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Hope Draped In Black

Marc Trauner is a hardcore techno legend from Frankfurt. Under the name Mescalinum United, one of his many many aliases, he released in 1990, «We Have Arrived», the first ever hardcore track, subsequently remixed by Aphex Twin. Around the same time, he established Planet Core Productions (PCP), the most important hardcore label. Numerous sub-labels were soon to follow. 

Hardcore and sub-genres like gabber are some of the most extreme music forms ever heard. It’s huge football stadium sized rave music, notorious for its speed (160 to 200 BPM or more), the intensity of the kicks and the stomping bass, and its uncompromising sinister style that channels youthful social frustration with a focus on themes like drugs, violence, crime and the obsolescence of humankind. Hardcore is also just plain fun. It’s outrageous hedonistic party music that doesn’t hide its populist appeal. You don’t take yourself too seriously when you bang out tracks with titles such as I Like It Loud, Six Million Ways to Die, Hardcore Motherfucker, Slaves To The Rave or Ain’t No Party Like An Alcoholic Party.

The Belgian and Dutch gabber crowds were the first to embrace PCP’s sound, and Marc is best known for this all out full speed evil grin hardcore. But it’s only one part of his and PCP’s output. As The Mover, Marc makes dark pensive techno that plunges deeper down into the depths of human emotions confronted with a post-human world. The Mover is his most personal and highly regarded project.

Newly, Marc dropped Undetected Act from the Gloom Chamber on Killekill’s sub-label Boidae, his first The Mover album since 2002. For this grand occasion, Gateavisa met up with him on a rainy March evening in a swanky hotel lobby in Hamburg, where he lives and makes music. Over plenty of beers and whiskies — beverages that did not exactly improve the heavily accented English thrown across the table — we had the following pleasant chat.

 

 

GA- So how was your day?

MT- Shit.

GA- Well, we missed two buses getting here from Berlin!

Antonia from Killekill- At least you look better than at Berghain, Marc.

GA- Didn’t you finish that set lying on the floor? 

MT- After two records I was gone.

GA- How was it playing at Berghain? 

MT- I don’t know.

GA- Be serious.

MT- No seriously, I don’t remember!

GA- But we read that people thought it was amazing, complete madness. We should have been there.

MT- Yeah, everybody liked it but I seriously don’t remember. After the second record the only thing I can remember is a glimpse of that security guy with the tattoos and then I saw her [Antonia] and I was thinking «what is she doing here?» and that’s it.

MT- The next day I had lunch with a friend who told me about the evening and I realized that I really couldn’t remember anything. I just blacked out.

GA- You opened your set standing over the mixer waving a bottle of champagne.

MT- Yeah, I sometimes open my set like that.

I had been sick for a couple of weeks so I took antibiotics, you know the one for the stomach, 2000 mg of paracetamol, which takes your liver to town so the alcohol can go «oooooohhhhh yeah!» and just run through unfiltered. That was the problem. Champagne and medicine.

[laughter] 

GA- Have you played at Berghain before?

MT- Nope.

GA- Was it the regular Berghain crowd? There were hardcore kids there, right? 

Antonia- It was like nothing I have ever seen. Last time I saw a crowd like that was at a hardcore gabber club called 4 km Party Center in Sofia [Bulgaria].

GA- Why do you think you were booked there now in 2018? 

MT- They threw a hardcore party. They never did a hardcore party before so they booked me.

GA- Yeah, but why do you think they threw a hardcore party in 2018? 

MT- Because Boiler Room posts all those gabber videos at the moment. There’s a big hype.  

GA- Why so much hype around it now? I live in Paris and for a while I hear your music and gabber at the parties.

MT- It’s also big in the fashion scene. Gucci used my music for a catwalk show recently, so I had to contact them. I also have an on-going court case against Dior.

GA- Wait, what?

MT- A British company that Dior had hired to do a video clip with Dave Gahan [Depeche Mode] tried to license my music from a random guy who had uploaded my tracks on Soundcloud! Incredible.

GA- How do you feel about Dior using your music? 

MT- It wasn’t Dior’s fault really. If the British company had gone through the proper channels, I wouldn’t have minded.

GA- Yeah, but why is Dior interested in hardcore music from that period of time in European rave?

MT- They need something to shock with.

GA- You think it’s that stupid? I think you should give yourself more credit! Many are interested in that sound at the moment. 

MT- Well, I don’t know, last year around this time I played in Paris [Rave Or Die at Nuits Fauves] with Neil Landstrumm, Umwelt, and Headless Horseman. I headlined the party. Only four years ago you wouldn’t see a booking like that anywhere. So that was a big surprise.

