Get Familiar: Map.ache
The KANN label head goes deep on his past, present, and future ambitions.
Get Familiar: Map.ache
The KANN label head goes deep on his past, present, and future ambitions.
Map.ache is Jan Barich, a Leipzig-based DJ-producer most widely known for his releases on Giegling, as part of the DJ duo Manamana, and work with KANN, the acclaimed imprint he runs with Alex Neuschulz (a.k.a. Sevensol) and Dennis Knoof (a.k.a. Bender). Promoting what they call “modern dance music,” and with a discography that includes, among many other immensely talented artists, themselves, Traumprinz, and Falke, it’s no surprise that the label is regarded so highly by deep house fans today.
Barich’s story has been partly told before: growing up in Leipzig, he began playing the drums aged 14 and subsequently became involved in two band projects, namely Diario and The Hands Of The Wrong People—the former of which was a real success. Steadily, throughout the mid-’90s, he became increasingly interested in electronica, in part down regular visits to Conne Island, an alternative youth cultural center that hosted a rich musical program ranging across the entire spectrum. “It [Conne Island] certainly shaped my musical personality,” Barich reflects.
Soon, however, he began attending illegal techno parties around the city, held in abandoned spaces in the twilight hours after Conne Island’s doors had been closed. DJing and production started soon thereafter. He learned to do the former around the age of 14, though only started playing out in the early 2000s; while he taught himself the latter in 2003, inspired by the music he was being exposed too. He was, he says, a “shy bedroom producer” who lacked the self-confidence to share his music with labels, leading him to set up KANN in 2008 as an outlet for his productions and those of his partners. The imprint, without question, has been a success, seeing a wide number of wonderful releases and serving as a platform for Map.ache to share his work elsewhere: since quitting his job at Conne Island in 2014, the Leipzig-based artist has released a beautiful collection of musical works, including on Giegling and Permanent Vacation. He’s certainly an artist on the rise, so what better time to catch up with him to reflect on his journey to date and plans for the future.
Marking the release, Barich has also offered up his rework of Skeletons’ “All I Want is You” which saw March 31 release via Altin Village & Mine. Grab it now via the WeTransfer button below.
So you’re still based in Leipzig. Is that where you grew up?
Yes. I grew up in the former GDR which was pretty nice, as a child. I always say that I come from a really good generation: we were young enough handle that really big change with the opening of a “new world” and too young to realize all the shit that happens during the so-called socialism. I was 10 years old when it happened, and I had my older brother and older sister, and they helped to develop my musical tastes.
They introduced me to all that popular ’80 pop, which was my first unspectacular contact with music. My father bought us a tape deck where we recorded music from the famous East German radio station DT 64.
Talk to me about your earliest musical memories. Do you come from a particularly musical background?
Later, after the wall came down, my older brother invited me to the scene in the southern part of Leipzig. It all started with punk rock, hardcore, early emocore, post and indie rock, hip-hop, experimental, and that sort of stuff. It was really exciting time to discover a new musical world that was connected, to go out every week to see bands, and meet people. I really wanted to be a part of everything.
At what age were you when your brother invited you?
I was about 13 or 14 when I was first allowed to spend some time and weekends in squatted houses, and my brother began inviting me to parties and concerts. I was always the youngest. Later I rediscovered new spots by myself, friends and peers.
So, you grew up listening to a lot of unknown earlier emo bands from San Diego, and also to the whole post-rock scene from Chicago, and also the more experimental hardcore scene from Washington D.C. Did you connect with the music?
Yes. I was quite addicted to a lot of unknown earlier emo bands from San Diego, also to the whole post-rock scene from Chicago or the more experimental hardcore scene from Washington D.C.
We were that typical musically-addicted group of friends who influenced each other a lot. We got bored by the classical macho hardcore scene and met each other in the search of more “musicality” despite the needed intensity. We spotted all that bands and scenes around Dischord, Touch & Go, Thrill Jockey, Ebullition, K Records and all the related labels and musicians. All that stuff opened up new vistas for music, communities, perspective, and reflections about everything.
Reflecting on that time, I’d say I grew up in a stereotypical boy group where there was also a kind of competition of who knows and owns the better and most unknown records and that stuff. It’s a typical guys thing, and it’s kind of ridiculous but an important part of my development nevertheless. Today we like to laugh about it.
