M.A.N.D.Y. makes a move toward traditional pop

What Detroit and Chicago were to the 1980s, and London was to the 1990s, Berlin has been to this decade—the trendsetting capital of the international dance-music scene. Since its inception in 2002, no label has exercised a greater influence over club culture than Berlin’s Get Physical, whose merger of immaculate sound design and mammoth riffs strikes a balance between highbrow refinement and semi-crass populism.

A former A&R man for Jive and V2 in Germany, Get Physical cofounder Philipp Jung should have known better than to start a label in these most disastrous of times for the music industry, but he says his partners were just stubborn enough to succeed.

“It might sound cheesy to say, but I think it comes back to the dedication we have to doing things well, all six of us who started this adventure together,” explains Jung, on the line from the label’s headquarters in Berlin. “Working together on the music, if all six of us like something, then we know it’s probably good.”

For several years, every Get Physical release was overseen by in-house producers Walter Merziger and Arno Kammermeier (together known as Booka Shade), including all the titles credited to M.A.N.D.Y., Jung’s project with long-time friend Patrick Bodmer. Among those tracks was 2005’s “Body Language”, which has since appeared on over 100 techno compilations and is perhaps the closest the genre has had to a mainstream hit this century. The popularity of that song propelled M.A.N.D.Y. into the touring DJ elite, focusing the duo’s efforts on mix compilations at the expense of songwriting.

That all changed in February, when Jung and Bodmer spent three weeks in Iceland recording new tracks with labelmate Stefan Eichinger (aka LOPAZZ). Where the producers once relied exclusively on software platforms, they spent their time in Iceland making field recordings and working out songs with such old-fashioned tools as guitars.

That switch is consistent with the overall change of course for Get Physical. Since setting the benchmark for pristine, ultra-stylish beats, the Germans have begun adopting traditional pop idioms, whether with the Depeche Mode–isms of Booka Shade’s recent The Sun & the Neon Light, or the addition of singer-songwriter Raz Ohara to the roster. As the city of Berlin changes, says Jung, so too does the focus of its musicians—toward a wider audience.

“There is still a wonderful vibe in the clubs here and a lot of interesting people working hard, but it’s not the same as it was a few years ago,” he says. “The city is changing; there are more investors buying land and it’s getting more expensive to live here. The people with money want a slice of the cool pie and to profit from that. Whenever you have a movement like this, the artists must change things to stay ahead of the businessmen. Because we are open to all genres, this progression comes naturally to us.”

M.A.N.D.Y. plays Pemberton Festival on Saturday (July 26).