GA- How did you like playing there?

MT- It was cool, I had a great time. The techno people really like the old school PCP hardcore tracks.

GA- The attitude and aesthetics of your sound are somewhat similar to what one finds in hip-hop.

MT- I knew many from the Frankfurt hip-hop scene before I even started with techno and hardcore. We actually played when they did hip-hop battles. The Frankfurt boys were real tough guys. At the time there was a war going on between the Frankfurt and Berlin hip-hop scenes. We wanted to support them, so we made PCP’s own hip-hop imprint Dope On Plastic. We also had this NWA type jackets with PCP on the back. These guys ended up hanging out with us when we performed as PCP. When we played at big raves like Mayday we had 15-20 people on stage with those jackets on. People were afraid of us. [laughter]

 

 

GA- Wasn’t there a story about you ending up in a fight at some Mayday party?

MT- A techno-war was also going on between Frankfurt and Berlin at that time. Berlin was the Low Spirit guys and Frankfurt was us. At that Mayday party, the Low Spirit guys tried to fuck over other musicians. They fucked with Moby, turning up his sound in the middle of his set. He was so pissed that he smashed his keyboard on stage. When Lenny Dee was playing they turned up the high frequency.

Then it was our turn. We had two big hits at that time. «Ace The Space – 9 Is A Classic» which other DJs had voted as the hit of the year for Raveline Magazine and «Smash – Konstablerwache», which was on the waiting list for the German charts. So the crowd was looking forward to hearing us play. They even extended our playing time.

Anyways, I think it was ten minutes into our set when the Low Spirit boss came up on stage and whispered something to the technician guy. What he didn’t seem to realise was that around ten of our hip-hop friends were with us on stage. My fighting teacher, armed with two nunchakus which he used for our stage show, was also there.   

[laughter] GA- Your fighting teacher?

MT- WingTsun, yeah [laughter].

And Lenny had brought along a tough guy friend from Brooklyn.

GA- What happened?

MT- After the Low Spirit boss left the stage, the technician guy just stopped our set in front of 10,000 people, right after we put on «9 Is A Classic». The whole crowd started shouting «PCP! PCP! PCP!» though and then it just exploded. Somebody hit the technician guy and he flew like 5 meters from the stage into the crowd. Security tried to get to us but Lenny´s Brooklyn friend hit the ladders so they couldn’t get up to the stage.

[laughter] 

After the party, I did that track «Low Spirit, suck my cock!» [The Leathernecks – At War]. It ended up on Thunderdome III, the best selling Thunderdome CD ever. It pissed them off! A couple of years ago I read an interview with the founders of Low Spirit and they said that this incident was the worst ever for Mayday. Trouble between Frankfurt and Low Spirit was common. The real underground was in Frankfurt. We had the good DJs like Sven [Väth] and DJ Dag. Low Spirit had Westbam, who is a decent guy, but the others like Marusha, Mark’Oh, it’s all crap.

GA- You have like a hundred different aliases. When you sit down and make music, how do you decide under what alias you are producing?

MT- I make that decision after I’ve started producing. Or when I’m done with a track I can feel like this is a Nasty Django track or a T-Bone Castro track or whoever. But I don’t mess with all the aliases anymore. Can’t do it today. I feel like I must have had a hundred Instagram accounts, one for each.

GA- How did you come up with all the aliases?

MT- Oh, that’s all drugs. We created all our characters on magic mushrooms. Atari had put out this police facial composite software that we used to make characters. For some reason, you couldn’t make women with that program. That’s why I don’t have any female aliases.

GA- To this day the PCP universe has some of the best artist and track names and logos.

MT- Yeah, that’s all Thorsten [co-creator of PCP]. I’m not really in contact with him anymore but he was the king of the names. Mike Hoppe made the sleeve artwork. He also did our merch. Miro, Darius, and Dana also made some artwork. But of course Paul Nicholson – the famous Aphex Twin logo designer – did the PCP logo and The Mover logo. He also did the new The Mover album cover. 

GA- What is that Dance Ecstasy 2001 logo?

MT- It’s an alien on ecstasy. Painted by Dana and Darius. They also painted the Mescalinum United logo.

 

 

 

 

GA- You look young for your age, Marc! Hardcore and drugs seem to keep you fresh and youthful.

MT- Thank you! But I don’t do drugs anymore. I stopped with hard drugs in ’92.

GA- ’92 already?

