It felt a bit like being a kid on Christmas morning. During a recent visit at a garage sale in Berlin-Kreuzberg I stumbled upon an original version of FLEETWOOD MAC‘s 1987 album Tango In The Night. After more or less successful bargaining I managed to get hold of the copy for a little more than 5 Euro. It wasn’t in the best condition and when I played it at home it turned out to be filled with cracks but … well, it’s mine and it’s an original and musical masterpiece from a different era of pop. When I stumbled upon the box of vinyls on this Saturday I wasn’t looking for any contemporary releases, I was fascinated by classics; old soul recordings and a rare TALK TALK 12-Inch remix single which I almost ended up buying.
It might be this love for the past and the increased relevance of taking it to the present I’m sharing with Marcus Liesenfeld. Pop music’s history is packed with so many treasures that the majority of the public forgot about and it’s Liesenfeld’s mission to find them. For two years now the man who goes under the moniker DJ SUPERMARKT is hosting a successful party series in Berlin that goes by the name Too Slow To Disco. The events support his ongoing sampler series by the same name. A third edition called The Ladies Of Too Slow To Disco has just been released via City Slang and once again pop nerd Liesenfeld carefully compiled forgotten soft rock, yacht pop and soul classics from the 70s. His samplers spread a romantic feeling of West Coast nostalgia that more and more also attracts a new generation.
‘You can definitely sense a change in how the music is received during those nights,’ explains Liesenfeld when I met him for a coffee break in his neighbourhood in Berlin. ‘Now, 22-two year old kids know who FLEETWOOD MAC is and they celebrate it as a hit single,’ he states, explaining the increasing interest in his Too Slow To Disco concept which recently made its first visit to New York City.
‘The sampler came first and the party later. A friend from the label knew the guy who was running the Monarch club in Berlin and this gentleman was a huge fan of the sampler. So, one thing came to another when we were looking for a venue for the record release party. It worked so well that we started doing it on a monthly basis.’
‘Deep House is the death of interesting music’
When I attended the party last month it was packed with good vibes and quite a lot of young people which is unsual for this sort of sound. DJ SUPERMARKT isn’t interested in doing an ‘oldie show’ as he calls it. He plays club-based edits of the classics which marks the main difference for him. ‘I always played club music with a pop appeal,’ he tells me, ‘It just changes from time to time but I’m pretty much doing this since 1995.’ Aside from that there’s not such a big concept behind it as Liesenfeld is pretty bad when it comes to these as he explains to me with a big smile. ‘The start of the night is smooth and then it gets faster. That’s all I’m doing.’ He laughs in the most relaxing way you can imagine. Markus Liesenfeld is riding on a winning streak; the sound his compilations represent is timeless. And now that dance culture is desperately looking for new impulses his mission is more important than ever.
‘Whenever there’s a phase in club culture when people run out of ideas, it automatically results in the rise of house music. It’s the sort of music with the least amount of danger, something you can bring everytime without harming the audience. It’s stagnancy. Before and after it there’s good music but this period is quite painful.’
No, DJ SUPERMARKT isn’t a fan of house music; deep house especially. He attended those events far too often and seen too much hypes come and go to even get excited about it. ‘Deep house is the death of interesting music,’ he tells me vigorously, ‘It’s the attempt to not piss off everybody.’ For Liesenfeld dance music is about a certain soul and edgy element, something that is exciting. It doesn’t necessarily have to be his soulful disco edits as he was also a fan of minimal techno and the whole French house movement. ‘You need DJ’s who are risky and who know how to raise excitement,’ he confesses and that clearly is the biggest problem the scene is facing these days.
‘DJ’s shouldn’t waste time on thinking about their techniques and how they play their music but should rather educate themselves in the field of dance music. Those people just limit themselves.’
And that also caused the founding of the Too Slow To Disco series. ‘It’s the music all DJs listen to on the next day,’ Markus Liesenfeld explains with a smile. ‘It’s the hangover soundtrack to get your head straight again.’ From THE DOOBIE BROTHERS to NITEFLYTE, from CHICAGO to the already mentioned FLEETWOOD MAC (although he’s clearly more a Rumours fan than a Tango In The Night one): that’s the music he’s aiming for and modern technology makes it easier than ever to discover all those beauties. According to the party host there is ‘a big relevance of that sound today’ as artists like ROOSEVELT or BREAKBOT showcase. That’s why he usually plays a 50/50 mixture of old and new stuff at the Monarch. Soundcloud, YouTube or Hearthis.at (the ‘new Soundcloud’) are his sources even if the legal situation is quite confusing these days, especially on Soundcloud. ‘It’s kind of strange which songs get erased and which ones not,’ he explains while also adding: ‘My mixtapes are very important to get people on board.’ The whole legal trouble on Soundcloud is something that really bothers the DJ.
‘Once again, the major labels managed to screw it all up. They should’ve come up with a system that tracks every song on the internet, whether it’s Soundcloud or YouTube. And then they give those artists money whenever their music is streamed somewhere. You should encourage the sharing and not criminalize the people who spread the art. Those old record industry heavyweights just don’t want to lose any of their precious money, I think.’
Treasure hunting through pop music’s history
This problem gets even more ironic as Lisenfeld is doing a lot of licensing for these old tracks these days and actually help the Major Labels by doing so. ‘They usually don’t know most of the songs we’re putting on those samplers,’ he says with a smile. But right after it, he’s getting pretty serious about the dangers his beloved series is facing in the future, especially due to the problems with the streaming services.
‘One day the idea of Too Slow To Disco, at least the way I’m doing it, won’t work anymore due to the streaming issue. I can only finance the whole project via the sales of the CD and vinyl. And you don’t get the rights for those streaming services.’
For now, Too Slow To Disco works and actually benefits many big labels but such an adventure is also quite difficult from time to time. DJ SUPERMARKT however remains an optimist. He’s seen too many things happening in the industry over the past two decades and despite his music being driven by a certain nostalgic feeling he certainly is more excited about the future and the possibilities these digital times offer. ‘Far more young people are getting what is wrong with today’s music than you might think,’ he states.
‘People are longing for authentic bands whether it’s FLEETWOOD MAC or SONIC YOUTH. They want groups with a history, who aren’t manufactured by the industry. Those bands got individuality, they know how to tell a story in their music and that’s different to many groups who are around today.’
And although Spotify and Co. are tricky for the Too Slow To Disco series itself they actually help to educate a new generation of listeners. Yes, Markus Liesenfeld remains hopeful for his series and ongoing projects. The next step will take the series Far East to Japan as DJ SUPERMARKT is going to explore the forgotten ‘City Pop’ movement from the early 80s. ‘Pop took a whole different development in Japan than in the Western world where punk and disco stopped the movement,‘ he explains with excitement. ‘There are so many treasures in music’, Liesenfeld states with excitement. Thank god, there are still people like him who are taking care of these gems. You don’t necessarily need to become an addicted vinyl collector now but from time to time it’s not the worst idea to look into the past instead of searching for the hottest new thing. Trust me, it can be pretty satisfying.
More information and all upcoming ‘Too Slow To Disco’ dates on: http://tooslowtodisco.com/