Though somewhat reluctant to admit it, there are few producers still active in the contemporary domain with a penchant for intricate, obscure-sounding, left-of-centre records as Thomas Melchior. A producer known for his diversity, he’s just as likely to turn his hand to dexterous deep house as he is catchy minimal techno. The one thing you can virtually guarantee with his output is that it’s never boring. Little wonder then, that he continues to share a studio with Zip and Ricardo Villalobos. Thomas Melchior, however, is a man who very much stands on his own merits. A mainstay at the likes of Perlon (his recent record, Vulnerabilities, on the label is his best in some time), he’s also the brains behind his own much-respected imprints, My King is Light and Aspect Music. To summarise, his is an envious discography and in all honesty, there’s a hell of a lot we could have quizzed Thomas Melchior on. Here’s what went down when we caught up with him recently for a quick chat…
I wanted to start by asking about growing up between the USA, the UK and Spain. Did each of these countries play an important role in your musical education?
I grew up in quite a few places and have also lived in Brazil. Of course, hearing new languages and new music, and experiencing different cultures has had a profound effect on me. Indeed, it still does expand my consciousness.
Musically, what country was the most influential to you?
I mainly grew up in the UK where I also finished school. Having spent a good part of my teenage years there, it’s also probably where I spent my formative years. So one side England was highly influential, but Brazil probably equally so too.
Knowing what you know now and looking back on your achievements, how would you sum up your last few decades in music? What have been the highlights? Would you do anything differently?
Well, the last few decades somehow went by very quickly! I used to spend a lot of time in the studio when I was younger and gradually got more into performing and DJing. Seeing that producing doesn”t necessarily mean you can make a living from it, i guess I started DJing earlier. Of course, some people respect musicians and artists, but the majority think it’s all about the DJ which obviously isn’t true. Many good musicians turn their back towards the scene because of this attitude, which is a real shame.
Do you think the ‘scene’ has lost touch with reality a bit over the past couple years?
What is reality? I guess the scene has lost touch with good music and has become more about socialising. But not something I want to expand on too much.
Who were your mentors and influences then? What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt over the years?
I’ve many varied mentors and influences, but mostly they’re friends, collaborators and musical heroes of mine. The biggest lesson? Listen closely and also have a vision.
Do you think it’s important you pass down what you’ve learnt over the years?
I guess it’s important to pass down some knowledge, but the market has become so competitive it’s hard to know who to trust. I have been working with some up-and-coming producers for years. I don”t know if they’ve learnt anything from me though!
You’re probably best known for adopting a slightly left-of-centre sound, and someone who’s willing to take risks with their output. Would you say this is something you would agree with?
Hmmm, I don”t know about that. Put it this way: I don”t like cheesy and obvious productions.and I guess I don”t want to create a standard product. Every track has its day and I am patient when it comes to producing. When I feel it i release it.
Do you feel too many contemporary producers play it too safe? And if so, what do you attribute this to?
In general people play it safe. Period. Nobody, with a few exceptions, likes sticking out. That”s life.
You’ve turned out works on the likes of Aphex Twin’s Rephlex and have produced a host of classic tracks alongside Baby Ford, so I wanted to discover, what motivates you now to keep going? Are you as hungry as ever to produce new stuff?
Actually, I am not as hungry anymore, mainly because I see that my music has proved to be timeless. But i will always put more logs on the fire.
Are you still based in Berlin?
I’m still in Berlin and still loving it. In my opinion it’s the best city in the world.
I’ve read before that you share a studio with Ricardo Villalobos and Zip. Is this still the case? And do you inspire one another to get better all the time?
Zip, Ricardo and I have had studios next to each other at Berghain since 2006. I took Fumiya [Tanaka] to my studio a few years ago to help him find a home he deserves. I guess we all know each other so well now, so we don”t realise how much we inspire one another. But we probably do, yes.
You’ve become quite prolific recently with remixes. Tell me a bit about how you approach a remix. Is it totally imperative that you adore the original?
Of course I have to like the original. Adoring it is a different matter though. If I feel my productions and groove will assist the original in some way, then I’ll certainly consider it.
You’ve released music both under your own name, and as Melchior Productions. I always wanted to ask – what’s the difference between the two?
I release and perform live under Melchior Productions ltd. Thomas Melchior is more for DJing and collabs. Of course I have different aliases and collaborations.
Collaboration has long been a pivotal part of what you do. Are you more comfortable doing your own thing these days? Or would you not rule it out in future?
I never rule out a collaborations with people i like and respect.To me, what counts is the end product. I don”t care if i do it alone or with someone else.
I also wanted to ask about Lady Science. You’ve probably chatted about it a bunch of times, but it’s an undoubtedly classic track that will go down in history as one of minimal’s best moments. Did you have any idea you’d created something quite special that would resonate for so long after?
Obviously I’m one of the writers and producers. We produced it at Baby Ford’s studio and yes, we knew it was special at the time. What we didn’t know was that it would take 20 years for people recognise its magic. When we originally released it it didn”t sell that well!
Finally, what else have you coming up that you’re really excited about?
I got my My King is Light label as well as my other label, Aspect Music. I’ve also got some re-releases, remixes, collaborations, ans some new solo stuff coming up. The show must go on and I still love it.
Keep up with Thomas Melchior via his My King is Light label on Instagram here