Mike Wall "Different Colours leaves room for interpretation"

Words by: Stephen Flynn
Posted: 28/1/13 10:39

Techno producer Maik Marold AKA Mike Wall Techno producer Maik Marold AKA Mike Wall first moved to Berlin in 2000. Enthralled by the annual Fusion Festival that (to this day) takes place near his hometown of Mirow in north-east Germany, he spent his formative years gathering obscure vinyls and tapes before becoming a DJ, a producer and a label owner…and eventually calling Germany’s capital his home.

Wall’s journey to this point however, is not one without its pitfalls and radical changes in style, as we found out when recently when caught up with him ahead of the release of his latest long-player, Different Colours

So…when did you first become inspired by electronic music?
My obsession with music actually started pretty early on in my life. I come from Mirow, a small town in a place called Mecklenburg Vorpommern that is only 4 km from Lärz. When I was 13, the first MELT! Festival was held in Lärz, and the legendary Fusion Festival then followed this up. Fusion shaped me immensely – it was completely different to what I knew at home. So Sandro Schäufler (now a well known producer) and I chose this other way. We bought turntables and our first vinyl records in Lärz. The record store charged us 1 Deutschmark if the record was ‘ok’, and 2 Deutschmark when the record was ‘very good’. That sort of openness and honesty really affected me. That was way back in 1997....

And when did you decide to change your name? Any particular reason you settled on Mike Wall?
Maik'em was my old artist name. Mike Wall is simply connected to a different style of music. In 2005, I’d quite a number of personal setbacks, and one day I felt like wanting to go over a bridge. Fortunately, I decided not to go against the wall; an experience that gave rise to my new name.

And what’s the story behind your Wall Music imprint? How did that come about?
It’s a pretty funny story actually. At the end of 2011, I was contacted by Jam El Mar AKA Jam from Jam & Spoon. He asked me if I wanted to do a remix of their classic track, “Follow me”, and I jumped at the chance. Other well-known techno producers such as Heiko Laux, Brian Sanhaji, Perc and Luis Flores were also on board for the remixes. Jam though, wanted to release the music on digital only formats, so I figured that this would be a great time to establish my own label. A classic track with a host of well-known remixers? I figured that it had to work!

Berlin has the feel of a big city but there are also many lakes on the outskirts of the city. This makes it easy in the summer to experience nature. I like the openness of this city, the friendliness too... So, from two planned vinyl releases, we’ve now already released six records, and more are planned still. Wall Music is not my first vinyl label though. I actually came up with the idea for the label in 2010. But it took almost a year and a half for everything to get up and running.  At Wall Music, the graphics and the cover art are secondary to what we’re all about. Therefore, everything is in black and white. We also work closely together as a team and meet often to share the same interests.

So the label has quite a strong vinyl emphasis then?
Wall Music was actually created as a digital label and is still a digital label. We publish solo EP's and bonus vinyl EP's. I am extremely proud of all the artists who’ve contributed to the label and made it what it is. Sure, it’s easier to publish digitally as it is on vinyl but nevertheless; we want to continue to publish vinyl. Because our vinyl releases on Wall Music Limited are vinyl only. I’m also a passionate vinyl collector too.

Your new LP is about to drop on Hidden Recordings. How did that come about?
I've actually already released a vinyl on Hidden Recordings – the ‘Out of the Fire’ EP with a remix from Xhin. During the planning phase of that publication, we discussed the possibility of a double vinyl release since I had the idea with the album. Then I talked about it with Deepak (SharmaHidden label owner). That was back in late 2011. The planning began in February/March of last year. It’s remarkable how everything came together. From then until now, it's all been very professional and I feel good at Hidden Recordings.

About Berlin…how long have you been living there?
I first moved to Berlin in 2000 but then had to return because of a new job. In 2005 I made the move permanent - the city has taken me under its spell.

Has much changed since you first arrived?
I don’t think the city has changed much but I have changed in a positive sense. Berlin as a city is changing everyone who lives here. In the beginning, when I first moved here, I found myself going out a lot and a part of the nightlife. That helped to build up a lot of friendships, but over time, everything became a little quieter…

Everyone adopts to change differently.
Sure, but the city still has the same atmosphere as it had in 2005. It has a rich history too. At that time, there were a lot of musicians and artists of all kinds that came to Berlin, so it’s more international these days. The music scene has grown tremendously. I experience this every day in some shape or form. Even today, the city has not lost the charm of yesteryear.

