Podcast 552: Thomas Fehlmann - XLR8R
An electronic dance music pioneer steps forward.

Up next in our podcast series is Thomas Fehlmann, the Swiss-born, Berlin-based producer, composer, and electronic dance music pioneer. 

After a meeting with Conrad Schnitzler at the Art Academy in Hamburg in 1979, Fehlmann swapped art for music and joined forces with Holger Hiller to co-found vanguard post-punk, electro-pop band Palais Schaumburg, freely connecting disparate extremes as they threw art, disco, minimalism, schmalz, jazz, and funk into the cooking pot. It was during these formative years that Fehlmann began his artistic relationship with Moritz Von Oswald; after the band disbanded in 1984, they started to work as a production team and founded the legendary 3MB with the inclusion of Juan Atkins and Eddie Fowlkes. Together they released three albums on Tresor, with Fehlmann eventually joining in the club’s rotation in 1995 as a resident of Gudrun Gut’s seminal Ocean Club weekly residency. 

Fehlmann also quickly found his feet as a solo producer, sharing his early experimental and ambient works as Ready Made. In 1988, he founded Teutonic Beats as a platform to release Detroit-influenced dance tracks, before making acquaintances with Alex Paterson, mastermind of the then-nascent The Orb project. Working collaboratively under this alias, Fehlmann and Paterson established themselves as pioneers of ambient house and wrote their own chapter in electronic dance music history, reaching their momentary climax with their Chill out World! COW album.

As a solo artist, Fehlmann has released six solo albums, with his seventh, titled Los Lagos, scheduled for September release via Kompakt.  The eight-track long-player will be Fehlmann's fourth for the Cologne-based label and his first since 2010's Gute Luft. We're told that it finds him "on fabulous form, embracing chance and exploration with vibrant results."  Along with the album announcement, Fehlmann also confirmed that he will be winding down his role in The Orb. “It was time to take a turn, follow my heart and head where the sun rises, or sets", he says. 

Fehlmann's podcast for XLR8R harks back to his Ocean Club radio show days, eschewing genre cues and the "style police" with an eclectic ride through cuts from Madlib, Terrence Dixon, Jan Jelinek, Frank Zappa, and Alice Coltrane. Sit back and enjoy an engaging one-hour adventure. 

How has 2018 been for you so far?

Productive and sweet, if I look at my private cosmos, but very disturbing in a wider perspective.

On a practical level, I produced my new record LOS LAGOS that's going to be released in September on Kompakt. that took some soul searching but I got out of it alive.

And there was the album We Take it From Here, my collaboration with Terrence Dixon. We recorded it together in Detroit last year and it got released by Tresor a couple of months ago. 

How does this seventh solo album compare to your earliest work? 

Hey, that's a span of 40 years and I think it’s on you to compare. I do the music and you do the analysis. I don’t like to look in the mirror too often. I’m just happy the drive is strong to produce new stuff.

I understand that you’re winding down your role in The Orb. Can you talk to me about this? 

After an intense seven-year year run with The Orb producing six albums, a dozen 12”s, a batch of remixes, and playing over 300 gigs together, we felt it was time to shift focus. 

When and where was this mix recorded?

It was recorded in my studio in Berlin on July 11, 2018. A sunny day!

How did you choose the records that you included?

A spontaneous mix of the inspiring, the daring, and the entertaining. It's new records I bought recently intersected, of course, with some classics that are still kicking me. Basically stuff I’m listening to at home illustrating my splintered passions. 

On what equipment did you record it?

I recorded it from my two turntables into Ableton live, took the scissors, and edited it all together. 

Was there a particular idea you were looking to convey?

Some cuts are mixed and some of them individually recorded just like when I did the ocean club-radio show with Gudrun Gut. We did over 600 shows together back in the day and sometimes I get the itch to capture that raw angle again to combine disparate styles, decades, using field recordings and just ignore the style police. 

So what's next on the horizon?

I did a soundtrack for an upcoming documentary on the social developments of the 1920’s in Berlin that will be televised in October. It’s called "1929—The Year Babylon" and there’s some new music for plants I’ve done, that is going to be installed in some parts of the botanical gardens in Phoenix, Arizona. And I'm really looking forward to playing a ton of live gigs…

Due to temporary issues regarding the GDPR, EU readers can download the mix here.

Tracklisting

01. Art Orange "Arkapure" [Karaoke Kalk]

02. 3 Chairs "All Over" (3 Chairs)

03. Jan Jelinek "Tendency" (Scape)

04. John Coltrane "Untitled Original 11838" (Impulse)

05. Ada "You and Me (Pampa)

06. Ambiq "Meta" (Thomas Fehlmann Remix) (Arjuna Music)

07. Soulphiction "Bass Jam" (Musik Krause)

08. Madlib "Drive In" (Bangyahead)

09. Terrence Dixon "The Switch" (Tresor)

10. Frank Zappa "Peaches en Regalia (Bizarre)

11. Thomas Fehlmann "Geworden" Kompakt

12. Hailu Mergia "Sewnetuwa" Awesome Tapes From Africa

13. Masayoshi Fujita & Jan Jelinek "Helio" (Faitiche)

14. Alice Coltrane "Keshava Murahara (Luka Bop)

15. GAS "Rausch" Kompakt