From Kommando 6 to Shipwrec passing through Satamile, Fundamental Records, Minimum Syndicat or Polybiux Trax, versatile talent Umwelt has been distilling his uncompromising sound universe since 1997 on some of the most underground Electro/Techno labels. As a pioneer and veteran of the French Rave scene, being an artist with incredible longevity, real name Fred Poncet never surrounded to easiness nor denied his past: he has always been instead an advocate of a certain idea of Rave music, unique, authentic and original. Over the years, his numerous caps help him to accomplish his mission: spread the Rave sound to the masses! Let's have a small talk with this successful label owner, demanding artist and untouchable DJ:
Chris Nexus 6: Tell us a little bit about your musical background?
Umwelt: I come from the French Rave scene, in the early 90's. I started playing in Rave parties in '93, in a squat in Lyon. I never gave up since, with no other ambition other than doing what I like and share it with everybody.
What are your main influences and who are your favorite artists (past and present)?
I think the basis of my influences come from New Beat and Rap. At the age of 15, I was only listening to that sound. It was also around the time when I started mixing and buying vinyls thanks to the summer jobs. Rave music from the early 90's like T99, 808 Sate, R&S, as well as the Chain Reaction and Axis labels, Drexciya's Electro and Monojunk had a great musical influence on me. Today, there are so many artists I would refer to that it is impossible to name them all. Anyway, I have a lot of respect for artists such as Boris Divider, The Exaltics, Ekman, SAWF, and my friends Voiron and Minimum Syndicat who are exceptional producers with a strong and unique musical identity.
Do you have non musical influences as well?
Yes, lots of things influence me off course: the hardness of life, nature's beauty, meetings with friends, art...Life in general!
How did you get into Electronic Music? Tell us about your first parties, how did you hook up with Raves?
Like many of my generation, I had the opportunity to attend the beginning of Rave Parties in France. At the end of 1988, I discovered New Beat and mix. This is when I started buying vinyl. Then came up Radio Maxximum and the 120bpm TV show that influenced a whole generation. Radio Maxximum was broadcasting Rave Parties live, like the mythic Rave Party at Le Bourget. I discovered something really new. I bought more and more records and played more and more. Then everything went fast. Thanks to meeting [people] and a lot of luck, I've been booked at the first raves in Lyon as a regular DJ in a squat, even L'hypnotic, in front of 1000 happy people. This was a crazy era.
In a parallel direction, I was running a radio show, Teknoland, where we were receiving numerous artists such as Mike Dred, Deg, Robert Leiner, and Stephanovitch, who were playing on the radio when they were passing through Lyon. We were a kind of infoline for Raves. The show ended 6 months later, the day after the prefect told the owner of the radio station why he was hostile toward Rave parties.
Your best feat of arms? The thing you're the most proud of?
My musical career and its evolution. Being upright in my music, keeping the same desire and passion to create and play the music I like.
You've owned several labels during your career, including Shelter and Fundata. Let's talk about these structures, what did they become?
Shelter and Fundata were launched in 1999. Productions on Fundata were still highly influenced by Techno and Rave. Shelter was a transition to my Electro mutation. Both labels fell down at the same time like my distributor in 2001. There's no plan to relaunch them unfortunately.
What are the artistic lines of your current New Flesh Records & Rave Or Die imprints? What do you intend to do through these labels? Is there any bridge between them?
Rave and Electro are my main influences. New Flesh was launched in 2009 with Chris Nexus 6 and Anita. This is a label strictly devoted to Electro. On New Flesh, the combination of artworks and music is very important. We've developed a strong identity, futuristic and rather dark. The Sci-Fi artworks by Nexus 6 help to get a very stylized final product. Vinyl as an object is extremely important in New Flesh projects.
Rave Or Die is the Techno side. It's a bit of a return to the source. I wanted to release more Techno, Acid Mental and dancefloor influenced tracks. That's the way the first release came out and it worked pretty well. Then I decided to release more productions and develop the label. The idea each time is to invite an artist, a friend, and publish a 10 inch split release. The "Parc Expo" E.P. with Voiron captures well the spirit of the label. When we released it, it came very quickly, without promotion (as often) and without particular purpose. If you don't like, it doesn't matter, Rave Or Die!
Both labels have deep Rave influences. Are you nostalgic for the 90's? Is the Rave spirit still alive?
Nostalgic? Not at all. I think I took plenty advantage of this era and I was lucky enough to be part of the beginnings in '93 in Lyon. Today, my mission is to convey the Rave spirit to the new generation through my music. The Rave spirit is still alive and my mission is to spread it through my way of life and my music.
Feeling, meetings... there's no plan really. I like a production or an artist, I let it be known and share.
What do you think about digital in the creative process? Can we still oppose digital to vinyl?
Digital and vinyl will always be opposed in particular in terms of sound quality and feelings. The vinyl, you love it, you touch it, you keep it preciously. MP3, you download it, you forget it and you delete it.
What advice would you give to someone who'd like to launch a label, in particular within the vinyl market?
Do not hesitate to take risk, to develop your own visual and musical identity, to produce the music you like!
What about a sequel to "Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation", your unique album, published on Satamile in 2006?
A sequel? Why not. 2006-2016, this would be a good argument to make a sequel :-)
How do you see yourself in ten years?
A Walker or survivor.
Tell us, who are the artists you'd like to sign on your labels?
There are many. I'll send you the list in a private message! :-)
What are the next releases scheduled on New Flesh Records & Rave Or Die, if it is not a secret?
The next E.P. on New Flesh will be mine. The next ROD will be with Minimum Syndicat. We have two NFlab [releases] in the pipeline, one with Rogue Frequency, and the other with Franck Kartell.
Any news for the coming months?
Lots of DJ performances, such as the Krake festival in Berlin in August, along with Ekman and Helena Hauff. Two artists that I appreciate a lot. On the production side, a new E.P. on New Flesh and a remix E.P. on Shipwrec, a new Rave Or Die with Minimum Syndicat, and several tracks and remixes on various vinyl compilations. 2015 is exceptional and productive!
Thank you Umwelt for your time and nice replies! It's an honor to have you spend some time with us.
Interview by: Chris Nexus 6 and Santino Fernandez