Interview with Markus Acher of Alien Transistor (and The Notwist)

We got to Alien Transistor eventually. We started with The Notwist who were on our first German compilation last year, shortly after we started. Then we did an interview with Valerie from Lali Puna, then we discovered all the fantastic music coming out of Germany (and from the Morr Music label in particular) and as we built up our directory of record labels and bands we heard the (then) new Tenniscoats album, followed by You + Your D Metal Friend and we were hooked. D stands for “Dead” not “Death”, good to know. The label was started in 2003  by Markus and Micha Acher from The Notwist and they’ve built up a wonderfully eclectic bunch of artists – their focus on experimentation and downright strangeness ins a delight. The label really is a labour of love and that’s obvious in everything they do.  We were delighted that Marcus agreed to answer some questions for us.

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Can you tell us a little bit about your history and evolution? How did you start? Why did you start?

We started in 2003 to release music, our good friend and fellow musician Saam Schlamminger had recorded on his own under the name Chronomad. These recordings mixed acoustic and electronic elements, oriental percussion and samples, and was so diverse, interesting and uncategorizable, that we were very excited about starting a label for music, that existed in between genres. And that’s still the most important thing for us….to release music that we like to listen to, of course, but that also transcends musical genres and styles and finds its own vision and style – and then, we are friends with the musicians. That’s also very important in the end, maybe even more important than the music…

This statement is intriguing “The labels concept is to produce music that has a musical or personal relation to the Notwist – microcosm: From electronic soundscapes through abstract hip-hop to laptop-treated contemporary, from processed oriental music to Nick Drake-inspired-songwriting: Alien Transistor doesn’t respect any musical boundaries.” Can you please elaborate a little?

The music, we release goes in so many different directions, that it could be random…what still makes it feel like one family is that all the artists have in common a quite offbeat way of making music. The name independent doesn’t mean that much anymore, but in its original sense, that would be something, that unites all the ‘alien’-combos.

Where did the idea come from for the name Alien Transistor?

That was just an association that came somehow. It fit then, and now, it fits even more. In a world, where (especially in Germany, sadly…) people are so afraid of everything alien coming into their safe and secure environment, it’s good to amplify alien sounds and words.

What’s an average day like at AT HQ?

As we all do this besides other things, there is no average day. Me, personally, the main work for AT is writing emails, working on cover-artwork or listening to test-pressings 🙂

What’s the musical ethos behind AT – how do you decide what fits and what doesn’t?

Everything generally fits, that doesn’t fit in any traditional genre… but generally, it’s all a matter of taste in the first place.

How  do you find talent?

We listen a lot to music…all kinds of. And one comes to the other…people, we release tell us about other great bands…and so on.

What artists are currently putting Germany and Munich on the map?

I can’t speak too much about the German music scene in general, but the Munich music/art-scene is great at the moment, actually. Apart from the AT-bands Protein, 1115 and Millipede, there are many really great, mainly Kraut-infused bands here, like leRoy (on Schamoni) for example. Or Pacifico Boy, the one-man-show of the equally great Das Weisse Pferd. Or the very unique Friends of Gas. And there is a whole, great scene around the label Gutfeeling, which combines punk, cumbia, country, Cuban and Bavarian music, and everything else away from the mainstream. They have a record-store and bar, too and always organise good concerts and parties in and around Munich.

Can you offer any advice to new bands? How should they go about getting their music heard?

I think, no new band should believe in any advice – they should just listen to their own taste and try to find their own language and ideas. The stranger, the better 🙂 If they like it, there is a chance, other people like it, too!

We’ve been listening to a lot of artists on your label recently – you’ve got some great acts – what’s exciting you for the future?

We will release the second album by the great band Jam Money from London. We are very happy about that! They already released a record on their own label Spillage Fete, and now recorded one for our label, and apart from being very dear friends, they are very unique musicians.

We will release the second album from Alien Ensemble…that’s my brother Micha’s acoustic band that draws influences from soundtrack music to jazz and contemporary composition. There will 3 more volumes (on vinyl only) of the series “music exists” by Tenniscoats. They are one of our favourite bands ever, and we are very happy, that we got the chance to release their music in Europe, as all of their releases are very hard to get here. For any-one, who doesn’t know them, they should have a listen…it’s very heart-felt and fragile music and one of the most beautiful voices.

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*Alien Ensemble   in concert –  images/visuals by Dieselqueen.

Then there will be a Notwist-live-recording…which will be released as 3-LP and double-CD…nearly an entire concert recorded… And an album by the Andromeda Mega Express Orchestra…an avant-garde-ensemble-big-band, that is impossible to describe actually…

And for the beginning of next year an album by the South Korean experimental-pop-collective byul.org, an album by Japanese, Berlin-based electronic-musician Midori Hirano, aka Mimicof, and the first long-player of the very special duo, that is 1115.

What act, not currently on the label, would you love to sign?

Oh…there are so many!! Thurston Moore, Kama Aina, Nisennen Mondai, the NZ-artist Maxine Funke…at the moment…

Do you have your own studio as well as the label?

Yes, we have a studio in Weilheim, that’s the town where we come from, and where we can record for free….which is one way, that we can afford all this.

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