Stefan Goldmann is someone who explores the possibilities of techno and electronic music culture. The son of classical composer Friedrich Goldmann, Stefan had designs on making music since his youth. “My childhood dream was to make music, the one with the drugs and the random sex came later” he jokes. In the pursuit of (his earliest) dream, Goldmann has accumulated an immensely varied body of work, from a limited edition cassette only release and editing Igor Stravinsky to writing a bi-monthly column for Berlin techno institution Berghain’s flyer-zine and even delivering a recent lecture on artistic innovation and the economic and social effects that artists meet to students at Berlin University of the Arts. “I just get bored a bit earlier than others and therefore I move earlier,” he remarks. One could also add ‘further afield’ to that, as Stefan is evidently not afraid of moving in vastly different directions in implementing creative ideas.
While his back catalogue includes releases on labels such as Innervisions, Perlon and Ovum, it is through Macro, the label he founded with Finn Johannsen, that Goldmann has carved his own niche in the club realm. However Goldmann does not consider his output as significantly removed from the sounds explored by many of his club contemporaries. “My results are not really out of what club music is currently, because funnily some of the most ‘out there’ tracks I did, like ‘The Maze’ for instance, ended up being played by some of the most commercial DJs around,” he affirms. “It’s not like I’m doing ‘IDM’. I’m just trying to go through the motions of what techno could be.”
Listening through Goldmann’s back catalogue, it is apparent that his views on the potential of techno are particularly broad and multifarious, something he continued to explore on his recent album, 17:50, which featured tracks such as the playful single ‘Adem’. While to ‘Western ears’ Adem may sound like Goldmann tapping in to his Bulgarian heritage by warping influences from the Bulkans in an exercise of techno dadaism, Goldmann is adamant that he was not trying to make regional music. “I was more looking for an abstraction of something region-specific, in order to make it transferable and to move it out of its cultural context – to make it work as something genuinely ‘techno,’ ” he explains. Not that Goldmann views this as particularly ‘experimental’. “Experimentation is something that seeks vague goals, that stumbles across things by accident,” he clarifies. “I rather work conceptually. I present what I have found already. What leaves my studio is not the seeking, but the results.” Neither does he consider his desire to pursue avant garde concepts as particularly risky – rather, Goldmann challenges why a producer would have reservations about continuing to explore new frontiers. “It’s rather risky to do just one thing because all those one trick ponies just lose their relevance sooner or later,” he states. “You know, all those past hypes. Haven’t they taken the risk of being fixed on one single concept? You just lose interest at some point… There is no record in history that we still admire and remember because it did everything exactly the same way as some previous record. It’s really change and innovation that ultimately matter.”
This in essence is Goldmann’s creed – traversing the potential of techno and reconfiguring disparate influences as triggers for electronic processes. “For anything but short lived hypes, being ‘conventional’ is the best recipe for disaster,” he asserts. “There’s this joke about a producer saying ‘I don’t understand why nobody cares about my music. It sounds exactly like anybody else’s.’ It’s typological thinking. People have this diffuse idea of some sound that is all over and they know three names who are successful with it, and five more names who appear to be successful with it but in reality aren’t. So they figure that’s what they have to produce and play out, and that’s where it inevitably fails.”
In embracing unconventional takes on the techno template, Goldmann is very aware of the challenges posed by the shift in audiences listening to music digitally. For a fellow like Goldmann, the unprecedented consumer access and (over) exposure to music in the online milieu tests his ability to retain an element of the unexpected in his output, something Goldmann describes as a “central issue” for him. “Every era poses some grand challenge to its artists and I think the current challenge is the assumption that the Internet sets all the terms for you,” he divulges. “If you want to give people a different experience from the ones standardized on the net, one option is to do site specific music. Stuff that is produced for one place and presented only there. Ultimately, I dream of a club that has its own music which you can’t experience anywhere else… No recordings allowed – you’re either here or not. Since this is utopia for now, I started to work on commissions. That is, producing music for specific events. I did such one off commissions in totally different places: a church in the Swiss Alps, an opera house with ballet dancers, at a Buddhist temple in Japan. It is quite a change of perspective to have a whole program of stuff with a specific place in mind and each one is entirely different. People notice.”
The discussion of different ‘real world’ musical experiences segues into the impact of the Internet itself, as Goldmann reflects on a world where people not only produce and consume music digitally, but are generally leading much of their lives online through mediums such as Facebook. “It’s probably a total waste of time, but we’re all still staring at screens all day aren’t we? Most of the time we forget we got into it as a means to something – chatting up prospective sexual partners, getting word out for your music or writing or whatever we do – and then it turns into its own thing: looking at random strangers’ picture albums while never leaving the house, spending more time on promotion than doing the music,” he contemplates. “Sometimes I get the feeling that people chose their traveling destinations by how the photos will look on Facebook. All those people having so much fun on beaches that look the same, regardless if they are in Thailand, Colombia or Ibiza. There’s probably plenty of boredom and frustration hidden behind all of it, isn’t it? And that’s why it’s definitely material to play with by structuring experiences that totally go around and beyond all of this.”
Not that Stefan Goldmann is trapped in any sort of digitalised ennui. It is patently obvious he is not short of ideas when it comes to anything apposite to music and artistic expression, and he affirms that his creative appetite is increasing as he continues to live his earliest dream. “There’s a challenge and now it seems possible to meet it,” he confirms. “While everybody seems to get more detached from production, I’m getting more attached to it. I think I have the real option to keep producing music for a long time and to make it meaningful, to have good reasons why I’m adding music to all the music we already have.”