drawing by Cristina Ruggieri
All the featured photos are courtesy Patrick Stottrop except where specified.
Last Genuary we closed the THREATS series with the wonderful mix by Francesco Baudazzi aka Diana Berti / Violet Poison. This month, and for many others further on, our mixes will go together with a very in-deepth interview to the artist involved. The aim is to provide something similiar to a portrait of the musician, which is actually self-drawn through the music chosen to be in the mix and the answers to our questions. We’ve been asking to use just tracks produced by the artist himself, remixes, pieces fundamental for his/her background, or even entire sets recovered from old archives. The artwork, instead, is an actual drawing, featuring his/her very face. Hence, the name of the series, PORTRAITS: PORTRAIT#1 can be listened by pushing play right below.
Our guest for this month is Patrick Stottrop, aka Kareem, the founder of the very influential label Zhark Recordings, on which some of the most violent and relentless electronic music ever was released (check its catalogue to get a very quick idea). The only other interview known to us can be found here on TEA, we recommend the reading of this too to get a wider look of the musician and the man too. Though Patrick is from Berlin, the label moved its first steps in NY after the journey he took in the first years of the 90s. There, in the spring of 1996, he founded together with Rachel Kozak (aka Hecate, and many other aliases) the Zhark label, on which two records were out, produced by the dangerous duo Hecate & Kareem themselves. As reported by the webpage www.zhark.org, “Zhark was started  as an answer to the lack of dark or experimental electronics within the techno scenes of New York and Detroit”. The Payback and In the Bush developed an ever-expanding, dubbed piece of electronic music, noisy and cadenced at the same time. After Zhark 00002, the duo split since Patrick went back to Germany, and so, from that moment, the label was divided in Zhark Recordings, Berlin-based and run by Kareem, and Zhark International (after a brief period in which it went under the name Zhark London), directed by Hecate. Going on quoting zhark.org, “although [the labels] are two seperate entities, they still continue the original spirit of releasing harsh and abrasive takes on the myriad of dancefloor rhythms out there.”
Zhark Berlin’s distinctive agit-a/v framework is exhibited through the following methods: vinyl records, compact disc, dvd, installations (visual and sonic), performance… Zhark Berlin’s hard-line revisionist doctrine holds no hostages- rejecting the myopic conventions of the electronic (club?) medium with its caustic amalgam of minimalist electroid-components savagely dismantled into an extreme free-fire zone of depravity… http://www.zhark.de/label.html
Focusing on Zhark Berlin, Crusader by Patrick himself was released on it. Next, the label managed to gather different artists such as Zymosiz, Harsh, Le Talium, Nathan Siter, MES and Huren, aka David Foster from the legendary Teste (it will be possible to read few informations about him too in the interview, and some pictures too), most of whom kept evolving in many different directions a basic 4/4 kick drum pattern. Killer releases appeared on Zhark in the following years, just to name a few: Kaltbrüchig Acideath (Huren), Black September (Kareem), Boxed Meat Revolution (Huren), Tripods (Harsh) and Druids (Kareem). Simultaneously, Patrick addressed his interest in producing beats (and his love for hip hop music) giving birth to Ramadan, in April 2001. Reporting another passage appearing on zhark.de, ‘this imprint deals solely with deep, kafkaesque!! Hip Hop breaks, minimal loop science & abstract rap’. The inspiration for its development came from the process of deconstruction (‘dekonstrukkt’) some raw idea featured on Zhark 06, Mikoyan by Kareem & Mes. Worth checking and listening are all the Ramadan releases, so give it a shot here.
