Track-by-Track: Michael Mayer on Mantasy
It’s been eight years since Michael Mayer last released a solo record. To say we were anticipating the next move by the Kompakt boss, in-demand DJ and man behind numerous monikers including Supermayer would be an understatement. It was a relief that when we did finally get Michael Mayer’s latest long player Mantasy—released next week—on the EB stereo, we were really rather impressed. Awesome name aside, it managed to unite the office in a way few albums ever do. Yes, call it progressive, we’re fine with that. In fact, we’re so into it that we decided to hit up its creator for a track-by-track. But first, there’s that name. What does Mantasy actually mean? Over to Michael: “The place that Mantasy relates to is somewhere inside me, not somewhere that you have to get on a plane and fly to. The whole album was created during a period of time in a studio in Cologne, and I really did try to remove myself from other responsibilities during that process so that I could concentrate on the music. It’s clearly meant to be a kind of journey of discovery. I was inspired by two books; the biography of the explorer Magellan written by Stefan Zweig, and “Ocean of Sound” by David Toop, which outlines a different kind of discovery, that of music, by taking a historical perspective of different cultures and their attitudes to sound. These two books work well together to frame what I was trying to achieve with the album.” With that in mind, that’s get lost in the Mantasy.
Michael Mayer: The song “Sully” serves to sort of open the door to the fantasy world of the album. I see Mantasy as a kind of journey of discovery into unknown territory, and “Sully” is the beginning of that journey. And yes, I’ve been into ambient for quite some time, and ambient has been an integral element of my DJ sets for years. For me, ambient is as much a part of techno as house or anything else. Over time chill out rooms have been rationalized out of clubs, so ambient has been catapulted into a somewhat drier world, where it takes place in more “serious” settings. It has now been given a stamp of approval by the broader electronic music world. For me though, ambient is still a form of accessible and functional music.
I developed the track list based on how a DJ set works. I automatically think that way—how can I best organise my music in a logical order? The title “Lamusetwa” goes back to my earliest childhood memory of music, when I was a very small child. I was on holiday with other children, and a song came on the radio that would become my favourite song. I only recently found out what it was—which wasn’t so easy. The original is by Marie Myriam and it’s called “L’amour c’est toi” or something, which to me as a child was simply understood as “Lamusetwa”. In terms of content, the song tries to recall the dramatic mood of the original moment when I heard the song as a child, as well as having a melancholic aspect to it.
3. “Wrong Lap”
“Wrong Lap” is probably the track that is most typical of my style. With this track I wanted to kind of relax a bit and let the more minimal side of things come out. The title also has a story that goes back to my family history—I haven’t discussed it before, so I’m not sure whether I should reveal it all now! It’s about sitting on the wrong lap, in terms of the wrong person’s lap. It has nothing to do with motor sport. A lot of this album is actually connected to anecdotes from my family life, going back over a long period of time.
With “Mantasy” I think listeners really arrive in the musical world of the album. It’s a heavily italo disco track. Italo disco is one of the foundations of my musical universe, which I’ve always been able to come back to since I was a teenager, so it was clear that italo disco would play a central role in the album. A lot of people don’t like the name, particularly as the title of the album, but for me it just sounds really disco. It doesn’t refer to anything concrete, it’s a fantasy title. People can make of it what they will.
“Roses” has this fairytale, secret, spaced-out quality to it, but I’m certainly staying with the same theme.
This is not really meant to be fully-fledged track, it’s more of a short middle point to the album. Like other people, nature and natural sounds play an important role in my life, and “Baumhaus” is a little ode to my life in my apartment directly opposite a park, and to the swarms of green parrots that escaped from the zoo and now fly past every now and then.
7. “Rudi Was A Punk”
This track is the black sheep of the album. The title refers to the song by the Ramones called “Judy Is A Punk”. Rudi was my uncle who recently died. He was also the black sheep of the family—a committed anarchist with a strong character, who stood up to those who he thought were out of line, whether it be the church or old Nazis. He used to really light up family gatherings with great regularity.
8. “Voigt Kampff Test”
The title is taken from the Blade Runner movie, which is a great film. I don’t think I’ve watched the whole film enough times, I always seem to fall asleep when I sit down to watch it! The soundtrack by Vangelis was significant in some ways. Back in the italo disco phase, lots of producers were using science fiction themes as influence for their work. I’m not a big science fiction fan or anything, but some of those futuristic electronic soundtracks are pretty cool.
9. “Neue Furche”
It’s certainly a hard track. The title is a reference to the New Groove label, but also goes back to the time when Madonna’s “Into the Groove” came out. Back then I looked up the word “groove” in the dictionary and the word “Furche” [furrow] was there, and at first I totally didn’t get why Madonna would be singing about agriculture. I found that a funny idea for a song title.
10. “Good Times” feat. Jeppe
I think you could interpret this song in two ways: First you could see it as a romantic love song. Often when I am in restaurants I notice couples, both with their smartphones in their hand, looking very busy trying. I think of them trying to plan their holidays or whatever in order to get away and have a good time. The other way to see it is as a reference to classic disco hedonism, where people hit the dancefloor just to listen to a great track and dance like crazy. It serves as a kind of happy end to the album as people leave the world that the music has created.
Published October 18, 2012.