After dishing up nostalgic club vibes with their eclectic art:cast earlier this month, longtime on and off-studio friends Reznik and Good Guy Mikesh are back in the Torture the Artist spotlight. The Germans had an eventful pandemic – having proved that The Moon Landing Was A Hoax, via Mike Simonetti’s 2MR Records last April, but already quick to follow through with another EP on Reznik’s home-base, Berlin’s favorite offbeat electronic music label/boyband, Keinemusik. Shortly before the release of Human Factor, which was out last Friday, Andreas and Mikki, sometimes known collectively as No Work All Play and other times simply, Reznik & Mikesh, take a few moments to catch up with Torture the Artist to talk about music, their Connection, social events (and non-events), Human Factor(s) and many things in between.
Torture the Artist: Hey Andreas & Mikki. How far apart are you at the moment? When was the last time you spoke and what did you talk about?
Reznik: We are approx. 150 km apart (linear distance). The last time we spoke was yesterday on the phone and before that last week when we hung out in Leipzig for a couple of days.
Torture the Artist: You released your EP, The Moon Landing Was a Hoax, in the midst of the pandemic, did you end up having to alter project timeline(s) or take some sort of unplanned break?
The music is there, it would be as grotesque to save it for better days without knowing if or when they will come. (Reznik)
Reznik: Unplanned break in terms of not playing in clubs – yes, like everyone else. But we didn’t alter timelines for the release on 2MR in April and we won’t alter the schedule of the upcoming release on Keinemusik, as no altering would cause any planning certainty whatsoever. It’d be pure speculation to push a release a month or half a year, without knowing if any conditions will have changed by then. It was and is indeed a grotesque thing to release music that is more or less meant to be played in a club, when the clubs are closed, but then again: The music is there, it would be as grotesque to save it for better days without knowing if or when they will come.
In our joint venture I often find myself as the “cheer up”. (Mikesh)
Torture the Artist: So far, how has the new normal affected your outlook as artists, especially in a hard hit industry? Have you discovered something new about yourself or about one another?
Reznik: It’s interesting to talk about it as a new normal, while the situation rather indicates that maybe ‘normal’ is over. I do think about it a lot and sometimes it weighs heavy on my mind. Generally speaking, it would’ve been ignorant to consider pre-Corona standards ‘normal’ anyway and maybe/hopefully now is the time to realize that it is impossible to go on just like that. When it comes to being an artist: it’s a very vague outlook. There’s no real perspective obviously, you can just wait, hope for the best and still somehow focus on music. That’s actually what we are doing these days. It’s no new knowledge, but something you may just become more conscious of right now: friendships and mutual support count as the most valuable things in life.
Mikesh: The current situation won’t change my motivation as an artist. We stay basically the same people. When you are a pessimistic person, you will probably think more negative about all this right now. When you tend to be more positive about things, you will get along better. I think our role as artists is even more crucial in such situations which is great but also a challenge. In our joint venture I often find myself as the “cheer up”.
Torture the Artist: When did you decide to team up and make music together? You made music as No Work All Play prior to releasing as Reznik & Mikesh, have you completely nixed this moniker?
Reznik: We haven’t nixed it, but might use it in another context. It was no decision to team up in the first place, rather, it just happened. We’ve known each other for quite a long time and Mikesh sometimes trusted me when it came to input on some of his former projects. Through growing closer together as friends over the years, we at some point ended up in the studio and things fell into place. There was no agenda behind it, that’s why the initial moniker ‘No Work All Play’.
Torture the Artist: Let’s talk about your last release on 2MR. The Moon Landing Was A Hoax, what do you think actually happened in there – both in the moon, and in the studio.
Mikesh: Did you know that even this very release is a hoax?
The impact of this kind of “alternative truths” just troubles me, given how much they correlate with current populist political movements and looking at the scope of impact they had on totalitarian and inhumane regimes of the past. (Reznik)
Torture the Artist: By the way, what’s your favorite Conspiracy Theory?
Reznik: I can only deal with conspiracy theories, if there’s a tongue-in-cheek-layer to it. That’s why it was kinda fun to address the moon landing theme on the last EP and also because it involved references to Stanley Kubrick – a director we both like and talked much about. Other than that the impact of this kind of “alternative truths” just troubles me, given how much they correlate with current populist political movements and looking at the scope of impact they had on totalitarian and inhumane regimes of the past. Maybe I’d go for the flat earthers here, just for the sheer persistence to neglect thousands of years of scientific common sense. <winks>
Torture the Artist: Can you talk about your dynamics in the studio (or virtual studio)? Do you have a particular method/process when creating music? How do both ends come together and come up with one piece of music?
Our music is based on consensus because in our tracks you’ll only find what we both agree on. (Mikesh)
Mikesh: It might sound weird but we talk a lot about music. We share our musical visions in discourse. Mostly starting from a music sketch or a jam. It tends to be rather spontaneous, so while we talk, the pieces develop in the process. You could say our music is based on consensus because in our tracks you’ll only find what we both agree on. What would you say, Andy?