As will be explained further in this reading by Kareem himself, in the years between 2004 and 2012 only few records came out both on Zhark and Ramadan: Run on the former, and the incredible Irreparable Damage (Kareem & Shadow Huntaz, 2007) together with a couple records by Mattr. & Rushya on the latter. A renewed interest in the musical production of the artist surfaced in 2012 thanks to Amélie Ravalec and Fondation Sonore, on which a split Kareem / Ancient Methods was released. [Well known and very interesting are the two documentaries directed by her, called PARIS/BERLIN: 20 YEARS OF UNDERGROUND TECHNO (2012) and INDUSTRIAL SOUNDTRACK FOR THE URBAN DECAY (2015, together with her partner Travis Collins)]. A key role for the present electronic / techno scene in re-discovering Patrick and his labels’ productions was played by the 14-tracks compilation on Boomkat called ‘The Unheimlich Manoeuvres Of Kareem’. From that moment, Kareem received offers from labels such as The Death of Rave – we strongly recommend you go check the first 12” on it – and Overdraw, leading to his first non-Zhark records since Caspian Gold was released on Possible Music back in 2004.
Also Zhark and Ramadan started back their full-time activity. Casual Violence was added to the roaster through the Anabiosis 12” (Zhark 026, 2015), and Ramadan developed a little bit further its take on laptop-hip hop music putting out the latest Patrick’s experiments on beats, joined by Jaeda Glasgow MC on The Bonk (September 2015).
Here below you can find the answers to our questions. Our goal has been to provide a close insight on the producer, in addition to the (pretty amazing, we gotta say) mix Kareem did for our mixcloud channel. The tracklist can be found at the end of the interview, together the correct timestamp – in case you would retrieve the exact piece – plus the release-date, which is very important (as stated by Patrick himself), ‘since it shows that the set does not sound oldschool even though it is oldschool!’. Have a good read!
Q: Hi Patrick, thank you very much for having accepted our request, it’s such an honor to have you as our guest. Let’s start asking about the mix you did. What can you tell us about it? Which tracks did you choose and why, are they focused on a particular period of your career or do they span the whole of it? How long since you did the last mix?
A: I actually picked tracks that I used to play between 1999 and 2002 in my set. It has been years since I did my last mix partly cause I wanted to concentrate on performing live.
Q: Is it possible to consider it a fair approximation of what a live set of yours would have sounded back in the days?
A: Yes, completely, this what I would have played between 1999 and 2002. I also included a lesser known Kareem track that appeared on a compilation back in 1996, but in general shows a certain level of variation.
[Patrick back in NY, 1996]
Q: You moved your initial steps in producing music between Europe and America, taking from both cultures. We understood you grew up as a hip-hop kid in Berlin, then moved to NY, founded Zhark together with Rachel Kozak (Hecate), and then moved back to Germany focusing on your own Zhark Berlin. What records did you listen to as a teenager?
A: Well, as a kid I listened to all kinds of stuff, no particular style. The range would go from Talk Talk to Prince, no preferences, I think my first record was from the Eurhythmics… I think in the 80s my sister gave me a mixtape with a lot of underground hip-hop and later gave me a bunch of Rap/Hip-Hop records and white labels she had bought in New York. Shortly after I bought my first mixer and SL 1210s and started buying records. I remember I was very fascinated by releases from Eric B & the Rakim, Public Enemy, EPMD but would later also move to House, Dance and at that time Hip House and Club stuff. That was all in the late 80s.
But, honestly, you put me on a nice beach in the Caribbean and I would come up with the same stuff! I think it’s a bit deeper routed and geographical location won’t change the output.
Q: Why the NY ‘journey’? What was your first equipment ever?
A: New York ’cause I had the chance to study there! I left Berlin at the peak of the new Techno movement. It was a good decision for focusing on music and to get more control over things and to gain some perspective. My first synth was a novation bass station, which was pretty affordable at that time. It was followed by a Waldorf Microwave and an Akai 2800 sampler but I also bought guitar fx units since they were more affordable.
[Dave Foster (Huren), 1996]
Q: How much the aesthetic of Zhark Berlin over the years resembles the American period you had been living through? How much of NY and how much of Berlin is in there? Where does ‘Zhark’ name come from, anyway?
A: I think in terms of Techno New York was a huge disappointment as there wasn’t a self-sustaining scene. The subculture as I knew did not exist in that form, but as a city New York was superior and mind-opened, it was still a rough place. My music was always designed to be played in a more Berlin-er club environment which you could not find there… But, honestly, you put me on a nice beach in the Caribbean and I would come up with the same stuff! I think it’s a bit deeper routed and geographical location won’t change the output. Rachel came up with the Logo for the Label and the name, I think it was a spontaneous visual idea she had without the notion of meaning.
