MEOKO Exclusive: A Deep Insight into Traffic Records w/ Martyné & Mix
- Published on Wednesday, 13 December 2017 14:52
10 AM at an afterparty, and through the misty haze and your friends’ chatter, you can hear the twinkling arps of “Mahoney” rising. Or maybe you’re at a festival’s peak time, and it is “Frischfisch” that sends the crowd into a frenzy. Other places, other tracks, but what’s for sure is that Traffic tunes have been ubiquitous in the past year. Your favourite DJs probably played them, and it’s likely their favourite DJs did too.
Traffic records formed back in 2013 in the Frankfurt/Offenbach area — a region that evokes an important financial center to many, but which to dance music fans brings to mind some of house’s and techno’s household names. From Sven Väth to Robert Johnson, by way of Perlon, Playhouse, Roman Flügel and countless others, this city breathes electronic music like no other, in a very free-spirited way — and you can tell the Traffic boys did soak in its air. Technoid beats, alien sounds, synthetic textures. Few live up to the old techno ideal of machine funk the way Traffic does. In spirit at least, they’re proper members of the Midnight Funk Association. Even their graphics resemble strange textures, evoking the swirl of perception your dazed brain cannot process on a night out. Hell, this logo sure reminds me of my blurry-sighted intoxicated self, happily caught in the strobes and lost in the sound.
Martyné is one of the crew’s founders, and it’s little to say we’re excited he agreed to do an interview with us. In it, he frequently stresses the idea of crossing borders, of overcoming limits. Martyné knows his dance music history. He’s part of a generation of DJs who seem to have an unquenchable thirst for the most obscure records, those that will live on in the dancers’ memory long after the night is over, and be jealously guarded in the coveted shadows of the DJ’s bag. This passion for dance music’s legacy and their open-mindedness to cross-fertilization means the Traffic sound is a mixed bag of influences that exceeds their sum.
This also means that it’s a sound hard to pinpoint. House, garage, breaks, techno, electro? All of those, and more? Really what binds together the label’s tracks is more akin to a spirit than a music genre: at its heart is an inherent playfulness — a deeply infectious playfulness that explains the label’s success. As Martyné explains, this is the product of a close group of friends who grew up together, shared their first parties and ended up making tunes together. You could dissect these tunes for sure, study their use of drums and steal their synths. Yet the inimitable ingredient is this close bond that allows Martyné, Bodin, Jacob and the others to let go and capture the essence of a session — you may call it a feeling, or an aura, but this surely is what makes these sounds click.
At the end of the day, this is a group of friends having a bloody good time together, and you can hear it. This has clearly been there since day one. But as they mastered their gear, the mixture became deadly; a sound-transmissible virus aiming straight for your eardrums — to be fair, you’ve probably already caught it. This virus is very much present in the exclusive mix Martyné came up with for us: sprinkled with some unreleased tracks from the crew, it features breezy house, queasy bleeps, and a bunch of basslines designed to tear up dancefloors. Careful, it ain’t no cure — but why’d you want one?
MEOKO caught up with Martyné to hear about his and Traffic’s journey — a journey that took them from the Rhine banks to the breezy shores of Ibiza and saw them come up with a unique sound. Press play, and read on.
1- Who are the main characters running Traffic right now and what ́s your relationship? Apparently you and Jacob grew up in the same village...
The inner circle of Traffic Records consists of Bodin, Jacob, Patrick and me. We are the main characters and producers, running the label and managing everything linked to it. Jacob ́s brother Julian Chenaux is also co founder, belongs to the collective and is a very close friend. I know the Chenaux ́s and Patrick since the age of 15. We all grew up in a small town in the countryside next to Frankfurt where we had our first beer together and also our first party experience. So it ́s quite a long term friendship. In 2010 we met Bodin at a party. He was playing one of my first records and was hardly into it. So he is actually the only one of the collective coming straight out of Frankfurt and was more or less the last piece of our Traffic puzzle.
2- What led you guys to launch Traffic? Did you have a specific idea in mind about what the label should be, or was it a case of “let’s see what happens”?
The intention was to create a platform for our own creativity. Releasing several EPs on different labels is important for an artist but you always give away a small part of yourself. An own label is the best way to express your own identification or personality with different emotions and to show the specific style of likeminded musicians. Its a kind of a white sheet of paper giving you the opportunity to draw your personal picture and write down your own story. All our productions are reflecting exactly these inspirations and moods. Starting with more reduced sound, over garage, house till raw techno and breaks. Its a very personal journey showing a lot of different faces.
3- Do you feel like now you’ve reached a distinctive sound with Traffic?