What do you like most about living in Berlin then?
This city offers many opportunities. There is nothing that does not exist. Therefore, it makes life easy. There is something for everyone. I like to go to the Spree, the magnificent river that flows through Berlin. I like the summer karaoke in Mauerpark. There are thousands of people. It is like a festival. I like the flea markets and I just love the life I have here. Berlin has the feel of a big city but there are also many lakes on the outskirts of the city. This makes it easy in the summer to experience nature. I like the openness of this city, the friendliness too.

So you find yourself in the studio more than the club these days?
Since I play almost every weekend, I rarely go out to socialise. I prefer to go to bars and use the time to meet my friends.

Techno has never really gone in my eyes. One minute they’re saying it’s dead, the next minute they’re saying it’s back.
But ‘old-school’ techno is certainly on the rise again, much in the same way that ‘old-school’ house is...
Have clubs such as Tresor, Berghain, Suicide Circus et al impacted on your sound at all?
It’s actually hard to specify what influenced me. The Fusion Festival that I talked about earlier had a massive influence on me as I heard a lot of music styles there and it was where I bought my first second-hand vinyls. But with every step I take I gather new impressions.

Back in 1997 I was playing techno at 145 BPM, but with each year you specialise a bit more, don’t you? In recent years in Berlin, only a few places actually played what I’d call ‘techno’ – Berghain, Tresor and SO36. So yeah, I’ve seen a lot of great DJs perform at all of them, but it’s only recently really that techno – rather than say, tech-house – has become the most ubiquitous sound in the city again…

Berlin differs from your home town of Mirow, I guess?
Ha ha, Mirow. The town has to be missed. 3500 people live there. Bar The Fusion Festival in the summer, not too much else happens there. Weekend people are more interested in driving motorcycles than the club. The nearest disco when I was growing up was more than 20 miles away!

About the new album, what was the thinking behind the title, Different Colours?
I’ve already released two EPs called ‘Total Black’ and ‘Total Blue’. To complete the equation, I thought it’d be a nice idea to call the album Different Colours. Different Colours leaves room for interpretation too, so everyone can get a picture of what it’s about.

I read elsewhere that you credit Steve Bug as an influence. Having listened to the album, he seems like an unusual one. Do more house-inclined sounds have an impact on your tastes too?
I’ve always been very impressed with Steve Bug’s DJ sets. His charisma and the music he plays still impresses me today. This has nothing to do with his style, but I know his sets and productions from the very beginning - and he’s someone whose music has touched me and inspired me musically.

The LP seemed more influenced by the likes of Burial, Xhin, Perc and Silent Servant to me? Do you value eclecticism in your music?
Yes, and I'm also a big fan of Burial and have all his albums on vinyl. I'm always listening to his music, whether it’s in the airport or on the way to a gig. So he was a big influence, yes.

Xhin I've known since 2004 or 2005. I also like his productions a lot too. The trick is to gather all these influences, and then to interpret them in your own way through new tracks. I find that works for me anyhow!

Is there a trait or mood that you reckon courses through the album? Track titles such as “Ketamin” and “Suicide” appear at first to paint a quite bleak picture…
Again, that’s open to interpretation. I’m actually a resident at the Suicide Club in Berlin – hence the name of that track. Ketamine on he other hand, is a drug, and for me that track is like a drug: completely crazy. So I felt that described the track pretty well. All the tracks actually had different names, and I only actually settled on them all about 6 months ago…

Much of the media seem to be suggesting that we’re currently experiencing a renaissance in quality techno. Is this something you agree with?
That's hard to answer. Techno has never really gone in my eyes. One minute they’re saying it’s dead, the next minute they’re saying it’s back. But ‘old-school’ techno is certainly on the rise again, much in the same way that ‘old-school’ house is. But like I said before, it never really well away. I guess it’s great how popular it is right now with young people while remaining a niche market.

Aside from the album, what else can we look forward to from Mike Wall?
I'm currently working on two new maxi EP’s and some remixes, but most of my current focus is on my own imprint Wall Music Limited. I'm pretty sure there will be some surprises in 2013 though, so keep your ears peeled…

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