He records under two monikers: he solos as the downtempo craftsman Guardner and is half of the housy Rauschfaktor.
Marcus Schmaul is at the forefront of Germany’s new wave of electronic innovation. He records under two monikers: he solos as the downtempo craftsman Guardner and is half of the housy Rauschfaktor. Guardner makes music that has many shapes and forms. He mixes breakbeat-driven, downtempo sounds with more melodious ambient soundscapes. His first single, “Cascade,” garnered widespread attention. His first album, Somedays in My Life (Electrolux) is a complete record with an array of interesting and diverse beats.
Playback St. Louis spoke with Marcus via email about recording, the German music psyche, DJ-ing, and being involved in the new culture of electronic music.
What inspires you as an artist?
I create videos, DVDs, and a lot of photos. Pictures of nature and the environment inspire me as an artist. A lot of the new software synth and effects, software programs, [and] synthesizer sounds are an inspiration, too. I have a lot of fun working on new tracks for my projects.
What is your creative process? Do the melodies come first, or do you build songs around a riff, beat, or hook?
First of all, I create a lot of beats by cutting, working with effects, and routing samples through filters or effects. After that, I search for special effects, vocal samples, or record something by myself. Searching, programming, and playing new sounds as pads, basslines, and melodies [are] the next thing. At the end, arrangement, mixdown, and mastering. Guardner is a project for experimenting with my produced music and combining different musical styles.
As a German making electronic music, do you struggle with Kraftwerk comparisons? Do you think there is a misconception that German electronic music is perceived as cold, metallic, and without feeling?
Hmmm. I’ve heard that question again and again. Every artist producing music with electronic instruments is called a Kraftwerk copy artist. But that’s not OK! It is just like every boy group sounds like the Backstreet Boys. Guardner isn’t as electronic as Kraftwerk.
The Rauschfaktor sound is more electronic, but with totally different feelings and moods and, of course, different instruments. Kraftwerk found a new sound and inspired a lot of artists. Electronic music is digital music, sometimes called “cold music.” I think the music Guardner and Rauschfaktor make isn’t “cold music.” Both of their CDs have track arrangements with a “warm” feeling.
You have a new full-length album coming out; can you talk about the songs on it?
It’s a fully Guardner-style album with new sounds and new ideas. Downbeat, breakbeats, and ambient tracks are combined, making new songs and telling new stories. I don’t want to talk too much; you have to listen to it.
You are forging ahead on two electronic fronts, the more jazzy and ambient and experimental Guardner and the more beat-driven Rauschfaktor. Is it hard to juggle the two?
No, there’s no real difference. Music is music…
I’ve got a lot of other club music–based projects (techno, house, drum ’n’ bass, elektro, etc.) and other Elektrolux projects. Without the other projects, the Elektrolux projects wouldn’t be as varied as they are. It opens your mind, producing different styles.
Do you like working alone as a composer (Guardner) or with a partner (Rauschfaktor)?
Both are OK. There is no big difference working with Frank or working alone. In a collaboration, you exchange a lot of ideas, critics and, of course, new sounds. This is very important for my work. With Rauschfaktor, we’ve worked in two studios. The advantage is to write songs at a different place with different equipment. It opens your mind; your creativity grows and doubles with more equipment. I think it’s a faster and more creative mode of writing songs and building up a project.
Does DJing give you a fresh mindset for when you go into the studio to record?
Yes, you are next to the people listening to your records. You can feel what they want to hear and what they like. Playing in clubs is another way of listening to your songs instead of the daily work in the studio.
Is the club culture in Germany and Switzerland more reserved than in the States?
I don’t think so! Last year in NYC, we were at an underground breakbeat party in the meatpacking district. It was superb! A great night. I love the scene in Switzerland. They like experimental, progressive dance music. The German scene is very cold.
What are your thoughts about the more rockish tone electronic music has taken, things like big beat or electroclash?
The producers need to have new crossover styles because of the pressure of the music market; that’s a normal way of the business. I work with different styles or crossover sounds everyday in my studio. It is not a question of the “style” as much as if the track is good or not.
A lot of the songs on Somedays in My Life feature funky percussion breaks. Is breakbeat an influence?
I love breakbeats; it’s the better way to create a real groove. You are free to produce songs with different speeds, from hip-hop to house to breakbeats and drum ’n’ bass.
“Cascade” was your first single; was it difficult to get it released, promoted, and in the clubs?
I think it’s not easy with this kind of music to get it released. Elektrolux is a good partner and the label working for the artists. In Germany, the EP was not as good, didn’t do as well as in other countries. I’ve received a lot of emails from the USA, Switzerland, Austria, Holland, and England, but only a few from Germany. I don’t know how it was promoted in the U.S. clubs; I haven’t played there live or as a DJ.
Musically, what would you like to do next that you haven’t done yet?
I have a lot of future plans, but it’s a surprise. For information, look at my pages: www.guardner.de and www.rauschfaktor.com
Being on a label with similar artists leaves you with a great deal of freedom as an artist. Would you like to work with other labels?
Of course! I’m an artist making a lot of music. Elektrolux can’t release all the tracks of my music library. I have several projects (techno, techhouse, drum ’n’ bass, house, and elektro) with different musical styles. Elektrolux is a label for ambient, downbeat, chill out, and experimental elektro.
Have you thought of making one of those DJ mix records?
I have made a DJ-mix compilation; it’s called Metro One. It’s great work to do a mix compilation. With Guardner, I have the chance to mix music with a great variety of styles (downbeat to house, jazz to ambient/chillout, etc.). The final product is very varied.
Finally, what drove you to become a musician? What are your influences?
My first real contact with music, tapes, and vinyl was my uncle’s living room when I was six years old. Yes, I’ve been influenced by his music library. It contained a variety of soul, hip-hop, [and] ’80s pop tapes and vinyl. Some years later, I’ve started to build up my own music library and began to make my first mix tapes with tapes, vinyl, and CDs. The interest in electronic music grew while programming sequences and sounds on my old Commodore C64. Soon after, I bought my first synthesizer/sampler/workstation, the Roland W30, to expand my home studio. Building tracks worked fine with the W30 in connection with my Amiga 500 or Atari 1040st. I’ve started to learn to play guitar in a music school, too. Now, working for years in my multimedia studio, I’m producing songs/tracks and jingles (advertising) and TV scores next to my work on new tracks for my own projects, and for DVD and video projects for my and customers’ music/tracks.
Marcus Schmaul continues to work as a remixer, producer, DJ, and multimedia artist. In the meantime, his previous body of work—his debut album and the singles “Cascade,” “The Future Is My Melody,” and “Deep In Me”—are worth checking out. He also continues to release tracks on several compilations and DJ out in clubs around the world. Raushfaktor’s album, Aquarium, is a stylish collection of progressive and deep house sounds. Marcus hopes to have his new Guardner album drop early in 2004.