For techno producers, the album has long been a troublesome format. With more space and time comes more problems: the energetic impact that EPs deliver can so easily be lost over a full-length.
It’s exactly this energy that Ilian Tape enigma Skee Mask manages to maintain so effortlessly in his new album Shred. Blisteringly breakbeat-driven tracks stand side by side with beautifully shaped corridors of ambience – an engaging formula that gives the album such crucial cohesion.
Just as in previous releases – the ever-powerful debut ‘Serum‘ and last year’s more experimentally-tinged ‘Junt‘ EP – the Bavarian beat machine reshapes 90s techno and jungle templates, warping them into something altogether more refreshing.
After the much-anticipated release, we caught up with Skee Mask to talk synths, studio time and choice records on Basic Channel’s classic imprint Chain Reaction.
Interviewed by Jack Pepper
A track called Everest; a mountainous landscape on the front cover; the name Skee Mask: how much is your music shaped by your surroundings?
Just slightly, it’s more about what I hear. Sometimes I put my surroundings in context when I have to choose a name for a track or an album.
You can hear Detroit techno as well as early UK jungle and hardcore in your music. Are you influenced by these sounds?
Of course I am, mostly by jungle. There are so many records from the early 90s which have really good soundscapes and exciting drum variations, absolutely inspiring and timeless music for me. But I still get more inspiration from hip-hop and experimental stuff.
What kind of equipment did you use to record the album?
For drums I mainly used the Tempest (from Dave Smith & Roger Linn), sometimes combined with the T-Resonator II (Jomox). For melodies, pads etc it’s quite various. Sometimes I record something from the Virus (Access) or my old JP-8000 (Roland), but I always add samples digitally using Ableton.
Japan Air sounds inspired by the Zenker brothers. How much input do they have in the studio?
Most of their tracks have a really nice “jam-character“ and that’s what I love and find inspiring about them. The tracks don’t sound like they would have been “arranged“ afterwards, instead they sound like a good live session. Their approach to production has influenced me a lot.
How did you get to work together in the first place?
A couple years ago Marco wrote me on Soundcloud, he was super friendly and invited me to his place. I quickly became friends with him and Dario and we stayed in contact… I was influenced a lot by their kind of sound at that time and also started making tracks that wouldn’t fit for my other project. So it was perfect that they also were interested in releasing my stuff.
Munich is a bit overlooked these days but it shelters some very diverse first-class crews like Ilian Tape, Public Possession, Dérive, Gomma… etc. How is the nightlife going there?
I don’t really live in the city, it takes me like 20-30 minutes to get there by train. So I don’t go out that much, means that my point of view could possibly be wrong, but I don’t really like the Munich nightlife.
Of course there are great crews like you mentioned that deliver great sets, but on the other side I rarely see real interest in it from the club visitors. To me it seems that most of the people who go out here just want to get drunk and don’t have any excitement for music.
Do you have any favourite spot to hang out in the city (record store, bar, club, whatever…)?
I try to visit Optimal like twice a month, it’s a great record shop near the central station.
You proved in your previous EPs that you’re an accomplished beat maker. Does the album format give you more space to explore ambience?
No it doesn’t. I make music for 3-8 hours almost every day, so I got to explore it on my own. It’s very hard for me to keep on doing the same style, so I experiment a lot and try to advance with beatless music.
Do you listen to much ambient music?
Yes, I do. It always helps getting me down from a stressful vibe. A couple of the records I’m listening to are even more effective than most of the dance records. I’m also quite addicted to hip-hop music.
One of the deeper tracks on the album, Backcountry, has a straight 4/4 kick drum. Do you get bored of that blueprint?
Not really, I’m just not that good at it. The 4/4 kick will aways remain in techno music and I’m also a big fan of it, but I don’t need to do it (that much). There are so many producers out there doing it way better and it also takes me much more time to make a 4/4 kick groove real interesting, so I’d rather stick to breaks.
Why did you choose to go anonymous? Was it a way to let people focus on music and music only?
Exactly. I already experienced the behaviour of people when they know your face and didn’t really like it.
Is it also a way to protect yourself from a certain kind of ‘infatuation’?
Of course, only love for the sound.
Your bio mentions Chain Reaction as a major influence. Can you tell us more about your favourite CR records?
It’s unbelievable how many perfect and timeless records Chain Reaction released, such a high class label.
The second release on Chain Reaction is one of my all time favourites for example, I could listen to it every day. I love its simplicity and hollow atmosphere.
I’m a big fan of Torsten Pröfrock’s works in general, he was a big inspiration for me. Hallucinator’s releases on Chain Reaction were also incredible, completely ahead of its time and very authentic. Kilimanjaro, Goldcoast and Waterline are my favourite tracks from them.
I also have to name Shinichi Atobe, the whole Ship-Scope EP is mind blowing. I’d really like to name every Chain Reaction artist, but I don’t want to write all these complimentary words too often.
What else do you have in store this year?
I’m just constantly working on new tracks, I have absolutely no idea when they’ll come out, but I’m sure that you won’t have to wait too long.
Skee Mask – Shred
2. HAL Conv.
4. Shred 08
6. Melczop 2
7. Zenker Haze Trak
9. Japan Air
10. Shady Jibbin’
12. South Mathematikz