MT. Yeah, ’cause I had a near death experience and I made a promise to God that if I survived it I would quit.

GA- Do you mind telling us what happened?

MT- It was at that Mayday party in Cologne in ’92. I later heard that six people died at that party. It was the first horrible ecstasy pill in Germany. Before that, you got ecstasy from friends after you knew it was safe.

We were set to play after Sven. We all only took like half each. Richard [Aphex Twin] was there also. I don’t know, I just almost died. My life did flash before my eyes. From when I was a small kid. It really happens. I remember seeing a guy on a stretcher. Foam was pouring out of his mouth and his girlfriend was crying hysterically. It was terrifying. My friend, our driver for that evening, came over and I told him to just drive me to the nearest woods, so I could touch some stones and earth, lay down in nature. You know, it helps.    

GA- Trying to get back to reality

MT- Right before I left I told Sven «please play longer! We just have to leave now…» and he told us «I don’t even know what record I’m playing right now, but ok!» Even veteran drug guys like Sven were completely fucked that evening.

GA- You have a driver?

Antonia- He is super cool. 

MT- Yeah, I have some good friends who have driven me around for a very long time. Dennis, who I call Helldriver Junior, for the last ten years, and before him, The Real Helldriver, who is out of business, let’s say [laughter]. I met him when he did work in my studio right after he got out of jail for body packing. During a weekend we would typically drive from Hamburg to Holland, play a festival, and from there drive to Zurich let’s say, and then directly after my set we’d drive back home. Nowadays with Helldriver Junior we keep it more relaxed and book hotels.

GA- Do you think those negative experiences after the euphoric ecstasy period in the early 90s had an impact on your sound?

MT- No.

GA- Some music writers like Simon Reynolds have suggested that it’s a way of understanding the particular extreme brutality of hardcore and gabber. Like the dark speedy afterglow of happy-happy ecstasy.

MT- I don’t agree with that in my case. Actually hash has had a big influence on my sound. I never liked speed and I didn’t like weed. I liked smoking hash and doing cocaine in the studio when I was producing.

GA- I actually get the hash part. I always thought that your music sounded sexy for lack of a better word. Most hardcore and gabber is so brutal, industrial, functional, machine-like, what have you. Your music is all that but more playful and, yeah, sexy.

MT- Sexy is a good word. I miss that in hardcore today. Now it’s just bam bam bam and nobody is even dancing, only the first ten guys. Where is the high hat, where are the snares, claps, percussions? It’s all gone. There’s only a kick and then a noise sound. They don’t have a melody because they think you can’t get the kick loud enough if you have one. It’s all about RMS [loudness]. That’s stupid.

GA- Your music is very emotional.

MT- That’s what’s missing today.   

GA- It’s the first The Mover album since 2002. Why now, in 2018?

MT- I have postponed a new The Mover album every year for the last eight, nine years. Said to myself that next year I’d make it. I’ve made some songs here and there but I wasn’t particularly pleased.

In 2016, Rachael from Dissonant Bookings contacted me and asked why I didn’t perform as The Mover anymore. We talked for a while and after we decided to work together she booked me for an illegal Killekill Krake party in Berlin. I saw the flyer – distributed on Twitter because it was illegal – and I was thinking «why do they book me as a headliner? Nobody even knows who I am over there». The party was completely packed when I got there. I played some new techno I had found on Beatport the weeks before. It was cool, people were dancing, having a good time.

After a little while an old friend of mine, Max Durante from Rome, came up to me and said «now play some old Mover and PCP». I really asked him «are you sure?» and he said «yes I’m sure!» So I did and the whole party just morphed into ’91 The Omen [legendary Frankfurt club]. Incredible atmosphere. In the car on my way back home the next day, I knew exactly what to do. I had to get in that mood I guess.

I did one album for the pre-release party in Berlin in September last year but except for one track I ended up dropping them all and started anew.   

GA- Why is that? 

MT- You know, the problem today is that production-wise, you almost have too many options. It can end up sounding too polished, which prevents me from reaching the feelings I’m looking for. 

GA- The Mover must be your best project.

MT- Yeah, ’cause The Mover is really me.

GA- Why the name The Mover?

MT- I make things happen, I move things, there’s a dynamic. I’m really competitive. I can’t lose. On the one hand, it’s a terrible personality trait but on the other it’s great. When I went to Holland in ’96 I told everybody I would become number one there. They all laughed at me. One year later, I was.

GA- Cheers to that!

Antonia- Well, at the Berghain party The Mover was on the floor pretty motionless

[laughter]

GA- Isn’t hardcore just too extreme a music genre to become popular like techno?