Q: Is Crusader the first release following the Zhark ‘split’? What could you tell is missing comparing it with the first two four-hand works you did with Rachel and what has been added instead that is strictly personal? What brought you guys to release In the Bush and Payback, and what was the urge behind the Crusader release?
A: I think me and Rachel had a very good workflow going and worked on a lot of less formatted tracks and felt pretty good about what we came up. I think I pushed things a bit more into a technoid direction. She was always keen on the experimental side of things and so we came up with the first release. On the second release I had already produced one track by myself as Rachel had to move back home for a while and I started working on it day and night. I think all the stuff we (and then later I) worked on was really pure as there wasn’t much input from outside. It was actually very clear that we wanted to move away from the established approaches. So, after a few months, I had material for more releases and I still have tons of tracks from that period as I was literally working on music on a daily basis.
Q: Did a Zhark Berlin showcase ever happen? Have you ever shared the stage with David Foster (Huren, Teste)? What about the Huren & Kareem – 1995 – 2000 Compilation on Zhark, can you tell few words about it? Why did you choose to release those tracks in particular?
A: Sure, between 1998-2002 we had a lot of Zhark Nights at Tresor. I played often with him also in other clubs. I also remember a festival in Cologne alongside acts like Pure, Christoph de Babalon and La Peste. The compilation was a good cut in order to summarize and to prepare for the next level which was already on the way with the 10th Zhark release. It was also a fun thing to release a CD with the millennium connotation and make it this way a bit epic, and to highlight the drama… cause in the end we are all a bit dramatic, you know.
Q: Who’s Franco Laffitte?
A: Well, someone I used to spend a lot of time with in New York. I was sort of introduced to him through friends who were related to him: a rather interesting character who hardly left his place but had seen a lot. We would often watch war documentaries together. Frank would give you the truth you would not want to hear. He died a few years back.
Q: An interesting fact about your music production is that you preferred not to release stuff under different aliases, despite the huge amount of styles and genres you have been researching in – which is actually something pretty unusual (i.e. positively surprising). Why is that? Is it kind of a statement, saying ‘that’s the whole me, I do not need to fit in any particular genre scheme/division?’ What are your thoughts about albums like Full Spectrum Dominance and Battlefield? What about the Dälek Remix?
A: At the time I began working on that stuff it was clear that I would do it under the same alias that I had already used for so many different approaches and it was the name I used back when I played hip-hop. It was also going through the same channels, Hardwax sold half of the catalogue of the first Ramadan release and Full Spectrum Dominance was released on the Heiko Laux’s sublabel K2o so it seemed to appeal to the same audience. Therefore I did not feel the urge to put it out under another name… and yes, I think one gets trapped easily with one particular style and approach.
Of course I know a lot of the kids from the hip-hop spectrum get confused when they get confronted with the other side of Kareem, that I know for sure! Yeah, hip-hop kids are mostly pretty narrow and that’s why it has been hard to develop it further…However, the first Ramadan has been my best selling 12” ever and it was repressed several times. I was also really happy with the Shadowhuntaz collab… and actually, on Zhark 023, I said fuck it! and included a Dälek Remix.
It was also a fun thing to release a CD with the millennium connotation and make it this way a bit epic, and to highlight the drama… cause in the end we are all a bit dramatic, you know.
Q: What can you tell us about the break Zhark Berlin and Kareem took in 2007 and lasted until 2012? What has changed in your approach? Do you consider Mesmer as a new starting point or is it in some sort of continuity with the previous releases?
A: The break was good and did not feel that long. You know, I have seen people losing their minds or just disappearing on the way, so I am happy that I am able to do what I am doing without making any compromises. Mesmer goes well with the idea of versatility. I think the tracks are still dark and moody, but not as much to the front. Me and Huren have always been able to balance different Techno approaches, you know. So yes, it is pretty much a continuity of a more thought out development of a track. It usually takes me a lot of time to finish a recording and the idea is emphasize its quality, not focus on ‘quantity’.
