In lieu of the launch of their much anticipated record label, Pan-Pot arrive in London on the 15th March in collaboration with LWE to give us a taste of things to come. The German duo have, over the last ten years, earned the respect of the industry’s most fastidious stalwarts for not only their consistent work in the studio but also for their ability to command a room. Tassilo Ippenberger and Thomas Benedix met at university in Berlin (The school of audio engineering, SAE) in 2003 and there the fairytale began as the two formed an unassailable bond over a mutual taste in music. In 2005 they began their now longstanding relationship with Mobilee records with the imprint providing them with a platform from which they have grown considerably. A synergistic working relationship not being necessarily synonymous with larger record labels, though something that Mobilee has continued to execute commendably. Tagging themselves as “the dark side of the force,” Pan-Pot have melted minds, warped perceptions and reinvigorated the dancefloor with their heady, unorthodox sound; within their work, subtle pitch manipulations square off with wall-of-sound distortion, the dark stomp of 4/4 is tamed by intricate sound design, and minimalistic frameworks duel with throbbing bass lines, epic builds, and murky, off-kilter melodies.
Whilst individuality has played a role in Pan-Pot arriving to where they are today, unquestionable is the influence of their friendship and grounded approach. Right from the offset Tassilo and Thomas come across as unpretentious and sincere. Two friends who have been able to make a living out of doing something that they love and continue to feel passionate about and challenged by. On the brink of their record label, Second State, going live the Berliners took some time out to talk to DT about their illustrious careers, upcoming label showcase in London and why they feel the time is right to give something back to electronic music.
Your first release was on the then little-known Mobilee records, the “Popy and Caste” EP. I’ve always felt though that you’ve been the red herring at Mobilee with a much more techno sound.
Tassilo: In the beginning it was more like minimal house and our style changed. People don’t recognize our first tracks but that was when people didn’t know us and in the last 5 years our sound has changed a lot.
Thomas: And also the Mobilee philosophy was different in the beginning. They were more open-minded to more electronic genres. So we had Exercise One; they were the “really techno” guys, we were in between techno and tech house and Sebo (K) was straight up house. Then it became more this one-genre label for tech-house. That’s also what we recognized about five years ago – we were sort of like the more exotic act at that moment compared to a lot of the rest, which was pretty much the same kind of style. Which is ok! It got more and more difficult to identify with the musical direction though.
Our sound also changed; it got harder and more techno. But they still supported us and our music for which we are extremely grateful.
Tassilo: But it’s also the reason why we started up our own label. It’s nice to have your own platform for releasing music where you don’t have to adjust your music to a certain style.
Thomas: We always had to think, “ok, does this fit with Mobilee’s style? Can we play it to those guys?” And that’s what we got rid of. We can do whatever we want now.
Second State launches later this month. Is it going to be strictly techno? What can you tell us about your ideas for the label?
Tassilo: Well we will definitely have vinyl and digital releases because we still think vinyl is important; we still collect a lot of vinyl and we love it so will definitely be doing that. Artist-wise, we have already signed two artists: one producer duo, and also our good friend Clint Stewart. We’ve already got amazing tracks from them. Musical taste wise, it’s not just techno; it’s mostly split up into A-sides and B-sides. The A-side should be more techno driven, that we can play whenever we feel like in our sets. The B-side can be more something that they do because they love to do it; it can be more like house, it can include live instruments – whatever. It should be open for what people want to do besides techno.
Is that something that you want to continue with your releases on the label?
Tassilo: Well, that’s the plan right now. We realise it’s a very idealistic way of starting a label. We haven’t put out big promotions but we are working on it as hard as possible.
Is promotion not an important part of helping new artists reach the right audience?
Tassilo: I’m talking about the first release, because the first release is coming from us. I mean we will promote it but we are not going to spend thousands of Euros promoting it. We want it to grow in a healthy way as we did as artists. We had our ten years of Pan-Pot anniversary last year and it took us ten years of hard work and growth to get to that point. I think that for a label it’s also more healthy to grow it in this fashion.
