Benjamin Fröhlich is not new to the electronic music scene even though his first EP, ‘Rude Movements‘, was just released last year. But as co-founder of Munich based record label, Permanent Vacation, launched in 2006 with Tom Bioly, and owner of former record store, ‘Play Records’, the Bavarian has spent more than a decade spreading his passion for Disco influenced electronic music. In an exclusive Torture the Artist interview, Benjamin talks about the evolution of Permanent Vacation, the benefits of running his own label, and his hometown of Munich.
Torture the Artist: Your first EP, ‘Rude Movements’ was released on Permanent Vacation last year. Why did it take so long for you to release something on your own label or was it planned as a release for the 10th anniversary of the label?
Benjamin Fröhlich: Well, there was no real reason for releasing the EP at that time except that it was finally done. I had been working on it for quite some time, but it took a while until I was totally satisfied with the outcome.
Torture the Artist: Running an Indie-label for ten years is quite an achievement, especially taking the fast pace nature of today’s society and the music industry into account. Has your philosophy on why you are running a label changed throughout the years, and why have you decided to run a label for so long?
Benjamin Fröhlich: I believe that my philosophy behind running a label has not changed. In the end it is always about releasing music that we like and that suits our label, Permanent Vacation. And, of course, we hope that people enjoy the music we release.
But even though the philosophy behind the label hasn’t changed, people‘s taste in music and the way music is distributed has undergone some changes over the years. When we first began, vinyl was the number one medium to distribute music, but today it’ a combination of vinyl, CDs, digital downloads and streams. In the beginning a lot of music could be found on MySpace, which was quite an impressive time as you had the ability to upload music and reach people directly. That was sort of revolution. Then SoundCloud became the next big thing, and now Bandcamp is stepping into this role. There will certainly be something new soon. But it’s important to remember that a label’s job is constantly changing and it reflects things like the most popular ways of music distribution or social media presence. There is no rest! One of the benefits of running a label is that I have the ability to search for new music, lots of which I can use in my DJ sets.
Torture the Artist: Permanent Vacation’s very first release was a mix-compilation by Tom, your label partner, and yourself. Now artists such as Mano Le Tough, John Talabot and Lake People, to name a few, release on the label, which is quite an achievement, but at the same time it increases people‘s expectations. Have these expectations, as well as being more in the scene‘s spotlight changed anything for you when signing artists to the label?
I listen to a lot of music and always try to find new music. It mainly happens at night when everything around me has gone silent. That is actually the time when I find the best music and at times I get so excited about it that I cannot fall asleep.
Benjaming Fröhlich: We were lucky that everything has worked out for us from the beginning. During the mid-to-late 90’s, Cosmic Disco and Balearic had its comeback and with the re-release and remixes of the ‘Camino Del Sol‘ album by Antena, we were able to score big time. After that it was the Kathy Diamond album (editor‘s note: ‘Miss Diamond To You‘), produced by Maurice Fulton, and the first Woolfy vs Projections album (editor‘s note: ‘The Astral Projections of Starlight‘) that left a mark in the scene and perfectly fit the cult-like following around DJ Harvey that had come up at that time. And our streak continued with releases such as Tensnake‘s ‘Coma‘, the Todd Terje remixes for Dolle Jolle‘s track ‘Balearic Incarnation‘, and ‘Reckless With Your Love‘ by Azari & III.
By releasing albums from John Talabot, Mano Le Tough and Lake People we probably reached another audience whose attention we had not caught with our previous releases. As we prefer to work with artists continuously, there is not much space for newness at times unfortunately. So turning down good music at times is not satisfying but necessary as the artists approached us at the wrong time. In order not to turn down artists and their music some labels have come up with the idea to launch a sublabel, but we’ve been reluctant to do that because we try to invest all of our energy into our mother ship, Permanent Vacation. But I listen to a lot of music and always try to find new music. It mainly happens at night when everything around me has gone silent. That is actually the time when I find the best music and at times I get so excited about it that I cannot fall asleep.
Torture the Artist: Which Permanent Vacation releases have been the most experimental, in terms of sound?
Benjamin Fröhlich: The most experimental release? I can’t pinpoint one as all our releases happen quite naturally. I don’t know whether you can call it experimental or not, but the first records of our friend Bostro Pesopeo was somewhat more adventurous than other music we had released before. Also, the music from Pollyester is more experimental to what usually goes out on 12“ on our label. We weren‘t so sure about the ‘Space Oddities‘ compilations and what kind of reaction they would get, but the music was just so amazing and in the end it was quite well received.
Torture the Artist: It is often said that a city is very influential for the sound of an artist or a label. How important is Permanent Vacation for to Munich and its scene?
