SKANFROM :: Back from the Blip-Bleep Brink (Interview & Mix)

Igloo Magazine has been lucky enough not only to ask the German producer some questions but are delighted to bring to your ears a very special mix of “some old favorites” by Semsroth himself. Interview by Robbie Geoghegan.

With Roger Semsroth, aka Sleeparchive, having just released his first Skanfrom album for more than a decade, Postcards on Suction Records, it seemed like an excellent opportunity to pick the brains of this seasoned synthesist. Igloo Magazine has been lucky enough not only to ask the German producer some questions but are delighted to bring to your ears a very special mix of “some old favorites” by Semsroth himself. This is a lovingly prepared walk down memory lane. Artists who characterized a warm and wholesome electronic sound, a sound which was very short-lived and only explored by a handful of names. A privilege and a pleasure.

Roger, can you give us a bit of background. Where are you from? Where are you living?

I was born and I still live in Berlin. For a short time I lived near Dusseldorf, but not because I wanted to be closer to Kraftwerk :) …Dusseldorf is not really a nice place. Berlin is also not nice but because it’s my hometown it’s okay to live here.

You have a very impressive back catalog of music; did you grow up in a musical family?

No. my dad liked to paint in his free time but that’s it. I am also not very musical. I never learned how to play an instrument or how to arrange music.

Now, Postcards has just been released. Why did you decide to shelve your Skanfrom project?

In 2001/2002 I was a bit tired of the “normal” Skanfrom sound. I tried to make something different a bit more IDM’ish. I hoped Jason (Solvent / Suction Records) would like to release some of it but he was not so much into those songs so they never made it on a 12″. At the same time I got a computer and some software. This was the time when I started to record other music. One of the things I tried to do was more Mika Vanio inspired music. The result was Sleeparchive in 2003 and I had so much fun doing it that I stopped doing anything else for the next 5 or 6 years.

Is Postcards made up of new material or older pieces, or a mix of both? With this, why did you decide to release the album, some five years since the last Skanfrom 7”?

All songs on Postcards were recorded between 2009 and 2013. It was not me who decided to release this as an album. Luckily Jason asked me to release them on Suction records. I’m very frustrated when it comes to releasing music. I would never release them by myself. I would put them maybe on Bandcamp for a little while and that’s it.

You’ve always been very productive, under your various pseudonyms. Can you tell us what brought you to making Techno as Sleeparchive?

Since I heard early Sähkö and Panasonic I always wanted to do music like this. Or every time I played this music I thought I would like to find out how to make that. I have a very little studio and with the instruments I had I was not able to make this kind of music. This changed with a new computer I got in 2003. When I recorded the first things that would become Sleeparchive it was not meant to be techno. I just wanted to make music I liked in the same mood as Mika Vainio or Plastikman. When the first 12“as Sleeparchive was released in May 2004 I have never been to a techno club. Techno was people in terrible clothes on drugs with glowsticks and the clubs had bouncers and 99% of the people never heard any track they danced to for 20 hours.

You worked with Uwe Marx as Bakterielle Infektion, which have now sadly disbanded. Could you tell us about your work together? And what are you feelings about the resurgence of Synth Wave?

I don’t follow minimal synth these days that much. Most of the new bands are not for me. But this is only because my taste has changed not that the music is bad. Sometimes I miss fantastic releases. Just last week I found out that Walhalla records released an Asmodaeus album. I REALLY NEED THAT !!!. I also found out that Inter City Static have some songs on a vinyl on Demand box set. The work with B.I. was like this: I made instrumental songs and Uwe later sang over the songs he liked.

A.D.S.R. was your label. Can you tell us about when and why you started it up, and why you decided to ultimately close the label?

I started the label to release the first Skanfrom 7“ in 1998 and I closed A.D.S.R. because I stopped recording as Skanfrom and there was not much music by other people I wanted to release.

In 2009 you returned as Skanfrom on The All Clear, as well as releasing on there as Civil Defence Project and Government Bookshops. Why did you choose to set up a new platform for these projects?

When I did the Civil Defense Programme 7” it just did not feel like an A.D.S.R. release to me. The “All-Clear” I started in a time when I was frustrated from the techno scene and just wanted to do something new. I hoped I could run the label just from home and sell the releases via the internet from my living room + a little help from Genetic Music. It did not work out… :)

I remember in a run out groove of an A.D.S.R. record the name Bochum Welt was etched, scratched out and replaced with Skanfrom. Have you ever tried to work with Gianluigi Di Costanzo?

I never met him and the music he makes the last 10 years is not for me anymore. This Bochum Welt etching was just for fun because everyone was making jokes about me ripping of Bochum Welt.

What sort of equipment are you using these days? Is your studio set up very different for each of your aliases?

I do not have a lot of equipment. I have a KR-55 and an SH-101. Back in the days I also used an SY-55 and for Skanfrom and B.I. I also used an MC-303. The SY-55 I sold 15 years ago and the MC-303 is broken but still has her place in a shelf covered with dust. All songs on the Skanfrom release are made with the SH-101 and on 3 songs I used the KR-55 for the rhythm.

What does the future hold for you? What’s next?

I still have some unreleased Skanfrom songs and I do lots of remixes with Sleeparchive at the moment. I also do a new 12“as Sleeparchive. The record will be distributed by Genetic Music. And since not all tracks are for the dancefloor I will do only 300 copies. At the moment I really LOVE to play live with Sleeparchive. I have tons of loops and snippets I combine when I play live. I never play finished tracks anymore and every time it sounds a bit different.

What are you feelings on modern electronic music? What artists and labels are you into at the moment?

I really like Stanislav Tolkachev’s music. Ancient Methods is also fantastic. From many other artists I like one or two tracks but not the whole catalog. I’m really into loopy hard techno at the moment and most of the time I play 20-year old techno.

Download this mix! (Right click and ‘Save link as…’)

SKANFROM :: Igloo Mix 2014
01. e*vax :: “Clear Red Water”
02. Solvent :: “Well You Needn’t”
03. CiM :: “Robot Valley”
04. Vesna :: “Aesde”
05. Aemic :: “03”
06. Bauri :: “Teddymix”
07. Novel 23 :: “Blink Run Away to East”
08. Abfahrt Hinwill :: “Syntax Data”
09. Brothomstates :: “Jak Got Stuck In Canada and this Sounds Like”
10. Gique :: “Device Rider”
11. Novel 23 :: “The Gateway From Fairy-Tale (Ambidextrous Remix)”
12. Muziq :: “Hasty Boom Alert”
13. Tim Tetlow :: “Mind Is Moving”
14. The Monsters From ID :: “Bingo”
15. Lowfish :: “Glass & Spider”

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