[Patrick in Berlin, 1999]
Q: Talking about Porto Ronco [The Death of Rave] and The Jet Set [Overdraw], why did you choose to go out on a label which is not Zhark? Why The Sky is Gone But You Are Still Here was released on it instead? Could you describe in very few words each one of these three records?
A: Back in the days I only released on Zhark because no one wanted to releases the stuff anyway, and I always felt home releasing on my own label as I could release whatever I wanted to. I guess since the Fondation Sonore release this has changed as I suddenly received a lot of requests and everyone was just very open. All theses releases you mentioned are slightly different but I would never release anything on another label that I would not put out myself. I do not give out any half-baked material. There isn’t so much to say about them… maybe it’s worth a mention the funk emphasis on the 024’s A-side, and the general slower tempo on all tracks. I am always trying to maintain a certain continuity in terms of the overall mood.
Q: Are you playing a lot in this period? How do you develop your sets right now and in what does it differ from what you used to do? How much of it is present in your latest releases?
A: Yeah, I have been playing at really amazing venues over the last years, developed my set and improved it with every gig that followed. A lot of the new material emerged from a more intuitive method where I don’t work on differently layered tracks but create hundreds of small fragments that I throw together at a certain point and see if and how to combine them. The set itself is rather intense and grueling, and once I have it at a certain point I can go on pretty long, it is not designed for only 45 minutes.
Q: Are you planning to add more artists to the roaster after the stunning Casual Violence release few months ago?
A: Yes sure, that was the idea when I started releasing music from all these talented people that I am now surrounded whom I often feel I have known for years. I am glad that after all these years there is so much good material.
Q: What about the Ramadan Digital 02 release? [The Bonk]. What is your relationship with Jaeda? What are the main topics covered by her lyrics? Did you produce the beats in response to them or is it kind of an agreement of the two components? Will your interest in hip-hop / techno crossover lead to further records or is it an isolated episode?
A: I only met her briefly during a gig here in Berlin where she was just doing a battle on stage and I was just very impressed, but it took a long time until I was actually able to remix her tracks and put them into a different much darker frame. I have been also talking to The Opus, the guy behind the beats of the Chigago based group Rubberoom about teaming up. It is very possible that I approach Hip-Hop again.
Back in the days I only released on Zhark because no one wanted to releases the stuff anyway, and I always felt home releasing on my own label as I could release whatever I wanted to.
Q: How do you relate to the huge influence you held on the present techno scene? It is impressive how records such as Druids and Caspian Gold, and devastating tracks like Amec got through the years completely un-aged. How was your techno music production welcomed by the fall of the 90s and in the first years of 00s? Can you pick up a favorite record out of your overall productions?
A: It had been always hard for us to adjust to the so called Underground Techno Mainstream. There is still a lot of formalism in the scene even though time has changed and now the audience is a lot more open for more challenging concepts. I think partially it has to do with the fact that you can get an overview over the different approaches without going to a record shop. I mean, back then, even the record shops filtered a lot of stuff and you sort of had to eat the so-called functional tracks that a lot of the average DJs were feeding you at the clubs. Now you can form an opinion much quicker and compare styles and approaches. I can not really tell you how much our approach was welcomed back then, I just know we sold the 12”! I guess there wasn’t that much interaction but when we played we hardly cleared the dancefloor.
[Kareem live, 2004]
Towards the end of the 90s and in the beginning of the ’00 years I changed production approach and became very confident in my method. So, in that sense, Noctocromäs and Caspian Gold marked a new starting point and everything that followed until today is based on that concept but also in regards to a more detail driven, enduring and meditative production process. I am very satisfied with these releases in that sense, and all that has followed since then.
Q: Considering in particular the shocking 12’’ called Black September (listen it here) – it can be reguarded, in our opinion, as one of the greatest industrial (meaning ‘reproducing the heavy sound of industrial machines moving’, without any relation to the genre itself) and techno records ever released . What are the main influences for you in conceiving, developing and producing the album? How could you possibly sound so HEAVY on record? Where you offering the same experience live? What about the name of the release?
