|Ten years after its first instalment, Berlin-based dub scientist Pole reissues his seminal album trilogy '1 2 3' on his own ~scape label. Time to sit down with Stefan Betke to talk about nature, minimalism and a decade of Pole.|
There couldn't be many more fitting places in Berlin to meet up with Stefan Betke, better known as Pole, than the pleasant waterside surroundings of Kreuzberg's "Club der Visionäre". Built on wooden boards and pontoons on the river Spree, it's a location that radiates an air of relaxed tranquility, while minimalistic techno grooves, selected by Daniel Bell and Pole's partner and spouse Barbara Preisinger, remind you that you are still deep inside the beating heart of the German techno culture that is Berlin.
The interview's backdrop seems a valid metaphor for Pole's music, which oscillates between warm, analogue layers of bass-heavy dub and live instrumentation on one hand and poignant cutting-edge sound design on the other. "Nature is indeed a major source of inspiration for me", admits Pole, who is incidentally just about to embark on a field recording trip to the countryside. "Having a studio in the mountains would be nice, preferably somewhere in the Alps", he adds, "but for now we just hit the countryside by car whenever we can."
Leaving the city behind for good would however separate Pole not only from his customers as one of Berlin's most reputed mastering engineers, but also from his other main source of inspiration: the club. "Even if I don't go out as much as I used to, I love to hear music out loud, and I always produce with a club sound system in mind." The resurgence of music with a heavy low-end thereby comes as a satisfaction to Pole, whose appreciation of the dubstep style can be heard on the recent 'Round Black Ghosts' compilation on his label ~scape. "I'm very much into artists like Peverelist, Shackleton or Pinch, who focus on the sub-bass element in their music and cross stylistic boundaries", says Pole, who is currently assembling a second 'Round Black Ghosts' compilation and has just finished a remix for dubstep artist Shackleton.
Not only has Pole pioneered the genre of electronic dub, but also the principle of minimalistic reduction. As far as the resounding success of minimal techno in recent years goes, he however holds a differentiated view: "Simple music and minimal music are not the same thing", Pole declares and adds: "I don't mean this in a negative way, as simple music can work very well. I'm just against the confusion of terms and concepts."
So what has changed in a decade of Pole? "After ten years and six albums I am happy that the fun and love for music is still there. Also my explorative approach towards music remains unchanged. What is however impossible to maintain is the radical youthful spirit", he admits. His 2007 album 'Steingarten' indeed resembles a more structured and concise approach, with more complex rhythmic structures and less use of classical dub effects. "On Steingarten I clearly focused on sound design, which resulted in a more immediate and less spacious sound", explains Pole. "At the moment I enjoy creating more elaborate rhythms while often limiting myself to a single bass sound." And the album's romantic cover artwork (depicting Bavaria's kitschy Neuschwanstein castle)? "The cover is indeed sharply ironic - I intended 'Steingarten' to be a counterpoint to the whole minimal discourse as well as a break with the past."
A past Pole however has all reasons to celebrate, given the reissue of his influential album trilogy '1 2 3'. But what does the future hold in store for Pole and the ~scape label? Pole's aforementioned remix for Shackleton's track 'Shortwave' will be released by ~scape in conjunction with Skull Disco and hits the stores in August. A second volume of the 'Round Black Ghosts' compilation is in the works (the name referring to vinyl in case you were wondering) and the next artist album will be by ex-Canadian Frivolous, following his recent 'Island of Sanctity' single. And Pole's own plans? "I have a new 12" coming out in September, and who knows - there might be a reincarnation of the Pole & Band project. Live instrumentations are certainly not out of my head."