“All that band stuff taught me that it is possible to make your own music without a classical education.”
As far as I understand, you started drumming aged 14 and then became a drummer in two bands for a while—Diario and The Hands Of The Wrong People. How and when did you get into this?
Music was always the biggest part of my life. I started playing drums when I was 14 and learned the instrument by having a couple of bands with other amateurs who wanted to destroy their ears as early as possible. The strongest project was Diario, without a question. We have been a three-piece instrumental trio and we recorded four albums and did a couple of extended touring across Europe. It was funny because nobody learned the instrument in a classic way; we simply learned by playing. Hands of the Wrong People was originally a solo project by a Scottish friend Dominique Hislop who used to live in Leipzig, and I played drums on a few recordings.
All that band stuff taught me that it is possible to make your own music without a classical education.
As far as I can work out, your “transition” to electronic music occurred in the ‘90s as you started attending techno parties after band shows. Talk to me about this period.
At this time you were no able to avoid all the different faces of developing subculture in Leipzig. It was like a big fairground: you got in touch with one and you were immediately connected with other people and clubs, assuming that you were open minded enough. So, it was common to see a sweaty hardcore show at Conne Island, for example, and then end up later that up the night in a next door illegal techno club, where you only could enter trough a small backdoor window. I just remember candles and techno. It was a great time where a lot of things got merged at the same time. Everything seemed to be so new, unusual, and super exciting. People needed to handle all the new freedom and possibilities in life. But to be honest, with an age of 12/13, I was too young to be able to appreciate it completely and talk about it.
“So, there wasn’t a big break; it was more like a slow extension of the personal musical horizon.”
Were you instantly hooked on techno music?
It’s hard to say. During my first experience, I was probably more into concerts, but I was certainly impressed by this world. My first conscious connection with electronic music came through electronica parties with labels like Warp, Fat Cat or Ninja Tune, at Conne Island. This, for me, was the merging point of my older band-type influences and electronic music. It was an easy cross-over for me. So, there wasn’t a big break; it was more like a slow extension of the personal musical horizon.
What was the Leipzig scene like during these years? Were these techno parties illegal, just like in Berlin during the ‘90s?
As I said, what I remember was a real variety of scenes all of which were strongly connected to each other. It was probably a similar development as in Berlin, but much smaller and without the clash between the east and west, which had a pretty big impact on subculture there. The Leipzig scene I was involved was a pretty politically-influenced antifascist music scene. At this time, the East German young Nazi movement was already quite active and aggressive; it was a real threat for foreigners, dissidents, and left-wing looking people. Besides that, there were some really good illegal techno parties next to arising official clubs and concerts in squatted houses. Nobody cared who was doing what. It was a pretty substantial ground for a lot of passion-driven projects.
“Discovering all that stuff with clubs, music, labels changed everything for me and encouraged the belief in something different to this conventional world-of-work career.”
And all through the ‘90s, you continued in the bands and going to techno parties. How did this fit in with studying— and when did you finish school?
I just finished my school in 1997 and by then I was using all the time I had for going out to parties and concerts while discovering music and trying to make my own. The stuff that I thought that needed to be done was always kind of part-time work and always less important to me than the music. Discovering all that stuff with clubs, music, labels changed everything for me and encouraged the belief in something different to this conventional world-of-work career.
I read somewhere that you worked in a record store at some point, too. When was this?
In 2000, a new record store opened as a further store from a Dresden-based shop called “drop out” records. I was running it for about two years.
So you got into music because you didn’t want to go into a normal career? Did you always want to be a full-time musician?
It wasn’t my intention at all because I always was thinking that you could never earn money with music, even though I liked it. But nevertheless, I always wanted to do something with music. A “normal career” would never make me happy; and, despite the financial doubts and insecurities of being a musician, there is no escape from it. It has become became a natural need for me without thinking of the future.
Conne Island played a bit role in your development. What exactly is Conne Island?
Conne Island was the most important influence for me in terms of everything I have been doing so far. It is a big political and cultural center that is managed by the
community of hundreds of people, and it encourages people to bring together their different interests and perspectives.
It is a very political but open-minded multifunctional place where everything can happen from readings, discussions, concerts, and large 30-hour raves. But next to all that super versatile experiences this place makes up, it always gives the opportunity to see how people can get along together despite different opinions and views.
You began working there as a promoter, as far as I understand. How did this come about—and when did it happen?