A: At that time that record was released I was heavily influenced by the vibe Dave Foster had brought to the label. The stuff he had come up with for Zhark 07, 08, 09 and also for 11 became the ultimate tracks for me and I felt like we were now in a different league, especially if you compare it to the boring Detroit stuff and the even more boring minimal shit. So, with that in mind, I set out for that release and I remember talking to guy at Debug magazine to review the record and he was like “Who is actually playing that kind of stuff?!?” Yeah, at the gigs in the late 90s we played a lot of our stuff of course, but also other great labels and artists as I tried to show with my mix PORTRAIT#1 too. I think the title of Zhark 0010 has something to do with my birthday being in September.
I have been to Italy a lot but never played there, I guess it is about time to do some damage.
[2014, The Bonk]
Q: Very last question: would you tell the name of a record that left a deep mark on you and affected the way in which you think about Music, even now? Assuming is there one, of course. See it as a way to complete the portrait you’ve been helping us shaping through the mix and the interview.
A: Nope, I cannot simplify it. I guess every period had its tracks… outstanding in the early 90s were the Jeff Mills and Basic Channel releases. That stuff pushed the ladder up in ’92 and ’93, but generally it would be too easy to mention one track or artist.
Q: Thank you very much for your time. Hope to see you soon, maybe in Berlin at one of your shows, ready to be blown away. Do you happen to have a big couch or a huge basement?
A: Got a big couch, the basement of this building is a really scary place…
Q: P.S. You never came to play in Italy, did you? What about to take a visit? We’re sure there’s a lot of people who are gonna appreciate it…
A: I have been to Italy a lot but never played there, I guess it is about time to do some damage.
1. Modulator – Untitled [Analog Records USA // 004: Matrix Acid, 1993]
2. Imminent Starvation – Lost Highway (Exit) [Ant-Zen // act 59: Human Dislocation, 1997]
3. Current 909 – Hospitalism [Atmosfear // 001: Internal Codes, 1997]
4. Welcome Monster Lover – Raptus! [Muhtan // 001: mutants & heureux ep, 1999]
5. Iesope Drift – Tuljhän [Seico Corp // 001: Tuljhän, 1997]
6. Panasonic – Murto [Blast First // BFFP 128: Osasto EP, 1996]
7. ZymOsiZ – Stompers [Possessive Blindfold // PBCCD015: Noiy, 2000]
8. Huren – Ajerbajan [Zhark Recordings Berlin // 00011: Barracks, 2000]
9. Surgeon – Prowler [Counterbalance // CBX008: Screw the Roses, 2001]
10. Kareem – Stalker [Jackfruit // JF01: Regatta De Blanc, 1996]
11. Continous Mode – Running Status [Klang Elektronik // 33: Criminal Funk, 1999]
12. Converter – Denogginizer [Hymen // 014: Coma, 1999]
13. Huren – Begin Tipplezone (Remix) [Zhark Recordings Berlin // 009: Tinseltown, 1999]
14. I-f – I Do Because I Couldn’t Care Less [Disko B // 051: Portrait of a Dead Girl, 1995]
15. Unit Moebius – Millenium [KK Records // 150: Status, 1996]
16. Caustic Window – The Garden Of Linmiri [Replhex // 009: Joyrex J9 EP, 1993]
17. Huren – Liebes Cocktail [Zhark Recordings Berlin // CD02: Pub(l)ic Meat, 2001]
18. Orphx – Nullity v 22 [Hands Productions // D008: Vita Mediativa, 1999]
19. Cyanide – Boo [Uncivilized World // UW 06: Confine EP, 1998]
Born in Brescia, Italy in 1989, after his Master Degree in Engineering for Comm. Technologies & Multimedia he moved to Turin where he currently lives and pursues his PhD. Among his interests: new technologies, music as unbiased form of social/cultural expression, Guy Picciotto.