Photo: Christiano Tekirdali (Alpha Tracks)
Vienna’s role in the history of European techno is somewhat underrated. Later this month however, Erdem Tunakan and Patrick Pulsinger will make the archive of their seminal label Cheap Records available digitally for the very first time – a valuable history lesson for young ravers. Alpha Tracks will be able to lean back when other from his generation get schooled on the sound of mid-90s Vienna: he’s been working with the two of them since 2003 and has personally overseen the reactivation of the Cheap offshoot Morbid in 2015, a platform for the more adventurous strains of techno music and, fittingly, also his own music. Those are at the centre of his mix for the Groove podcast, too – from soothing ambient to furious acid slammers, it’s 95 minutes of music to “zone out to.”
First off, how are you doing and what have you been up to lately?
I’m good, thanks. I spent the last three months on the countryside in Greece and got back to Vienna recently.
You’ve got a long history with Cheap Records and released your first record on its offshoot Morbid, which you have been managing since 2015. How did all of that come about? You were still a teenager when you started working for Cheap.
Yes, that’s right. On my way to school there was this little recordshop called Cheap Store, run by the guys who were also involved in the label Cheap Records. I was walking by more or less every day. It was the time when we started going out on weekends, little teen parties at least. We also used to hang out a lot in that area around my high school. Long story short, one day I went into that store and asked Erdem Tunakan without even knowing who he was if they have something from Kruder & Dorfmeister which was like asking Madonna if she has something from Lady Gaga because Cheap Records (Patrick Pulsinger and Tunakan) and G-Stone (Kruder & Dorfmeister) were the two big ”rival” players in the electronic music scene in Austria. I think the fact that I asked for Kruder & Dorfmeister pushed Erdem even more to show me the ”real“ stuff, so from that day on, they basically took me under their wing, introduced me to the world of electronic music, showed me how to DJ, got me hooked on vinyl, and soon after I started working at the store when they needed help. That was in 2003.
Morbid was reactivated thanks to your efforts. What philosophy do you follow with the sublabel nowadays?
After 2003, for whatever reason, it took me another ten years of studying and other life lessons to finally realise that I want to produce music. That was also a period in which there was not a lot happening with Cheap and Morbid, so together with Erdem, we decided to breathe new life into the labels with me being responsible for Morbid. Morbid was the label which was a bit neglected as the focus was always on Cheap. It was also the label on which records came out that were not really ”suitable“ for Cheap. Nevertheless, I always loved the Morbid catalogue. I think there’s a certain sense of freedom that comes with being second in row or with not fitting the agenda of a well-defined label like Cheap. In the end Morbid is a label that never had musical borders nor the pressure to deliver in quantity or a specific kind of quality. That’s the spirit I want to maintain.
You have not only released solo music on Morbid, but also collaborated with Tunakan as well as Mike Inzinger and Nino Stelzl under the name Alpha 3 while regularly inviting guest musicians into the studio for your own productions. What role do these collaborations play in your work as a producer?
Alpha 3 was the first attempt to form a fixed collective but after some time we realised that the project was actually much more of an open format, where many people would come and contribute to whatever was happening in the studio. Until 2018 we shared a studio that was right above a record store called TONGUES, so it was really more of a come and go. Lots of producer friends came and hung out there, so Alpha Tracks became more of a platform for people coming together to just jam. Since the last two years I’ve been enjoying to work in isolation. I still work with Erdem though, I just released a track on BPitch together with Blue Hour and I just spent 10 days in the studio with Oprofessionell in Greece. Collaborations still play an important role for me and probably always will.
Your sophomore album White Keys Vol. 1 & 2 was released in February and March in two parts. Why did you choose to release it in this particular way?
I’m so amazed how Bandcamp has changed the economic possibilities of distributing music, a business that was declared dead a few years ago. Considering the characteristics of digital purchases that make it possible to buy single tracks isolated from an album or an EP, I felt it’s maybe more accurate to give people as much choice as possible. Also with the vinyl. If someone only likes one or two tracks I don’t want to force the whole album on them.
While the title of the record as well as the artwork refer to the piano as an instrument, the track titles of the release take their names from famous operas. What’s all that about?
Despite the fact that my mother is an opera singer and a piano teacher and although I grew up with opera and classical music, I’m not a trained musician myself. Not at all! The amateurs and bedroom musicians who have built dance music know that sticking to the white keys affords them the possibility to create melodies without professional knowledge. In this context, the album title White Keys along with the artwork of amateur piano models lays in stark contrast to the track titles. The track titles indicate a sense of humour that highlights the monstrous and overexaggerated arrangements that occur in lots of my tracks versus that spirit of repetitive DIY loop music, and the bedroom producer mindset.
Through the Norwegian label Sinensis, you’ve just released the hour-long ambient set Live at PARKEN after having also contributed an ambient mix to the ofhundred series in April. What’s your relationship with ambient as a music fan and producer like?
Through my musical upbringing at Cheap but also through my work in record shops I was always around ambient music and I always adored it. I also feel that it is probably the genre that has the closest relation to techno and trance music. I have a weak spot for IDM as well. In general I just love to space out. I’m so happy that through the guys from UTE/SINESIS I found my spacey soulmates. They are doing such a great job in bringing together these ideas of infinite space, future visions, states of trance and reaching almost psychadelic meta dimensions through their music. I love what they are doing and feel super honoured to be a part of it. The ofhundred mix was comissioned by a friend of mine from Vienna who built this beautiful page called ofhundred.com that focuses mostly on experimental DJ and live sets. It was a chance for me to play some of my favourite ambient pieces. But there are other super interesting sets from Viennese producers on that site like SEDVS, LDY OSC, or DJ Nike.
What was the idea behind your contribution to the Groove podcast?
To space out…
Last but not least: What are your plans for the future?
I’m working on my next solo EP on Blue Hour. As mentioned above there is something in the pipeline with Oprofessionell. A track of mine is featured on the upcoming UTE Compilation. And some other stuff.
Stream: Alpha Tracks – Groove Podcast 278
01. Ø – Unien Holvit
02. Throbbing Gristle – E-Coli
03. M83 – I Guess I’m Floating
04. Bochum Welt – Dr2d
05. Robert Leiner – Visions Of The Past
06. Link – Arcadian (Global Communication Remix)
07. Drexciya – Neon Falls
08. The Dosadi Experiments – The Hidden World
09. Baby Ford + Eon – Dead Eye
10. Ausgang – Echoe Park
11. Changer – Change (Holy Mix)
12. Lund&Rønde – Halycon Days
13. Synthetic – Cosmos
14. Sedvs – Toy Shop
15. Schacke – Met Her At The Herrensauna (DJ IBONs Club Mix)
16. The Dosadi Experiments – Gowachin Rituals
17. Aura – Caterpillar (Kilner Mix)
18. C.M. – Dream Universe
19. Unreal – Phenomenon
20. Aurora Borealis – The Milky Way (Lunatic Acid Mix)
21. Alpha Tracks – Golden Shot (Omformer Remix)
22. Aphex Twin – Polynomial-C