, it is mainly to get something to eat. There is this new venue in Offenbach called Backschaft that I spotted. It is an old restored boat with 50 seats only at the Main river. But honestly speaking I love to be a host and invite guests to my home and cook for them.
Emo-Tech, Neo Detroit, Mädchen Techno, Northern Electronica, Eco-House, An Irish-Man In Detroit, Woozy Tech, Conscious Tech, Candytroit, Entotic Techno, Mutantroit, Widget Rave and Living Room Techno. So these terms became common and we called a certain sound by either one of the names.
Part III: Alex Flitsch on Livingroom Techno
Torture the Artist: The 7th episode of the ‘Livingroom Techno‘ series is on its way. How did this series come about?
Alex Flitsch: Firstly the word or the title of the genre ‘Livingroom Techno‘ existed. Martin and me had all kinds of word creations in the beginning, that we used in information sheets of the distribution. There were words like Emo-Tech, Neo Detroit, Mädchen Techno (editor‘s note: techno for girls), Northern Electronica, Eco-House, An Irish-Man In Detroit, Woozy Tech, Conscious Tech, Candytroit, Entotic Techno, Mutantroit, Widget Rave and Livingroom Techno. So these terms became common and we called a certain sound by either one of the names – not putting too much emphasize whether the music was Techno or House in the first place. We just wanted to categorize the sound by feelings and its aesthetic. Then we started to sort the music by the term Living Room Techno only from our label catalogue, but that idea was followed by exclusive titles for the series, until we realized that those titles got lost a bit on the compilation. So for three years now we do release the exclusive tracks of the compilation before it is released as a whole, so these tracks get the attention they deserve.
Torture the Artist: Who compiles the artists and the tracks for the compilation, what is important in the process and when does the preliminary work start?
Alex Flitsch: That is my job. The series has become a platform to present music from artists that are either unknown or usually are bound to other organisations, still – generally speaking – we want to work with them. So during the months before the release I go through the demos and look out for tracks for the series. Living Room Techno can also be a chance to become part of our artist rooster.
Torture the Artist: Before the actual release of the compilation you release the exclusive track EP as you said. This year we can look forward to tracks form Rancido, ID Ensemble, Shayde feat. Alex Azari & Mr. Rod and PHCK. How did these collaborations come about?
Alex Flitsch: This time it is really a potpourri of all demos and private contacts. The contact to Rancido and his management had already existed. ID Ensemble had also already been signed for a release on Superieur and we thought that a track on Living Room Techno would be a good starter for this cooperation. His track ‘PM‘on Otake Rec. was a favorite of mine, so I was quite focused when his demo arrived in my inbox. PHCK are two very talented producers from my hometown Pforzheim and their title had been on my hard-disk for quite a while, so I am very happy this great piece of music finally has the right platform to be released. Well, Shadye is the very first act out of this region that we have signed. Their studio is in the former building of the custom office where my bureau is also located. We have known and worshipped each other for quite some time. The fact that two Rhine-Main-House-vets are also part of this track makes me even more happy.
Torture the Artist: Are there tracks that you request but in the end get their very own release on Connaisseur?
Alex Flitsch: Well, it could happen, but it is not intended.
Torture the Artist: Last year Francesco Chiocci‘s track ‘Black Sunrise‘ caught a lot of attention. What will be this year‘s LRT-hit?
Alex Flitsch: That is difficult to say since the LRT series does not include intentional hits. All four tracks have an exclusive note, still they are all different. The listeners and DJs will decide in the end.
‘LTR 7’ with four exclusive cuts taken from the Livingroom Techno 7 compilation is due January 23rd on Connaisseur. While the whole compilation will be out February 6th.