Martin Gretschmann is a man of many aliases, and he's been regularly making music for the last fifteen years or so under them. Acid Pauli is probably the one he's most known for though, and he's been quite active lately, having recently remixed 'Rise Before Zod', for admirer Damian Lazarus and James What and also finding time to release his debut album 'Mst' on Nicolas Jaar's label Clown and Sunset. It's difficult to pin him down to any one style as an artist, and this attitude runs parallel in his DJing, which, helped by his Bar25 residency, one could loosely call "eclectic" but that's far too general. He certainly plays music on his own terms, but never forgets the listener. A true original, enigmatic and maybe just a little eccentric, I sent Martin some questions recently and received some interesting answers.
Let's start with the name. Where does it come from, and what significance does it have when compared to your other aliases?
Here is a text I wrote some time ago…it tells the story about the name...
The short story about how the Acid came to the Pauliâ€¨:
It all started with a stolen Laptop: Back in the year 2000 a poor Swiss man broke into our â€¨tour bus and took my computer. Ok, it's stupid to leave a computer inside a car even if you are inâ€¨ Zurich, but somehow I didn't really care, 'cause I was young and naive and after all it was the â€¨night after the last show of a long tour and therefore no need for a computer the next day (inâ€¨ 2000 checking emails was something we did maybe twice a month).â€¨
Well, time is floating and inevitable the next tour was approaching, making the purchase of a newâ€¨ computer necessary. This time it was a brand-new laptop, able to run audio-tracks and most â€¨important: virtual instruments, which means, with this new toy I was finally able to make musicâ€¨ with just the computer and no need of putting half a studio on stage. I liked it! â€¨I installed a software called "Rebirth", giving me a virtual 303, 808 and 909 and I started â€¨playing in an illegal club in Munich, just improvising with the software.
Needless to say theâ€¨ music sounded a bit acidish, which at some point made my friend Axel scream "Aciiiiidâ€¨Paaauuuuliii". I heard his words with half an ear and decided right away: Acid Pauli, good name!â€¨ A year later, a different software, I started putting things together that weren't meant to beâ€¨ put together, at least some people thought this.â€¨ But I did what I had to do, I combined everything I liked. Cash and Techno, Mancini and Autechré,â€¨ Black and White, Yiddish and Muslim. I never cared about borders or anything. Music is music.
Some comments and compliments I've heard in the past years:
"Whenever you start playing, people start to look at each other again instead of staring into the (dance)floor." (Johannes Fabian)
"Hey Pauli, you know when my son was eight years old, he only listened to Rammstein, until the day he heard your Cash-Remix. Ever since he is just listening to Johnny Cash. I am glad we have different music in our car now." (Fred Dorfmeyer)
"Acid Pauli is bringing the humor onto the dancefloor." (unknown)
For the second part of your question:
Acid Pauli started as a solo project so it's a much more flexible way of working compared to with a band. For me djing also has a lot to do with improvisation while playing in a band is a bit more tied to arrangements and set lists; and most importantly, Acid Pauli has always had a very strong connection to the dance floor.
You've been releasing music over a decade under various guises, but this year you seem busier as Acid Pauli. Why?
Just because I felt it was the time to finally make an album as Acid Pauli. However, I am not really a lot busier with Acid Pauli than before. Maybe there is more public interest at the moment….
Your 'Acid Pauli Things that Fly Fly Remix' of 'Rise Before Zod' was a very imaginative interpretation of a relatively conventional track and took it into a completely different dimension. What inspired you to rework it in the way you did?
Well, I don't really remember when I was doing it…it was all very intuitive and I really like the atmosphere that the strings create in the track. One review said like this: "With this track you don't really know whether you're still on the dance floor or not." I really liked this sentence, 'cause it's what I like about clubs at the moment: the suburbs of clubs, the border between the dance floor and the ambient floor (which unfortunately doesn't really exist anymore nowadays). I simply like the space in between.
Your album 'Mst' has just been released. What do the letters 'Mst' stand for and what was the motivation to make it in the way you did?
Well, "Mst" stands for "moonlight saving time", and the motivation to make it was (as described above) that I felt it was time to make an album as Acid Pauli, an album that emerges from my DJ-Sets, i.e. all the album tracks are made up from different tracks that are part of my dj-set, which is a collection of (club and non-club)music that I gathered together in one big set during the past 10 years.
I wanted to make different tracks out of the music that I always dj with. Just like a 12 hour dj-set compressed to 10 different songs.
It's no surprise, having listened to the album, that you were drawn to release it on Nicholas Jaar's label. Is calling your album ambient an accurate description, or just lazy journalism?
Whatever you like it to be. But it's definitely not my job to make up a name for this kinda music…;-)
The record has had mixed reviews, with a body of opinion taking the view that while there may be some good ideas present, nothing really quite crystallises. Do you think this is fair?
I've heard some different opinions, and I've just done an interview with a radio station and they said exactly the opposite... However, it's a lot about taste in the end. The only thing I can say is that there were quite a few people who told me that the album needed a certain time to work for them, i.e. they had to listen to it three or four times before they really discovered it. Nowadays a lot of people don't take this much time to listen anymore. So how can anything crystallize (which is a term that describes a process that naturally takes a certain amount of time to accomplish) when you just listen once to an album?
What influences your approach to making music?
For example, gear or software that defines the way I make music, that inspires me. Or watching other people play music or work on music. I always learn something new with that, but generally every aspect of life itself influences the music I make.
You were a resident at Bar25 in Berlin. How did this shape the artist you have become, how much do you miss it, and what for you was the best thing about it?
Bar25 was important to me, 'cause it gave me the chance to play really long sets, sets where it isn't important whether there is a dance beat or not. It simply gave me a place to experiment and most importantly: time... and this was the most important thing about Bar25 to me. The limitations of time were not really present there and this is incredible. Sure, I miss Bar25, but at the same time there is space for other (new) things now and maybe it's best if special things like Bar25 have limitations like this. This makes them really eternal.
How would you describe yourself as a DJ and who would you pay money to see spin?
I don't know how to describe myself. But a very good friend of mine always said: "When you start playing, people start looking into their faces again, instead into the dance-floor." I like it when he said that.
I'd pay money to see Todd Terje play. I just had him as my guest at Rote Sonne in Munich and he was really amazing!
Finally, could you name five pieces of music that you can't live without?
Leonard Cohen - The guests
Leonard Cohen - Famous blue raincoat
Leonard Cohen - Minute Prologue
Leonard Cohen - Dress Rehearsal Rag
Leonard Cohen - Joan of Arc
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