Benjamin Fröhlich: Ha! I don‘t think I am able to answer this as you’d have to ask Munich itself. I can only say how important Munich is to us. The Disco or Cosmic sound from Italy and Austria has influenced us a lot. There was also a night called ‘Into Somethin‘, that had music from Funk, Soul, Jazz, HipHop, Jungle, Broken Beats and House that shaped me as a DJ, because I enjoyed the variety in music. Today, I don’t want to limit myself in terms of music, but maybe I do not have to. I think that Munich has always been more pop oriented than other cities in Germany and it surely has influenced us.
I want to release music that will still be relevant in the future and not just in the present.
Torture the Artist: What are your goals for Permanent Vacation and for you as a person?
Benjamin Fröhlich: When it comes to Permanent Vacation I really hope to continue operating as an Indie label and not have to make compromises in order to release music. I want to release music that will still be relevant in the future and not just in the present. In terms of me as a person I must say that the aforementioned applies to me as well.
I realized that I like to be in control of things […] Maybe one day I will decide that I want to relinquish this power into the careful hands of someone else, but as for now Permanent Vacation does the job.
Torture the Artist: Despite Permanent Vacation and it’s artists success, you’ve always remained out of the spotlight. Was this always your intention, or was there a moment when you thought you wanted to use Permanent Vacation as a platform for yourself?
Benjamin Fröhlich: Although I’ve been DJ’ing as Benjamin Frohlich for a while, releasing music while playing is rather new. But I am happy to have Permanent Vacation as a platform and not to look out for a new label with every EP or track I want to release. I realized that I like to be in control of things such as artwork, release date or which tracks are going to be on the record. Maybe one day I will decide that I want to relinquish this power into the careful hands of someone else, but for now Permanent Vacation does the job.
Torture the Artist: Why is there so little information about you online?
Benjamin Fröhlich: Maybe because I am used to the direct exchange that you experience in a record store (editor‘s note: Benjamin was running a record store in Munich). I prefer it that way and I believe that I have never fully adapted myself to social media. But I promise I will try to change and you will be fed up with me being around in no time. <laughs>
I hope people will come to me when they want to be in good hands because they know I will treat them professionally and fairly.
Torture the Artist: As a DJ, producer and label head you are heavily involved in the music business. What has the scene given you in all these years, and what do you want to give it back?
Benjamin Fröhlich: I have gotten to know many great people and places that I probably would have never experienced if I hadn’t been involved with music. I hope people will come to me when they want to be in good hands because they know I will treat them professionally and fairly.
Torture the Artist: Where about in Munich can you be found when you have the time to go out, and which places can you recommend to your readers?
Benjamin Fröhlich: Munich has never been famous for it’s subculture, for one reason or another. But despite this, there have always been great places and parties. In the ‘90s some crews organized outstanding parties in unique locations. Munich has changed quite a lot over the years – it has grown and has become more international. We have a lot of great bars, clubs and restaurants and for now it is a very exciting time for the city with a lot of things happening. Whenever I can, I go to Charlie – a great place to meet people and to DJ. The same applies to MMA (editor‘s note: Mixed Munich Arts – a nightclub in Munich and former heat and power station). This large hall is very special to me, and to Munich. Furthermore, you should visit ‘Bahnwärter Thiel‘ and ‘Tam Tam Tanzlokal‘. I do not want to reveal too much about the last one, but you can definitely have a good time there. One of the best bars in Munich is conveniently just around the corner from where I live: ‘Favorit Bar‘ that has been around for 15 years. I’d also recommend ‘Baader Cafe’ for the daytime and ‘Holy Home’, ‘Unter Deck’ or ‘Awi’ for the evenings. They are great places to grab a beer.
Torture the Artist: What can we expect from Benjamin Fröhlich in 2017, in terms of releases?
Benjamin Fröhlich: The ‘Rude Remixes‘ with reworks from Lauer, Shan, Cleveland and Jack Pattern was just released. I will release a track on the 10th anniversary compilation that is probably due in May. I finished a Tuff City Kids remix that will be out sometime this year and ‘Rude Movements Pt.2‘ will be soon too. Then I might release one or two remixes and Tom and I are working on a new label compilation.
Benjamin Fröhlich‘s top10
1.Talaboman ‘Loser’s Hymn‘ [R&S]
2.Joakim ‘Samurai ( Red Axes Remix)‘ [Because]
3.Icola ‘Diableries EP‘ [Versatile]
4.Benjamin Fröhlich ‘Rude Remixes‘ [Permanent Vacation]
5.Lucas Croon ‘Türkischer Tee‘ [Theme From Great Cities]
6.Axel Boman ‘Geeks‘ [Barnbarn]
7.Tuff City Kids ‘unknown (Roman Flügel / Tensnake Remix)‘ [Permanent Vacation]
8.Tangerine ‘Dream Sequence (Shan Edit)‘ [unknown]
9.Auntie Flo ‘Theory Of Flo (Remixed) [Huntleys & Palmers]
Hatches ‘Hey Benji (Prins Thomas Remix)‘ [Gop Tun]