Anthems From Cologne’s Legendary Party Total Confusion

By the time Total Confusion threw its grand finale in December 2014, the club night had been running for 16 years. During that time, the party and its residents Tobias Thomas, Michael Mayer and Superpitcher became the core of Cologne’s scene and defined everything associated with the city’s proud club culture heritage, from Kompakt’s mini-empire and beyond. To get a visual sense of what the party was all about, we tapped photographer Daniel Herrmann to lend us some shots from his 2005 book, 12 x 672, which you can find at the bottom of this post. We also invited Tobias Thomas to run through the event’s pivotal musical moments, from the very beginning on through the years it spent at its classic location, Studio 672, and until the protagonists mutually decided to end Total Confusion on a high rather than just fade away.

Johannes Heil, “Die Eigene Achse” (JH 1998)

“This one was symptomatic of a certain time of night: the classic peak time between 3 and 4 a.m.. It stands for the very euphoric, ecstatic and affirmative vibe that we all shared together. It was the time of sawtooth techno, fog, strobes and everybody freaking out.”

Tocotronic, “Jackpot (K.O. Kompakt Remix)” (L'Age D'Or/Motor 1999)

“I was an indie type as a teenager, but I was always interested in ties between pop and techno. When Michael Mayer, Reinhardt Voigt and I arrived at the L’Age D’Or/Ladomat label with our Forever Sweet project, Tocotronic were likeminded peers on the rock side of the imprint. Acts like Andreas Dorau, Egoexpress, Whirlpool and Die Sterne also belonged to this scene, and they were collaborating and remixing each other. Particularly the mutual remixes brought the German language to the floor, as in tracks like ‘Girls In Love’ and ‘Pure Vernunft Darf Niemals Siegen’. It was beautiful, and this remix I did with Olaf Dettinger is probably the best one I ever came up with in my life. And these blurred boundaries were the idea behind Total Confusion. We basically wanted to constantly confuse both ourselves and our crowd.”

Jan Jelinek, “Tendency” (~scape 2000)

“And on the first day, God created the warm-up, a mandatory part of the DJ craft that Michael Mayer and I relished since our first parties in the early ‘90s. We never tired of preaching the gospel from every booth. Aksel Schaufler, aka Superpitcher, was initiated in that art as well, and he gradually became a master student. As every story told, the night has to have a beginning. Jan Jelinek was a grand master of the according tracks that, around 12:30 a.m., paved the way for the crackling, shimmering and intricate music that slowly charged the electricity in the air. His Loop-finding-jazz records are a milestone of electronic music and an aural obligation for every up-and-coming DJ.”

Luomo, “Tessio” (Force Tracks 2000)

“What Sasu Ripatti (aka Valdislav Delay and Luomo) did with house music cannot be overestimated. He questioned the whole canon of kick drum, hi-hat, snare and clap to a 4/4 beat. His first tracks as Luomo were monsters—’Tessio’ more so than any other. It’s an anthem so brimming with emotions, energy, sex and melancholia that it still makes me dizzy to this day.”

Static, “Headphones” (City Centre Offices 2001)

“We always loved music with a passion that wasn’t meant for dancing. From Underground Resistance’s ‘Rings Of Saturn’ to Aphex Twin and from Air Liquide to The Bionaut, to chill was a state of mind that was led by intense music and the according drugs. If such sounds approached the song format, as with ‘Headphones’, it became even more exciting for us.”

Heiko Voss “I Think About You (DJ Koze Remix)” (Kompakt Pop 2003)

“Heiko Voss is an outrageously slept-on musical genius, and he probably went to every damn night of Total Confusion’s whole 16 years. This track is a wonderful love song remixed by another musical genius, DJ Koze. He learned and taught a lot at Studio 672 and transformed this track for the club with velvet gloves on. People not only danced to this—they fell in love with each other faster than every 11 seconds.”

Dntel, “The Dream Of Evan And Chan (Superpitcher Kompakt Remix)” (Plug Research 2002)

“There was rarely a musical interaction more congenial than the one between Jimmy Tamborello (aka Dntel) and Superpitcher. Dntel was a deeply sad singer/songwriter who was remixed by an electronic music producer of a similar permanently melancholic condition: Superpitcher. The atmosphere of ‘The Dream Of…’ is like a painting depicting our attitude towards life back then. It defies further description. Too many goosebumps.”

Justus Köhncke, “2 After 909” (Kompakt 2002)

“Justus was and still is crossing over in many directions, and we always really appreciated artists like that. It almost felt like he was dropping a track like this every two months at that time, always faithful to his motto: ‘Talent borrows; genius steals.’ It was important for us to be at close range with disco, especially as there was a certain sexual ambiguity to Total Confusion. And even if this list appears to be Eurocentric, there were countless Total Confusion anthems by Moodymann, Theo Parrish, Carl Craig and other such heroes. But that’s another story…”

LoSoul feat. Malte, “You Know” (Playhouse 2004)

“‘Controversial’ tracks were always waved through at our door. They were on the permanent guestlist of Total Confusion. Our crowd loved such tracks—sometimes instantly, and sometimes we needed to flog them tenderly into it. The weekly schedule for sure brought a sociocultural togetherness that doesn’t exist anymore. That’s just the way it is.”

Superpitcher, “Happiness (M.Mayer Mix)” (Kompakt 2004)

“Personally I don’t care much for trance; that was more Michael’s thing. If anything I preferred elements of trance that could reduce a club to ashes. ‘Happiness’ was also an anthem of self-assurance that emerged from our state of mind back then. It was a time full of desires, but it still offered many moments of happiness.”

WestBam feat. Nena, “Oldschool, Baby” (Low Spirit 2002)

“Pop was always the dessert on our menu—the aftermath and epilogue. After we put the people through the grinder for two or three hours to the point of epilepsy, we cut off the strobe and had warmer lights again, and the DJ throttled. That was the time of night for pop, kitsch, old classics, flea market gems and so on. That part of the program was very important to fight against the cold tristesse that inevitably occurs if you just keep on and ignore the exhaustion and emotional condition of the crowd on an early morning. In times of clubs that go on for 72 hours, this of course seems absurd. But we were old school, baby.”

Photos from Total Confusion from 12 x 672.