Wolfgang Voigt, born in 1961 in Cologne, Germany, is an artist, music producer, label owner and one of the co-founders of the Cologne-based electronica and techno label Kompakt.
Grown up and socialized in the pop sub-culture of the 1970s and 1980s, Voigt has developed his own art and sound that cross genres, mixing music styles such as glam rock, pop, jazz, classic, punk, and new wave, and art movements such as pop art and the Neue Wilde (the ‘New Wild Ones’). In the late 1980s, he caught acid house fever, and since then Voigt has committed himself uncompromisingly to the straight (techno music) bass drum.
Inspired by the minimalist structures of this music, Voigt works around the most diverse facets of his own ideas of subversive concept disco music. He understands this kind of contemporary music as a non-verbal, international musical language in which origin, status, or rockstardom are no longer relevant. Voigt’s contribution to the various global techno 'dialects' (Chicago, Detroit, Berlin, Frankfurt…) is Cologne minimal techno, of which he is considered to be the most important pioneer.
Working under many different project names and pseudonyms (e.g. Mike Ink, Studio1, M:I:5, GAS, Love Inc., Freiland, Wassermann…), Wolfgang Voigt has continuously varied his own, unmistakable music style from the onset of the 1990s, spanning the spectrum from creating experimental and unusual hybrids by combining elements of techno with German Schlager and folk music, to pioneering, austere minimalistic concept techno series such as Studio1, a series that was limited to 10 vinyl releases, the cover of each bearing a plain color design without any text.
In 1996, his pop techno album Love Inc. - Life’s a Gas based on historical pop citations (samples), was named ‘Album of the Year’ by the renowned music magazine Spex. His project GAS, an intoxicatingly sinister work of sound art based on highly condensed classical sound sources, thrilled a global audience far beyond the traditional electronica and techno music scenes. By combining abstract nature sounds with strings and brass alongside GAS’s minimalist cover designs incorporating photographs he took in the forest, Voigt shows his strong affinity for Romanticism and portrays the forest as a mysterious or melancholic place. The accompanying text reads: “GAS fantasizes about a sound body ranging somewhere between Schönberg and Kraftwerk, between bugle and bass drum. GAS is Wagner in the guise of glam rock, Hansel and Gretel on acid. An endless march through the undergrowth—into the disco—of an imaginary, misty forest.”
In the 1990s, techno music and its ‘Cologne Minimal Variation’ achieved worldwide success. The underground record store founded in 1993 by Voigt and friends, emerged as an internationally renowned hotspot of the techno movement and a flourishing place for record productions by in-house or like-minded artists from all over the world. In 1997, in order to offer a broader, independent platform for an ever growing number of amazing music releases, the record store grew into a new independent label, Kompakt, with its own distribution, publishing and artist/booking agencies.
During this period that Voigt calls "the art of making business", he started focusing on Kompakt’s artistic mise en scène and design, developing the label into a distinctive and internationally renowned brand. In 2003 Kompakt moved into a spacious residential and office building located in downtown Cologne, and the idea of an independent ‘cultural factory’, very much in the spirit of Warhol’s Factory, turned from vision to reality.
Since 2007, Voigt has shifted his focus back to his own projects again. Having always been working at the interface between art and music, he now merges the two disciplines in a mutually enriching way in specific projects. Two fundamental approaches, through innumerable variations, characterize Voigt’s music and artwork. The first: the loop principle—the static or varying repetition of minimalist, repetitive structures which generate specific patterns. The structure of computer-based music production and associated software clearly and strongly influences this artistic concept, reflected in Voigt's body of art and music. The second: the abstract deforming and condensing of external resources, i.e. the sampling of different sounds or images reduced to their original basic structure, their raw aesthetics, in a certain sense their (hypothetical) liberation, and transferred into a new context—a process that Voigt calls "Entdeutung", i.e. de-significaton.
When choosing the 'raw material' for his work, Voigt lets himself be inspired by his tastes, preferences, spontaneous moods, or certain kinds of coincidences. While these 'resources' disappear most of the time during processing, their unnoticeable, hidden presence nevertheless remains essential for him. Wolfgang Voigt has rules he follows. However, because he often locates this 'certain something' he was initially searching for not at the place where he thought it to be, but in its surroundings, he continuously breaks these rules during the creative process by employing different improvisational techniques, resulting in intentional variations and coincidences.
While Voigt often cannot or does not want to resist the attraction of extreme abstraction, he nevertheless respects the clear rules of a 4/4 beat, the three-minute pop song, and last but not least the serial patterns found on industrially produced wallpaper. Always driven by a refusal to be categorized, Voigt imbues his body of work with a high degree of complexity, volatility, and ambiguity. As a 'fast and prolific producer', he unleashes his creativity in intense creative phases at regular intervals, the result of which are Voigt's characteristic series (the Serial Principle), often distinguishable only by their album covers’ colors, or just consecutively numbered (e.g. Studio1-10, Freiland, Rückverzauberung, Tetrapack, Z.O.M., etc.).