Photo: Katja Ruge (Terence Fixmer)
Terence Fixmer really needs no introduction, but if you haven’t been keeping track in recent times: The Planete Rouge founder made his official debut on Mute in late 2022 after a slew of EPs for its techno-centric offshoot NovaMute throughout the 2010s. Shifting Signals was a bold statement, but there’s more on the way, as Fixmer explains in the interview accompanying his overdue contribution to our Groove podcast—including new material from his on-going collaboration with Douglas McCarthy from Nitzer Ebb as Fixmer / McCarthy.
You celebrate somewhat of an anniversary this year, having put out your first release 30 years ago. How do you think about your early releases such as 1993’s Another Mind as Cyborg or 1994’s Back to Hell as Scanner?
Those releases hold a special place in my heart, especially Scanner’s Back to Hell is a really significant release for me, even though not many people know it is me. It was released on Bonzai, which was a huge and influential label in the early 1990s. I was really proud to release my music there. It’s funny, because at the time, I didn’t realise that there was already another artist named Scanner in the UK [Robin Rimbaud started releasing music under this name in 1992, ed.]. This was before the internet, so I was caught off guard when an English label called me to tell me to stop using the name Scanner. That ended up being the only and last Scanner project I did. The title track, “Back to Hell”, still holds up today and I think it’s still playable in clubs.
You have consistently released your own material as well as records by other producers on your own Planete Rouge label since the late 1990s. What concept do you follow with the label?
My label Planete Rouge primarily focuses on releasing my own music. My music doesn’t adhere to any specific concept or theme, I simply create and release what I like and what I feel. It’s important to me that the music has a unique personality and sound design that fits my taste. I don’t have a formal plan or marketing strategy, it’s all about spontaneity and allowing the music to find its way to people. I let the music speak for itself.
All of your albums so far have been released through other labels. The latest one, Shifting Signals, came out in December through Mute, a label that must have been influential for you throughout the decades. What exactly is your relationship with it like?
Actually, I have released two albums on my record label Planete Rouge – the first being Fixmer / McCarthy’s Between the Devil and the second a solo album titled Fiction Fiction. But I have to admit that I am not very skilled when it comes to promoting myself. I am primarily an artist who wants to focus on creating and producing music rather than selling myself to the media. As a result, I prefer to release my albums through more professional labels who can do a better job at promoting my music. I have always been happy with the labels that have released my music, such as Electric Deluxe, CLR, Ostgut Ton, and now Mute. Mute is a label that I have always dreamed of being a part of. They have been so influential to me, with artists such as Fad Gadget, Nitzer Ebb, Depeche Mode, and The Normal. To be a part of this incredible family of artists and bands is a real honour and a source of pride for me. It’s a dream come true.
In a way, the foundation for the album was laid in childhood: you said that it was inspired by your reaction to watching Ridley Scott’s Alien movie when you were young. What was it about the film that had such an impact on you?
The inspiration for the album came from a simple scene that I found captivating in Ridley Scott’s movies; the scene of a spaceship traveling through space with the sound of its engines creating a unique atmosphere—the future, the unknown, and silence. This particular atmosphere was the inspiration for the album, and it was not influenced by any other scenes from the film. Also, it was only one of many inspirations.
What exactly was it that you wanted to express with the album? You’ve said something to the effect that you wanted the music to evoke cinematic images in the minds of your listeners. Is there a sort of narrative or specific aesthetic that you tried to create?
As an artist when creating music, is to express a particular emotion, tell a story, or create a sensory experience. By using a cinematic aesthetic, I tried to create an immersive experience for the listener, inviting them to delve into a specific sonic universe while trying to keep it in a club context. Ultimately, each listener may have a different interpretation of the music based on their own experiences and cultural references.
As a producer who started out in the early 1990s, you primarily worked with hardware before exploring “in-the-box” solutions in the 2000s for a while. Since then however, you have started working with hardware again. What does your current studio set-up look like and what kind of gear or software was crucial to you when producing Shifting Signals?
At the beginning of the 1990s, using synthesizers was the only option available. While the explosion of plug-ins in the early 2000s did have an effect on me, I remain faithful to hardware and only use machines. I use Ableton as a recorder to capture my bass lines, sequences, and for arranging my tracks. For the Shifting Signals album, I mainly used hardware, especially synths and external sequencers. The primary machines used include my TTSH (an Arp 2600 clone), Korg MS 20, Roland System 100, Analog Four, and some Eurorack modules such as the DPO and Ring, along with different modular sequencers.
Besides your work as a solo producer, you have been collaborating with Douglas McCarthy more or less regularly for about twenty years now. What does your working process look like and what do you think generally characterises your relationship with one another?
My collaboration with Douglas McCarthy is exclusively for our project Fixmer / McCarthy. We created this project 20 years ago with the release of our first album Between the Devil…, which was really a bridge between the worlds of techno and EBM. We are great friends and don’t put any pressure on ourselves. I am busy with my solo work, and Douglas is occupied with Nitzer Ebb. However, we try to release an EP every two years, and we continue to play shows when our schedules allow for it. Next year, I plan to do something for the 20th anniversary of Fixmer / McCarthy, whether it be a new EP, album, remixes, or remastering. I’m currently considering my options!
You do not seem to be touring very heavily these days. What role does DJing and playing live sets play in your life and work in general right now?
Regarding my current activity as a live act, I do still play regularly, but I am not playing 15 shows a month! That is not something I would enjoy. I prefer to play three or four times per month on a regular basis and keep the pleasure of performing and the creative drive to make music during the week. For me, an artist is not defined by the number of shows they play. I prefer to prioritise quality and, most importantly, maintain the desire to make records and produce music.
What was the idea behind your mix for our Groove podcast?
When it comes to selecting tracks for my sets, it’s really based on what I’m enjoying at the moment, the artists I’m into, and the overall mood and energy I want to convey. I generally lean towards sound with a soulful vibe.
Last but not least: what are your plans for the future?
I have my new EP titled State of Mind ready to be released on Planete Rouge Records in early June. Additionally, I have created a track for the fifth anniversary of Phase Fatale’s BITE labe and another track for Umwelt’s label. Currently, I am also finishing up my second solo album for Mute . Lastly, there may be a new EP in the works by Fixmer / McCarthy.
Stream: Terence Fixmer – Groove Podcast 375
01. Throbbing Gristle – The Secret Touch
02. PWCCA – Unreal Element
03. A Thousand Details – Alloy
04. Terence Fixmer – Step To The Edge
05. PWCCA – Ordered Structure
06. Divide – Isocrono
07. Terence Fixmer – Roar Machines
08. MVKVMVV – n3003003
09. R.J’s Rule – Rave this Nation
10. Oliver Rosemann – Shifting
11. Denise Rabe & Lidvall – Fused Identities
12. Tensal – Forgiveness of Blood
13. Lee Holman – Sonic Symptom
14. Bernardo Hangar – Futurum Non Est III
15. Linear System – Minkowski
16. Terence Fixmer – State of Disorder
17. Unit Moebius – World Turns Round
18. Drhamer – Liver
19. Terence Fixmer – Body Parts
20. OTHR – False Promise (Kris Baha Remix)
21. Ancient Methods – Rot and Retaliate
22. Sylph – Braid
23. Terence Fixmer – Desertic