Pantha Du Prince is the principal musical guise of Hendrik Weber, fusing house, techno and wider aural palettes like field-recordings and unworldly sonics. An avid collector of, unsurprisingly, all things from techno to “rare stuff that no one likes to listen to”. We wanted to know about the buildings that he bought it all from...Deluxe: In terms of your own personal collection of music… is it quite eclectic?
Hendrik Weber: Very yes, but I just had to pack it all up in the Autumn as I had to move. For me it was kind of horrific. I have a lot of techno records but I didn't realise I had so many, you know, I am not a DJ so I do not always look at them. I realised that I had all these old records from my father through the sixties and seventies, it’s very hard to archive it all and to put it all in the right storage… at least organise it. I think it’s like my music in that way, it’s intuitive but it is based on how I remember it. I vaguely know where things are, but luckily I always find them when I look for them… I don't think anybody could ever understand the system I use to organise them all.
D: So you’re not alphabetical?
HW: No! (laughing) Alphabetical is just horrible. It’s not working. It’s not working! For me it is about sections, like “British Indie Pop goes into German Kraut”, then you have Electronic Music from the eighties, then it would turn into Techno or something… actually… no. You know, I just can’t explain it, it is chaotic. I had many arguments with DJ friends as I would play records at their house and they would really be mad at me the next day as I would never put the vinyl back into the right sleeve. “Where is this record man… where did you put it?!” For me it is really about what I want to listen to right now.
D: I have to admit that if you came to my house and put all the records in the wrong sleeve I’d get mad too…
HW: (laughing) It is even worse with those techno DJs because they only spin vinyl and they are always looking for the cover. It is such a visual process and it is hard to disconnect from the sleeve and the record. You can imagine if they are playing in front of like five hundred people it is drama. For a DJ it is the worst thing you can imagine I think.
I love my collection, I love the records and they are part of my identity but it is also hard to understand what - as a structure - it really is. It is non-rational, it is about my aesthetic and when I want to listen to something
D: Listening to your new LP I had suspected that you would listen to a broader range of music, well genres even. Although electronic music it feels like a band record...
HW: I tried very hard to make a band record, but I am not sure that it really worked out. It was a very idiosyncratic way of having a band in my head… like a virtual band I guess. I think I am always trying to get to the point where you have the human touch back. It was made with digital things, but I think it has the rawness of the band but also the solitary electronic music line. I want to avoid giving direction on how to listen to it.
D: Well as soon as it is released it is no longer yours. It’s your art but your music will become part of… well, it will become anybody’s in a way.
HW: Yes, and for me it is a very cathartic process, in some ways like a birth. It can be both painful and joyous at the same time, but always really intense. Also on a personal level it is always intense, it seems that whenever I finish a record I move house… or I get kicked out or something happens and I have to move, always a major moment. (laughing) I am happy when the world can take it.
"One of the most important experiences in that part of my life was to go into a store and to have a recommendation from a guy who worked in a record store. It was magic to me..."D: Drawing more parallels to birth, it is frightening to you?
HW: No, it is not frightening in the way that you might think, like if I am expecting a reaction or a critic might ignore it or write good things, it is just not my way to follow it. What gets through to me is when people really understand the journey you know? That is more in the concert, when you can see that people have listened to it and they are part of the team, it is when it goes somewhere else. That is more interesting for me than the whole thing like “how many did we sell” or “what newspaper wrote about it”. I want the record to be out so that people can pick up the energy and bring it back to us, it is very relieving.
D: So the next phase of the album is very much about live then?
HW: Yes, very much so. Live for me is about rawness and an unfinished way of presenting things. Sometimes it is kind of awkward, like it is not quite at the right point… not a polished AV show in that Hollywood way of presenting things. I don't feel any connection with that element of live performance. I like the riskiness, that things can go wrong and how do we react? I think people around me are always nervous about this but it is very much more human, it is a situation and a moment...
D: … and is that frightening?
HW: Yes, it has a certain anxiety, that anxiety keeps you alive.
D: Do you think on some level you want things to go… well, a bit wrong?
HW: (laughing) Yeah! I love it when there is a feedback loop in my delay and I don't know how to stop it… but that is the moment and it is like ‘okay, this is also alive, it is an organism’ - it is like something has been produced that I do not know what it is, but it is part of the music and needs to be there… the music needs to be free, especially when you are stood there behind all these machines. It creates an energy that you otherwise just wouldn’t have had.
