On the face of it, they’re an unlikely pair. Prosumer, aka Achim Brandenburg, is a former graphic designer and Hardwax record buyer (Saarbruecken branch), while Murat Tepeli is a trained musician and—naturally—a trauma surgeon. But when the two pull up to the 1200’s and the 303’s, their aim is singular, pure and timely: to jack your body.
I caught up with Achim and Murat the night before their record release party at the Panorama Bar in Berlin, the locus for the project. Serenity arrives on Ostgut Ton, the in-house label of the club where resident DJ Prosumer can be heard most Sundays kicking out the micro-house jams for the after-hours set, while Elif Biçer, who guests both on the album and live, is Ostgut’s booking agent. But the occasion is not just a party; it’s also a gig: despite living hundreds of miles apart, Prosumer and Murat don’t just make records; they play out as a live show, packing vinyl, gear and live vocals into an old-school house showcase.
It’s a setup you can sweat to later this week at the RA vs. Club Transmediale party where Prosumer and Murat will be laying hands on deck alongside their hero Larry Heard. Don’t be afraid to say hi either—like their (now censored) record cover for Serenity, in person Prosumer and Murat are a pair of big-hearted jesters, with a naughty streak and robust laugh at the ready. Most importantly, they’re ready to sex you up a little—at least on the dancefloor.
So, you’re playing with Larry Heard.
Prosumer: I am shitting my pants to play the same room as Larry Heard. I’ve never heard him play, but I am sure that what he does nowadays will not disappoint me. Tracks like ‘The Sun Can't Compare’ make it clear that he still touches my soul with his music and that he is still true to the music he started with.
Murat: I still can't believe that I am playing with all these people. I've been listening to their records for years. I grew up musically with them. I hope I can give back the feeling.
It sounds like quite a party. How will you recover?
Prosumer: Being a resident at Panorama Bar, I am used to long and crazy nights. Having no proper day job, it’s easy for me. Ginger tea always perks me up. A pizza in the fridge can be perfect when you get home totally drunk and wanna feel like a normal person again quickly. No secrets here.
Murat: Well, it's like the Germans say: you cannot dance at two weddings. Luckily I do not live in Berlin, so there's not much distraction.
"Dance Music has got to be horny." Please explain.
Murat: I think Achim said that in one of his interviews. For me dance music has to be sexy. It's all about the groove and especially the bass. There's a certain variation, it's frisky but still repetitive. That's what good sex is all about right?
Prosumer: Dancing is something very physical, so is sex. I can be very brainy, but maybe that’s the reason why I love music so much—my brain is switched off while making music, spinning records or dancing. I am not into drugs. So what’s the next best thing to keep you going for hours and hours? Bingo: being horny. Take ‘7 Ways’ by Hercules—I love how this track translates sexual energy to the dancefloor. Blake Baxter tracks always feel like the music is rubbing on your leg.
Prosumer: That’s not the cover anymore. We had to change it. We were told that it would upset people and we did not want to hurt anybody.
Murat: I myself am Turkish, so I know what it’s like to be hurt like that. And that was not our intention. So we changed it. Now it’s just a plain cover with the title in the same font.
Can we find the original cover on eBay?
Prosumer: Probably not, but you can try.
Serenity was released on vinyl and CD—is that a risk?
Prosumer: We love vinyl. I love the sound, how you handle it, the physical-ness. Nothing can replace vinyl for me. I am not interested in setting up equipment to have a computer doing most of my job. So NOT releasing on vinyl is out of question for me. Releasing the two different formats with the two individual tracklistings made it possible to get out more material—the more club-oriented cuts on vinyl, the home-listening stuff on CD.
Murat: You cannot compare the sound on a record to any CD. But we know, times are hard for vinyl right now. We have to move with the times. We thought, “who would be the ones to buy vinyl?” It's the DJs and the ones who are passionate about the vinyl. We wanted to pay both respect, so we put the extended version and some exclusive tracks on the vinyl release.
Clearly there's a lot of love for Chicago here...