After almost 5 years you can say the label is a cross-section of electronic music with the fingerprints of each of us. Coming from euphoric impressions down to sentimental, hypnotic grooves - you can feel and hear everything in our productions. This personal touch is very important for us and a kind of a trade mark not to sink in any hype. It ́s representing the development of our musical consciousness. Traffic Records is not focusing on a specific genre. It´s more about the variety of sounds. It really feels conclusive to me. Due to the fact that there are only some protagonists and key producers, the label got its own identity really quick. The releases by A2, Z@P and Edward were carefully selected to deliver even more variety. But all in all the label still keeps up the main spirit and it ́s identity. So I can say we reached a level where we can look back with no regret and we can be happy with our discography so far.
4- Traffic feels very much like a family affair between a close group of friends, what’s the spirit behind the label?
The spirit behind the label is based on friendship. We grew up together, shared big nights, experienced great sets and therefore we are on a very similar level when it comes to music. Everyone of us is following the same idea and is bringing in his strengths. Hate or jealousy are loanwords so we ́re able to create things with a free mind.
5- Frankfurt and Offenbach have got quite a legacy in terms of electronic music, how do you relate to the city’s old guard? Were some of them a big inspiration for you?
Yes, definitely! The former Freebase Records shop for instance was my very first base to explore electronic music. It was one of the places where I met many of my current friends and learned about the Frankfurt scene. Carsten Schuchmann aka MEAT (owner of Freebase Records) gave me the first opportunity to play at Robert Johnson, a very important experience for me back then. Another important spot was the Cocoon club where we started our first raves, listened to Sven and other big names. A lot of characters from the old guard and places from the past still have an influence on today ́s generation. Actually there are too many to mention right now but I would like to highlight Heiko MSO. Once I did an interview with him for my studies where he told me all stories about "Snap!", the development of "I ́ve got the power" or stories about fundamental movements of this city. It was really impressive and showed me how that kind of music stands for the area in and around Frankfurt. Many people connect Frankfurt with big banks and the stock exchance but in fact the most important cultural identification is its steady contribution to electronic music.
6- I know Robert Johnson played an important role in shaping you and the label, what’s so special about the club? Do you have any memories associated with it that stick out?
Robert Johnson is limitless and places with no limits are a rare good in this world. Artists are able to break through their comfort zone and to experiment with different kinds of styles. There is no need for steady floor bangers to keep people dancing. The venue represents a level of openness which I ́ve never felt in a club before. Robert Johnson is my personal school of sound and when it comes to producing music I always have it ́s floor in my mind. I don't know how many hours I spent there, but this club has had an big impact on my musical education. The experiences I ́ve made there are helping me to know what sound suits me and how my productions have to be finalized. When it comes to a specific, influential night I really can't figure it out, because we had so many of them. The crowd there is really into the music and together with all our friends every night is a special one.
7- What does a Traffic night at Robert Johnson sound like? I’d imagine it’s always special for you to play there.
Since the very first Traffic showcase at Robert Johnson in 2015 it ́s usual that we invite a guest who is close to the sound and idea of the label. We had artists like Binh, Onur Özer, Andrew James Gustav or Etienne in the past. At the moment we are planning to host different live acts when it comes to the next edition of Traffic at Robert Johnson. All these artists are likeminded in terms of our definition of musical quality and we ́re always happy to play alongside with them at our favorite club. It ́s very important for our development to have a residency in a well respected club and to gather experiences and increase our skills. From the proper sound system to the professional team on site - the whole package let you feel good and it ́s a great to have our label nights in such good hands.
8- I feel like release after release your sound has become leaner, crisper — more focused in a sense. Do you have a clearer idea of what you’re looking for when going to the studio, and do you feel more confident production-wise?
We never have a specific idea when we ́re in the studio. Most of our output is driven by inspirations, moods and emotions. So it ́s difficult to compare one session with another; but during the last years we ́ve been getting more and more experienced with our gears and the way of how to arrange all these different inspirations in our tracks. The beginning of Traffic around 2013 was also the beginning of our work with machines and hardware. So for sure we needed time to gain experience with it. In the past we always had the feeling the track needs more fullness and elements, but with every year we reduced this thought and this leads us to a cleaned up arrangement of sounds. With every track we come closer to the ability to recreate our imagination in a track and this is what its all about for me. Get away from "Try and Error" to a focused. clear view on producing music.
9- Many of the tracks on Traffic tend to be collaborations between you guys, how do you usually proceed? What does each of you bring to the table? What’s the atmosphere like when you’re all in the studio, behind the scenes?
These collaborations are an important factor and also a kind of a unique feature. The inspirations and influences of two guys are always more versatile and are leading us to better results. We share a special energy in company linked to a higher level of quality. It´s easier to cross borders together especially with someone you know for so long. It keeps your mind free and open for any impressions. When someone stucks the other one will always have an idea of how to proceed. All these components give us the possibility to work on a fast and focused level.
