Benedikt Merkl, also known as Silent-One, is a DJ and producer based in Stuttgart. Since 2014 he is a member of the collective, event series and label From Another Mind. Three years ago he also founded his imprint Intimate Silence, an ambient label with outstanding releases from artists such as PVNV, Glós, Thomas Hessler and many more.
Based on the label, he is also hosting a podcast series with ambient sets on Rinse France and Soundcloud. For Monument, he talks about his work behind the label.
Hello Silent – One, tell us something about yourself. When and how did you got in touch with Techno?
I was born in 1992 in Esslingen, Southern Germany. Besides running my own label „Intimate Silence“, curating „From Another Mind“ with SHDW & Obscure Shape and touring around as a DJ, I am working as a management assistant in wholesale and foreign trade. I got in touch with techno music in 2010 while watching Paul Kalkbrenner’s movie „Berlin Calling“. Afterwards I’ve visited the first clubs & festivals. I’ve been more into rock & rap music before, still listening to it especially while traveling to relax.
You are based in Stuttgart, South Germany. Many people connect techno with East Germany and especially with Berlin. Can tell us something about the scene in South Germany and what makes it so special?
The scene in Southern Germany isn’t really comparable with the Eastern one. Recently many clubs are struggling with ticket selling or the local government. A bunch of great clubs just closed its doors, e.g. our former home base „Romy S.“ in Stuttgart & the amazing „Mixed Munich Arts“ in Munich. Additionally, it’s really hard to fill a club with new talents, most people just follow the hype, the big names. There’s not really an underground scene, well, at least a small one. I want to point out that we’re still hosting parties in Stuttgart and we don’t want to miss it as it is always a familiar meeting of friends and cool people. We still have the vision to „educate“ the Southern German ravers, inviting rising artists to our place which never been to Stuttgart before.
You are also a member of From Another Mind, a collective you run together with SHDW, Obscure Shape and Javier Bähr. It started as an event series in South Germany and became a very successful label in the last years. How did you join the crew, and how is it to work with the label and event series?
Marco, also known as SHDW, and myself are friends since more than twenty years, we’ve been together already in the toddlers’ group, haha. Back in 2013, there wasn’t an underground scene in Stuttgart. Every now and then a great artist like Rødhåd or Jeroen Search was playing in Stuttgart. Mostly, we had to travel to Berlin to listen to the artists which we’d love to see. In 2014, we wanted to implement our vision of techno music: From Another Mind was founded in cooperation with our first residency „Romy S.“! Becoming a record label after only two years of hosting events wasn’t planned though – but we felt as its the right timing now back then. For now, we’re a group of five artists, sharing the same vision of techno. Everyone of us has his own tasks to do regarding the label and event series which is working really well.
Ambient is quite the opposite of your powerful and ravy techno sets. How did you discover your passion for ambient and where do you get your inspiration from?
I’ve discovered my passion for ambient music while diggin’ for fresh music. I was looking for music which I could listen at home or while traveling since I can’t listen to techno music 24/7. It would drive me nuts to be honest. I’m transferring my feelings into music. For example I’ve written my first solo EP „Lost Souls“ when I broke up with my girlfriend. It was a hard time for me. On the one hand I can escape from reality while going on a rave, on the other hand with ambient music I can find myself again, getting back on track.
If you compare playing ambient and techno, what are the differences?
It’s a totally different mixing with ambient music compared to techno music. In general, most ambient tracks have different vibes, arrangements and tonalities. If you want to mix it „in flow“ and telling a story at the same time, it’s way more difficult than mixing techno tracks together. There are much more things you have to consider while mixing compared to a simple 4/4 kick and some drums.
In addition to your work for From Another Mind, you also manage your own ambient label Intimate Silence. Could you tell us something about your concept and how did it start?
In 2015, I wanted to found my own label, releasing music which inspires me. Luckily in the meantime, Chris, aka Głós, sent me some of his newest ambient tracks and I literally felt in love with his stuff during the first listen. So, I’ve decided to ask him if he could imagine releasing it on an unknown label. Intimate Silence was born!
Launching and managing a label is not easy I guess. What are the biggest challenges?
The biggest challenge is sticking to a release date & deadlines. Delays, delays & delays – it’s super annoying sometimes as it’s out of my control. Another challenge is signing new artists to the label to stick to the release plan and finding the perfect workflow & partners for your business. But it’s all about experience. Once you’ve found the perfect workflow, everything is working smoothly.
