When I walk into the Kompakt record store, it doesn’t take long to figure out which person is Sascha Funke. Ever the DJ, he’s glued to one of the dozen listening stations with a stack of the latest vinyl propped up next to him. Also hard to miss: his trademark moustache, which would make him look like a detective from an ‘80s action show if it didn’t contrast so starkly with his white designer jeans and a fashionable dark top.
Mr. Funke doesn’t seem worse for wear at all, which is a surprise considering that he was up late last night in the typical Berlin manner. He tells me today is his birthday. He even seems completely at ease, and he has every reason to be I guess – five years after his debut Bravo and a long sojourn in French, Sascha has just put out his follow up, Mango. Time for an interim conclusion.
What are your plans for Sunday?
I’ll be in London trying to get some sleep. It’ll be my third night in a row partying. Why do you ask?
Because 1. FC Köln is playing at home.
Yeah, I know. It would have worked out perfectly if I could stay the whole weekend in Cologne but unfortunately I’m already booked in for Fabric. Well, unfortunately sounds wrong. Of course it’s nice to go to London. When I travel I try to keep up with the team on the Internet.
Why does someone from Berlin support a team from Cologne?
My father was a fan of FC Köln when I started to get into football. So it came naturally. But I have to admit that the older I got and the more I became a fan, the worse they played. In Berlin there is a pub run by FC Köln fans where I often watch the games.
You like having a bit of a kickabout yourself.
Yes, we used to have a BPitch team but it fell apart about three years ago. It was always a problem organizing sixteen people for matches. I stick to tennis now.
You’re also connected to Cologne through your association with Kompakt. It’s odd – your home is on BPitch, but you often play Kompakt nights. Tell us how this came about.
That’s pretty simple to explain. My first record, ‘Campus’, came out on Kompakt. So it was my second label right from the beginning, although I found my way to BPitch later. The second single, ‘Doppelpass’, was released on BPitch, and then the records afterwards came on both labels. The Kompakt sound was always a bit different than the one on BPitch. Shortly before working on my first album I decided to go to BPitch. Mainly because of Ellen and Berlin.
Like Kompakt, your new album Mango has a certain pop appeal.
Yeah, I think the musicians on Kompakt and me come from the same background. We all grew up listening to a lot of pop music, and we still do listen to it, which influences our productions. Mango is a good example. Especially when I’m working on a new album I tend to listen to more home-listening music than straight dance music. After three or four years of producing singles and remixes that are all focused on the dancefloor, you are thrilled to do something else with your album. Then a flirt with pop music becomes nearly inevitable.
Does a certain Sascha Funke sound exist?
Well, I think that over the years certain themes have always existed. But it’s true that my singles are very different in terms of style. Sometimes there is more melody, sometimes less. You are always in a special mood from which the music evolves, and this mood isn’t always the same. People like Troy Pierce have their own trademark sound, but you won’t directly recognize if a track is from me or from someone else.
Not having your own stamp must have its advantages.
You bet. I try to avoid reaching a certain trademark sound intentionally. This is connected to my way of producing tracks, which is variable. I often try out new instruments and of course, they create a brand new sound.
That’s what I like about being a DJ – you can go with the prevailing vibe. I always try to catch the feeling of the current vibe on the dancefloor. Not enough DJs do this in my opinion. My record case is always packed flexibly. Especially when I spin at clubs I haven’t been before, I keep a careful eye on the dancefloor for the first thirty minutes to get a feeling in which direction the set should go.
Mango is two-sided. It works as a warm-up before heading to a club as well as a soundtrack for lonely Sunday evenings at home.
That’s exactly the way it should be. Many artists simply don’t take the chance of developing into another direction when producing an album. They keep on doing the sound they produce for their regular singles, but that’s not my intention. Okay, maybe at the time I worked on Bravo it was a bit like that. At that time I wasn’t working in the conceptual way I do now. This time I wanted to create a special flow, and to factor out the whole club context right from the beginning. Sometimes you have to take risks, which is difficult at the moment because of the mega minimal thing everyone is infected with.
Originally Mango was supposed to come out in October 2007, but it ended up being delayed until February this year. Why the delay?
