He’s a resident at Robert Johnson, a ‘tuff city kid’ and a ‘brontosauru’s when it comes to studio work. After releasing his album ‘Power’ on Gerd Janson’s Running Back label last year ‘You Know‘ on Permanent Vacation is the first EP or proper original material from Philip Lauer since and, of course, the artist from the Rhine-Main area delivers, like he always does. Whether with original or remix-material Lauer’s been in the spotlight for years, always inventing and reinventing himself musically but keeping a steady (production) flow that’s offered him the opportunity to not only become a national and international renowned artist but also to focus on what he’s passionate about: music and music only. Since the early noughties, since EPs on Séparé Records and in the following on labels such as Beats In Space, Live At Robert Johnson, Futurboogie Recordings, Running Back and Permanent Vacation Philipp Lauer has paved his way of becoming successful over almost two decades and is now on top of his game. Shortly before his four tracker (different versions of several tracks are not counted) on Permanent Vacation Torture the Artist had the chance to speak to the media-shy artist about, what a surprise, music.
I’m a cold blooded Techhouse machine trying to get away with as much copying and re-using as possible.
Torture the Artist: Hello Philipp, tell us something about your day.
Lauer: Hello. I’m answering you whilst on the plane back home from Dublin, where I played together with my dear friend Skatebård at Pygmalion last night. Today we had enjoyed some excellent pizza before we went to the airport.
Torture the Artist: A new Permanent Vacation, four original tracks plus an instrumental, will hit stores shortly. What shall ‘we know’ that ‘you know’ about Philipp Lauer’s new EP?
Lauer: Well, it’s my first solo 12“ since the ‘Power’ album last year and it contains a song with my incredible singer friend Jasnau. As simple as that. Some ideas came from the ‘Power’ album pool – the rest is new.
Torture the Artist: Was the lemon or ‘ctron e’ (pronounced ‘Zitrone’, the German word for lemon)’ so sour that it beat the ‘e’ out of ‘body chck’ or how did you come up with the track title and how are they connected, if so at all?
Lauer: ‘You know,’ its never easy to find titles, that don’t sound silly. I’m still undecided how I did this time. Whatever crosses my mind on a certain day could be a track title for me. At times they derive from the project titles in Cubase – impulse style, finger snap! For this EP half of the decision was done through the lyrics of the vocal track, obviously.
For remixes, my approach is similar to solving a riddle.
Torture the Artist: When it comes to original tracks you seem to be quite ‘reserved’ unlike when it comes to remixes. Do you prefer producing one over another or is it more a question of time since an original track probably takes more time to finish than a remix?
Lauer: It’s all one big ‘soup’ in a way. For remixes, my approach is similar to solving a riddle: It can be easy or really hard, but it is possible to carve a remix out of any track. Well, maybe 99% of all tracks. That 1% can be Pop songs with 80 BPM, when the label insists on a full vocal mix. When remixing, I go through the stems and decide what I’m going to use, or try to use, and then I record lots of layers on top and see what sticks. That could lead to a bass line, an arpeggio or a chord sequence that doesn’t quite fit the remix anymore, but might make a nice original track. So I will save it to a new project and try not to forget about it.
The strongest track won’t work if it doesn’t sound good on club PAs.
Torture the Artist: Speaking of time, how do you manage to produce at such a pace, keep several projects, namely Tuff City Kids, Black Spuma or TNP, going and still tour the world to perform regularly at clubs?
Lauer: After all these years of doing it, I have some sort of routine in finishing things and I’m thankfully not a perfectionist. I think rather than changing little things on a track over and over, it makes more sense to just get used to the track, the way it is. Another big point is that most of the time, I’m using a professional mixing engineer to do the mixdowns. The anti-perfectionist vibe doesn’t really working in that terrain. The strongest track won’t work if it doesn’t sound good on club PAs. So once the arrangement is done, I simply bounce all stems and send them out for mixing, which saves a lot of time.
