Sunday, October 21, 2012


Kenny Dixon Jr. can fulminate for as long as he wants about white-boy soul: German producer Jackmate is the man to prove him wrong. RA's Bjørn Schaeffner goes to Stuttgart to dig for treasures.

Will 2009 be the year that burnt down the house? Signs of oversaturation hang in the club air like ill-foreboding stars in a prehistoric sky, with too many house-infected productions swamping dancefloors across the globe. Honestly: Who needs another maxed-to-the-effect-stomper in the guise of house? Strictly bongo rhythm till you drop? House, house and more fucking house?

For many producers reduced, raw and classic house tracks have become the be-all end-all. But while this is an increasingly trendy affair now, there aren't many artists who have been at this game as reliably as Stuttgart's long-running mainstay Michel Baumann, AKA Jackmate. As a DJ, Baumann mostly plays newer stuff that gives off a traditional house and techno vibe in his sets. "I love to include classic productions, but not in an orthodox way. When I hear a DJ who only plays house tracks produced before 93', I ask myself: is this guy playing in a museum?"

Baumann is dragging on his self-rolled cigarette. Friday night in Stuttgart city, five days to Christmas. The spacious rooms we find ourselves in are not only home to Baumann's extensive studio and band equipment, but to his bed, shower and kitchen as well. Living and working in an industrial building: Quite befitting for a producer from Germany's motor city. "Ha! The motor city. Sure, the automobile industry. But that's were the parallels between Stuttgart and Detroit stop. Stuttgart is a nice and tidy place to live, whereas Detroit is a ruin. And with the US automobile sector going to pieces now, the outlook for the city is bleaker still. When we tagged our first label compilation as Motorsoul, that was purely for nostalgic reasons."

In the '60s and '70s, the US army garrison in the city flooded the area with soul, funk and jazz. A great habitat for young Baumann: As a kid he absorbed the black music tradition to the bone. "My mother introduced me to psychedelic and soul when I was twelve, later I got into funk and rare groove, started to DJ with breakbeats and then hip-hop. And later, of course, I got hooked on house music from Chicago and New York. The early productions by Lil' Louis and Larry Heard did it for me."

The phone rings. It's Baumann's buddy Tobi Ettle. He wants to fax a signed contract for Baumann's upcoming gigs in Japan. Usually, Baumann is booked under his moniker Jackmate, which encompasses the trackier side of his DJ spectrum. A DJ set as Soulphiction, on the other hand, is potentially more open-minded: "People should be aware of who they book. It's quite annoying when I'm pestered every ten minutes I should play minimal. But sure, I can bang the night away at 115 BPM," says Baumann without a trace of irony in his voice.

While DJing is unsurprisingly Baumann's main source of income, his Philpot and Phil E labels fare well. Like many imprints, Baumann and Ettle have adopted the policy to launch digital downloads six weeks after the physical release. "Also, we're considering to stop offering MP3. With WAV-Files, at least you safeguard the artist's intention that his productions sounds the way it's intended to be and not something that's mutilated by an algorithm. This is our statement of appreciation for vinyl." Speaking of musical treasures pressed in plastic: The visitor's request to inspect Jackmate's vinyl collection is politely denied. "I'm afraid the room where I store my records is currently not in a state for a visit," explains Baumann.

Thankfully, Jackmate's selection of all time faves and current will shine a light through his musical cosmos anyway. "I hope my selection will interest the RA readers. Keep in mind that it's good music that counts in the first place, no matter what genre."