Len Faki: Basement Trax and Berghain Bangers

Len Faki has been living the residency dream and regularly moving the Berghain masses since the legendary club’s re-opening in 2004. As can be expected, a decade long relationship has both shaped and been shaped by the techno-centric experience. With the release of Len’s second EP, through the Basement Trax series on the club affiliated Ostgut Ton label, DJB caught up with the artist to chat about his years in the game, his own Figure imprint and to hear about Len’s future creative agenda. 

Growing up in the south of Germany, it was in the city of Stuttgart that Len felt his first spark for electronic music that was to be the foundation for the future dance floor roar. “In the 90s there was a big scene in Stuttgart and [I] just remember that I was out from Thursday to Sunday night.” Much like a modern Berlin, Stuttgart’s nightlife was then an experiential playground. “At the time, a lot of places opened, even on Sundays. I remember there was one place called Nexus and it was like the Sunday after-hours, which went until Monday at like two.” 

Even though Len’s earlier tastes revolved around heavier bands, drumming, and live music, when synchronizing himself with the rhythms of the DJs in the local German scene, he was completely surprised by the amount of energy that was in the electronic music. “At the time, to me it was completely new,” he describes lit up with enthusiasm. “I realized how nice it was to have one journey in one club-night; it took me over. I was sure this was something I had to learn.”

One local artist from these formative years of techno that Len refers to as being a role model is Marco Zaffarano. Back in the early 90s Zaffarano -as well as being a close ally of Sven Väth’s earlier Harthouse label- was also the resident at local techno hotspot ‘OZ’, one of Stuttgart’s main electronic nightclubs. OZ was one of Len’s main haunts growing up, and in these earlier days of European electronic-evolution, Zaffarano proved himself to be one of the most decisive-figures within the local scene. “He was the first guy to play international wise from Stuttgart,” Len recalls with delight. “I was a big fan.”

Back to the Start
Moving forward, and Len touches upon the labels Monoid and Feis, which he ran during his earlier days. In 2003 Len launched his own long running Figure imprint, a platform originally slated for his own releases, that went on to become a home for the likes of Johannes Heil, Cleric, Lewis Fautzi and Roman Poncet.

During those earlier years around the turn of the century, Len’s reputation as a sturdy techno stalwart began being noticed by Berlin techno institution, Ostgut; the venue and crew that went on to become Berghain. Through his early shows Len gradually built up a rapport with the crowd; his style and energy was sucked in by the locals, connecting him with the dancefloor, club and owners. “We had a great relationship with Michael,” Len recalls, paying reference to his friend Michael Teufele, one of the founders of Ostgut, “it was a kind of nice spirit.”  

“...I realized how nice it was to have one journey in one club-night; it took me over..."

After Len’s Stuttgart apartment suffered a devastating fire, the unfortunate event turned into a fortuitous opportunity allowing Len to pack his bags and move to Berlin. Ostgut was closing at the time but, as Len describes, “it was clear it was going to be reopened. [Michael] asked me if I would like to be part of a residency.” A roll of the dice and the rest is history, as they say.

In 2007 the release of double A-side ‘Rainbow Delta / Mekong Delta’ on Ostgut Ton brought Len Faki a wave of popularity, as Groove magazine readers awarded him “Best Track” and “Best Producer” awards of the year. By 2009, his label Figure couldn't sustain all the music he wanted to release and the FigureSPC (“Special”) brand was created as a partner-label to release the deeper sounding productions by artists such as Jeroen Search and Ed Davenport. “At the end maybe there was some music which wasn't focused towards the dancefloor, but I still loved it. We started the series with the alphabet actually. Now we are at W, so I think there’s just a few releases left, and I think its over. Of course we’re going to plan a big compilation…[at] the end.”

Len The DJ
His reputation as an energetic, hard-dynamic DJ is known far and wide, especially by those who’ve seen him play the early hours away in Berghain. When it comes to the subject of DJing, Len admits he’s no purist and remains open-minded about the topic. “Let’s say I’m quite old school. When I switched from vinyl to CDJ, it took me a really long to get the same feeling.” Even in vinyl-mode we ask? He laughs. “And you know what? I’m still playing with CDs, no USB, still burning, still writing.” Though he’s adopted digital, (with by no means a skim setup of three CDJs) Len’s vinyl collection still numbers several thousand. And his first piece of vinyl? “I think it was, maybe Moby ‘Go’, ’91.”

After over a decade of manning the decks at Berghain, the club still has a rich, unwieldy influence on the artist’s productions. Len describes with passion the process that went into making his latest Ostgut EP. After playing an energized set at Berghain, “I got home with a lot of energy, and when I woke up on Monday, I still had this feeling, in my mind, in the body, everything. So I went to the studio with that feeling and at the end, [that became the sound of] the whole EP.” The peak time 12” EP, houses three tracks; each a domino falling into the next rhythm, that adheres to Len’s tendency in leading the dancefloor out into the wee hours; from dusk till dawn, from the record to the club.

There are bigger projects on the side as well, such as the event series ‘Figure Nacht’ (Nacht being the German word for night), which has been pushing the label out to international pastures over the past several years. Having already showcased the event in Rome, Paris and Brussels in 2015, Figure Nacht moves on to Barcelona later this year, bringing Karenn and Truncate along to the Catalan capital. For Len the music experience is about building a family relationship either through his residency, supporting friends and their numerous releases on his varying labels, or with the opportunity to tour globally with some of his closer trusted acts. Looking forward to the ‘Nachts’, he says is about being “more connected” with his reliable team of label compatriots, and “for promoters and the scenes, they can feel it also;” all sharing Len’s overwhelming, positive energy.

From the young musician who spent all of his German marks on new records, Len Faki is now at home with his Figure-Family in Berlin. His progressive music journeys have made moved many bodies across global dancefloors, and this summer as the festival season sweeps forward you can catch Len as his endless tour goes from Georgia to Ibiza, with a personal highlight at “Awakenings” in the Netherlands, with other home names like Joseph Capriati, Sven Väth, Nina Kraviz and many others.

Len Faki’s remix of ‘Hooly’ by DNGLS is available now on Anemone.