Techno legend Len Faki talks to 909originals
Written by rhythm86 on January 12, 2024
There are few DJs that have been as influential on the techno scene of the past two decades than Len Faki.
The Stuttgart native has been resident at Berlin’s Berghain since its opening, boasts an enviable back catalogue on both his own label, Figure – as well as the likes of Ostgut Ton and Monoïd – and has soundtracked many a night out in clubs around the world.
Through the Figure imprint, Faki has sought to push musical boundaries, with the launch of sub labels Figure Jams, Figure SPC and Figure Open Space – the latter showcasing electronica and ambient sounds. Remarkably, such is his busy schedule, that it took him until last year to release his first full-length album – Fusion, released in July 2023 – which saw him blend electro, downtempo, synth pop and drum ’n’ bass, as well as the techno he is renowned for.
Hot on the heels of Fusion comes another new project, Hardspace, which, similar to the LF RMX series of a few years back, sees Faki rework, re-arrange and remix tracks to suit his personal mixing style, which will be released as a series of EPs over the coming months.
The first, Hardspace Volume One, came out in November, and featured Viers, Helena Hauff, Perry & Rhodan, Resist 101 and Ectomorph. You can download/stream it here.
909originals caught up with him.
Hi Len, thanks for talking to us. To start off, you might tell us how the Hardspace identity came about – was it something that you had been planning for some time?
Hardspace is a new alias and label at the same time, that allows me to indulge in my big passion of remixing. Remixing everything I play started with the idea to make my sets more unique, more my sound, and give me access to tracks that normally would not be playable for me. It turned into a life of its own over the years, and the remixing process became one of my biggest passions.
During the pandemic, I was able to spend more time with the concept, delve deeper, and refine my production skills to an all-new level.
The plan with Hardspace is to remix both new and old tracks – as well as some hidden gems. How are you approaching each EP in the series?
I first made a lot of different remixes to have a great selection to choose from. I didn’t have one specific EP or constellation in mind when I started.
I remix the tracks, play them, and test them in different locations and configurations to get a feeling of how well they work. While compiling, I pay attention to a certain variety I want each release to have, mirroring the variety I also have in my sets. I want the tracks to fit together, complement each other, or have a cool tension with each other.
In the end, Hardspace is about playable, club-focused tracks, for DJs. The remixes are from tracks that are unreleased, that have never been remixed before, and tracks that I have a strong connection or great memories with.
Is Hardspace an update/continuation of the LF RMX series, or are you doing something different with it?
Absolutely – it´s like the next step, like Web 2.0. It’s not that I don’t like the old remixes anymore, but the sound and the quality of the mixes have made a huge leap. As a producer, I made a huge development over the years, which has resulted in new ideas and approaches.
The release concept has changed. There’s a wider range of mixes per release, now with six tracks. It has more of a DJ club character and I also find it more exciting when stylistically different mixes are released together.
Even though we live in a time where it’s mostly just about individual tracks, I still want to share my version and vision of a cool EP with a variety of remixes. And maybe there are still a few enthusiastic people out there who want to get serious about music and recognise and appreciate the love and attention to detail that goes in there.
You recently released the Fusion album, which was largely put together during the pandemic, and contains many more styles than just techno (especially on CD2). You have spoken in the past about it being the first time you had ‘time off’ to work on an album project – would it also be fair to say that it was the first time you could step away from techno and immerse yourself in different sounds, or sounds from your youth?
A certain producer part of me has always produced more leftfield and ambient. Even in the very early times of my career. But this part has never been big or so much in the public focus, which is why it probably gives the impression to the outside world that this is new.
But it was always there, and has nothing more to do with my youth than the fact that it has accompanied me since then.
With, for example, Rainbow Delta and a track like Kraft Und Licht, there were productions beyond techno in more recent years. Of course, it’s true that this part of me has only been occasionally visible over the years, but privately, the entire spectrum of electronic music has always accompanied me.
What changed for the first time with the album was that I was able to give so much space to what electronic music means to me.
It wasn’t planned in advance in detail, but I already knew that if this was my chance for an album, I would also like to share more of myself than just my love of techno. That wouldn’t have felt complete and would have been too simple, and in a way, considering the production process, would even have been boring to me.
We spoke to lots of DJ/producers during the period of the pandemic and they said that it was difficult to get inspired to make tracks given the ‘disconnection’ they had with the club. Was that the same in your case? Were there any tracks that were particularly hard to finish?
Quite the opposite. I was on fire with this ‘gift’ of time. It was unclear how long it would take, but it was crystal clear to me that I wanted to use every second for further development, learning new techniques, experimenting, producing – and if possible making an album. That’s how I started my days, and I really did nothing other than working in the studio, which felt awesome.