Torture the Artist: Regarding the aforementioned, how do you keep a clear head with a schedule like that, and mostly how do you avoid being creatively stuck, like do you have a certain routine or method to deal with it?
Lauer: I tend to ignore the whole topic. Of course, there are bad days in the studio when nothing works out. In those cases I believe that taking a break is the best thing to do. So watching some series, reading the newspaper, buying groceries or cooking food is the way to go and after a while I can return to the unsolved riddles. I would like to think that that I’m not known for missing deadlines, but I have to admit that the older I get, the harder it gets to recover from long DJ weekends. I’m working on a solution though… don’t worry.
I believe reinventing music every time you start a new track is an illusion.
Torture the Artist: Have you caught yourself doing this, falling back to a certain routine when producing music, and got mad or smiled to yourself?
Lauer: I’m past that point. I’m a cold blooded Techhouse machine trying to get away with as much copying and re-using as possible. Haha… No, but I believe reinventing music every time you start a new track is an illusion. People say that I have some sort of signature sound. That might have to do with falling back into certain routines as well.
Torture the Artist: Which track or sound from your childhood would you consider sampling in one of your future productions, and why?
Lauer: Mmh… I don’t really sample a lot. Maybe drum sounds sometimes. A stand-out track from my childhood is probably ‘Vamos a la Playa‘. I always liked it, but later I realised that it’s actually really well produced too. A big inspiration for sure! In a strange way it is happy and dark at the same time, the lyrics are about nuclear war and waste and it was misunderstood and turned into a holiday anthem. Also it’s an Italian band singing in Spanish. I would really like to get my hands on the stems, just to take a look inside.
Torture the Artist: How do you cope with the loneliness during your travels or are you the kind of person that enjoys being on your own?
Lauer: I have no problem with being alone in general. Being a music producer is a lonely job most of the time. So I’m used to it, which helps when traveling. I have to say, that I’m not a fan of spending time in airports and on planes. It is really tiring, having company eases the pain.
Torture the Artist: Coming back to the music, what does a track have to have so that you remix it?
Lauer: As I said, I have this riddle approach to it. There is no real criteria. But it helps when I like it / can relate to it.
Torture the Artist: You’ve sat with quite a few artist in the studio, do you still have a kind of idol that you would like to share the studio with and what kind of track would you like to produce with this person, and why?
Lauer: Being put on the spot, I can’t really think of anyone. It usually doesn’t help if you have huge expectations / visions when going to the studio. Its mostly impossible to live up to them. It seems to be much more productive, when it just happens with no goals or when it is a clear job like a remix or something. Also it is important that i like the person sitting next to me, any idol I might dream of might turn out to be a total idiot. <laughs> Having said all of that, Jan Hammer or Zeus B Held would be great. Just to watch how it is done.
Torture the Artist: Say your favorite producer offers to remix a track of yours from the ‘You Know EP’, which would you willingly and ably volunteer?
Lauer: I’d definitely leave the choice to him / her and be curious about the turnout. I have mixed feelings about being remixed actually. Kinda childish perhaps when you consider that I do many myself. <laughs> A great recent example is my man Fango, who offered to remix one of the Red Scorpions tracks. It turned out to be super good! I’m really happy with it.
Torture the Artist: Together with Gerd Janson you are Tuff City Kids, how did this project and the name come about since neither one of you lives in the city?
Lauer: It was meant to be a joke for one remix we did. Gerd read it on some toilet wall. But as always, it stuck with us and we even got to meet the real Tuff City Kids, a writer crew from Berlin!
This is just where I ended up. It could’ve been anywhere.
Torture the Artist: You live in the Rhine-Main area, and seem to be one of the few people from the region that does not exchange his home to an apartment in Berlin. What is it that you appreciate about Frankfurt and its hinterland and what makes you stay there?
Lauer: Well, it’s my home region, my family and most of my friends are here. I have always been kinda phlegmatic and reactant. So I wouldn’t have any inner drive to do anything, and at the same time be could be very skeptic about all things that everybody likes and does. So I’m definitely not a patriot, saying that I love my home town or something. This is just where I ended up. It could’ve been anywhere. I do enjoy visiting Berlin, because I have many friends there and there are a lot of things to do. Although not so much in the winter, coz it can be quite depressing, ha ha.
