Torben Schmidt (owner of Infacted Recordings, keyboarder of Suicide Commando)
The friendly, oftentimes seemingly shy Torben Schmidt is not only musician and DJ but also the man behind Infacted Recordings. How to remain as relaxed and calm between all the trouble with band releases, own performances and a daughter remains a secret to me. That's why I asked Torben to answer some questions about his label, his activity for Suicide Commando and the fact that I always run into him in a blue hoodie. Read yourselves!
Reflections of Darkness [RoD]: Obligatory first question: How are you and how have the last weeks been for you? Two of your bands were caught in release stress.
Torben: To be honest, it wasn't only two. Beside FROZEN PLASMA and TORUL, also X MARKS THE PEDWALK have a wonderful new record and in the background we are working on the first THE FIRM INCORPORATED CD and the new RUINED CONFLICT record. Besides, we are working on new material for REAPER, PREEMPTIVE STRIKE 0.1, ORANGE SECTOR and SOMAN. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, I was recently personally at the Dark Dance Treffen with SUICIDE COMMANDO and organised the NACHTMAHR show in Frankfurt parallel to that. What was up during the week? Don't ask! (laughs)
RoD: I believe you don't get bored at least (laughs). How is it like for you when one of your bands is planning a new release? Do you suffer? Are you stressed out?
Torben: I think that excitement prevails. Somehow, new releases are always exciting. There is a lot to organise, coordinate, but also to enjoy. It's certainly stress but primarily positive stress. I like that and am merged in it.
RoD: How did you actually come up with the idea of founding a label and how did the name come to pass?
Torben: In 2000 the idea grew in me to mount something of my own. Dennis Ostermann was the motivation actually who told me why I actually always do the work for other instead of starting something of my own. I thought about that for a while and sometime, Infacted Recordings was launched. The name was a spontaneous thing so-to-say, I wanted a name that expresses something but which is interpretable at the same time, it shouldn't exist for that so that's the reason behind the construct of “Infect” and “fact” with the addition of “recordings”. “Infecting and creating facts”, if you want to interpret it that way.
RoD: What's the great thing about owning an own label?
Torben: To finally know the reason for pulling all-nighters.
RoD: I only hear positive things about you and Infacted Recordings. Your fosterlings seem to be quite content with you (laughs). How do you do that?
Torben: I still believe to have a very good relation with my bands, even to those who are not with me or those whom I didn't want to publish. A lot of it is based on friendship and that's important to me. This family idea was always a concern of mine. I am quite a huge fan of Moses Pelham and his 3P label even though it goes into a completely different direction musically.
RoD: Aw, that's somehow beautiful to listen to. What makes your label different to all the others out there and place value on for the artist selection?
Torben: I don't know whether I have to be different compulsorily. My guiding line is to release music that I like. Music that probably plays an inferior role in the mainstream but that on purpose. I do that with a lot of lifeblood and as far as I can speak for myself I put a lot of emphasis on details for that (grins).
RoD: For all readers of Reflections of Darkness who have worked on their synthesisers in the cellar for years it would be certainly interesting to know what has to be fulfilled in order to get a contract with you. Tell us about it!
Torben: It's simple: I must like it (laughs), but seriously it's extremely difficult to come up with something new. THE tip doesn't exist. My own taste is the main criteria for the band selection indeed. It can go in many directions musically but should be primarily electronic. What I like will be done (grins).
RoD: I now hope that you will be flooded by demos and that you can explore many new things (laughs). Does it work nowadays like in the 80s? Handshake and simply making it – or did it become slightly more bureaucratic?
Torben: Fortunately, a lot works with the “handshake” and by acclamation. Trust is an important component but to be honest if the chemistry isn't right even the best 100 pages long contract is a wrong paper.
RoD: I have to agree with you on that. Trust is certainly the most important component. What was your funniest experience with regard to the label so far?
Torben: It's all totally serious here. (pause) We don't laugh (laughs). There are so many things, actually. Only recently I had to laugh again while watching the FROZEN PLASMA trailer for ‘Living on Video’ off the new record ‘Dekadenz’, or the first episode of ‘Reaper Trash TV’. My artists often make me laugh, that's fun and motivating.
RoD: Someone once told me that you absolutely love synth pop. Is that true or did your music taste change over the years as well?
Torben: “Someone” was indeed right here (grins). I like bands like MESH, IRIS, TORUL, FROZEN PLASMA and of course DEPECHE MODE, ERASURE, PET SHOP BOYS and.. and… and. I like good melodies and appealing vocals.
