In Session: Schacke
The Copenhagen techno originator digs deep with a raucous, high-energy mix dripping with sentimentality
Having built up a reputation for nose-bleed techno with a tongue-in-cheek twist, Schacke’s current focus has shifted inward; away from the crowds and into the self. Widely credited as one of the forebears of the “Copenhagen techno” sound — this speed demon with a soft side explores a yearning for hedonism and sensuality in his latest album ‘Apocalyptic Decadance’; a coalesce of his renowned, frenetic industrial past and a genre-bending, cerebral present.
Martin Schacke first discovered the mind-bending recesses of the Copenhagen techno scene upon moving to the city 10 years ago. The half-Danish, half-South Korean artist had explored the noise and industrial worlds through his teens; Schacke’s first musical output came by way of experimenting with metalcore bands, playing drums and guitar, but soon — around the age of 17 or 18, discovered production. “I started with dubstep and hip hop beats in FL Studio,” Schacke tells us. “As I got more into electronic my interest in bands faded, being able to make full tracks on my own was more appealing.”
His first rave experiences, mostly “messy illegal partiers” at abandoned buildings on the outskirts of his hometown, weren’t “monumental.” Instead, it was his move to the Danish capital a decade ago that immersed him in the city’s underground techno scene. Since then he’s built himself up as a purveyor of the newfangled, deeply-emotional 130+ BPM sound in Copenhagen — taking the reins of noise connoisseurs Moral Defeat in 2014, becoming a part owner of the experimental-inclined venue Mayhem and a founding member of legendary techno party and platform Fast Forward, attributed with taking the Copenhagen techno sound global.
Read this next: 48 of the best 90s techno mixes you can listen to online
Schacke's first EP, simply titled 'Schacke', was released on Ecotherm in 2016, quickly followed by 'Make Them Remember' in 2017. Releases on Courtesy's Kulør label, Interstate Records and his Pleasure Dome series on Instruments of Discipline saw him strengthen his production prowess; becoming renowned for his familiar-yet-unpredictable sound. It was in 2019 that he became a household name in the dance music set for the kick drum that launched a thousand festival sets — the steely-yet-sweet 'Kisloty People'. Taken from his 'Kisloty Forever' EP, a tribute to the now-shuttered St.Petersburg nightspot of Kisloty — the track is built around joyous 90s pop samples, marking a departure from hard-edged industrial to sparkling, be it hard-edged, positivity.
The pandemic hit at the very worst time in Schacke's upward trajectory as an artist, and as months of lockdown turned into years, like many he feared he wouldn't be able to return to nightclubs ever. Newly released album 'Acopalyptic Decadence' was born from this anxiety — a siren call to the club the record explores unbridled sexuality, a yearning for connection and excess when faced with the uncertainty, and all-out doom of a looming apocalypse.
Read our Q&A + listen to Schacke's In Session mix below.
Your new record 'Apocalyptic Decadence' was written out of a desire to get back to hedonism in the darkness of lockdown. Did lockdown (and the return to the club) strengthen your connection with nightlife?
Yes, also my connection to people and the world in general. Lockdown was tough, I was losing my mind from the isolation and at one point I thought I would never get to play and make club music again. I’m happy it didn’t turn out that way and now I’m enjoying performing and travelling more than ever.
How has it been for you to be back out there now? Is it strange to listen to this record considering how things were when you wrote it?
It was very challenging in the beginning. I started playing gigs in other countries while there was still a lockdown in Denmark and it took some time to get used to being around big crowds again let alone playing in front of them. When the record was conceived my head was already in the future so no, it’s not strange, it’s perfect timing actually when I listen to it now.
How has Copenhagen changed since things have opened up again? Are you happy to see the city come back to life?
It has definitely changed but I’m not really sure how, apart from the fact that it has grown a lot. I have not been out in Copenhagen much this year because I’m playing so much in other cities and when I’m [at home] I’m in the studio working most of the time so I haven’t had many chances to connect with the city's nightlife this year. But from what I've heard it's alive again and that makes me happy. I'm hoping soon I'll have a free weekend to go out here and party — I'm looking forward to that.
