We catch up with the Bavarian techno don and Credo Records boss as he drops his first 12-inch for Cocoon Recordings
Born and raised in Bavaria, southern Germany, Alex Bau was ideally placed to witness that country's 90s techno explosion first-hand. After immersing himself in the sounds of Basic Channel, Tresor, Eye Q and Harthouse, he took up his first DJ residency at Libella in the small town of Altenmarkt in 1994, a position he would hold until 1998.
Bau made his production debut on Chris Liebing's CLR label in 2002, on a split EP called Good Fellas that also featured Sven Dedek and Kazu Kimura. He and Dedek would go on to work together off-and-on under the names Basic Implant and Electric Envoy (though Dedek also employed both monikers for solo productions), while under his own name Bau's productions have graced labels such as Zenit, Toneman and Default Recordings.
Since 2006, the bulk of Bau's work has come out on his own Credo Records, which is based in Munich. But he still pops up elsewhere from time to time, and his latest single Illuse sees him returning to Sven Väth's Cocoon Recordings, after making his debut on the label earlier this year when the track The Whip appeared on the P compilation.
You've been running Credo Records for the past 10 years. How would you describe the sound of the label, for those that aren't familiar with it already?
"It's always hard to describe sound in words. First of all it's techno, in a pure, energetic kind. I try to find and release tracks that carry a unique vibe and match with my vision of how classic approach to techno is transformed into a modern perspective. I'm looking for music with a perfect balance between unique ideas or sounds, and the sound of the production itself which has to be kind of 'organic' and not the typical standard elements and sound design we're all fed up with these days."
You don't stick exclusively to Credo, though. Why is it important to spread the music around different labels, and how do you decide if something belongs on Credo or if you should shop it elsewhere?
"I have to admit this is a very tricky question, but due to the fact that I try to limit myself to only a few labels beside Credo, I don't have to find an answer so often. Of course my productions for other labels are on the same quality level as I require for music on Credo, but sometimes you come up with tracks that simply don't fit 100% because of their overall feeling or because of the style.
"A good example is my latest release on Cocoon. I dare to say these two tracks are two of the strongest I ever created, but my stomach told me not to do them on Credo but maybe send them over to Cocoon as a follow-up, because maybe they could fit into Sven's techno sets during the winter season. Et voilà, here we go!"
?What upcoming releases on Credo should iDJ readers know about?
"A really big step for Credo is the album Vision by Klaudia Gawlas. It's coming out on 21 November and it's our first full-length album from an artist other than myself. It's different to release a full album compared to EPs or single releases, and I have to admit I wasn't sure about the idea at first, even though Klaudi had contributed music to Credo before. But when I heard the first demo I was knocked out! I didn't expect this kind of deepness and subtlety, as her name is very often related to peak-time techno, but she evolved artistically in a very impressive way.
"Another big step will be the credo.ten compilation in january, the 10-year anniversary compilation for the label including music by 10 regular artists on the label. But I also have to say that actually every single release is special for me, and treated with the same passion for detail and conception."
These aren't easy times for running a label... what have been some of the high and low points of those 10 years?
"What I would think of first is the beginning of 2016, when I decided to go digital-only. It was both at the same time - a high point and a low point. For me as a vinyl lover it wasn't easy to say "Okay, I'm done with vinyl," but you have to realise that the biz has changed. The music released on Credo is played digitally by 99%, so the few records being sold don't justify the immensely time-consuming process of releasing vinyl.
"I'm not saying we'll never release vinyl or CDs again - actually, we're doing a CD of Klaudi's album - but releasing mainly digitally has helped us keep a more constant flow of releases and therefore sharpen the image of the label and its music. As long as you don't make any compromises in terms of quality, there's no difference any more."
There's a quote on your website that says, "The whole party is like a movie, and while you're the main actors on the dancefloor, I'm just delivering the soundtrack." Would you like to expand on that idea? Do you feel the 'focus' has shifted these days too much from the crowd to the DJ?
"There was always a focus on the DJ, ever since the whole techno thing became so big in the early 90s. And that's okay. It's more about the way people see parties these days. The vibe and quality of the party is connected to the crowd and every single individual on the dancefloor. You can play the best tracks in the world, but if you don't have an open-minded crowd in front of you it's worth nothing.
"You could see it from another aspect: never ask what the party can do for you, but ask yourself what you can do for the party..."
The boundaries between house and techno seem to be as blurred, right now, as they've been since the earliest days in Chicago and Detroit. Thoughts on that?
"It's true that there's a big hype around the old school-sounding music from the very beginning, when there wasn't a strict separation and when it was normal that house tracks carried techno elements like 909 sounds etc. I think it's kind of logical, as all the young people who were born around the time this music was released discover its greatness and vibe, which for them is maybe new and fresh.
"But on the other hand, when it comes to the more modern music I'd say there's still a strict separation. While house becomes more and more commercial and even carries a pop appeal sometimes, techno became very rough and uncompromising again."
Finally, anything else iDJ readers need to know - about you, about upcoming gigs, about your philosophy, anything at all?
"The most important thing every reader should know is what you like and what you don't like. As an indivdual, it's your own decision what to listen and dance to, so I would never say "this is good and this is shit". If you love EDM, okay, fine with me. If you love house, fine with me. If you love metal or pop, hip-hop or salsa, fine with me. But don't expect me to play it or love it the same way you do. If you love true, pure techno, you'll be happy to meet me and my music on the dancefloor."
Words: Russell Deeks
Illuse is out now on Cocoon Recordings