Thomas: Yes, grow because the music is good not because the promotion is good. It has to be a balance, but I think in the first place the music has to be nice. People must recognise the label because the music is good and not just because of good promotion.
So the first release is Pan-Pot. When are you hoping to release that?
Thomas: We have already had to postpone it a little, but it’s mid- April. We had to delay it because of the distribution. These are the types of things that we are having to fight for right now!
Have you been wanting to start your own label for a while?
Tassilo: I started talking about it about five years ago and Thomas didn’t really like the idea back then. We started talking about it seriously though at the end of 2012. We decided then that it was the right time as we now have the right setup to do it, we have enough people we can work with and also we can afford to do it now. So it has taken a year and a half for it to grow and it feels good that it has developed in this way, rather than an idea that we acted on impulsively. It’s pretty healthy this way.
Thomas: Also about five years ago the artists around us were all coming out with new labels and I was just thinking “Fuck, I don’t want to just be another one of them!” I also didn’t feel experienced enough to start a label. Similarly I would want to marry someone once and it be right rather than try it out, it doesn’t work, and then have to try marrying someone else!
You’ve not had an artist album drop since 2007. Is this something that you’ve been holding onto until the launch of Second State?
Tassilo: Not so much.... I mean we have three half finished albums on our studio computers. You wouldn’t believe how many other music-related projects we have going on though, for example we have new riverside studios here in Berlin and we are constantly working on stuff. With many of our projects we have not focussed on a timeframe to have them completed in, but I can promise you that there will be another album coming. Also, compared to releasing an album every couple of years it’s super special when you have one come out after so long.
Thomas: It’s also that we now have our own setup that we are really happy with. So we have good musicians that we like working with and good studios. We’ve also worked on a few new tracks for the new label so we’ll definitely be working on a new album in the near future.
Usually an artist album is an avenue that allows artists to experiment with different sounds. Whilst your productions more often veer towards the techno end of the spectrum you are known for being able to play both house and techno and are therefore already more diverse than many artists. Does one style feel more natural to you?
Tassilo: Well we play bigger events where we play straighter, like techno and tech house, but then we also love the afternoon or early evening rooftop parties.
Thomas: Sometimes it does depend on our moods.
Tassilo: We are happy though that we have this profile that people can book us for a rooftop party or for a techno party. Sometimes we may even play techno at the rooftop parties, it depends on our moods.
Is this the same when you listen to your own music? Do you have favourite Pan-Pot tracks or does that vary too?
Thomas: Maybe. I mean I can listen to “Apocalyptic Horseman” from the album most of the time.
Tassilo: I like that one too but I also still like “Confronted” a lot.
Thomas: I can’t listen to “Confronted” or “Captain My Captain” anymore! I also like the “Happy Birthday” track that we made for Mobilee and the “Phobos” remix that we made for Stephan Bodzin.
“Confronted” and “Captain My Captain” are both very famous tracks. I enjoyed watching the now infamous Pan-Pot documentary, which touches on the production of the latter. How did the idea of a Pan-Pot documentary come about?
Tassilo: That was Anja Schneider’s idea. We had started doing our own tour diary and we would film each other on camera when we were on tour. I was cutting it in iMovie, we released it on YouTube and on our Facebook profile and it worked out really well considering it was just a casual project and nothing professional. It was our turn to release the yearly back-to-back release and Anja suggested we did something that wasn’t just music-related but something visual. She mentioned developing this movie thing to accompany the release and Sebastian Radlmeier, one of our really good friends who is a movie director, offered himself to follow us on tour and the project grew. It ended up taking more than a year collecting material and then took three months of straight cutting. It ended up being pretty expensive and a lot of work but we were really happy with the end result.
Thomas: It was totally fun, we had a big sell-out cinema premiere in Berlin, we had all of our friends there and it was so exciting when it came on. It was super nice. In the end it was one of the best projects that we have ever done.
