DJ, Producer, Kompakt record label owner, and family man, Michael Mayer has managed to find the perfect balance. Juggling the various creative pursuits he claims as his own to the level of success that he has maintained is undoubtedly a difficult feat, but one he has managed to accomplish. The German artist, who has been in the music industry for over 3 decades, can be considered one the industries most influential figures. From his time throughout the 90s spent playing all the biggest venues in Europe, to starting his Cologne-based imprint record label Kompakt over 20 years ago, to his extensive discography that delves into genres such as electronic, experimental and ambient techno, Mayer is most certainly one to know.
Fresh from celebrating 25 years of Kompakt releases at the end of 2018, Mayer is ringing in 2019 with a highly anticipated Australian tour where is he set to play 3 headline dates. Before his trip down under to play at Pitch Music & Arts Festival (and other dates, see below), Mayer had the chance to chat with us about all things Kompakt, marathon sets, and managing a chaotic schedule.
Describe your first experience with dance music.
At the age of 12 or 13 my parents let me attend a kid’s disco party at the local Christian youth centre. That Sunday afternoon changed everything for me. Dancing under a disco ball to Italo Disco at high volume, the coloured lights, the DJ beat matching records – all of that caused a profound shock that I still haven’t recovered from.
Kompakt could be called the most influential record label distribution company within the music industry. Has the business/entrepreneurial side of your job impacted your creative process?
I’ve always looked at these different aspects of my work as a yin and yang thing… one inspires the other. Instead of depending only on my own creativity I thought it would be important to have a good reason to get out of bed on Mondays. Servicing other artists and helping to build our own niche within music business occurred to me as a logical choice. Sure, I could have produced many records and toured a lot more during these thousands of office hours I’ve put in. But I chose community over selfishness. Looking back at almost 26 years of Kompakt I think it all made perfectly sense.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learnt about the industry since beginning Kompakt?
Take one step at a time. And be thankful for what you’ve got. Making a living off of music is a privilege that calls for humility. There’s no sexiness in greed and egomania.
You’ve become somewhat synonymous for playing marathon sets, your longest to date a 12 hour set for your Kompakt 12 party. Do you find these sets easier or more difficult then a shorter set?
My best mark is actually 17,5 hours at 4GB festival 2017 in Tbilisi, Georgia – My favourite party on earth, something like the Caucasian Rainbow Serpent – although with more pleasurable temperatures! It’s true; I love playing long sets because they allow me to go way deeper into the emotional vortex. Once in a while, I need to completely exhaust myself in order to find catharsis. Those two hours festival slots rather stress me out; there isn’t much you can do in such a short time.
What advice would you give to up and coming producers?
Dare to be different, set your own mark.
How do you balance your job and your family life? Is it challenging?
Yes, it is. But I’ve trained myself to keep calm, especially when things get overwhelming. That’s when Mayer goes into ZEN mode.
You’re about to return to Australia to play Pitch Music and Arts Festival, does playing in Australia feel different to playing anywhere else in the world?
Australian festivals are definitely special. What makes them uber special is getting to travel with my good friend Mike Callander, one of the finest people I’ve ever got to meet. Our road trips are the stuff legends are made of… Can’t wait to step into that car again!
Friday 8th March: Revolver Upstairs, Melbourne
Saturday 9th March: Blueprint, Sydney
Sunday 10th March: Pitch Music and Arts, Victoria