Adam X Goes Down The Wormhole

The New York-born, Berlin-based industrial techno figurehead details his Traversable Wormhole project

Marie Staggat

Back in 2009, a mysterious series of white labels took the techno world by storm, marked only with a stamp and the name Traversable Wormhole. Following months of speculation, it ultimately came to light that Brooklyn rave legend and Sonic Groove label boss Adam X was behind the project. Traversable Wormhole wasn’t in line with the industrial techno he was known for, yet the music clearly struck a chord and still stands as one of his most successful endeavors to date. Now, after several years of focusing on his work as Adam X and ADMX-71, he’s decided to revisit Traversable Wormhole for a new record on Vatican Shadow’s Hospital Productions label. In this excerpt from his interview with Shawn Reynaldo on RBMA Radio’s First Floor, they discuss the Traversable Wormhole project in depth.

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Why did you start the Traversable Wormhole project?

When I moved to Berlin, techno wasn’t really popular yet. The minimal, more tech-house thing was really big, but there weren’t many parties playing harder techno. In Berghain you had Marcel Dettmann, Ben Klock and Marcel Fengler who were playing proper techno, but they were actually playing a lot of older stuff because there wasn’t so much new music out at this time [suitable] for what they were playing. I thought that what I was doing under Adam X was probably too industrial at the time for the club – too EBM – and I wanted to do something that I think they would play there.

I had roots, of course, in the techno scene for years. Back in the ’90s, I was playing trippier acid techno at after-hours parties – but then here I am, in Berghain. I hadn’t been in a club like that in years. When I first moved over we didn’t have anything like that in the States, and normally if I got booked in Europe I was playing prime-time slots. I was never in venues at this time in the morning, so I wanted to make some music that I thought would fit with what they would play. I figured that if I put it out under Adam X the music would probably get overlooked – or, if you go to do something new, people are like, “What the hell is he doing now?” and you lose a fanbase.

Traversable Wormhole - Spacetime Symmetries

I saw a record in Rubadub in Scotland at the time, because I had a residency there, and there was a white label record called Seldom Felt that caught my attention. I was like, “That’s cool. I haven’t seen a white label with stamps since the ’90s.” That gave me the idea to do this white label thing. When I had enough tracks that I thought would capture some attention, I decided to put out at least three releases in a row in a two-month period. There wasn’t a lot of noise on the first one, but it started to really pick up on the second and then it blew up [with the third release]. That was the start of the project.

I was asked by my friend Finn that works at Hardwax, who was writing for Resident Advisor at the time, to do this feature called Playing Favorites. I knew I wanted to announce to the people that this Traversable Wormhole thing was me, I felt like the time was right, but I wanted to do it subtly. If the people read the feature, it’s not in a grand announcement. If they catch it, they pick up on it. That’s how we did it.

One of the bookers from Berghain hit me up on my Traversable Wormhole MySpace and asked me where they could book me, but I’m friends with the booker and they didn’t know it was me. I played it off and pushed them to a booking agent, but then they actually confirmed the booking. I had never played Berghain before. Later, I said to my friend, “I heard you booked Traversable Wormhole.” He’s like, “How do you know that?” I was like, “Well, it’s actually me.” His face dropped. It was perfect. It was exactly how I wanted to plan it.

Traversable Wormhole - Exotic Matter

How big is the role of science and science fiction in the project? The name Traversable Wormhole is a quantum physics term, I believe.

I’m into astronomy, physics and all this stuff – techno has always had that to me. It’s sci-fi music. I was reading about wormholes and I saw the name. I said, “What the hell is a traversable wormhole?” I’d never heard of something like this. I was like, “This is sick, this name is amazing.”

The last Traversable Wormhole record came out five years ago. Why resurrect the project now?

You know what it was? I got a little bit bored of getting booked to play live all the time. I was getting booked to play at Dutch festivals at peak time and I didn’t make this music for those kinds of venues. I really wanted to DJ more as Adam X, and I felt that there’s always been some of Traversable Wormhole in Adam X anyway – or even in ADMX-71.

I also wanted to do more industrial-based, slower stuff. One of the tracks was actually a sketch that I did years ago and then later reworked: the B-side track, “Semiclassical Gravity.” I felt it was the right time in between releases: I had the ADMX album last year on L.I.E.S, I’d done the Adam X album on Sonic Groove the year before, so I thought it was the right time to fit this in.

Can we expect more Traversable Wormhole music in the future?

As I’ve always said with a project, I never reveal what I’m going to do in the future with it. I think the project started out with mystique and I’d rather keep it that way because mystique is fun. That’s missing a lot in techno these days.

By Shawn Reynaldo on August 4, 2016

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