From Alienated Hippie Child to Techno Storyteller, Kölsch is Finally Content
“All the bullshit you’ve been through in your life was maybe worth it."
Rune Reilly Kölsch has been many names and many sounds. Shrouded in the mysterious and enigmatic nature of his aliases, techno's prodigal son Kölsch has masterminded productions where you least expect them.
While producing hip-hop records in the early 90s, Kölsch struggled with the harsh attitudes of the genre. "The rappers were always late and it's impossible to find the right talent to work with," he tells. " House music was all about instrumentals so I just figured, THIS IS GENIUS."
Tired of the violence and negative energy in the hip-hop industry, Kölsch was taken aback by the peaceful environment of electronic music. At the arrival of records from the likes of Underground Resistance, Jeff Mills, and Robert Hood, Kölsch's mentality changed. "I completely fell in love with this perfect combination of funk, soul, and electronic. I just thought: this is the voice of my generation."
Yet, even with the limited selection of records available to him, a lack of finances meant that Kölsch still couldn't buy all the records he wanted. Thus, he tried to produce the sounds at home himself. Programming hip-hop loops on his Commodore Amiga 500, he'd record his versions of classics from Chicago and Detroit down on cassette tape. Meanwhile, his interest in the European club scene evolved. "In 1999 I went to Ibiza for the first time and it changed a lot for me," he mentions. Later that year, Kölsch was given his first residency in Copenhagen, which finally allowed him to focus full-time on music. "I was playing six or seven hours every night, spending a lot of time at the record stores, buying vinyl and trying to figure out the sound that I wanted."
While refining his tastes and preferences, Kölsch also kept busy in the studio. "I used to find it very interesting to perfect the production technique of the perfect radio record," says Kölsch, who produced commercial hits like "Calabria," and worked with artists like Nicki Minaj and NERVO.
Despite producing big pop music, Kölsch maintained his streak of underground releases on his own labels, Tattoo Records and Arty Farty. "I just decided that I had sort of missed the more experimental and artsy parts of making music," he says. It was when Michael Mayer asked him to release something on Kompakt Records that Kölsch's career path was altered. "That was a big honour, because a lot of people would have dismissed me because I had done commercial stuff," says Kölsch, who released his first 12" on Kompakt in 2010, Loreley. "Since then, I have found my home. Kompakt is the place where I just feel that they accept me exactly as I am, there's no judgment," he adds. "I can just do whatever the fuck I want and I think that is so liberating."
"The EDM world is totally focused on the effect of the music and there's nearly nothing left: it's kick drum, clap and a melody," says Kölsch. "Everything has been deemed unnecessary." On the opposite end of spectrum, lies the art and soul-infused Kompakt records. A supporter of the long-play that holds creativity to a high regard, Kompakt has established itself as a music-first imprint. "It makes me full of joy that they have this label that takes chances and doesn't give a shit about what other people do," says Kölsch. Along with the numerous well-received and heavily supported singles like "Goldfisch," and "Casseopeia," Kölsch has invested his time into his well-received LPs, 1977 and 1983.
The first of his two albums acts as a doorway into the early life of the Danish artist. "I have matured to the point where I can actually let myself open up and let other people look inside my feelings and my emotions and where I come from," says Kölsch. "A lot of my childhood has been a big conflict because my family is so diverse," he says. Struggling with language barriers and the cultural differences between his hometown of liberal Christiania, Denmark and the home of his relatives in conservative Germany and foreign France, Kölsch was left searching for answers at a young age. "There I was, this little hippy child, stuck in this sort of upper middle class neighbourhood, not feeling at all welcome," he says. "I think it's something we all go through as kids, that slightly rebellious period in your life when you try to understand who you are."
The journey continues into his sophomore album, 1983, which maintains an unprecedented humanist feeling. "The whole album itself is this journey through Europe, it's this symbolism, from childhood to early teens, driving from the cold north of Copenhagen to the south of France to visit my family," says Kölsch. Passing through his lost identity in Germany, the conclusion in southern France climaxes in the album's final track, "Papageno – 30 Years Later." "That struggle, that extreme contrast between the aggressive and the break when it's pure melancholy, and this utter sea of sadness — that's probably the best example of what I'm trying to express when I'm talking about experiences in my life."
The human feeling involved in 1983 cannot be understated. The warm tones feature throughout the album from beginning to end, something Kölsch says he's built on with live instrumentation. "It's much more difficult to mix, because it's live, but what I always thought was interesting was, 'Why hadn't anyone really done that before?'" Kölsch feels as though he is finally arriving at his destination, something the album lends itself to share with its listeners.
"It could be that finally you've come to a conclusion that all the bullshit you've been through in your life, was maybe worth it, and has made you this person that you are now."
Originally published on Thump.