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Wolfgang Voigt


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German electronic musician, co-founder and co-owner of Kompakt, Cologne based label and record store.

Grown up and socialized in the pop sub-culture of the 1970s and 1980s, Voigt has developed his own art and sound that cross genres, mixing music styles such as glam rock, pop, jazz, classic, punk, and new wave, and art movements such as pop art and the Neue Wilde (the 'New Wild Ones'). In the late 1980s, he caught acid house fever, and since then Voigt has committed himself uncompromisingly to the straight (techno music) bass drum.

Inspired by the minimalist structures of this music, Voigt works around the most diverse facets of his own ideas of subversive concept disco music. He understands this kind of contemporary music as a non-verbal, international musical language in which origin, status, or rockstardom are no longer relevant. Voigt's contribution to the various global techno 'dialects' (Chicago, Detroit, Berlin, Frankfurt...) is Cologne minimal techno, of which he is considered to be the most important pioneer.

Working under many different project names and pseudonyms (e.g. Mike Ink, Studio1, M:I:5, GAS, Love Inc., Freiland, Wassermann...), Wolfgang Voigt has continuously varied his own, unmistakable music style from the onset of the 1990s, spanning the spectrum from creating experimental and unusual hybrids by combining elements of techno with German Schlager and folk music, to pioneering, austere minimalistic concept techno series such as Studio1, a series that was limited to 10 vinyl releases, the cover of each bearing a plain color design without any text.

In 1996, his pop techno album Love Inc. - Life's a Gas based on historical pop citations (samples), was named 'Album of the Year' by the renowned music magazine Spex. His project GAS, an intoxicatingly sinister work of sound art based on highly condensed classical sound sources, thrilled a global audience far beyond the traditional electronica and techno music scenes. By combining abstract nature sounds with strings and brass alongside GAS's minimalist cover designs incorporating photographs he took in the forest, Voigt shows his strong affinity for Romanticism and portrays the forest as a mysterious or melancholic place. The accompanying text reads: "GAS fantasizes about a sound body ranging somewhere between Schonberg and Kraftwerk, between bugle and bass drum. GAS is Wagner in the guise of glam rock, Hansel and Gretel on acid. An endless march through the undergrowth--into the disco--of an imaginary, misty forest."

In the 1990s, techno music and its 'Cologne Minimal Variation' achieved worldwide success. The underground record store founded in 1993 by Voigt and friends, emerged as an internationally renowned hotspot of the techno movement and a flourishing place for record productions by in-house or like-minded artists from all over the world. In 1997, in order to offer a broader, independent platform for an ever growing number of amazing music releases, the record store grew into a new independent label, Kompakt, with its own distribution, publishing and artist/booking agencies.

During this period that Voigt calls "the art of making business", he started focusing on Kompakt's artistic mise en scene and design, developing the label into a distinctive and internationally renowned brand. In 2003 Kompakt moved into a spacious residential and office building located in downtown Cologne, and the idea of an independent 'cultural factory', very much in the spirit of Warhol's Factory, turned from vision to reality.

Since 2007, Voigt has shifted his focus back to his own projects again. Having always been working at the interface between art and music, he now merges the two disciplines in a mutually enriching way in specific projects. Two fundamental approaches, through innumerable variations, characterize Voigt's music and artwork. The first: the loop principle--the static or varying repetition of minimalist, repetitive structures which generate specific patterns. The structure of computer-based music production and associated software clearly and strongly influences this artistic concept, reflected in Voigt's body of art and music. The second: the abstract deforming and condensing of external resources, i.e. the sampling of different sounds or images reduced to their original basic structure, their raw aesthetics, in a certain sense their (hypothetical) liberation, and transferred into a new context--a process that Voigt calls "Entdeutung", i.e. de-significaton.

When choosing the 'raw material' for his work, Voigt lets himself be inspired by his tastes, preferences, spontaneous moods, or certain kinds of coincidences. While these 'resources' disappear most of the time during processing, their unnoticeable, hidden presence nevertheless remains essential for him. Wolfgang Voigt has rules he follows. However, because he often locates this 'certain something' he was initially searching for not at the place where he thought it to be, but in its surroundings, he continuously breaks these rules during the creative process by employing different improvisational techniques, resulting in intentional variations and coincidences.

While Voigt often cannot or does not want to resist the attraction of extreme abstraction, he nevertheless respects the clear rules of a 4/4 beat, the three-minute pop song, and last but not least the serial patterns found on industrially produced wallpaper. Always driven by a refusal to be categorized, Voigt imbues his body of work with a high degree of complexity, volatility, and ambiguity. As a 'fast and prolific producer', he unleashes his creativity in intense creative phases at regular intervals, the result of which are Voigt's characteristic series (the Serial Principle), often distinguishable only by their album covers' colors, or just consecutively numbered (e.g. Studio1-10, Freiland, Ruckverzauberung, Tetrapack, Z.O.M., etc.).


In the middle of the 1990s, Wolfgang Voigt, better known under a great many pseudonyms such as MIKE INK, STUDIO1 or GRUNGERMAN, and the driving force behind the rise of Cologne Minimal Techno, had reached a temporary peak in his career. Regardless, he never really stopped pursuing and developing his true creative music passion. Going back to the 1980s, Voigt began working under a self realized concept he named BLEI. Taking in the most varied sound models, he began to extract elements from classical, polka, or brass music, and along with electronic pop music and German Schlager sounds form a distinguished and unique pop music style that would fit in with the subculture at that time. In the early 1990s, influenced by Techno, VOIGT began to experiment with a timbal marching through strongly alienated, free-floating string loops. These elegiac tracks, their lack of beginning nor end beginninglessness and endlessness, their intoxicating, smooth and partly amorphous structure sounded to him like evaporating gas and thus, GAS music was born. GAS is the vision of a sonic body between Schonberg and Kraftwerk, between French horn and bass drum. GAS is Wagner goes glam rock, and Hansel and Gretel on acid. GAS is there to take you on a seemingly endless march through the under woods - and into the discoteque - of an imaginary, nebulous forest.

In his music, Wolfgang Voigt does not create a direct reference to the original sounds and or even the forest itself. He rather tries to reduce the "material" to its basic aesthetic structure by using different zoom, loop and alienation techniques in order to release it from its original meaning and context. His intention is to create a kind of aesthetic essence, a cave (detail/loop/repetition) where you can get lost.

And for all of you who think that this is too heavy to ingest, please just accept it as wonderful music.