Trying to sum up Mark Reeder’s career is no mean feat, and listing his achievements almost sounds like you’re making it up. Born in Manchester, Mark moved to Berlin in 1978 and worked as the Germany rep for Factory Records. He went on to co-manage all-girl outfit Malaria!, toured with New Order in his band Shark Vegas, and started the first dance music label in former East Berlin. He even found time to produce the last ever pop record released in East Germany (Torture by Die Vision), show John Peel around Berlin for his Travels With My Camera documentary and discover superstar DJ Paul van Dyk. With such an enviable list of credentials it’s little wonder that a recent Smirnoff Wall of Sound film described him as the “Godfather of the Berlin music scene”. Yet despite his impressive CV, Mark has never released his own solo album… until now. Teaming up with German trance outfit Blank & Jones, Mark reimagined the vocal tracks from their LP, The Logic of Pleasure, in addition to a handful of others. But if you thought the results – an album entitled Reordered – was just another remix record then you’d be wrong, as the man himself recently told Electronic Beats.
Reordered isn’t technically a remix album is it?
Reordered could probably best be described as a re-works album, as I’ve taken each track and basically rewritten and reworked the music and added my own sound imprint. It was decided to make it in a style reminiscent of the eighties, and I produced it in exactly the same way as I had made music back then; using very few instruments, real synths and guitars. I wanted Reordered to have a different sound to anything Blank & Jones had done before and to touch territory they wouldn’t normally visit.
Blank & Jones are best known for working with trance music, but you’ve been able to create something completely different with Reordered. How was this?
It was the fact that they had made tracks with vocals. Their original versions worked within the concept of their album, and although they have vocals, they’re not really songs in the traditional sense. I decided it would be a nice challenge to rewrite them and turn them into songs. They were heavily inspired by eighties music such as Joy Division, New Order, and The Cure, and that’s why some of these people featured on the album in the first place. I thought it would be nice to make their tracks in a traditional eighties style for all the people who miss the sound of those times. This style actually gave me much more scope to be creative as I was making songs again rather than DJ-friendly tracks. This retro approach was quite refreshing.
Which are your personal favourites?
I’m happy with the way ‘A Forest’ turned out. It’s such an iconic track and I knew I would never be able to better the original. I knew it was going to be a very difficult one to do, so it was the last track I tackled. It was a fantastic feeling being able to work with Robert Smith’s enigmatic voice. My version has roughly the same arrangement as the original but I slowed it down to half speed, added a deep buzzing synth, chuggy bass guitar and a twangy fender, and tried to retain its dark, mysterious atmosphere. I had to replay absolutely everything you hear in the track, even down to creating the sound effects at the start, using real branches and local ambience.
B+J have a lot of guest artists on this record; Anne Clark, Bernard Sumner and Robert Smith to name a few. That can often come across as being more of an opportunity to show off your celeb mates rather than actually adding anything to the music. What do you think?
I think Blank & Jones liked the idea of recording tracks with their teenage idols and, in turn, bringing them to a new audience. Although there are a few really famous names on the album, there are also some fairly unknown ones too. It’s quite balanced.
As someone who has been working in music longer than most, why’s it taken you so long to get your first LP out?
I got a bit sidetracked along the way! I made a couple of singles and EPs during the 1980s with my bands Die Unbekannten and Shark Vegas, and I produced an album in East Berlin just before the Wall came down. After that I started my label MFS and I put all my energy and creativity into that, launching artists such as Paul van Dyk, Cosmic Baby and Corvin Dalek. In reality, this also
isn’t my own album either as it’s a collaboration between Blank & Jones, Micha Adam and myself.
So, any more collaborations or new material expected from you soon?
I’ve been working on a number of remixes including one of ‘I‘m in Love with a German Film Star’ by the Pet Shop Boys and Sam Taylor-Wood for Kompakt, plus mixes for Anne Clark, Noblesse Oblige and Die Toten Hosen. I’ve just started work on a new track together with Fidelity Kastrow and Manchester-based band Spartak, and recently co-wrote a track with Bernard Sumner for his Bad Lieutenant album.
Commemorating 20 years since the fall of the Wall, 2009 is an important year for Berlin. You were there when techno became the soundtrack to a united city. What was the significance of techno during these changes?
Techno was a fledgling niche fuelled by a handful of fans in West Berlin. When the Wall came down, it became the sound the Eastie kids all wanted to dance to. It was futuristic and revolutionary. Techno wasn’t song-based. There were no difficult-to-understand English lyrics and the music didn’t adhere to the conventional rules of blues and rock ’n’ roll. After years of being force-fed Party-approved music, the Eastie kids finally found the release they had always yearned for. They could let their creativity run amok and there were no rules to stop them.
Do you still find Berlin an inspiring place to work after having lived here for so long?
Absolutely! It’s obviously changed over the past 20 years, but that’s a good thing. The influx of new and creative people is quite exciting. I miss certain aspects of the Berlin of the past, but all things considered, I wouldn’t change it for anything. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to experience a desperate and isolated Berlin with a wall around it. Berlin today is a much more relaxed place to be. I’m addicted to its atmosphere. It’s as close to paradise as I can get!