Are there different kind of challenges in managing an ambient label than a Techno label?
I would say the main challenge is finding new music and new talents. There’s only a handful of ambient music producers compared to the tons of techno producers. Furthermore it’s also not easy to find a distributor for „ambient only“ releases, expect you’re a big label like Kompakt.
Your first three releases were released on CD-format before changing to vinyl. Why did you start with CD’s but then changed the medium?
In 2015, when I’ve founded Intimate Silence, I just wanted to release ambient music right now. I didn’t want to wait like another 3 months to release the music. Moreover I wasn’t able to cover the production costs of a vinyl release at this time since I was still in my apprenticeship. It turned out releasing on CD wasn’t really efficient. I’ve received tons of mails regarding the digital files. Most DJs are playing music via USB stick, laptop or vinyl. The „CD Game“ is dead in my opinion. At least I’ve made this experience.
Some labels such as Northern Electronics, Rengaine, Rohstoff and Vaagner release ambient music on cassette. Have you ever considered using cassettes as a format for your releases? Why or why not?
Honestly, I never specify on one medium, if I want to release something on a cassette – I’ll do this for sure – but no plans yet.
Does artwork play a big role for your label? Could you tell about the concept?
The artwork plays a big role because it emphasize the character of the label and its music. First of all, I’ve asked the artist to send me an artwork which could fit to his music but at the end I’ve decided to create my own corporate design in co-work with the artist. Otherwise every release would look totally different, it wouldn’t make sense. Besides the layout, you can recognize an INS release on the printed label itself – I am always using a hand. Since my latest release I am working with Nina, a very talented photographer from Berlin. She’s taking the pictures for all future releases on my label.
You also host an ambient podcast series with Intimate Silence. Why and how did you start hosting the podcast series, and how do you choose the artists?
I‘m good friends with the Parisian guys of Taapion. One day, I’ve asked Adrien, aka PVNV, who has already published a mix for Rinse France, if he could ask the radio station if they would be interested in a regular 2 hours show for ambient music. He really liked the idea and so everything took its course: he told me that Adrien, aka AWB, is in contact with the curators and after recommending my label to them, rinse has offered me a regular show every month. My intention was to create a creative room for artists playing stuff they usually don’t. At first glance, I thought that it’s gonna be very tough to convince artists playing an one hour ambient mix, but now most of them are very interested in doing a non-club music mix with ambient and electronica music – perhaps a great opportunity to do something different compared to their normal life as an techno DJ.
Let‘s talk about your work in production. In 2018 you released Lost Souls, your first ambient EP on Intimate Silence. The four-tracker was also one of our favourite releases from the last year. How was the work process and how much time did you spend in the studio?
First of all, I wanted to thank you for choosing my debut EP as one of your favorite release in 2018 – it means a lot! At that point, I just used Ableton. I’ve started working on the tracks early 2017 on the train when I was travelling to Berlin. I’ve continued working on it when I was back from the trip with my new synthesizer, a Korg Microbrute. I didn’t spend a lot of time based on a really good workflow.
Just recently you also released an EP together with Glós, Thomas Hessler, PVNV, Pär Grindvik and Kas:st. I really love the release! How did you decide bringing these artists together for an ambient release, and how was the collaboration?
Glad to hear, thank you! Having released INS004, I had the idea to do something like a compilation for the next record. At the beginning I’ve asked PVNV and Głós if they are up for contribute one track on a Various Artists as they’ve already released music on the label. Afterwards I wanted to ask artists which I know personally and also have a passion for ambient music, supporting my label or recorded a mix for the radio show. I am really happy about the release and the involved artists – it won’t be the last VA on the label!
Who would you like to work together for a production?
I would like to work more often together with a vocalist with some own created „lyrics“ in interaction with some deep and melodic ambient like I did on my track „Lost Souls“. I don’t have a specific artist in mind but I am looking for some outstanding voices already – feel free to contact me.
Last but not least, what are your plans for the future? Any projects or gigs, we should keep an eye on?
I’d like to release my first „Techno EP“ in 2019. Moreover I’ve confirmed some very cool releases for Intimate Silence amongst others the first LP. Besides the music, the label and the From Another Mind nights, my agency is working on some really cool shows – stay tuned!