I started working on it in February 2007 and said to myself “By summer you’ll be through.” But then I realized that I wasn’t really happy with the tracks. Looking back now, it was the right decision to add three more months. If I hadn’t done it maybe I would be totally sad now because an album is something that you have to live with forever.
You produced Mango pretty far from home – in the south France. What was the reason for that? To escape from the Berlin winter?
Yes, exactly. I had played several times in Aix-en-Provence, and in summer of 2006 I joked to Paul Kalkbrenner that we should look after an apartment there. And then we actually found someone who offered us a house. One day later we were sure: “Alright, let’s do it!” We moved there in October and stayed until the end of May. It worked out perfectly because at the time I wanted to start working on a sequel to Bravo but the BPitch house was being refurbished. So my studio wasn’t available. We always wanted to get out of Berlin, go out into the countryside and experience a bit of nature. We definitely lived in another way, concentrated more on life itself, producing and eating. It worked out well because we weren’t surrounded by our friends the whole time.
Was it a one-off thing?
I could imagine doing it again. But in three years at the earliest. You can’t do that kind of thing every year – it has to emerge out of something special.
Why is the album called Mango?
That’s a word which was made up by Tobias, Aksel and I last summer on a beach somewhere in Spain. Somehow we developed a language with imaginary words that only boys can speak. Mango stood for “nice”, “one-of-a-kind” and “great”. Example: The food was mango or the girl over there was mango, too. In the end it was the word of the year. Shortly before completing the album we sat in Barcelona again and everybody kept on saying: “You have to name it Mango!” So I did it. So the title has nothing in common with the fruit. We invented more words, but I won’t reveal them now. (laughs)
Have you ever thought about playing live? With Mango you have more reason to.
No, that’s not an option for me because I like spinning records too much. Standing on stage every weekend with the same music would only limit myself. This evening I’ll probably play one or two tracks from Mango. Or maybe none. You don’t have this type of freedom when performing live. I was born a DJ and that’s the way it should be.
I hear that you’ve had to battle something that would definitely lead to problems for a DJ – a fear of flying.
Yes. I wasn’t afraid of crashing exactly, but I was having real panic attacks. Like people who can’t attend a concert because of the crowd. Three years ago I underwent therapy and treated the fear successfully but before that I hadn’t boarded a plane for two years. After twenty sessions I felt motivated in such a way that flying wasn’t a problem any longer.
What happened? Did you fly a few times and then start to develop a fear of it?
Exactly. At first the fear started happening when I wasn’t flying so frequently. Then once I was booked for a gig abroad but I wasn’t able to board the plane. This was the catalyst for the therapy.
For two years you ran the BPitch Control online shop. Apart from releasing music on the label, how closely are you tied to it?
My studio and the BPitch office are on the same floor, which means that I’m surrounded by people from the label every day. Together with Ellen we often talk about releases, music and and vision. But always in the role of a friend, not a contributor.
Originally you came from the trance sphere. How do you see this sound now that it’s so marginal these days?
In my early phase of techno, in around 1993, there was a time I was pretty into trance music. MFS was a hip label with stuff from Paul Van Dyk. Then there was R+S. At that time trance really fascinated me – it was new and unexplored. I listened to the music for one year before Dave Clarks Red 2 led me towards techno. Then I was pretty influenced by Jeff Mills and the sound of Detroit and of course stuff from Basic Channel. At that time so much more was happening in a much shorter time frame than now. There was much more culture, much more idealism.
Your mate Michael Mayer became father for the first time in 2007. You’re also in a longterm relationship – any plans in that direction?
No. My girlfriend is very busy with her job and so we haven’t made those kind of plans. We just take it as it comes.
Do you have any plans to collaborate with Ellen in the near future?
We are touring the US together and in May, and we’re also both playing at Watergate. So we will have something of a rendezvous. As for working in the studio, I have to admit that I’m too egoistical to produce music with other people. Also Ellen is surrounded by enough musicians already – Apparat, for example. So I don’t see any reason for that to change.
A record you play once in a while is ‘Contemplation’ by Josh One which has a King Britt Funke Remix on the flip. That name makes it sound like you worked on it.
Till this day I ask myself how he thought of this name. It has absolutely nothing to do with the remix even though I like it very much. Unfortunately I’ve never really found out why he named it that way, but yeah, it’s odd, isn’t it? I think it’s a King Britt project.