Although Berghain played a big role in bringing Andreas Baumecker and Sam Barker together, the music they make as Barker & Baumecker rarely adheres to the dark and driving techno the club is best known for. The pair’s 2012 debut album, Transsektoral, explored a variety of styles and sounds, ultimately winding up as one of that year’s most celebrated releases. Four years later, the duo has returned with a new LP, Turns. In this excerpt from their chat with Shawn Reynaldo for RBMA Radio’s First Floor, they discuss the new album’s genesis, the role of hardware in their music-making process and their thoughts on Berghain.
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Transsektoral was regarded as one of the best electronic albums of 2012. Since then, there have been a handful remixes, but not much in the way of new music. What have you been up to for the past three or four years?
I was working as booker for Panorama Bar and that took a lot of time out of my music life. I’ve also been playing DJ gigs, and to combine all of that was really, really difficult.
I’ve been working as a booker for an agency called LittleBig and running parties for the Leisure System label – the main reason is that we both do a lot of stuff outside of making music together.
Was there anything in particular that inspired you to start making your new album, Turns?
We’d been thinking about making a new album for a long time, actually.
We’ve kept making music since the last record [but] like you said, we got tied up doing remixes. We’d still go to the studio a couple of times a week and work on stuff, but there wasn’t a pressure to quickly follow up on the last record. We didn’t want to rush it, but at some point we realized that we had lots of new tracks and everything that we were making was coming out differently [from the release prior]. We ended up focusing on six tracks that we thought sat together pretty well and represented all the different stuff that we were doing.
The first idea that we had, and was manifesting through the year, was that we wanted to make an ambient album – which then, in the end, we decided to put beats on.
Yeah. Maybe we’ll make an ambient record, at some point.
A lot of the comments about the Barker & Baumecker project focus on how dedicated you are to hardware. Do you feel like this aspect of your collaboration is overblown?
I think it’s pretty accurate. We both like gear, but we’re not gear whores, really.
We’re not gear snobs. I think you can make great music with anything. When we started we were – at least for a large part of the arrangement and sequencing – working with a computer. The nature of the computer is that it’s a single operator machine.
There’s a behind the scenes struggle for us to find effective ways to work in real time together, and the best way we’ve found is to be working with hardware. One of us will be engrossed in the drum machine and the other will be working on a sequence and a synth. Our actions are synchronized towards this common goal. The main thing is for both of us to work on the same track at the same time.
There are lots of different ways to collaborate. Some people send files back and forth, some people have very specific jobs (in which one person does all of the programming, and another person does all of the sounds). We’re both doing everything.
The way that we work in the studio is an optimized, real-time collaboration system, rather than an analog snobbery. Actually, a lot of the studio is made up of the newer digital stuff. (There’s not much you can do with a 909 that hasn’t been done already, as fun as it is to play on.) We’re both excited about new sounds and trying to integrate them into something presentable.
Berghain has played a big role in both your lives and in this project in particular. After a few years of working together, does Berghain still factor into your creative process?
I think it does because when you go to the club often, you’re trying to analyze what the actual state of music is now, basically. There have been many times when we’ve both been bored of sets that were too repetitive or hardcore, and where the emotional content was not necessarily there. That’s what I miss in this kind of club music nowadays – the emotional side of things.
With any style of music that has strict rules, it’s very easy to look at the blueprint and make your own copy. That's not to say that there’s not some great techno being made – we’ve seen some great sets there – but I think that we’re both keen to know what comes next. Does this style of music crystallize and stay the same forever? I hope not.
Given the diversity of your output, what is it that you think ties the project together?
I listen to the parts that we’ve both put in. I’m most satisfied when there are parts from both of us that are kind of working together and supporting each other – when one input enhances the other.