Revered veteran of the global club circuit and figurehead in Berlin’s vast electronic music landscape, German-born Achim Brandenburg aka Prosumer should need no introduction. First and foremost he is a deeply passionate music aficionado, tirelessly championing unfairly overlooked records, old and new. His love affair with all things vinyl from a young age has nurtured a DJ and producer with an encyclopedic knowledge of House, Techno, Disco and Soul records, along with an acute appreciation for the deeply rooted cultural narratives behind each movement.
Having been a resident at Berlin’s esteemed Panorama Bar he contributed to their mix series in 2011 as well as delivering an intricately assembled fabric mix at the end of last year. It demonstrated Brandenburg’s ability to expertly meld classic House cuts (absorbed as a young man in the 90s at his hometown of Saarbrücken’s Hard Wax branch), alongside vital sounds at the forefront of cutting edge club music. He also put out a number of well-received EPs in the mid to late 00s that put a staunchly inventive slant on the classic Chicago sound. His production work has noticeably taken a step back in recent years, though that will soon change. He revealed his new record label ‘Potion’ alongside long-time collaborator Murat Tepeli towards the end of last year which was created as an outlet for their own music amongst that of others, having already released an EP from Tepeli as well as ‘The Black Tie’ from Copenhagen House duo Wilma.
After a lengthy stint in Berlin, Brandenburg moved to Edinburgh in 2013, allowing him more time to concentrate on creating music in his own studio. His DJ schedule is still busy as ever, with a string of upcoming summer bookings including slots at Glastonbury and British boutique festival Farr. Ahead of another busy weekend for Prosumer we caught up with him over Skype early in the morning for a suitably relaxed chat as he sipped tea in his living room in the Scottish capital. We waxed lyrical about his love of vinyl, cooking, the balancing act of b2b sets and what we can expect from his label in the coming months.
Where are you off to this weekend?
First to Paris, then Rotterdam and then to Rijeka in Croatia. Then I’ll go to Berlin for the quiz night I run with Tama Sumo. I’ll be back home next week!
When did you make the move to Edinburgh?
It had been 2 years in February. I had this wild love affair with Berlin, but it was changing, I was changing and at some point it was obvious I was looking for something that Berlin doesn’t really offer. I enjoy my job, but it needs a lot of balance and I found that here in Edinburgh.
It’s certainly a beautiful city, where are your favourite places to hang out in Edinburgh?
I still catch myself saying ‘Hi, Castle’ when I go past the castle. I don’t go up there often, only when I have visitors, but it’s quite impressive. I really like the roof of the National Museum of Scotland. There’s a great view of the sea and the whole city. It’s lovely to go for walks in the valley around the Water of Leith. There’s also the Thistle Chapel in St. Giles’ Cathedral – they have crests on the walls with 3D representations of the crest images sitting on top of helmets. From time to time people sit in the chapel wearing what is on these helmets, It’s ridiculous! It’s like a gay carnival. It’s a beautiful chapel, I take everyone to see that!
We saw you post about the gay marriage referendum in Ireland – fully back your words. What do you think will be the impact of the ‘YES’ vote?
In most countries where there are changes in how these things are handled, the decisions have been political, decided on our behalf. I’m not aware of other countries where it has been actually put to vote. Therefore it will have a huge impact on people there, but also elsewhere in the world – it will give people something to think about as well as stronger hopes that they can change the system where they live.
As you’re living there now, what are your views on Scottish Independence? The UK is changing, but how have you felt that in Scotland?
Of course there has been immense change here. People got way more political. A lot of people feel they have been manipulated and screwed. For a while I felt like the democratic process has been trampled upon with the referendum. I’m not saying results were forged, but people were scared into voting against their better knowledge. People realised afterwards and now you can see how happy Scotland is with how things have turned out most recently… it’s going to be very interesting to see what happens in the next few years.
You’re a pretty mean chef, right? What are your thoughts on the deep-fried Mars bar?
I’ve eaten them twice. Once I was drunk, and it was the best thing in the world. I tried it again sober and it didn’t really do it for me. I’m pretty sure I’m capable of cooking something that is really greasy and will be great when you’re drunk, but I hope I can also cook something that will convince people when they’re sober.
What have you made recently?
I’ve had a lot of udon noodles and I finally bought some yuzu juice online, so I’m experimenting with yuzu dressings for seaweed salad. I’m making a lot of Japanese food at the moment.
When did you start record collecting?
I’ve been buying records as long as I can remember, but we didn’t have a proper shop in St. Ingbert, my home town, for many years. There was a little shop that sold electronics and music. You’d go in for a light bulb and leave with a Bananarama 7”. Then Hard Wax opened in 1994.
It seems it was really a temple for you! Is the internet a valid alternative for those who don’t have access to such a place?
The physical world is something more reliable and more solid. You form different bonds with people you actually meet than those you just know online. The internet allows people access to music at a much younger age though. I got a message from somebody trying to be a DJ asking if I have any tips. He had his own radio show and he was only 13. I thought ‘wow!’ I wouldn’t have had the nerve to do that as a kid – I would have been shitting my pants! It’s much easier to do that through the internet than to go and talk to people. A lot of moments of shared experience I’ve had have been in record shops and those were really formative for me.