Reznik: I agree <smiles> The spontaneity and dynamics of how tracks are progressing is very fascinating sometimes. I suppose that is also the reason why the material feels quite vivid and un-calculated in the end (at least for me).
Torture the Artist: Though based in Germany, you seem to have a tight connection with music folks in New York, namely the veteran Justin Strauss and 2MR’s very own Mike Simonetti. How did these relationships emerge, and later on transpire into artistic collaborations?
Reznik: I’ve been monitoring what Mike was doing with his several labels before 2MR, for years as a fan. And a fan I still am, considering his background, his approach to DJing, making music and releasing music. The exact same applies to Justin. I can relate to their universal grasp of dance music, their awareness of its various influences, their appreciation of things happening off the beaten path. Adam Port was in touch with Justin before and he introduced us, at some point I sent Justin the demos of the Moon Landing record, Justin liked it and played the title track during one of his sets in Panorama Bar. I was in the crowd as I wanted to see him play, not knowing he would drop the tune. When he did, it obviously was a great feeling, it got an overwhelming response from the crowd and I would consider that moment as the starting point for the New York/New Jersey connection. Justin forwarded the demos to Mike, he liked it as well and so things fell into place. Of course we had been shopping the demos around for quite a while before, but seeing them end up on 2MR was in many ways the best unfolding of events. I think the tunes found their pre-destined home over there.
Torture the Artist: Speaking of Connection, your remix of Telepopmusik’s single with Young & Sick lit up dancefloors last year, and was well sought out by music enthusiasts. How did you approach remixing the legendary French duo’s track? Did you enjoy working on a piece from the other side of the electronic music spectrum?
Mikesh: Well, is there really another side? Not for me I guess. I feel music from a lot of genres and styles. What counts is what’s inside of it. The original piece had something that inspired both of us and we came up with our version. We would not have done the remix otherwise.
It is a big deal to produce a piece of music I feel content with and consider good enough to present to the world. (Reznik)
Torture the Artist: Mikesh, you’ve been producing for over a decade now. But for a while, Reznik was considered, to quote a bio except here “an endangered species – the one who DJs (and does not produce).” Well, this clearly isn’t the case anymore. What changed since this was written?
Reznik: For various reasons, I had inhibitions to approach the field of music production. One being that most of my working life was based on music criticism and great respect for musicianship. For me who has never learned an instrument properly, it is a big deal to produce a piece of music I feel content with and consider good enough to present to the world. So I feel more comfortable to work with someone that opens up the playfulness and intuitiveness of that process. Mikki is the perfect companion for that, he is a big motivator in many ways.
Torture the Artist: How has working together changed you as an artist? Do you foresee any solo projects as Reznik or Good Guy Mikesh?
Mikesh: I wouldn’t say changed but encouraged. I have a new solo project coming. Mostly with song-oriented instrumental pieces. The name is SLIPSTREAM. You’ll find one track on the mix we made for Torture the Artist by the way. Also, there is something brewing for Here Is Why, another project I am involved in.
Torture the Artist: You have a new EP coming out on Keinemusik. When did the idea of this release come about and what was your inspiration for the project?
Reznik: Again the EP has been taking shape within the process. We already had one tune lying around for some time that the rest of the KM crew and particularly Adam liked – that’s why he also did a remix of that jam. And the title track just happened at one point and felt like it would be a good addition to the EP. The title is Human Factor for the simple reason that while we recorded it, there was a little inaccuracy in the arrangement, a little error and as we all know: Irren is menschlich. So that was the human factor. But we also like the thought that you can project it to a much wider scale in our digitalized world. The human factor will always be the element that constitutes life. And we hope our music can be a tiny contribution to real lively experiences.
Torture the Artist: B-side It’s Not You, It’s Me is the more emotive of the couple, was this title from the (in)famous breakup line imply it is born out of some sort of heartbreak or are we overthinking here?
Reznik: Yes we are, it’s a Seinfeld reference (S5E6). Not saying though, the emotion isn’t real, haha.
Torture the Artist: Do you have plans of going full circle and focusing back on DJing, now as a duo, maybe a Reznik & Mikesh set in the near future, if and when club programming allows?
Mikesh: Yes, of course. There will be DJing and a live act, too. So stay tuned!
Torture the Artist: We’ve heard praises about your music digging and eccentric music taste. Before we go, can you let us peek into your last five tracks played on SC (or medium of choice)?
Mikesh: I put some of those tunes in my share of the TTA art:cast, actually. So maybe give it a spin. <smiles>
Reznik: I’m more of an album guy still, so these are the last full lengths I played:
- Ai Aso ‘The Faintest Hint‘
- Private World ‘Aleph‘
- Iron Curtis & Johannes Albert ‘Moon II‘
- Khruangbin ‘Hasta El Cielo (Con Todo El Mundo In Dub)‘
- The Charlatans ‘Some Friendly‘
Interview by Marie J Floro
Pictures by Jan Kapitän