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It’s a long road that leads from the purchase of your first single in the mid-70s to establishing yourself as a respectEd Solo artist with gigs all over the world today. There were, of course, the first tentative steps – spinning funk and dance classics at house parties in the 80s. Bitten by the techno bug relatively early, Axel Bartsch spent his youth listening to the sounds of Soft Cell, Parliament Funkadelic and Depeche Mode. This led to promoting some of the biggest raves in North Germany in the 90s, introducing the sounds of Dave Clarke, Hell and Monika Kruse to thousands in eccentric venues like abandoned theatres and horse-racing tracks. After setting up his first record label with production partner Asem Shama, they formed the techno duo Vanguard. Their releases for venerated labels like Frisbee Tracks, Bush Records and Planet Of Drums were monuments in European techno. Having already experienced huge success with Vanguard, reaching the top of the German and UK single charts (thanks to a wildly successful bootleg on Virgin Records) innumerable live peformances from Wire Festival Japan to Mayday in Germany, Sao Paolo Fashion Week to VIVA Music Television, Axel completed his law studies in 2004 and was finally free to focus all of his efforts on music, and especially his increasingly sophisticated solo works.
This fresh application of time and energy landed him one side of the now classic Speicher 26, released on Kompakt’s prestigious Extra offshoot. ‘Galaxy’ was a growling, bass-driven bomb
and deservedly became an international smash, setting dancefloors alight. “I’d not had previous contact with the Kompakt guys,” Axel says, “But after all I’d read and heard, I got the feeling we had a lot in common, and that they’d like what I was doing.”
And like it they did! Commissioning another mighty Speicher production ‘Was Bleibt Ist Die Musik’ and acting as distributor for the newly minted Sportclub label, which Axel founded in 2005. Sportclub has provided Axel with another platform from which to release his own heady brand of modernist techno – releases like ‘Breakout’, ‘Thunk’ and the ‘Hola Guapa’ EP have ensured a steep rise in his popularity, and put his name on the lips of DJs, labels and tastemakers across the globe. Any doubt that Axel Bartsch had truly arrived was dispelled with the release of his ‘Light in the Dark’ maxi for Kompakt’s main imprint and the solo Speicher 41. “I produced ‘Light in the Dark’ with Kompakt in mind.” Axel tells us, “I guess it was meant to be, kind of eerie…”
With three albums in cooperation with Asem under his belt, it became time for his first solo album ‘Kiss’ which hit the scene on Cologne-based Karmarouge Records in June 2008 and takes him another step ahead, celebrated by almost all upfront DJs and dance music lovers in the techno circus. In 2009 Axel takes it easy in the studio, but nevertheless delivers remixes for Gui Boratto and Sian, two Sportclub EPs and a track for Berlin hot shot Upon You Records before returning with some huge releases in 2010: his debut with the Get Physical family ‘Gude Laune’, a collaboration with Jake The Rapper called ‘Blam & Flow’ including a massive remix by Thomas Schumacher, followed by the emotive deep house stunner ‘Daight’ on the rising Suol label, remixed by slo-mo kings Soul Clap, and the lovely ‘Adebar & Nobel’ EP on Ostwind Recordings.
In 2011 Axel Bartsch unveiled his most expressive and personal record to date, the highly anticipated sophomore album ‘Experiment Musik’! After more than twenty years behind the turntables, in these times of apparently unlimited possibilities, new production techniques and countless samples and loops, it was a matter of Axel‘s concern to take a step back and to limit himself, away from the stereotype clean computer production sound, and to try to conceive the music as an attempt… as an EXPERIMENT. On his second solo album Axel abstains from omnipresent bongo loops, native singing and white noise attacks and returns to the classic simplicity of drum machine and melody. Emotion! – that theme which runs through Axel’s work like a single common thread, giving Axel’s music a special warmth and distancing his tracks from the usual DJ tools. That’s why ‘Experiment Musik’ is not just a stringing together of dance tracks squeezed into the album format, but a real story, dexterously presenting many facets of EDM and grooves that are meant to be enjoyed in both clubland and at home.
So the road’s been long, sure, but Axel remains tireless – his fascination with music and clubbing keeps him happy and, luckily for us, productive. Wherever he is right now, whether tweaking away in the studio, gazing out the window of an airplane or maybe sweating his bollocks off after a 6-hour set at the Panorama Bar, you can rest assured: he’s doing it for music’s sake, and giving all he’s got to enchant and enthrall us with the sounds of the 21st century. Get behind him.