You’ve said that records are your friends in times of need. Can an mp3 file offer the same solace?
(Laughs) do I need to answer that?! Humans still work in a way that they want to hold something and own it. People find it more valuable than digital music and have more of an attachment to a record. Of course it’s a commitment, in terms of money and taking up a ridiculous amount of space.
In the UK clubs have been closing down and stringent measures have been forced on clubs like fabric. Do you think that Brits culturally have a different view of clubbing and do you see a difference in the crowds in say London, Berlin and Amsterdam?
I think it’s a case of people assuming that the grass is always greener. A couple of positive messages from somewhere else won’t mean that people aren’t complaining about how hard it is for them there. It’s the same everywhere. When all this GEMA thing started in Germany, they were targeting clubs, the city of Berlin made a lot of bad decisions. For the importance of Berlin for nightlife, for the amount of people who go there for exactly that, they still haven’t fully realized how much they profit from it. You cannot pay for the positive publicity people create. Perhaps Amsterdam are more aware of what things like ADE mean for the city, but it’s hard to tell.
In terms of fabric, that isn’t the right way to deal with the problems that have happened there. People in general sometimes want to do stupid things, so people will take drugs. It will happen. It makes more sense to educate people about it. If you make them take everything they have before they go into the club, they panic and take too much and that is disastrous! That isn’t the club’s fault in my opinion.
We really enjoyed your recent NTS show – how did that come about and what are your plans for the show in general?
I was asked some time ago, not by NTS, if I wanted to do a radio show and I agreed. I really liked the idea. For some reason, after a lot of times of me asking about it, it just didn’t happen. A couple of months ago I spoke to my neighbour and she asked how my radio show was going and then I realised how much I had been looking forward to it, so I thought maybe I would write to NTS and luckily they said yes!
I do the show from my living room and my guests won’t necessarily be people in the music industry. I’ve got many friends with incredible taste in music who are not DJs. I spend a lot of time playing music with friends here, I want it to be a little like that. Just hanging out here with a cup of tea and playing records to each other.
Where do you find your records in London?
Sam Shepherd (Floating Points) took me to a shop called Love Vinyl when I was there last. It was in Dalston and I really enjoyed it. To be honest I can find as much pleasure in an Oxfam shop as I can in a shop that specializes in the music people expect me to play. Oxfam can make me smile for days with the stuff I find there.
Do you find that less access to new electronic music in Edinburgh means that you’ve been listening to your old records more?
The thing is, I don’t have my stuff in order any more. Usually what I’ll do is go through a whole wall of records the night before my bag needs to be packed. If there’s a record I don’t remember, I will take it out and put it on. I go through them all the time.
You and Murat Tepeli were playing in London over the Easter weekend, you seemed to be having a great time. How did you guys meet?
Perhaps the Easter Bunny ears were misleading (laughs) We met in a record shop of course! We met in Hard Wax in Saarbrücken, when Murat was studying in that area.
Are there any exciting things coming up for your label, Potion?
The next release – by Tuff City Kids – is being test pressed at the moment, hopefully that won’t take too long. I’ve had a remix request for a track I really like, and an EP also by me is coming. Murat sent me some stuff this week, so I think these are the next few on Potion. We try not to make big plans.
Do you get much time in the studio these days?
I have a studio in Edinburgh and manage to keep friends with my neighbour at the same time. I don’t spend as much time as I’d like to, because I need to be in the right place; I need a day of quiet and then it’s almost the weekend again. It’s hard for me to come back from the weekend and go immediately into the studio. I’m stricter now about having some weekends off, so I do find the time, but I wish I could find more… what can I do?
The festival season is almost here. What do you have coming up in the calendar?
I just woke up from a dream about Glastonbury – I’m so excited! I’m also going back to Croatia for Electric Elephant and also Nachtdigital where I’m playing with Ben UFO. There’s Barcelona during Off Week for a Beats In Space party and the Dekmantel by Night thing with Tama Sumo. I spoke to Hunee about Farr Festival and he was really excited, so I’m relying on his verdict, there’s a lot to look forward to.
Lastly I noticed you often play b2b sets. Do you prefer playing solo or with other DJs?
No, it’s not actually something I prefer but it’s definitely fun, especially with people you know well. For example Murat and Kerstin (Tama Sumo) are people I’ve known for years, so it comes naturally. It’s more the promoters pushing the b2b thing, as they can sell it as some kind of exclusive thing. I’ve played with Ben UFO before and that was great. I wouldn’t do it where I would doubt that it was a good idea. It can go wrong.
Has it ever gone wrong?
(Laughs) yes it has! Being honest, not every DJ is brilliant all the time, and I’m completely capable of playing mediocre or bad sets. Sometimes you’re just in two different moods. While you might think to bring it down and then pump it up, the other person is thinking the opposite and it’s not great but usually it’s quite in tune.
Achim it’s been a pleasure to talk to you, I won’t keep you any longer.
I have 30 minutes to pack my clothes before I leave for the weekend!
Prosumer will play Farr Festival – 16-18 July, Bygrave Woods, Hertfordshire. For more info visit the Farr Festival website.
Words: Raoul-Edward Rechnitz
Photography: Michael Mann