However, when I produce by myself it takes me longer to get lead just by my feelings and to reach a thoughtless state of mind. Therefore I need to do longer sessions to make sure to reach my personal intuitive flow. The differences in terms of the output itself aren ́t that big due to the fact that Bodin, Jacob and me are all on a similar level. Producing alone is an introvert way of working for me. It ́s also the time for me to come down a bit.
10- To me it felt like the label broke through big last year, and around the same time you really seemed to establish a distinctive aesthetic, did you feel any pressure following up and keeping things interesting?
No I don't feel any pressure to keep things interesting. We have a steady development in our studio work and never have the feeling that we reached a point of stagnation or boredum. Specific hypes doesn ́t affect us and we always stay real to our style and the people around us. That ́s what people feel when they listen to our music. You can feel the energy and situations we shared in that very moment when the track was created. With this attitude and behaviour in mind your music never get an expire date .
11- I know you’re on the Cocoon roster now, what did it change for you?
Cocoon, especially our booker Gregor, did a very good job in the last year. We played in well known clubs across Europe which brought us to another level. You can feel their long experience in the business and they have a sensible, professional way to handle our bookings and everything around. We are grateful to be in a roster of such an agency following their goals since 20 years now. Many important protagonists of our scene are related to Cocoon and have been part of their agency over the last two decades. Now we can bring in our part and we are curious about the plans for 2018.
12- You also played in Ibiza for the first time for a b2b with Bodin&Jacob at Amnesia, how was that? Were there any moments you wondered what the hell is going on?
It was definitely one of our highlights in 2017. We played the warm-up slot before Sonja Moonear and Ricardo Villalobos on the terrace. I cannot imagine a better way to make your debut at Amnesia. I ́ve been already there as a guest and its pretty impressive to go through this venue. It ́s a kind of an aim of life for many artists to play there and we had the opportunity to reach it. It was a proper night with a great line-up on both floors. Everything went very well and I ́m still impressed by the sound system and the atmosphere of Amnesia. A massive night and we had a lot of fun. Of course we hope to be back in 2018.
13- Were there any other highlights in this busy year, for you or Traffic?
Apart from Amnesia we were really happy about our first appearances at Concrete Paris. It was in March when Brice invited all of us to play the whole night on the wooden floor. In September Bodin and me returned for a Most Wanted showcase. Concrete really belongs to our favourites now. Another gig to highlight was our Traffic showcase at the famous Goa Club in Rome in October. It ́s a super nice venue and the Nozoo team did a great job to make our label showcase a real blast. Also our showcases at Robert Johnson in March and August have to be mentioned and we ́re really grateful to host a third date now in December. Apart from the dates together with Bodin and Jacob, I played my first gig alongside Sven Väth in Antwerp. It was a Cocoon showcase where I warmed up for him and took over for the final shift. That was really heavy and intense but it worked out pretty well. A very positive feeling and of course a night to remember. In general I have to say the whole year was a highlight. I really can't complain.
14- Whether in Ibiza or at a confidential afterhour, do you have a routine when preparing a set?
No, there is no specific routine. Of course it depends on my playtime but in general I just pick the records I like the most. I don't have a specific way of playing either. My aim is to absorb the mood of the crowd and to play with it in the most positive way. Every venue and crowd is different and when you know how to catch the mood you can act or react quite flexible. A good night for me is mainly based on the wordless communication between the artist and the crowd. If you have the sensibility to connect to that you can't pick wrong. Of course, sometimes that connection can be disturbed but there is no preparation for this case.
15- How important is the pacing of a night, from the warm-up set to the late-hours? Are you more of a peak-time sort of guy or do you revel in those hazy hours?
I feel quite comfortable in the early morning hours, this is my favorite time to play. People are getting focused on the music, they had their talks and met their friends and then its the time for the floor. It ́s a very thankful time and you get back what you give to them. You can bring some bangers or try to lead to a more mind based sound. It depends on you but in these hours the variety and the spectrum you can serve is not comparable to the main time or the warm up. But for sure also the main set is one of my favorites, I love to play out bangers and this is also characteristic for our sets.
16- With all the hype around the kind of sounds you’re pushing, aren’t you afraid it ends up becoming too formulaic? How do you keep things fresh?
I don't have a plan to keep my stuff fresh. A hype can be over in a second, so you should not concentrate on it. This whole movement creates a platform for a lot of amazing artists who are spreading their sound now. So to keep things fresh you just need to focus on your ears and listen. At the moment there is so much great output like I didn't hear for years now. A musical hype always ends when there is no variety anymore. It ends when everybody is jumping on that train and the market is flooded with similar, copied music and the loss of creativity. For sure this will happen somehow. You ́ve to keep a constant state of quality, don ́t get lazy and dig deep to keep things fresh.
