Phillip Sollmann sits on a lake in Brandenburg and watches his ego shrink. "I spend most of my time in nature and I feel like I get smaller every day the less I deal with people and all of this business," he says. Booming kick drums, dry ice fog, the sweaty bodies, air travel around the world, the cult of DJs and the frenzied commodification of a subculture by multinational corporations - all of this is far away, in all respects: the world's dance floors stand still and Sollmann's tour schedule is empty. That worries him about his account, he admits. But it is also "extremely redeeming". Because in the scene he hadn't really felt at home lately.
That was different. When he moved to Berlin in 2005, Sollmann quickly found himself on the dance floor of the newly opened Berghain. He is so enthusiastic about the force of architecture and sound of this concrete block that he immediately produces a new track there after his first night of partying. Acid Bells is still a classic today with its boisterous bassline and irresistible groove. The club rejects love, Sollmann becomes a resident DJ in Berghain under his pseudonym Efdemin. In the best of times he hangs up almost every weekend, at the end of the year he comes home with a good two dozen stamps in his passport. His music is also celebrated, his Efdemin album Chicago from 2010 is one of the indisputable milestones of minimal techno. So it is going well, but he cannot really get used to the lifestyle. He lacks the musical challenges: "That it's about hearing - and not just about partying and being high and hands-in-the-air."
But that's what the scene has been about for quite some time. DJs see themselves as brands and are worshiped like deities. "The development towards this star system really annoyed me extremely," says Sollmann. "I can't use it and I don't want to." Within the scene, this is now mocked as "business techno". Finally, a number of scene stars had to deal with violent criticism. They used social media to call on their fans to donate to their currently unemployed tour managers, and in return they offered mixes they recorded. People who jet through the world in a private jet, do not help their employees in an emergency and then cheer third-party music onto an audience who is supposed to pay for this farce: there is no better way to summarize the status quo of an entire scene.
Sollmann has not followed these latest developments from the lake in Brandenburg, but he is aware of one thing: "I welcome the current mandatory break because I can think about where I want to be." The Efdemin album New Atlantis in early 2019 was already an expression of a search for meaning. There imposing kick drums marched through bare soundscapes at 135 bpm, but in the next moment there were avant-garde sound sculptures. The inspiration no longer came from the dance strongholds of Detroit and Chicago, but from transcultural drone music and Buddhist temple rituals. He no longer felt like either-or, said Sollmann at the time. New Atlantis has already shown the direction: minimal techno and minimal music started to vibrate together.
Now he sits there and plays around with guitars in a shed to elicit overtones from them. Meanwhile the album Monophonie is released under its real name, it is the first in 14 years. He recommends listening to it on vinyl, at the wrong speed, at 33 ⅓ turns instead of 45. "That sounds incredibly good!" Maybe the DJ can get away with it, who likes to deal frankly with his musical material. Here is monophonic nothing to do with Technozu. Just like he, who only "accidentally" became a DJ, has always been an outsider in this scene.