MT- No, I think that’s a problem of thinking. From ’96 to ’99 – hardcore’s best years – it was definitely known in quite a few countries. You know, back in the days Rick Rubin offered to license Rotterdam records from Mid-Town.

GA- Really, Rick Rubin?

MT- Yes, he wanted to make hardcore big in the US. From what I heard, Rick met with the Dutch owners, but they lacked the vision to see how hardcore could expand to other countries.

GA- What’s a good track Marc?

MT- When I get goose bumps all over.

GA- Did growing up in post-war era Germany during the Cold War have any influence on your sound?

MT- Nope.

GA- Its more personal?

MT- Yes, it’s often about me depressed or bad for whatever reason, and finding a sound or frequency that cures me.

GA- So you make music to drown that discomfort.

MT- Like yesterday I had a really bad day because somebody I like lied to me. I hate it when people lie to me. But I still had a track to finish. The label is waiting [looking at Antonia]. So I was searching for a melody that would kill that bad feeling, or at least help me cope.

GA- Today was also a shitty day because of that incident.   

MT- Today I cut contact with that person. And just a few minutes after I deleted and blocked her, Antonia called and said you guys were on your way in a taxi. I was like «are you joking!» I was in such a bad mood. I thought you guys were coming on Thursday, not today.

Antonia- You were screaming at me.

MT- I was so pissed off. I’m sorry.

But now I’m in a good mood! Happy to be here. Alternatively, I would be at my place, grumpy and miserable.  

Antonia- On the way over I was just praying that Marc would say anything at all. He is not particularly fond of interviews, to put it mildly. But he has talked so much! This is not like him, he doesn’t do that shit. I’m so surprised.

GA- Oh, but we’re such comfy relaxing guys!

Talking about the immensity, in particular, of your sound. What do you think might have influenced it?

MT- I was playing in punk bands when I was 14. With one band we were practicing in a bunker, with another band we were practicing in a church. Huge reverb! I think those locations had an influence. I liked the way it sounded. The singer in one of the bands – who by the way was much older than me – liked the way I played. I remember he said one day «Hey Marc, a crowd of 10,000 people is waiting for you to start playing.». 

GA- Your music is largely about overcoming something painful.

MT- In that sense it’s brutal, but the feeling is always positive if I can put it like that. Much dark music today ends up sounding like some standstill negativity. That bores me.

GA- In what sense do you mean that your music is both brutal and positive?

MT- I always put hope into it. A sense of hope. The Mover is dark but he brings you back up. It makes you stronger for the next day to come. Listening to some of the dark techno today makes you want to kill yourself. You can’t leave people in a state of mind like that.

GA- Maybe the dynamic between despair and hope creates that melancholic vibe in your music.

MT- The other day, this Italian DJ girl wrote on my Facebook page that my live set was the most intense live act she had ever heard, that she was dancing with tears in her eyes. People in the techno scene think I’m really hard. It’s rather that I have the melodies that really touch you. It’s something in the frequency. It may not work for everybody, but that’s why you also have different types of music. If you live in California on the beach I don’t think The Mover would work, but you never know…

GA- Your music is indeed very European.

MT- … It’s true also when I play hardcore. My MC always says that I can make people go through a series of emotions. I can make them cry, love, fuck, fight. You have a lot of power with music. Before going into a fight, would you listen to something like Sepultura or The Beatles? Listening to Sepultura you become much more like, arghhhh! You must be aware of that power when playing. So I would never end a hardcore set – except if I didn’t like the DJ playing after me – with «Low Spirit, suck my cock!» because it just leaves them in this very violent mind space.

GA- «Phuture» is a central concept to PCP. You were in the 90s much more fascinated by the future and contacts with the unknown than people seem to be today.

MT- We talked about potential future scenarios all the time. And I am personally fascinated by aliens. Have always been. It’s funny, the gabber people in Holland are so obsessed with horror movies but I don’t give a fuck about monsters, I like aliens.

I really loved movies like Blade Runner. It’s still so fresh when you watch it today. Actually, the most important inspiration for my music has been what I would call future flashes, sudden intuitive perceptions of the future or perceptions about aliens already being here on earth.

GA- Your music sounds like it’s invading us from the future.

MT- I think there is something to that. We were very interested in superhuman attributes like bigger brain power, higher levels of consciousness, invincibility, overcoming, all these things. How do you say that word in English? Übermenschlich.

André Brinck, Andreas Falkenberg and Emil Finnerud

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