After being a longstanding regular, I got to know the people who were involved in the project. They gave me lots of opportunities, and I started to bring some favorite bands there voluntarily from 1998, after finishing school, and soon I began to start doing monthly parties there. I was super lucky to get a real job there around 2005; it was so fun working as a promoter in my personal “living room” where I happened to spend almost all of my free time anyway.
So just how important was Conne Island in your growth as a musical artist?
Conne Island always hosted a wide range of musical styles and linked discussions about pop in general. So I went there to see some hardcore and emo bands and then I could not keep from discovering more styles of music that they hosted: dub, techno, house, drum & bass, electronica, hip-hop, and a lot more. The political aspect of the project played a big role in changing personal perspectives as well; this club was not only essential for my musical development.
In what way did it change your personal perspectives?
I guess the biggest influence was that I got to know so many different ways of thinking during this time by meeting different people. Next to all that crazy and super versatile music experiences this beautiful place also gave me the opportunity to see how people can get along together despite different opinions and views. That also helped me a lot to question subcultures, their functions, and their developments. It was essential for me not to get stuck into just one music scene. That makes it easier to be open-minded for every kind of music. The place also satisfied my search with club nights and concerts as wide ranging as possible: Fugazi next to Jeff Mills, Yo la Tengo or Marshall Jefferson. Labels like Warp, Fat Cat or Ninja Tune did the rest.
It really was an essential period, it seems.
Yes, this time was essential for my career. Not only DJing, but also making the parties, inviting and meeting all the DJs I liked—this pushed KANN, Manamana, and Map.ache forward a lot. It was a good time for both sides, I guess. I was happy to use all that possibilities of the whole project to make my ideas reality.
How do you think this experience has informed the music you make today?
On one side it was the time that I completely fell in love with house music. The simple idea of the music and universality just picked me up and never let me go. Also, the diversity of music still helps me to try things out inside my very own house cosmos.
So how did your career develop from there, during and after your job at Conne Island. How did you get deeper into electronic music?
Music, in general, has always been around me and the biggest part of my life, so it’s hard to say how I got into the electronic genre exactly. It has been a slow natural process. But somehow it all started with the interest of DJing, and then I began to dig deeper into the scene. I just started looking into it.
For me it has always been a quite “honest” and most open-minded sub-culture; in my opinion, techno and house is all about having a good time. It is still the most universal kind of music, with all the goods and bad—it happens all over the world, from Ibiza to squats. The idea that everyone can join I still like the most—compared to all that other western subcultures, you don’t really need a musical education or knowledge. The less exclusion of anything the more excited I can feel. There is no need to go preaching or telling other people how to live or what to do. And coming out of a pretty explicit political music scene, it was the more interesting vision of musical philosophy for myself.
What do you mean you came out of a “pretty explicit political music scene?”
All the hardcore punk stuff I used to listen to was pretty political. It was influenced by many left-wing theories, activism, and political statements. You were surrounded by all these people that still had the faith in the efficacy of transporting clever political messages or a smart analysis of society via music.
Why do you think you took an interest in DJing? When did this happen—and were there any DJs in particular that inspired you?
When you discovered all the possibilities of digging for records, all the labels and different kinds of music, I think you automatically start to think of making something out of your love for music. My interest in DJing grew because of this.
“DJing was just the natural result around all these musical other things—but I never really had an idea of it to do it as a job.”
When did you learn do DJ? And when did you first begin playing records out?
There was a party in a loft when I was 14, and a friend had two turntables. I borrowed from a friend all the Strictly Rhythm records from the ‘90s, and that was my first experience with DJing. I was playing drums and I was ok with rhythms, and so it came quite easily. And then it grew due to a lot of things in parallel: I started working at Conne Island so I discovered lots of new kinds of music; I was working in a record shop for two or three years, and this gave me a good musical understanding, too. This was around 2000 or 2001, and later I met Sevensol, and we started DJing together as Manamana in 2007. DJing was just the natural result around all these musical other things—but I never really had an idea of it to do it as a job.
Can you remember your first DJ booking?
There was this time around working at the record store where a lot of stuff happened. Alex (Sevensol) and I were invited to a lot of off-space parties hosted by people from art school or other more non-clubby people. The combination and period of running the own parties, playing smaller illegal ones for friends and starting to get booked in local “real” clubs makes it impossible to remember the first “real” booking.
