What is… Innervisions?
The label Innervisions have been missed from the London club scene for more than 2 years and returned with a bang, taking over the prestige Royal Albert Hall for the first time in September. This historic night exceeded all expectations. Whether it was the show-stopping live set from Âme (live), The Howling or the b2b from Dixon & Âme that ended the night. The night has been described as groundbreaking and a giant leap for electronic music.
With the labels two honchos returning back to the capital to play at Junction 2 festival launch party at Tobacco Dock. Dixon and Âme make their debuts at the East London venue with the latter being joined by fellow Berliner Rødhåd (who will also play at Tobacco Dock for the first time) for a rare b2b set (another UK debut).
But what is Innervisions and how did they manage to pull these spectacular events off and how do they continue to dominate the underground electronic music scene?
Innervisions is an electronic music label founded in 2005 by Steffen Berkhahn, aka Dixon, Kristian Beyer and Frank Wiedemann of Âme. When asked about the origins of Innervisions, the common theme mentioned from the label heads is Kristian Beyers record store in Karlsruhe (Kristian’s hometown) called Plattentasche. This is where Kristian and Frank met.
The duo joined forces in 2003 to produce seminal deep house tracks for Sonar Kollektiv, many of which were collected on the duos self-titled debut album. Dixon then came into the equation and they cemented their friendship after playing in Kristian local club. Kristian boasts that when Dixon came to his town he would warm up for him and this is where they realised they had very similar taste in music. Kristian then closed his store and moved to Berlin. Once living in Berlin Innervisions was born. When Dixon was asked about where the name came from, he replied “When we chose the name Innervisions, it just felt good. Obviously, it shares a name with a Stevie Wonder album, but it felt right at the moment. Now after all these years, it’s a good description of how it is. There is no real vision that I’m thinking off. Mostly it just naturally happens and comes from inside.”
Innervisions drew a lot of attention on their second release which was from Âme entitled “Rej”. It introduced the sound of two relative unknowns and was played at house, techno and minimal parties and was soon picked up by UK powerhouse house label Defected and re-released with new remixes. This grew the popularity of the EP and introduced Âme and Innervision to the world.
Fast forward to 2011 and the Innervisions crew broke boundaries of the underground electronic music industry by taking a risky move toward independence. “In ‘Muting The Noise’ they founded the first label in electronic music to introduce self-distribution and sales as a sustainable business model. It did so not just to ensure the quality of its artistic output, but to allow itself to continue producing analogue releases with such great attention to detail throughout the manufacturing process to this day. Contrary to popular opinion, this was done to ensure the survival of record culture. So however bold this move toward independence was, it was also a decision against staying calm and waiting for change. The decision was about cultivating diversity and even contingency, which were becoming rare in an age when tastes were tending toward uniformity, streaming was taking off and the music was being snatched up by corporations.” Kristian also says that the philosophy of Plattentasche continues with Muting The Noise. It is described by the Innervisions inner circle, as a weekly meeting point as the store is only open on Thursday.
Innervisions continued to push boundaries becoming the first label to take over the entire infamous Berlin nightclub Berghain including the Panorama Bar in 2013 and 2015. Curating each line up with Berghain regulars, Innervisions family and a pick of new acts. This is a rear happening, due to the club not allowing labels to curate line up opting for their in house bookers to hold this role.
2015 was Innervisions 10th anniversary and important milestone. “If Innervisions were a child, it would start to move away from childhood now, reaching its decisive developmental phase. It would become a teen” Described by Ana Ofak. I assume like every teenager, Innervisions has reached the age of restlessness and exploration, disposing of dependencies and pushing for uncharted territories. Dixon has recently said “One thing I know for sure: I am not special or different. I rather try to specialize in one thing, one style, learn it through and through and push it really hard. Then I drop it and go on a hunt for something different I can discover for myself and make it approachable and attractive for others.”
