Some people traverse their time more intensely questioning, altering and reshaping their cultural zeitgeist than this one actually seems to effect them in return: planning ahead, envisaging the future and its possibilities to reconfigure their present with most impact. Thomas Fehlmann is one of these artists. After a crucial meeting with Conrad Schnitzler at the Art Academy in Hamburg in 1979, Fehlmann swapped art for music and joined forces with Holger Hiller to co-found vanguard post-punk, electro-pop band Palais Schaumburg, freely connecting disparate extremes as they threw art, disco, minimalism, schmalz, jazz and funk in the cooking pot. His formative years in Palais Schaumburg, were also the occasion for Fehlmann to start his artistic relationship with Moritz Von Oswald. After ther band disbanded in 1984 they started to work as a production team and founded the legendary 3MB with the inclusion of Juan Atkins, Eddie Fowlkes or Blake Baxter respectively. Cementing the Berlin-Detroit connection, which he explains is “very much a non verbal affair”, all about “knocking off some fresh ideas, direct and driven by the magic of that special connetion berliners and detroiters seem to feel” – as recently experienced again with Terrence Dixon, with whom he released the album ‘We Take It From Here’. As 3MB, the variably-configured trio released three albums on Tresor – with Fehlmann eventually joining in the club’s rotation in 1995 as a resident of Gudrun Gut’s seminal OCEANCLUB weekly residency. Later on the pair’s venture takes another turn with a ten year stint of the OCEANCLUBRADIO-SHOW on Berlin station radioeins, which soon brings Gudrun and Thomas to tour together intensively all over the globe, curating countless parties and festivals.
Parallel to it all, it was through Fehlmann’s productions and compilations for his label Teutonic that the Swiss-born, Berlin-based artist got to meet Alex Paterson, mastermind of the then-nascent The Orb project. Another creative step was taken and the collaboration between Paterson and Fehlmann would last for over twenty seven years, no less – participating in elaborating a crucial chapter in the history of electronic music. Yet, aside from these well-known collaborative endeavours, never did Thomas stop working on his own, releasing seven solo albums including his latest for Kompakt, ‘Los Lagos’, between 1991 and 2018. In 2000, the creation of his live set equated to a quite profound push for the artist, further reinforced by the direct exposure and exchange the audience gave him. In Fehlmann’s own words, “the lack of borders within the electronic scene never ceased to fascinate me. It was about inventing, changing the emphasis, experimenting with unpredictable outcome, research. Mixing art and entertainment, high and low and his search for likeminded souls eventually brought him to step in the kompakt record store in Cologne sometime in the late ’90s; a shared epiphany shortly confirmed by his first incursion on the label, ‘Kreisel no. 36’, a 7” released at the turn of the millennium, that’s since been followed by four albums and seven EPs together.
61 and shining, inspired and inspiring as ever, Thomas Fehlmann’s aiming to reconquer his balance by re-focusing on his own craft and vision extendedly, allowing himself to techno freely, “to techno as a means to deconstruct and rebuild again; set up an area of tension, loose it in the flow of the grooves”. Kept intact over the years, his motivations, dreams and wishes led Thomas to continually seek “the structure that’s surprising, disturbing and rewarding”, only ruled by a coltish sense of playfulness and multi-faceted eclecticism. As an alumni of HfBK (Hamburg’s Academy of Fine Arts), it’s no mystery why the music of Fehlmann bears that much of a vivid conceptual force, having revolved in the orbit of artists such as Joseph Beuys, Sigmar Polke and Conrad Schnitzler. Feeling “fullfilled to now being able to explore my own world again”, Fehlmann keeps tracing his unique trajectory with further enlarged amplitude; pursuing his search for the sacred harmony in the ever-changing canvas of electronic music. Avoiding predictability as well as fending off relying on stale musical and rhythmic motifs, he goes: “it’s always about making decisions. By choosing from seemingly endless options I’m distilling my direction.” His latest full-length ‘Los Lagos’ asks the question: “Does your inner musical voice respond?” and has him answering all at once: “Doors open up in unexpected corners, rays of light appear. You follow through and you’re in – in your oasis.”