You've been credited as one of the minds behind the Copenhagen techno sound — Is it a lot of responsibility to be given that acumen?
I’m very proud of having been part of defining that sound, I think it has had a big influence on how modern techno sounds today, none of us would have expected the impact it would have when we started producing fast-rolling techno with melancholic trance melodies 7-9 years ago in little Copenhagen. In a lot of ways, I am doing something different now while still keeping and developing some of those core elements. Earlier I definitely felt a responsibility to produce more of that same kind of music I initially got recognized for. Now, I’m way more confident doing exactly what I want and trying new things both in my productions and DJ sets.
'Apocalyptic Decadence', like some of your other production work, is packed with industrial/rough sounds... but with a hint of experimentation and humour. Do you consciously keep things lighthearted? Do you think it's important to have fun when making 130+ slammers?
It’s definitely a balance between the serious dark vibes and the quirky twisted humour in it. Reality is dark, fucked up, absurd, beautiful and funny at the same time, I want to reflect these opposites and absurdities in my music and cover a full spectrum of emotions. I do enjoy more lighthearted vibes in my sets and productions lately, I think we need more positive energy on the dance floor after everything we’ve all been put through the last few years.
Can you talk us through the concept behind your 'Pleasuredome' series?
It’s an expression of my inner universe. Passion, dreams and fantasies, a deep dark and sexy energy and the bloody truth of everything.
Fast Forward has been on the road this summer — with parties at London's FOLD, Tbilisi’s Bassiani and Brussels' Fuse. How has it been to be taking FF to different cities? Are you proud of what it's become?
Honestly, it's always a huge pleasure to play when we’re a bigger group from Fast Forward turning up to a play a party. There are some strong friendships within the collective and I think we can really create some beautiful memories together as a team. I’m proud of what it’s become and I’m excited to see it grow and develop in the future. Big thanks to my agent Anders for keeping it all together and running the Fast Forward agency like a boss.
How do you prepare for your sets? Is there a bit of “quiet before the storm” or do you amp yourself up?
It’s giving quiet before the storm these days, drinking way less and generally staying healthy. If I’m playing in a city where I have a lot of friends like Berlin or NYC, I will definitely go out and party and I’m also likely to stick around after my set or go to the afters — although it really depends on the situation and how busy I am.
Read this next: Healing through euphoria: How Courtesy's uplifting music helps people connect
You're also a tattoo artist right? Are there any parallels for you in creating music and visual art?
Definitely, visual art has always been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember; it comes from the same place as music. It’s always important for me to be involved in the artwork for my releases and the future will see more releases where I’ve created the artwork myself or in collaboration with someone. Tattooing was never a full-time thing for me, but I’ve been doing it for many years. I basically just started because we were too young and broke to get professional tattoos, so some friends and I learned to do it ourselves — but, now it’s just a part of my life.
What's coming up next for you?
There’s a lot coming up, I’m going through a lot of emotions and personal changes right now — it’s exciting but also scary and a little too intense sometimes. The biggest thing is that I’m planning to move to New York in a year, so I’m mentally and practically preparing for that; I'm manifesting it hard. Musically, I have some releases in the works for some of my favourite labels, working on curating a compilation for the premiere of my own label — which is finally happening — and just playing a lot of gigs worldwide.
Can you tell us about this mix?
It’s a representation of my current state of mind, emotionally and creatively. I think it’s also marking a change in energy for me, a change that’s been happening out of my control lately. There's been some crazy, chaotic energy in my sets recently and I can’t explain why. Somehow it all makes sense though, and I hope you’ll enjoy the vibes. I think it’s all about connections and love in the end.
'Apocalyptic Decadance' is out on Instruments of Discipline now, buy it here.
Megan Townsend is Mixmag's Deputy Editor, follow her on Twitter.