A great example of a classic Innervisions release is Dele Sosimi Afrobeat Orchestra’s ‘Too Much Information’ remixes that was released at the end of 2015. “It’s a testimonial to the auditory amicability the label has cultivated toward West- and South-African influences encountered not only by travelling but by imbibing through the senses in clubs, bars, museums and friends’ kitchens”. So ‘Too Much Information’ reflects many aspects of Innervisions’ journeys: the courage to transgress genres, to disrupt trends, to give in to impulsiveness and to taste the untasted. It’s easy to identify why it appeals to the Innervisions crew: the bassline is the kind of simple, endearing melody that says a thousand words, without saying anything. The string-laden breakdown would be compelling even on Apple headphones, never mind a Funktion One system, and elements from Dele Sosimi’s original—a clipped guitar phrase here, some funky drumming there—are elegantly slotted into the groove. It’s so manicured and unapologetic. Identify and finding tracks like this are what makes Innervison a niche and sets them apart from other labels.
Having two labels head constantly in the now deceased RA chart top 3 Innervisions still considered themselves as a small label. “In the past decade, they have turned Innervisions into their gravitation and navigation centre. If we think of the label as a self-evolving algorithm, learning by being, following calculated, yet unpredictable protocols, then Dixon and Âme are its programmers. They seek not so much to control the Innervisions algorithm as to bend and tinker with it, attempting to maintain its perpetual state of change. Michael Quack, Innervisions’ general manager, compensates perfectly for this constant change. He is the decelerating accelerator, the structuralism of the given protocols. Together they work in a team that swears by horizontality and camaraderie. These principles don’t just imply cooking together at the Innervisions office or attending most label-related events together. It’s about caring rather than taking care of business; it’s about dedication, not just decision-making” writes Ana Ofak. “Innervisions have an impressive team in the background and regularly opens up internships. Interns are guided through and instructed in the procedures of music production and the day to day running’s of a label. Most of them are fully responsible for some part of these procedures, allowing them to develop creatively as well as professionally. By the end of their stay, the interns will ideally have acquired profound experience and knowledge of label management with a dash of unique audio-visual intuition. Job Jobse and Musk’s Lennart Döring are just two of the birds of paradise who found their voices through Innervisions internships”.
Innervisions’ releases over the years are the musical curation of Dixon and Âme. They release the kind of music that both labels head and affiliates play in their sets; Dixon has been noted saying “There is no Innervisions sound. Several tracks released by the label over the years might have given some the impression that things are repeating. On closer inspection, recursion is far more intricate than repetition. And treacherous, because it doesn’t cause any easily perceivable transcendent change. It causes minute changes constantly. In German, there’s a word for it: changieren. Changieren denotes gradual change, as seen in a smooth baton transfer in a relay race. If you don’t look closely, you don’t see the baton changing hands on the screen. In relation to music, Innervisions is about finding and uncovering tracks that capture the instant of changieren, the instant of change at work.”
The label continues to push through artist whether it is long-term collaborator Henrik Schwarz, Recondite and Marcus Worgull. Or new talent such as their in-house close collaborator Trikk or Keinemusik Rampa who both have released in the past year respectively. Innervision began the trend of releasing label compilation with the ‘Secret Weapon’ series to showcase establish and new artist and to let fans know what their favourite tracks are.
Dixon and co have created numerous brands, being Innervisions the label, Muting The Noise (distribution and a point of sale) and the Lost In A Moment (party series). Dixon has been noted saying “That if I was to retire or Innervisions went bankrupt, Muting The Noise will still live, this is the reason we didn’t call it the Innervisions store, and try to keep our different brands separate”. The last time the Lost In The Moment series was in the UK, they took over Osea Island, for two consecutive years. Giving party goers a unique experience of being trapped on an island for the day (due to high tides disabling the entrance and exit to and from the island), to the soundtrack of electronic music most unique individuals. The label as a party promoter prides them self on putting on a show and engaging with fans through music and sound as demonstrated in summer performance in London’s Junction 2 and the Innervisions party in Paris.
Innervisions has no formula for the future. But it seems like they’re going from strength to strength. Whether it is breakthrough releases or continuing to grace big events such as Off Sonar with their label showcase and numerous Innervisions parties across the world. “No need for a plan. Quite the opposite” says, Dixon. If there’s one thing Innervisions sees for itself in the future, it’s continuing their independence in all fields of label and artist management. One of the most appealing aspects of the label is that you don’t know what’s coming next, and it’s become evident that the label itself is unable to answer that question. This keeps them fresh and relevant and continues to make Innervisons a force to be reckoned with.