Looking back, is this the period when you really refined your skills as a DJ?
Probably, yes. I mean I never was DJing at home a lot. That never made sense for myself, but maybe that’s why I am not that super skilled kinda DJ. But playing drums helped my a lot to understand the structure of rhythms.
When you were working at Conne Island, were you DJing there frequently?
Not a lot, no. I started working voluntarily at Conne Island around 1997 and got this job around 2005 or 2006. Working there always means doing everything that is needed. I was cleaning post weekend toilets, booking concerts, setting up parties and also playing records regular in the club. It was a big honor and still the greatest in town to come back there and play. It is still the best place for me!
When did you start producing electronic music?
I think maybe in 2001 or 2002, around 15 years ago. Alongside DJing, I wanted to learn to make the music that I was playing, which was much different to what I was doing with the band. Sitting at home making music by myself was a big change; it was a big relief not having to compromise and depend on other people.
So you were producing for four or five years before your first release in 2009?
Yeh, I started producing first tracks in 2003 or 2004.
“But also inside the frame, it starts to get interesting if you find your own handwriting.”
Were you trying to replicate what you were listening to at Conne Island?
Yes, of course. I mean everyone who is producing started with getting in touch with dance music in clubs. The next step is trying to produce stuff like what you’re used to hearing and playing every weekend. Then you realize your opportunities and skills. It’s still always a mixture of impatience, euphoria, and reflecting what you actually do and what you want to do. I always hear in my productions afterward, “Ok, here I was pretty elated by a special track from someone else.” That’s the good and the bad in electronic music: it has a function and always lives from replicating and sampling. But also inside the frame, it starts to get interesting if you find your own handwriting.
“That’s what the label project KANN was for: it was a platform to release our own music, and nothing more.”
When your first record came out in 2009, you had been producing for some time. Was that the first time you felt satisfied with your sound?
No, it wasn’t even the first record I had produced. I had produced a lot before then. It was just a collection of some tracks that had been made over the earlier years. My more recent The Golden Age EP, on Giegling, actually included three tracks that were produced before the Carmela release. It’s all about what I told about Giegling and how they have this amazing sense of composing releases in the perfect light and time. No matter what year it was produced.
“I am pretty happy to be part-time adopted child of the [Giegling] family. For me, that’s the perfect role.”
You recently released on Giegling. How did your relationship with the label begin?
Giegling started the label around the same time as us. They actually started the label a few months later, and we knew each other from other parties. They came to Leipzig to talk to us, and to learn how we started the label—and we just told them that we had a bit of money and put out the first record. That’s how we got to know each other. Since that time we are constantly connected with parties music friendship and lively exchange. Konstantin always was asking for music. He was the only one at this time I was sending out tracks and finally, they collected this EP. I am pretty happy to be part-time adopted child of the family. For me, that’s the perfect role.
That period, 2007 to 2008, was a time when lots of other small DIY German labels popped up.
Yes. Alongside Giegling and Kann, there was a bunch of new wave D.I.Y deep house German labels that popped up. Smallville after DIAL, White, and some others. It was a very manageable time for that kind of label, that it was easy to get connected to and invite each other for parties. Looking back, we started KANN at a good time where everyone was helping out each other with pushing things ideas and visions forward.
It was around this time, too, in 2007, that you left the bands and focused only on electronic music. Is this when you recognized you wanted to do electronic music full time?
Yes, the bands split up around 2007 and 2008. I started producing my own stuff in 2003/2004, and then electronic music became more and more my focus. My attention shifted to club music.
“I feel like I am trying to do club music, but it often fails.”
It’s funny that you say “club” music. Do you feel that this is what you’re producing?
I feel like I am trying to do club music, but it often fails. If you listen to tracks like “Happy Birthday,” it’s more experimental or even poppy than just club music—and I think I am probably better at that. It’s always hard for me to play this music out in clubs; my live sets leave me feeling naked.
Do you miss making music with other people?
Yes. If you grow up with making music with bands then it’s a completely different way of thinking. There was a time when I was really tired of doing music with other people because you have to do compromises—and I wanted to make music according to my own decisions. But at the moment I feel like more and more making music with other people would be very good. But it takes time to come back.
Let’s now talk about the label, which you set up in 2007. Talk to me about the inspiration behind it.