RoD: Recently, I sat together with a colleague who's also writing and we both concluded that we are working without being paid and we are contributing with love and interest in preserving the music world. No one of us both can live off idealism, though (laughs). Can you live off the income of your label or is your situation like the one of so many in the scene?
Torben: A good dash of idealism is certainly involved. The times when one got its income by only selling CDs as a small electro label are over indeed. Because of my activity as musician, producer, label maker, organiser, DJ and promoter it's certainly an intersection of all. I am still doing something that's fun, that's something like luxury to me.
RoD: Now you are not only the superior of Infacted Recordings but you also organise parties, play for SUICIDE COMMANDO, you DJ and you are very interested in football. Do you still have leisure time and if yes, how much of it? (laughs)
Torben: Yes, I do have that indeed. Football and especially my daughter are my “balance” because even though no one can imagine that from time to time you need some hiatus from music. Additionally there's sports, I myself play football and tennis.
RoD: Mister Schmidt is truly sporty. Wow. How did you actually get around to play for SUICIDE COMMANDO?
Torben: It was 2000 at the M'era Luna or I think it was still called Zillo Festival back then. I have known Johan for more than 20 years and we were always befriended loosely. He told me there that his keyboarder would quit and that he's looking for someone new. I looked at him then and said “I will do it then” (laughs). Three years after that we were rehearsing in his studio in Belgium and two months later we played our first show. This year I have been involved for fifteen years and it's still a lot of fun. We became a fantastic group and travel around the world.
RoD: You are a bit more quiet than Mario and Johan – or is that deluding? How do you get along on tour and who plays which part?
Torben: I hate both of them (laughs). No, I think that we get along with each other especially because it is that way. I keep all the technical stuff away from Johan but in return he's the front singer who gets the attention. Mario also enjoys that and is a true animal at the drums. The mix makes it and it functions so well because of that.
RoD: A teasing question is coming now: How much do you actually play live and how much comes from the tape, be honest.
Torben: Nothing comes from the tape (grins). We are using a computer. To give away internal details, of course a great deal of the music comes from the computer, for many songs it would be difficult to realise them technically but I don't see a difference in putting a tape device on stage only to have more channels blinking on the mixer. I am quite busy at my place, means: I do the backings, all videos, various vocal effects, the vocoder, additionally a bit on the surface sounds and speech and noise samples. You can see, I definitely don't get bored.
RoD: In order to get away from making music yourself: You also DJ and I find you do it very well. What do you think is needed in order to be a good DJ?
Torben: Thank you, I am happy to hear that. I am one of the not-so-numerous DJs in our music segment whom I would personally call a DJ. Among “deejaying” solely records, I am a DJ who also likes to mix beats, means not playing songs to their end and starting the next one consequently. It's difficult to define a good DJ. I have listened to DJs who can mix perfectly but who were wrong with their music choice. That also exists conversely. A DJ is a bit of an entertainer but also an artist and this is the way I see myself at least a bit. One has to work with the people but also be able to answer them. Observing the dance floor and not only doing one's own thing is a good approach, I think.
RoD: How does it look like when you're in a bad mood and when do you get it?
Torben: When I am in a bad mood I go out to chop wood (laughs). No one sees me doing that, though.
RoD: I need to ask this question before coming slowly to an end: How much do you actually love this blue sweatshirt? You are always wearing it when I see you (laughs).
Torben: (laughs) Blue is actually not really my colour. But you are right I like it, I actually have two of them which are very similar. I like hoodies generally.
RoD: Mystery solved (laughs). What is your CD tip for spring and which festivals shouldn't be missed this year?
Torben: Well, all Infacted CDs are definitely worth a purchase (laughs).
RoD: Always this covert advertising!
Torben: There must be a bit (laughs). I personally am looking forward a lot to the TORUL record but also to FROZEN PLASMA and the first CD of THE FIRM INCORPORATED will be quite thrilling. Kolja from SOMAN is working on new stuff and Jos from GRENDEL sent me first demos as well, it all sounds very promising.
RoD: Not bad, not bad. It remains a thrilling year musically. Of course, you can also nominate someone for a new interview at the end. Let's go!
Torben: I personally also conducted some interviews in the past, among others an interview with Dieter Meier from YELLO, that was extremely impressive. Whom I nominate... hm... Do an interview with Albert of Contribe, he certainly has quite a bit to tell.
More info on bands, new releases and much more can naturally be found on the label site of Infacted Recordings.
Written by Fee Wundersee, translation by Alex UltraRiot