D: As an opposite, one thing that you can meticulously control is the artwork. What is your approach to it and how much of an influence on you is the artwork?
HW: The visual aspect is a core aspect for me. It stays with me before even the music has started and creates a certain visual aesthetic. For me it is part of the story, it is a level of conscious decision making that begins with the selection of that album visually on a shelf and that connects with the music.
Artwork can also be a diary almost, like a sketchbook. I have a referential system of notes and sketches and photos that connect to an archive of sounds and it is all interweaving and resonating. When you experience it together you can really find a new dimension in the music and you can appreciate the image in a new perspective.
D: I think talking about your own work, I was obsessed with the Black Noise album artwork. It’s a really overpowering image, it’s quite unnerving… almost confusing in some ways.
HW: Black Noise especially it has a certain dissonance to it, there is something wrong with it. You want to believe that it is all okay, but there is something wrong. On the surface it is nostalgic and it takes you in its arms as embracing, peaceful and calm but it’s just not true. It was an appropriated image so you are taking artwork from somebody else and you restructure and reframe the image and it becomes something else.
D: Talking of isolation, you grew up in a remote part of Hesse, did you have a record shop?
HW: No, not really. My parents always had records. My mother collected classical music and my father collected Beatles, Pink Floyd… a lot of progressive rock - so my childhood had records around.
D: What was your first real experience of a music shop then?
HW: When I was older I moved to Paris and met a guy who wanted to open a boutique, so I offered him certain concepts and there we sold a lot of experimental and techno records. It was in St. Germain and it was before Paris really had any shops for electronic music or experimental music… so people would really come from all over to buy all the new stuff. I met Jacques Bon and that concept eventually ended up becoming Smallville. I gave all the records to Jacques. The Smallville Paris store is now based on the foundations of the records that came from that bankrupt boutique.
D: What was your first memory of a record shop? How did it feel?
HW: Woh! I think in Kassel (Hesse). One of the most important experiences in that part of my life was to go into a store and to have a recommendation from a guy who worked in a record store. It was magic to me, you are looking for something and you are explaining what you want and they can just give you all these other records that you don't know you didn’t want to listen to. You would sometimes discover these things that are so extraordinary, outside of your own cosmos. It was always down to this guy you know? He knows much more that you as this fifteen year old kid, it is almost like an initiation moment. Like when they handed me the first Stone Roses record “you might like this, some guys from England” and you’re like WOOOH.
But the first time was really profane. It was a number one hit in Germany, a big hit. I think Frank Farian was the producer and I was probably eight year sold or maybe seven years old. I bought this 12” record and it was called “Maria Magdalena”. After that I was really hooked on records, I was obsessed with going and finding more and more. I was lucky growing up at that moment in the city as there was a very good indie scene and a very good techno scene.
D: What made it a good scene?
HW: Probably because it was close to the GDR border and there was a lot of transit between Frankfurt and Berlin, a lot of travelling. It was a very interesting time and there were two or three stores at the same time who had new and interesting music from all over the World. Today it is much less you know, it is kind of hard to find things. In most of the small cities it is a tough business for these record stores. Maybe I just grew up in the right time?
D: So the feeling was discovery?
HW: Yes, but also identifying. I didn’t have an older brother or an uncle or anything. I had to go on my own and connect with a certain emotional identity. It was so inspiring, it was completely about creating my personality through music. It separated me from my family and my teachers and other guys in my class you know? I think record shops are so important… they should have a certain cultural funding you know? Like a museum.
D: I’m down with that… I guess what we’re saying is that you can’t synthesize human interaction… no matter how clever iTunes gets.
HW: Yes… we are all biological creatures and we need to interact with other biological creatures. I think there is also one piece of psychology… you need to know you are the coolest guy in the world and the guy in the record store needs to give you this feeling… You should be like some sort of guru to these kids. You can change lives with the right tip and the right moment to the right kid… well, any human being. It was for me for sure.
+ Photographed by Asha Mines
+ Pantha Du Prince's new album 'The Triad' is out via Rough Trade on 20th May 2016. You can read more, listen to it and preorder here.
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