The next instalment in the label's Prototypes series will be unreleased material from Jorge Socarras and deceased disco legend Patrick Cowley.
Previous instalments in the series have covered ambient house (Pete Namlook's "Subharmonic Atoms) and jazzy proto-techno from the '80s (Slap's "Eden Now"), but the third in the Prototypes series is quite the coup for various different reasons. The main one that will get music fans old and young salivating is the fact that synth pioneer and disco legend Patrick Cowley is behind the music on the release, but combine that with the fact that this music hasn't been listened to by anyone outside of an exclusive circle, and you've got yourself quite an exciting prospect. The material is a collaboration with Jorge Socarras, who was also part of the new-wave group Indoor Life, which Patrick also produced. As Jorge explains, "In the mid-late 70's, before I started Indoor Life, Patrick and I were best friends for many years and produced over an album's worth of very edgy new-wave material under two names: Catholic and Lesser Man. We tried to get his label to release it, but it was way too out there for him. These songs, highly influenced by the likes of Eno, Devo, Nico, and other two-syllable names, feature him playing most synth parts, and my singing, with some guest spots by Sylvester's band."
It's the Catholic material that Goldmann and Johannsen have managed to get their hands on, and after a sneaky listen, we can confirm that even though some of the synth motifs and sounds of Cowley's later disco work are present, this is a much different beast to the production work that made him such a household name. No release date is confirmed for the first single or full album, but we'll keep you updated as and when they are announced. In the meantime, we caught up with Macro co-founder Stefan Goldmann to get the low down on the project, the audio restoration process, and how exactly he came across the material in the first place.
How did you end up getting in contact with Jorge Socarras?
It's a long story. It started back in summer '08 in San Francisco when I played at the Honey Soundsystem party. The next day I had lunch with resident DJ Ken Vulsion, who had just helped former Megatone owner John Hedges move house. Just before my jaw could drop on the prospect of getting access to reels of unreleased Cowley material, Ken pulled a CD-R from his pocket - he had already done a digital transfer! Back in Germany, obviously being totally crazy about the music on the CD, we started searching for Jorge and any Cowley-associated people we could get hold of. Finally we found Socarras with the help of Daniel Heinzmann from Argentina, who does a great Cowley blog and had been in touch with Jorge. That's it!
Will you just be releasing one 12" single, or will there be more Catholic releases to come?
No no no! Unlike the former Prototypes releases, this will be a full length album, plus a series of 12-inches. Cowley had planned it as an album. We have the original box of the master tapes with a hand written tracklist by Cowley. As for the singles, we have an amazing array of remixers. The first one is a track called "Soon" with an incredible remix by Morgan Geist.
Last time we saw you in Berlin, you'd just been handed the master reels for the Catholic tracks. Did the audio restoration process work, or did you just use the CD copy that you had from Ken?
It turned out to be quite complicated. The original tapes had been rotting in a basement for 30 years. So they needed real physical restauration before anything else could be done. Then we received more tapes with alternative takes from Jorge. We arranged for a proper transfer of these and noticed Cowley had been working on the tracks a lot, so there are different versions. Though some are interupted or badly overdubbed. While we were afraid we won't be able to get each track from the album in good quality, in the end we got them all in great versions. It's still noisy and rough at some points, but that's the way it was recorded. Our mastering engineer Rashad Becker at Berlin's D+M studio spent weeks to get the masters sound right.
What can we expect from the music?
I think it will be a shock for Patrick Cowley's fans. It's way beyond his Hi NRG Disco stuff - a post-punk, new wave, experimental Cowley. The range of styles is pretty wide, but it totally makes sense. There are very sparse, almost Basic Channel style tracks with stripped down electronic percussion grooves. Then there are some tracks that sound like the blueprint to Metro Area. And then there is stuff that sounds like punk with sequencer bass lines. It's all still very synthesizer-based, yet very adventurous.
Did you ask anyone else to remix the tracks, or was Morgan the first person you thought of?
Morgan was definitely on top of our wish list. If there's anyone out there who is capable of doing this remix, it's Morgan Geist. He is more than familiar with Cowley's work, he has done great work in that direction with his Unclassics series and he is one the world's most influential dance music producers. A perfect match. We asked others, too. And it will happen. I just don't want to give out names before I heard the results.
Why do you think it's taken this long for the material to surface?
Initially it was too far out for Megatone, which was Patrick Cowley's label. I also think he kept reworking the tracks when success hit him, so he was too busy to get it sorted while he was touring the world with Sylvester and crafted the hits. Sadly, HIV killed him before he got a chance to get this project see the day of life. Jorge Socarras had tried to get it released earlier on, but didn't succeed. Then of course there were legal issues with Cowley's estate - and then at some point people just had forgot about this music. Until we got our hands on it! Isn't it the reissuer's wet dream come true to release something that's actually not a reissue, but a never before released album? Crazy...
How did you decide the sequencing of the record? Was Jorge involved in any way at all?
Still sorting this. Of course Jorge is involved. It's his album!
What do you have in store for future Prototypes projects?
Honestly, this one is such a load of work, the rest of 2009 will be all Cowley and Socarras for us. There are more interesting things out there, but I simply didn't have the time to get into negotiations yet.