Tassilo: It was a really interesting project but it was also a challenge. We had this moment at the beginning when we realised that we didn’t want to really be filmed all of the time, especially before or after the show because you’re either nervous or tired. We had to get used to having someone following us and constantly trying to catch us on camera. So this wasn’t that easy in the beginning but it was ok.
It looks like a lot of fun for sure. There are several interesting points in the documentary and I would recommend it to anyone who hasn’t yet seen it. You mention very honestly that sometimes the production process is slowed down because you have two people who may differ in opinion on things. Has there been one disagreement that particularly stands out for you?
Tassilo: I couldn’t name one big disagreement. We have had a lot of moments where we have started a track and it’s started really nicely but then it’s maybe not meant to be a good track. We have had other moments though when we have started a track and then suddenly our ideas go in completely different directions. If that happens we have to leave that track and maybe use the loops later on but at that time it’s just not working and you just have to stop and start something afresh. This happens a lot to us though it has improved over the ten years, that said we have had a lot of disagreements in the past! But that’s ok.
Turning our attention back to the label, Second State, and your tour diary... the LWE Warehouse party on 15th March will be a label showcase, is that right?
Tassilo: Yeah, it will be the third showcase for our label and we’re really looking forward to playing in London. It’s very exciting because it’s our little baby and we want to put lots of effort into promoting it and generally doing a good job. We hope that people will like it.
It’s billed as a “warehouse” party. What are the differences in your opinion between a club night and a warehouse night?
Tassilo: Well I would say that, especially in London, our club experiences have not been that good. We have had parties in clubs that we didn’t like at all and there was a long time that we didn’t play in London at all. It was a pain in the ass to go to London and we had some bad luck too. Then we had the first party with Krankbrothers at Village Underground and it was a kind of warehouse party and we thought that was really cool and realised that we can have fun in London. Since then we have had really good experiences with Krankbrothers and at Drumcode with LWE. These events opened us up to the London market.
Thomas: Also the first Eastern Electrics I really liked. The first one, there were some things that could have been better but the crowd was really good.
So in view of what we have already discussed about the London clubbing scene, what are your feelings on playing in the UK?
Tassilo: It’s amazing, we really enjoy it. Whether it’s London, Liverpool, Manchester or Scotland. Scotland is amazing to play.
Thomas: I think generally in the UK people are crazy about partying. In a nice way, they’re very enthusiastic and honest. Really honest. I like it.
We’ve touched on your favourite and least favourite tracks. There will of course be Pan-Pot fans coming to see you on the 15th and although you’re not playing live, will you still play some of those tracks if it feels right?
Tassilo: If it feels right, yeah. The reason we don’t like to play them anymore is because we have heard them so many times that it’s now really hard to listen to some of them. The good thing is that we have a lot of new tracks and new music from artists on our label so we will definitely play some of our own stuff but the new stuff. I totally understand that people want to hear the artist’s tracks, but isn’t it also nice to hear new stuff? I mean we still play some of those tracks that we mentioned, but not in every set.
Finally I see that you’re future tour dates don’t feature on the Mobilee calendar. Will you still continue to play Mobilee nights?
Tassilo: With the new label starting we will be focussing on featuring our own artists from the label for now. We are of course still in contact with them and they understand that it’s time for us to do this. It’s not that we aren’t playing Mobilee parties anymore but if the timing is right and it’s the right party we will play. For sure.
Thomas: In the beginning though when you start your own label you have to concentrate on that. You don’t want to mix up too many commitments. So maybe this year it’s better to concentrate on our own stuff but next year there will definitely be some Mobilee parties that we will want to play at.
In view of the calibre of Pan-Pot’s releases and the dedicated following they have commanded worldwide over the past ten years, their record label has a lot to live up to if it is to continue to raise Pan-Pot’s profile. The warehouse party at London's Shapes on 15th March will be our first insight into what to expect from the promising Second State label, and based on previous form is unlikely to fail to deliver. Grab your tickets below:
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Thinking of heading to Croatia this summer? Then you can catch Pan-Pot as part of Sonus Festival between August 18-22nd on Pag's Zrce Beach. For more info and tickets head to www.sonus-festival.com