Q&A: Pan-Pot Describe the View from the Top of Deutschland’s Club Scene
By Alejandro Rubio on May 21, 2012
It seems as though every country champions its own electronica duo as The Best. England has The Chemical Brothers, America upholds The Crystal Method, Canada claims MSTRKRFT, and France’s baby is undeniably Daft Punk. But what about Germany? After all, Germany is the birthplace of Krautrock which produced a team of seminal electro-experimental groups such as Can, Neu! and the venerable Kraftwerk. But who do the Germans regard as its best electronica duo? Some of you may already know the answer, but just in case you don’t, I’d like to introduce you to one of Germany’s best: Pan-Pot.
From the moment Mobilee Records released the duo's first single “Popy & Caste,” Pan-Pot has headlined the label’s roster while steadily dominating the German club scene. This year, Mobilee Records is celebrating the group’s achievements with Mobilee Back to Back Vol. 6, a musical compilation spanning Pan-Pot’s career and a DVD documenting the group’s international tour.
FILTER caught up with Tassilo Ippenberger and Thomas Benedix, the men behind Pan-Pot, and talked them about their initial venture into the world of electronica and how they made it to the top of the German club scene. Find out what the group had to say and after you’re done, go check out the trailer for Mobilee Back to Back Vol. 6 - Presented by Pan-Pot, which is out now!
What was it like meeting each other for the first time?
Tassilo: Thomas and I studied music engineering at the same school, the [School of Audio Engineering] in Berlin and he was always a very fun person to talk to. And we were mostly talking about, of course, music but also specifically techno because we already had quite a similar taste back then.
Thomas: Tassilo was (and still is) very focused, inspiring and great fun to hang out with. That's why we started making music together.
Can you talk about your first collaboration with each other and what those songs sounded like?
Tassilo: We started working together when the “minimal” genre just started to get interesting and so we were doing a lot of experimental stuff and a lot of sound searching. Our first "tracks" didn't really have a common structure. It was more a collection of sounds and sound effects combined with techno beats and percussive elements. Big fun, though [laughs].
Thomas: The first songs were for a lesson at school where we had to do a MIDI song and then we had another project called Superspencer, which was a lot of fun because we had a singer, keyboardist and were touring in Berlin gay clubs [laughs].
How did you decide on calling yourselves "Pan-Pot" and what significance does that name have for you?
Thomas: We wish there was a great story behind our name, but there isn't really [laughs]. One day, we were sitting in the studio and thinking of a cool name to use for our project.
Tassilo: We were searching for terms and names in our audio engineering dictionary, and after some tries we hooked up "Pan-Pot" which is the short form of “Panorama-Potentiometer.” It just worked immediately on both of us, especially as it contains two parts for two people.
Can you describe your songwriting process? Are all your songs written collaboratively, 50/50?
Tassilo: Yes, you can say that each of us contributes about 50% to our productions. Most of the time, one of us has an idea and sometimes we work on them on our own but then we bring them together and finish off the tracks together. Actually, we do spend most of our time in the studio working together.
Thomas: It is great to be two people being creative. Of course, our tastes are not always exactly the same, but luckily quite similar, so we always find a good middle ground and are both happy with the results. I have never played in a band, but imagine that is how it works for them, also.
How does performing live influence the way you write music?
Thomas: Well, we are DJs and produced music before playing our first live set, so it hasn't really influenced us. Now, we still see ourselves as DJs rather than a live act, but we include live elements such as Native F1 controllers and an iPad in our sets. And we are taking a closer look at the F1 controllers, which really give us the chance to separately use the different elements of our tracks.
Tassilo: And now with this background and knowing what we can do with the new controllers, we do take a little bit of a different look into the production side of the different stamps now and how they sound.
When did you first become involved with Mobilee Records?
Thomas: In 2005, we organized a party in Berlin and booked Anja Schneider to play that event with us. Back then, Ralf Kollmann, whom she runs the label with, was doing her bookings so they both showed up. Unfortunately, the event was very poor—I think 10 people showed up—but that gave us the chance to have a long talk with Anja and Ralf and to really get to know them.
Tassilo: It was a bad party, but a great ending because we showed them a track of ours shortly after and they released it on their newborn label, Mobilee.
You're both highly praised by your musical peers, but who were the artists that you looked up to when you began making music?
Tassilo: Well, when I started listening to electronic music in 2000, I started getting into house and techno, but also especially into this whole International Gigolo thing. I was working at DJ Hell’s club called Villa in my hometown. We were very lucky as we had them all coming to this place, from Jeff Mills to Miss Kittin to Sven Väth. They all came to this little small club to play for Hell, so I was taught very fast and properly by them.
Thomas: When I was 12 years old, my grandma bought a techno music tape in a Polish market for me, this was my first contact with tecno. At 16, I tried to make the music by myself but it didn't work out in the end because I didn't how to do it [laughs]. Then I started partying in Berlin going to clubs like Tresor, E-Werk, Ostgut and Casino. I really enjoyed this time and it was more the club than specific artists that influenced me.
How has the club scene changed in Europe in the years that you've been involved with it?
Thomas: It changed a lot for us as the clubs we play in got bigger [laughs]. No, but seriously, there have always been trends with minimal, now it's more disco. But we kind of found our niche.
Tassilo: There are always new and hot labels and acts rising up and I have the feeling that trends tend to not last as long as they used to. It is fun and interesting to see new, great music out there and how the scene develops. The scene clearly was more minimal when we started to make music, and now it is more tech-house-y, techno-ish.
You've toured throughout Europe and even South America, and yet you haven't extensively toured the United States. Are there plans to tour the States in the future?
Tassilo: The gigs in the US have always been some of our favorites, so we are really looking forward to get back soon. At this point, I think there is a longer tour planed for January with about six cities.
Thomas: Can't wait!
What's been your most memorable experience since you've started making music?
Tassilo: I think it was the moment when I recognized that my parents are proud of me and what I’m doing. It took some time and they patiently watched and supported my idea of a life as an artist/producer/DJ.
Thomas: It’s hard to say, there are so many nice things that I remember, but I think the most important thing for me was that I overcame my fear of flying. Oh, it’s not so nice to remember, but it was a really important step for me and our career, which somehow connects to making music because it allowed me to see the world and getting great impressions.