Torture the Artist: Besides your regular gigs at Robert Johnson, do you participate in the local nightlife/ subculture and how do you assess the development of the regions club culture?
Lauer: I would say ‘no’. I used to run a little label with some friends, if that counts? But I generally prefer to leave organising things to others. It’s just not my strength or the strongest side of mine. Other people are much better and more enthusiastic about it. But please don’t get me wrong, I do support everybody who does cool things. Robert Johnson is probably the main club here in the area and I’m really happy to be able to play there every now and then. It is definitely not an easy task to hold up an operation like this in today’s ultra money-driven world.
Torture the Artist: What’s more important, the beginning or the end of a DJ set and would you say the same applies to an EP with various tracks?
Lauer: It depends on the situation, for example, when taking over from someone who thought he’d played a super mellow warm up, which was in reality 126 bpm white noise Techhouse, the beginning of the set is dedicated to not letting the party die (assuming there is a full dance floor and people are having fun) and trying to slowly turn the steering wheel in another direction. In that function the beginning of a set is crucial. It can be less essential when starting in an empty club. I can’t think of a scenario where the end is not important. Unless it’s still empty. The promoters of that night should feel really bad – their internet music-listening habits do not match their crowd’s. The order of tracks on a vinyl is most of the times dictated by the tracks length and required loudness, so there is not much dramaturgy involved.
Torture the Artist: Describe a DJ gig of yours which inspired you as a music producer. Which track of yours is the most direct reflection of your career as a DJ?
Lauer: For me it doesn’t work like that, even though I wish it would. I’m either in studio or DJ mode. It usually takes some time for switching back and forth between those. So I don’t think about producing a track when DJing and vice-versa. Some might say I should think more about DJs when producing and be a bit more functional…. Let’s say I’m working on it. <smiles>
I’m also grateful for how I can spend my time without having a boss.
Torture the Artist: After so many years in the scene, so many high-quality productions, what keeps you going and motivated and could you ever imagine doing something else but music?
Lauer: The motivation is definitely changing over the years. As a younger person I wasn’t thinking about it, it was just the best thing to do. That spirit wore off after a few years – also through being in touch with the business side of music, while working in record distribution for over 10 years. I was in danger of becoming really cynical about everything, but I gladly realised at some point that this mindset of judging everything all the time was going to turn me into a sad and frustrated fart – not fun at all. So nowadays I’m still complaining a lot all the time, but I’m also grateful for how I can spend my time without having a boss and I’m trying to be open towards new ideas and people. I hope it will last till I can retire.
Torture the Artist: Any recent upcoming artists who made an impression on you and your production style? We all know about your diverse and sometimes eclectic taste in music, how far off did you wander in the vast world of music, to be able to zone back in in the studio, and say, I think I’ve heard enough, it’s time to get something cooking?
Lauer: Delroy Edwards comes to mind, but he is not really recent and upcoming. I really liked that ‘Earth To Mickey’ 12“ he produced and he made me consider reactivating my Tandberg 4 Tracker tape machine. Also not really new is Sfire, but I can’t wait for the next one as teased on BIS. I could go on like that. I guess some sort of flame is still burning. I’m actually getting better at enjoying a wider variety of music and I’m always happy to change my mind about stuff that I couldn’t stand a few years ago. All the music I listen to probably resonates in my productions, but in an unconscious way. Whenever I had a concrete idea, for example a fixed plan to finally produce some acid techno, the outcome was always another ‘Lauer’ track.
I would shut down their businesses for good and donate all their money.
Torture the Artist: If you could borrow someone’s identity, who would it be and what would you do?
Lauer: Maybe Jeff Bezos or Mark Zuckerberg or any other crook like that. I would shut down their businesses for good and donate all their money. After writing my-real-self a humble cheque of course.
Interview by Holger Breuer