It was a bit like travelling back in time, because it was a damn long time ago that I had so much studio time. During this period it also became clear how much I had missed it.
I can understand what everyone means by ‘disconnection from the clubs’, though – I had this too. Sure, I would have loved to play and test the tracks in between. I missed everything about playing in clubs a lot.
In the end, the track Sexuality (My Reality) is dedicated to exactly this. I felt club withdrawal. The feeling was similar to sex withdrawal. I thought it was crazy how much I/we carry this within us and even physically need it. Hence the track about it. But I’ve never lacked inspiration because of that feeling.
My experience is that the more time I spend in the studio, the more inspiration and ideas are released.
What did you learn about yourself, either personally or artistically, from the project?
I’ve learned that I’m not just a DJ/entertainer, but that the producer/artist side is at least as important for me to be happy. I had already noticed that I was out of balance before the pandemic, but I couldn’t have said exactly why.
Through this time in the studio, it became clear relatively quickly that I was missing this part of my life too much and that I had been in a red zone for a long time already. That’s why I keep an eye on having enough studio time from now on, and would rather play a little less.
A lot of techno producers these days seem to be focused on making things as raw as possible – and fast (140+ BPM). As someone who has mixed various styles into your techno over the years, is this a positive thing, do you think?
I don’t want to label it, everyone can do whatever they want and like. 100%. We are all on our own paths in life.
For me, personally there are certain limits or borders I differentiate. I would say there are faster tracks that still leave some air to breathe, and still have a nice groove or coolness to them, but the higher the BPM goes, the harder it is to keep this. At a certain speed, you lose the sexiness and coolness.
Those tracks lack any soul and are too machine-like, and aggressive for what I’m looking for, which is why I have no interest in them at all.
You have said in the past that you were inspired by the ‘chillout rooms’ at clubs you visited in your youth. Today, many clubs don’t even have places to sit down – let alone a chillout room. This can’t be good for the scene, right?
Yes, definitely. I think it’s very important to offer a variety of different sounds. Electronica and chill-out experiences in the club are a great enrichment to the whole night. The initial experience and points of contact with these styles are so important. I welcome it in every club if these rooms are available.
Fuse Club in Brussels has just redesigned and reopened a chill-out room, which I think is so great and important for our scene.
Next year will mark two decades since you first became a resident at Berghain – and you have seen it develop from an underground venue to a cultural phenomenon. Has the club’s ‘fame’ diminished the experience at all, do you think?
No, I don’t think that it has lost anything. Like everything else in the world, Berghain has evolved over so many years. There is no other way, but for everyone who is open-minded and willing to experience unique moments, they are still there – maybe not the exact same ones as in the past, but the ones from our current time.
Personally, there is no other club I spent more time in, have experienced more meaningful or crazy, fun moments, and played more hours than in Berghain. It is a special location in itself, plus due to the values it stands for.
I played at the opening night, when none of us knew exactly what to expect or where it could go. Although I have to say that already on this first night, I actually had the thought or the feeling that this could become a truly special place that could change our world.
In the end, we also have grown together. Me with the club, the club with me, with its residents. This creates a great bond.
All clubs (sadly) have a lifespan – what do you think the future holds for Berghain? Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain are a lot more ‘gentrified’ than when the club first opened, for example?
Berghain has both the advantage and the burden of its reputation and the expectations that people have of it. I think like every club, Berghain had to find and define itself again after the pandemic.
The districts around it have changed, as has the whole city, and yet the place has retained its magic. Berlin is a city that has always developed, and I’m not someone who says ‘everything used to be better in the past’.
No matter how long it might last, no other club has been at such a high level for so long. You can’t take that away from it – we should never forget this fact, and honour it for what it has given to us, to our scene. If I have my way, it will continue forever, and even if not, it is unmatched and will probably remain so forever.
Also, this year marks the 20th anniversary of Figure, which at the start was a home for just your own productions. What are you doing differently with the label now, compared to those early years, and what has stayed the same, if anything?
The love for music has remained the same. I still want to give new artists a platform, knowing that I can give the next generation a chance, and give our scene something back.
The label has fewer releases per year than in the past. It will stay like this for now because I no longer want so much pressure and deadlines and would rather just do it for joy. Without a schedule or a certain defined output. allowing myself to go with the flow feels quite good.
Last question – is there anything you would change about the electronic music/clubbing landscape? And why?
I’d rather look forward. I’m happy with the album, and with the newly-started Hardspace project.
There will be an enormously large remix project from the album coming out in 2024. I’m moving apartment and will build a new studio in there. Those new opportunities will result in new productions and, as always, there is a lot of movement going on. Therefore, I’m looking forward to 2024.
Thanks Len for the interview. Keep up to date with his latest releases and club dates here. Words by Steve Wynne-Jones.