Traum have long been one of my favourite German techno labels although I have to confess I’d pretty much forgotten about them recently. Maybe I put too much store in the blogger who told me that Traum had gone off the boil and it was all about Liebe*Detail these days. Or perhaps I was put off by that Dominik Eulberg album cover where he looked like Mike Flowers. Anyway, Traum’s anniversary compilation (ten years, one hundred releases) turned up this week and reminded me exactly why I’d fallen in love with the ecstatic, enveloping sound of Traum in the first place.
The CD features soaring new tracks from flagship Traum artists Minilogue and Gabriel Ananda, techno botanist Dominik Eulberg at his sensual best with a tune called ‘Es Klebt Noch Morgentau In Deinem Haar’ (rather marvellously translating as ‘There Is Still Morning Dew Sticking To Your Hair’) and a great, pulsing dynamo from a new name to me: Bukaddor & Fishbeck. Maybe Traum’s melodic, spongy, warm-hearted take on house on techno is out of favour now, I don’t really know—it’s not often enough you hear this kind of stuff played out anywhere these days, although Traum’s sister label Trapez does tend to take care of the harder material. Anyway, it’s rare enough to find a dance label celebrating its tenth anniversary with pride and identity intact, so I asked Traum’s eccentric proprietor Riley Reinhold how they’ve managed it.
Hi Riley, so what's the ethos behind Traum?
The ethos for us here at Traum in Cologne is to transport an alternative indie world of music and indie living and fuse it with an up-to-date philosophy of electronic dance music. Our philosophy is to create an artistic profile within the environment we live in. We also try to escape… always will. We try to do everything ourselves as much as possible and have as little done by external people. We try to stay in tune with the techno realism... and as it develops more and more into a movement without context, we try to create our own virtual world, and that without the computer – just by the music itself.
You’ve been going ten years now, but how did Traum first come into existence?
We set up our label in 1998 as a result of a key event in Buenos Aires where we played for the Goethe Institution – the institution for German culture in foreign countries. We realised there were good people in other countries doing similar music coming from a similar context. We fell victim to a bit of escapism and illusion and romanticism.
What were your original musical inspirations behind the label?
We liked the dimension which was remote from the common and ordinary within our city. Exotic but serious music. Originally we thought we can discover music and feelings which were not obvious to everyone. We thought we could reveal some secrets for people who wanted to understand.
How did you discover some of your key artists, such as Dominik Eulberg, Dinky and Minilogue?
Dominik is a close friend. He comes to our office once a week. We discovered him by accident in a record shop, where we thought he was a Swedish tourist. It was a very natural and human approach… very much untypical for techno people I guess. Dinky we met in New York… in the Drunkland, I think the bar was called… she was capturing spirits in a way no techno artist was doing at that time. Now I think she is DJing harder techno, whereas her music was feminine on our records and we liked that pretty much. Minilogue liked our music on Traum. I think the two of them are very artistic and they liked our risk-taking label philosophy.
Please tell us a dark secret about Dominik Eulberg...
He carries his own Schnapps in the pocket of his jacket and he nips tiny bits of it, so that his lips are just barely sealed with it... he does that the whole day. And he likes not only birds! [??!!]
When I went to Cologne it came across like a hardworking city with a great art and drinking scene, a bit like Manchester. Why do you think cerebral techno labels like Traum and Kompakt have taken root there?
Well, to speak about Cologne would mean to speak about the history of Cologne and to start with the war. The town was very much destroyed by Bomber Harris and it was rebuilt, basically. So in a way the town is a wild mixture of ‘50s and ‘70s. The town was famous for the intellectual side of music: jazz, dadaism, improvised music and conceptual art... Max Ernst, Stockhausen, Can... a town with more galleries than Paris... a town world famous for its art-trade. In this environment the beatnik movement has grown, the slacker type of people, the nagging people, the ‘I know better’ people, the top journalists in Germany... and very ordinary people from the countryside outside of Cologne raiding the city each weekend for the last 500 years.
So we are in the middle of farmers and art gallery owners and we tried to make techno parties in 1988 and we made fantastic things ten years before we even ventured to play our famous Electronische Musik in Buenos Aires. The locations and clubs are still post–jazz bars, in a way… We have not fully emancipated ourselves from this era. We still do not have enough techno clubs, but we have good clubs where you can see top DJs. Sadly sometimes I am a bit disillusioned when there is no-one that really blows my mind like in the early days of Cologne when we had ourselves involved in illegal parties with a super post-rock crowd... some of those people pop up 15 years later here at parties and talk about the early days when we introduced them to electronic dance music in industrial sites.
I think we are quite proud to be the first people in Cologne to do electronic music events. We did 72-hour parties here, we did joined parties with the electronic scene with Mouse On Mars, Schlammpeitziger, Felix Randomix, Pan Sonic... we did the first Pan Sonic show in Germany. We invited Underground Resistance, Patrick Pulsinger, DJ Pierre from Chicago... yes… he ripped open the earth… his towel could not take more sweat. Now the city has certainly changed a bit: more commercial attitudes, more MTV, more people who think reading about techno on the internet makes them techno souls. Well there is more to it…
What else is there to do in Cologne? I was there during the World Cup and we watched football in a gay bar and rode around on the trams while drunk old men sang and waved sausages at us.
Well, you can be kicked to death during Karneval by brutal clowns or you can be shot while eating a sausage at the Mayor Street. I personally think the river Rhein is the most influential force in the city and I cannot really imagine leaving this town.
Sounds dangerous. What else is coming up for Traum in the near future that you are excited about?
We have a world famous artist working undercover for us. We have an artist called The Bleeding Hand, who cut off his hand and replaced it with a synthesiser in the ‘80s... we have Dominik Eulberg doing an acid record of a very strange kind… we will see Airbus Modular making their career and becoming world famous, hopefully... Extrawelt are recording an 12” for us they said... Gabriel Ananda is doing a record for us… there are a lot of things where we set the course and see what happens… We have an instinct for talents.