Prosumer: There were so many true emotions in those tracks. When Paris Grey was singing for Terry Housemaster Baldwin, the joy in her voice was overwhelming. Same goes for Robert Owens and the stuff he did with Larry Heard. Take ‘Never No More Lonely’—his voice transmits the feeling of having found somebody who's gonna make you happy for the rest of your life. There is something—looking back nowadays—naive in early Chicago house. I loved it. It’s very romantic to me—like young lovers taking first steps in expressing their feelings.
Murat: Chicago House is reduced to the bass, the rhythm and the groove. Sometimes with vocals, sometimes without. And I think that's the reason why it's so timeless and classy. It doesn’t matter if it's the 80's or if it's 2008.
’Don’t Stop’ is like a time machine. Do you worry about it sounding too dated?
Prosumer: ‘Don’t Stop’ was a spontaneous jam, I had so much fun making it and that translates to the dancefloor. Prins Thomas recently said the following about one of my tracks: “I think often when recreating proper ‘trax’, most producers forget to have fun. They're too busy sticking with the formula. This however manages to sound both authentic, raw, rough and a whole bag of fun at the same time. It actually does sound like somebody dancing in the studio while making it.” I was so happy when I got this message. I dance a lot in my studio.
Murat: Of course it sounds old school-ish, but that's what it sounds like if you turn on the 808, the 303 or 707. We don't mean to sound old school. I think there is still a very modern approach to the record. I don’t want to waste my time on creating some super freaky weird sounds just to sound new. I mean if it happens, that's cool. But I want to make music. Not just sounds.
The German sound is usually very robotic, very smart and minimal, and lately it's been very bouncy.
Prosumer: "The German sound” to me means Kraftwerk or Basic Channel. If you talk about the "minimal" hype, it’s easy to explain why it changed. People get bored. Plus the minimal style was very un-sexy, un-physical. To look for some warm body after so much theory is only natural.
Murat: I think people are starting to enjoy melodies again. I think its time for music, not just bleeps and effects.
How did you get into DJing and making music?
Prosumer: I spent most of my time as a little kid listening to music, recording tapes. So buying records was a natural progression. And since I always wanted to share, DJing was the next step. 1996 was the year I had my first regular night in a bar. In 2000, I started making music. I had some money, so I bought equipment to see if I could do something with it. It was fun and I liked it, so I continued making music for myself.
Murat: I started with music when I was a little child playing the guitar, trumpet, trombone, and keyboard. Later in 1994 I started collecting records and playing as a DJ. Beside house music I was still into a lot of hip hop, but also drum n bass and jungle. Later in 1997, I studied medicine near Saarbruecken and I got my MD in Cologne 2003. I work as a surgeon near Cologne specializing in trauma surgery right now, so that is my fulltime job.
Do you dance in the operating room?
Murat: [laughs] Sometimes, inside.
House has been around for twenty-odd years now, does it still need “defending”?
Prosumer: House doesn’t need defending. "House is a feeling", so why should I try to defend the music I love to somebody who is not capable of feeling it? House music is the most real music there is for me. It makes me dance, cry, laugh, party, love.
A lot of New Yorkers have moved to Berlin. Are you holding them hostage? NY kind of sucks without them.
Murat: Yeah, Berlin, set them free!
Prosumer: They’re chained to the walls in the dungeons of Berghain’s sex club. My flatmate was living in NYC before, he paid several times what he has to pay here as rent, was constantly stressed, had to work a lot. Berlin is a very open and tolerant city. We can dance, drink, party and have sex everywhere we want. A friend of mine from NYC came to Berlin to work because it was cheaper for him to fly to Europe and rent a place to work and sleep then renting a studio in NYC.
What would you say to someone thinking about moving there?
Murat: If you feel like moving to somewhere, just follow your heart.
Prosumer: I would also warn people moving here, to be honest. If you come to Berlin, know who you are and what you want, otherwise you can lose yourself. A weekend at Berghain doesn’t necessarily reflect everyday life.