Bender, Sevensol, and I had been thinking of setting up an own platform for about two years. The idea behind is quite simple: instead of reaching out for other label’s attention, we just started our own project for us three. We just built our own microcosm where we keep the freedom to release what we like. So the take off point was our all ambitions to produce own music and be able to release it. It’s a pretty simple concept.
Did you have a clear sound aesthetic in your head or was it just to release any music you produce?
It’s very open, but we are friends of house and techno—and we always said that we want to show a more personal take on the sub-genres. We try to release music that stays for more than just a spirit of the time period. I mean, we love to play all that more straight “functional” tracks. I guess our unspoken policy always was to stick on that typical sound with a very personal touch. KANN always wants to show the artists and all their facets aside the focus of just floor suitable tracks. I mean, we love to dig this kind of tracks but probably we are better in compiling records from artists, that needs to spread their souls. It’s always kind of pretty intimate vibe that triggers us. It’s always hard to explain as we did not speak about what we really wanted to do. It always just happens.
Do you accept demos?
We do accept demos, generally. But for a few years now we are not able to handle demos with enough care. But in the end every fitting music finds its way to us, I am sure. It’s funny because the way you receive demos shows you whether it is something for you or not. If you receive a lovely or funny or a non-standard music mail out, we automatically get interested. It is very consistent with our release policy.
You quit Conne Island in 2013. Why?
After many many years working there, I decided to quit that dream job in order to focus more on my own music, DJing, and the [Kann] label.
How this changed things? Are you in the studio more often?
I would like to be there more. I try to go every day—or every night, if I am honest. But I am not able to. It’s still hard for me to wake up the muse and my creativity. If I think too much about music then I struggle to make music; I think I am still having problems thinking about making music as a job. But I guess that is a common problem if your passion starts to pay your rent. It’s the best and the worst at the same time. When I was working at Conne Island, studio time was always quality time to switch off from exhausting show business. That has changed now and I am still battling with myself. But also I love to be lazy. It’s the best and a big human desire.
When you produce a track, do you send it out to select labels?
It’s like a request thing, right now. I receive a lot of requests, for remixes and tracks, but I am really bad at saying no. But honestly to be a big part of KANN and a smaller of Giegling is a very privileged situation. Both frequently ask for my music. So at the moment there is more demand than enough music to send out. Last year I did some remixes, which became the thing I started to like most. To start a remix, you have the initial idea there and some pre-existing audio files that can be deformed. I love remixing.
How did the Permanent Vacation release come about?
Benji from the label asked me if I wanted to submit a track to a more listening-focused compilation. I said “Yes.” And luckily the first track I sent convinced the guys. I am still pretty happy to be a part on that.
Do you spend a lot of time making music for the live set?
Not really. I am using mostly tracks that are already released or almost complete and finished tracks. The way I do it is via cutting parts — and I play it in a kind of a changing way. But I am not that jamming sort of guy. I spend the most time in the studio finishing things. I guess its all about keeping control during a “live” set and to be not loose enough to let it flow. It always depends on the way people are able to make music and how.
Is your studio setup hardware-based?
It’s a mixture of everything possible. I use an iPad, 808, some synths, software, YouTube, drums, instruments, samples. So I don’t really mind where sounds coming from; it’s a mixture of everything and I am really too impatient to try to understand all that possible machines and stuff. I wanna make music as fast as possible. There is always no desire for reading instructions or immerse into the tools. Sometimes I wish I could, but it’s fine to find your way.
Do you have intentions to produce another album?
Yes, I am currently working on it but I don’t wanna put too much pressure on it. It’s the same story. Always if there is a nice and prominent offer, I make it difficult for myself. For example many years ago there was this request for tracks from DJ Koze from Pampa on Myspace. He asked and I never sent out anything. This wasn’t about him or Pampa: it was only about my own inability to face the challenges.
So the creativity is something that comes and goes.
If you have to be creative for a bigger project then it has to be really special. Or you think it has to be quite special. It puts pressure on you. Yes, that’s a big problem but a good learning process and applicable to life, too.
The full-time job puts pressure on you.
Yes, but that’s the way for artists who start to earn money with the stuff they love.
Do you feel blocked right now?
Yeh, I do feel blocked quiet often, but I like to make peace with what I am more and more. If you wanna force yourself into something, it makes no sense in the end. I try to focus on things I think I can do best. Thats’ the only way to be happy and satisfied.