17- Do you feel like the obsession with obscure records leads to some kind of exhaustion, or does the competition sort of pushes you to dig even deeper? Is it all about Discogs these days for you?
For me its the only thing which continously pushes me. I never get bored to search through this limitless amount of music. It ́s a task for your life and the feeling when you find great records is not comparable. In my opinion showing unknown, flashing music to the audience is the one of the most important parts of a dj. I get bored very fast as a listener so I always need some new impressions to keep on going. For example, I heard Nicolas Lutz and Binh recently at Hoppetosse and I danced the whole night. Djs like them are giving me the motivation and impressions to continue my game. So for me it ́s all about obscure, rare records. I don ́t criticize anyone who has a another opinion about it but I can't find my pleasure in another, more generic sound.
18- Do you play exclusively vinyl? How important to you is it as a medium?
Vinyl is my focus but I don't play it exclusively. For our own unreleased productions and the music of our friends we use USB. Furthermore there aren ́t so many venues focusing on this medium so you have to be prepared when it comes to problems with the turntables. But I have to say that our agency has a focus on artists playing vinyl. So the promoters are mostly aware to optimize the setup as far as possible to play records.
19- Is there any scene or genre that you’re particularly obsessed with in terms of digging right now?
Being focused on just one genre is not my style. I just go through a collection and pick what I like. I like listening to bleepy techno and electro but I also enjoy great house tunes. It ́s really difficult to figure out a specific genre which I listen to mostly. Sticking to a specific sound is boring for me. We can look back on such a long history and variety of music so why build up borders to yourself?
20- Speaking of digging, this is how you ended up releasing A²’s new material and contributing to put them back on the limelight, right?
Yes, that ́s right. First we found their records and we were really impressed. Then we started working on the EP. It ́s cool to work together with the older generation of producers. They have their own view on music and we learn a lot from their experiences. In general I feel another energy when I listen to old tapes and recordings. The aesthetic of these old tracks tells another story than the music from today. But the combination of impressions from today and the past is what keeps the music always interesting in my eyes.
21- Are there any other forgotten producers that were instrumental in shaping your sound, and that you might want to release as well?
We have no specific plan to release another artist from the past but we are always open for that. There are many artists out there who shaped our sound from today. A² is a great example.
22- On the other hand, one of Traffic’s most recent releases was by Z@P, how did that connection happen? Do you intend to welcome other producers to the Traffic family?
Z@P catched our attention when Vera played his Melliflow release at Robert Johnson. We asked her for the track id and the day after we connected us with him. He is a very cool guy and right from the beginning there was a friendly relation between us. After sharing some tracks we asked him if he is up for a release and he agreed. The tracks fit perfect and we are really happy with that release. Sadly we havent met him so far but we are working on it in 2018. We gonna try to get him over to our label nights. I really like the people I met from Montevideo. It feels like they are sharing the same idea like we do in Frankfurt/Offenbach. It was just a logical result to connect these two cities with this release. Of course we´ll welcome other producers to the Traffic family sooner or later. But right know I cannot mention any names.
23- You’ve been associated with a strong scene of labels (Pager, HardWorkSoftDrink, etc) achieving similar recognition lately, but are there any up and coming crews and artists from the Frankfurt/Offenbach area you’d like to shed some light on?
We have a lot of groups in Offenbach/Frankfurt and all of them are doing great in their own style. There is the crew around Orson Wells with more rough electro and the guys of Hotel International who are doing great parties in our area. Talking about the younger generation there are talented guys like Tom Ries and Robin Stern. They are doing a great job with their productions. In general there is always a development going on here and it is important to always have an eye on it.
24- The label’s already turning five next year, are you planning on celebrating in any way? More generally what’s in the works for Traffic? Any upcoming releases and gigs for you?
There will definitely be a proper rave to celebrate our 5th anniversary. We are going to start working on it very soon so keep your eyes and ears open :) Furthermore we´ve planned our first solo EP´s on Traffic Records. This is quite a premiere and we ´re really looking forward to it. Another highlight production-wise will be the EP on our close friends label Pressure Traxx. All three of us contributed here and it´s gonna be released at the beginning of 2018. Finally we are going to launch a new label which is related to our afterhour project called „Not on Earth“. 2017 will be closed with two label showcases. The first one at Robert Johnson together with Dopplereffekt LIVE and the second one at White Noise in Stuttgart. I´ll also play at RED58 together with Dana Ruh right before Christmas. All in all we want to take up that drive from 2017 and continue with it in the new year. There is still a lot to do and we´re are really looking forward to it!
25- Finally, can you talk a little about this mix you did for MEOKO? Was there an idea to it or did you just go with the flow?
I chose some nice house stuff and unreleased Traffic tunes for the mix. Hear it upfront the night, fits very good ;)