Despite having lived in such exotic climes as Barcelona, Ibiza and Malta, the inspiration for Greg Schappert’s steely, calculating brand of techno is unsurprisingly the industrial go-to cities of Detroit, Berlin and Birmingham. It was on his travels that the New Yorker founded his digital label Miniscule along with friend and fellow producer Bob Rogue. Releasing their own individual material and those of like-minded friends, in its five and a half years of existence, Miniscule has notched up some twenty releases and was instrumental in the formation of Schappert’s partnership with Tom Russell, better known as Truss. Together, the pair have struck a vein with techno consumers via their heavy, minimal tracks for labels like Synewave, Perc Trax, Dumb-Unit and Thema. On his own, Donor has also contributed to the revered Stroboscopic Artefacts label, which has helped bring even further exposure to the proponent of hard, proper techno. LWE got in touch with Schappert to discuss the techno scene in Brookyln, the workings of his transatlantic partnership with Truss, and what we can expect next from his many different projects. He also supplied us with our 116th exclusive podcast; a bruising blend of hard-edged techno that will get the adrenalin pumping through the most sluggish of Monday morning bodies.
LWE Podcast 116: Donor (60:02)
01. Thomas Köner, “Teimo [Type]
02. Perc, “Pre-Steel” (Tengui remix) [Perc Trax]
03. Inigo Kennedy, “Insist” [white*]
04. Svreca, “Seda Muerta” (Female Remix) [Semantica Records]
05. Rrose, “Waterfall” [Sandwell District]
06. Mike Parker, “Pulse Trader” [Prologue]
07. The Black Dog, “Heavy Industry” (Shifted Remix) [Dust Science Recordings]
08. Convextion, “Oil On Metal” [Time To Express]
09. Svreca, “Jade” (Orphx Remix) [Semantica Records]
10. Morphosis, “Androids Among Us” [Delsin/M>O>S/Morphine Records]
11. Oscar Mulero, “Descansa En Paz” [Semantica Records]
12. Xhin, “This Is What You Drew While You Were Half Asleep”
* denotes tracks that, as of the time of publishing, are unreleased
So you currently live in New York but you’ve lived in quite a few different cities around the world. When did you first start traveling abroad and what prompted you to return to live in NY?
Greg Schappert: I started traveling internationally in ’95 while still in high school. After finishing high school and spending a summer studying in Cadiz, Spain and another working in Mallorca [and] Ibiza, I decided to move to Barcelona in ’97 to study Spanish. Rather than returning to the States, I spent a summer working in Malta and moved to Madrid for a few years of university. I was back in the U.S. briefly to finish school and then took off for Tokyo for a few years before returning back to Barcelona and finally back to New York in ’07 due to visa complications. New York just seemed like the right choice at that time because I had my parents’ couch to crash on until I figured out my work situation.
How long were you away and how long have you been back living in the States, then?
Between ’97 and ’07 I was living eight of those years abroad. I’ve been living in Brooklyn for five years now.
When did you first have a brush with electronic music and what was the moment for you when you decided it was something you wanted to involve yourself with on a deeper level?
I started listening to a lot of electronic music in the mid to late 90’s while traveling. I bought my first set of turntables in ’97.
Did you start DJing or producing first?
I started DJing first. I didn’t really start producing until 2003 when I moved to Tokyo.
You set up Miniscule along with your friend Bob Rogue. Can you tell us about the ideas behind the label and how it operates?
The idea was rather simple. We had just moved to Tokyo together and we wanted a platform to release our music and network with others.
What are your reasons for keeping the label digital, and do you feel it helps or hinders the music, given that some DJs are strictly vinyl?
The plan was always to keep Miniscule as a free net label. It’s a platform for artists to get their name out there and to experiment with new sounds and ideas. I have ultimately already achieved what I wanted to get out of Miniscule and hope that others can benefit in a similar way. I play vinyl so I understand the limitation, but Miniscule will remain a net label and everything will remain free and in WAV format.
You went from releasing on your own digital label to getting some quite high-profile releases in 2010. How did the release with Perc Trax and the release on Stroboscopic Artefacts come about?
Truss and I had quite a bit of unreleased material at the time. We sent out some promos and these are two of the labels we heard back from that we decided we would be interested in working with. The Stroboscopic Artefacts release turned out to be a solo release only because the tracks that Lucy originally selected were solo projects. However, in the end he chose completely new tracks anyways.
How did you first meet Tom Russell [Truss]?
I met Truss through Miniscule back in ’06. Back then I was providing loops and sounds for each track and encouraged artists to send remixes, as I was releasing a remix EP for each release in hopes to network with other like-minded artists. I guess it was successful as it did just that. Truss sent me a great remix and the connection was made. It was after a trip to London later that year when we met in person and decided to give a joint project a go.
Have you and Tom produced in the same studio before, or has it always been swapping tracks back and forth?
We’ve produced a few tracks in the studio together, but being that we live on different continents, most of our work is done just like you said, swapping parts and building off each other’s ideas.
Your output together now outweighs what either of you have put out alone. Is this a planned thing, to work more on the two of you as a two-man band, or is it just that together you are that much more productive?
We definitely established ourselves as a duo to start, but have recently spent a lot of time focusing on solo projects as well. It’s nice to have the flexibility to work together or alone. We have not worked on any joint projects in a while, apart from a couple of remixes that should be out soon. We are excited to now be working with Grounded Theory (booking agency) and are starting to work on some new Donor / Truss material.
You released as part of Lucy’s Monad series. How was it working within a brief when it came to producing, and do you ever give yourself guidelines for a track or a specific idea you want to try to encapsulate?
There are certainly times when I go into the studio with ideas but a lot of others that require a lot of experimentation. I rely heavily on my Edirol R-09 field recorder these days. I take it with me everywhere and record sounds I like and that could potentially inspire me in the studio. It’s interesting to see how these sounds shape finished tracks. For the Monad release I did just this. Most of the sounds were recorded in and around New York City — subways, parks, elevators, abandoned buildings, et cetera. I had no specific guidelines to follow other than one of the tracks was supposed to be more on the experimental tip. I just loaded up sounds in Ableton and went with it. Lucy was quite particular about what he did and didn’t like so there were a few exchanges before the final product came about.
Is music full time for you? If not, what else do you do?
I work for Apple. Music is a hobby. It’s not a career path for me, but I take it very seriously.
In the past few years we’ve heard a lot about the strength of the house scene in New York and Brooklyn. What is the scene like there at the moment for techno?
I really like the NY scene for techno at the moment — thanks to a handful of solid promoters. The scene still feels fresh and people are about the music, at least at the places I go to, anyways.
Of the many cities you’ve lived in, which has been the most inspiring for you creatively?
I’ve found all the cities that I’ve lived in to be inspiring in one way or another, but I’ve made my best music since returning to NYC. That has a lot to do with me finding a creative and effective work flow that I didn’t have when I was living in those other cities.
What can you tell us about the mix that you’ve put together for us?
I recorded this mix back in December after receiving a bunch of new records in the mail. The style of music varies, as I prefer it to when recording a podcast. It’s rather tough to explain but hopefully you will get the idea after listening to it.
What can we expect from Donor, Donor / Truss, and Miniscule over the next year?
I just finished a Donor remix for Inigo Kennedy for Prosthetic Pressings and there are also two Donor / Truss remixes of a classic Heiko Laux track set to be released on Thema. Obviously there is some other solo and well as Donor / Truss material in the making, but nothing confirmed at the moment. With regards to Miniscule, next up is an EP from Mekas.