As long-term Panorama Bar resident, Achim Brandenburg earned a reputation as one of the world’s best DJs. Attack’s Kristan J Caryl called him to discuss his reluctance to step into the spotlight, and the therapeutic benefits of weekly karaoke sessions.
For someone who has spent a large proportion of his life as the focal point of a dark room, Prosumer is endearingly shy. He answers questions carefully and thoughtfully, often laughing – sometimes nervously, sometimes from the bottom of his belly – as he does so. Not afraid to admit that he can occasionally be at odds with what is expect of him, he is someone who needs his own time and space to deal with what life throws at him.
One constant throughout his life has been music. “Records are my friends,” he says; a little familiar piece of home that he takes with him wherever he goes, from Australia to Croatia, afternoon sets on the beach to early morning sessions in sweaty basements and many places besides.
At the moment he’s occupied by writing the next chapter of his life: after a long, famed and fruitful relationship with Panorama Bar, the former Berlin resident moved to Edinburgh and is now a free agent. It means he has more time to build on his discography alongside Murat Tepeli, with whom he has recently announced a new label and will soon play live once more. In advance of the famously deep-digging DJ releasing his typically far-ranging Fabric mix, we called him up to chat about karaoke, life in the limelight and his relationship with Farringdon’s most famous night spot.
Attack: In the nine years I’ve been doing this, 9am is the earliest I’ve ever interviewed a DJ. Are you a morning person?
Prosumer: Not at all! But I’m in Berlin right now for the quiz night that I run with Tama Sumo and I’m flying to Australia later today so [PR company] Tailored decided to schedule interviews in the morning.
Has that regular trip back to Berlin for the quiz night helped ease you in to living in Edinburgh? Does it feel like you haven’t fully left?
Of course. I’m a person who likes his routines and also, well, to say I’m dependent on friends sounds a little drastic, but yeah, it helps me to see my friends. Usually I find time to go for coffee and dinner with them, so.
Did you have any friends in Edinburgh when you moved there?
No. I had a friend studying there ten years ago and I visited her lots, but when I moved there I didn’t know a single person. I went to Edinburgh for six weeks to test the ground before moving and then, during the first week I was there, I met the Firecracker guys – Linkwood, Lindsay [Todd] who runs the label. I realised they were lovely people and we got along fine.
So how did it feel to wake up after you cut free from your residency at Panorama Bar knowing you had no regular gig, and to some extent therefore, income? Was it exciting or terrifying?
I mean, of course, I’m really good at being terrified of everything. There are no securities in the job I have anyway – you have the feeling that it could be over at any time, so it’s a regular occurrence where I think ‘what’s going on’ and I have the feeling that I lack a safety net. But then again it’s also very rewarding to know that you’re doing things yourself, by your own rules and timing, so I wouldn’t change a thing. Like everyone, there are days where I complain and wish things to be different, but all in all I’m still really grateful that things are the way they are.
Was part of the reason you went to live in Edinburgh because you didn’t know anyone there?
The thing is I really realised I needed much more time for myself. I’m not sure if it’s getting older or Berlin changing drastically, or a bit of everything. I really need more time to relax, to balance stuff, so that’s why I looked for a place that was more calm. It wasn’t conscious to go somewhere where I didn’t know anyone, but that didn’t scare me – I travel all the time so I see people and am not completely isolated. I was struggling in the last years in Berlin. You often had a hard time getting to spend really quality time with people. You meet them, then you or they have to run. It’s always a bit stressful, so I decided when I moved I would have a nice guest room so that friends can come visit, and that’s worked out really well. A couple of friends have come over for a week or a few days and I really enjoy that – spending time with people and focus on doing something together.
I’m really good at being terrified of everything. There are no securities in the job I have anyway – you have the feeling that it could be over at any time
It seems like this move was you saying, I need to take my life back and have something outside of DJing.
Living in Berlin, everyone is busy, but wherever you are as a DJ, I imagine relationships and personal life are things that take a back seat. Maybe you realised you wouldn’t be DJing forever and need something else?
Not forever, no! If you ask a 20 year old kid about when they will be too old, they will say “oh, mid thirties!” But then you get to mid thirties and don’t feel old. I know a lot of my colleagues, this idea of being too old for something that you had at one point in your life doesn’t apply at all. I have no idea what my expiry date for this is, I don’t see myself doing it forever, but for quite a while yet. Thing is, you can do different stuff – I’m sure there will be an age where I feel ridiculous with young kids in the club at 4am, but I might be focusing more on stuff like festivals where you have afternoon sets on the beach. [Laughs] I did lots of those this summer so maybe I’m getting old.
I was struggling in the last years in Berlin. You often had a hard time getting to spend really quality time with people.
You must take some confidence from the fact that, nowadays, kids all around you are hurrying to set up labels, events brands, clothing lines, all to try and ensure longevity, whereas you haven’t even been scared into producing that much over the last decade.
Yeah, so the thing is with working in the studio, it takes time. Only this summer I started to make time actively again, so since August I’ve decided to take one weekend a month off – before I was playing every weekend. I just spent two weeks with Murat [Tepeli] rehearsing for a new live show, so the weekends off weren’t really weekends off.
So yeah, I think I will spend more time in the studio again. The thing with me having only released remixes in the last few years is that you have a deadline – someone forces you to let go. I’m not good at that, so if I have [an unfinished] track I put it in a folder and listen to it from time to time. Then, after 100 years, if I’m happy with it, [I release it]. All the records I released were stuff that had been there a while so I had time to go back to it and re-evaluate it and then after a couple of years say, “OK, I think I’m happy enough with it.”