TWISTED AUDIO: PETER REHBERG, JUNE 29,1968 – JULY 22, 2021
The first time I saw Peter Rehberg alias Pita in Cologne was around 1995 at a “Cosmic Orgasm-Mego” night at Rhenania. What happened here in the course of the evening as an increasingly obvious booking misunderstanding of a supposed rave night had the utmost entertainment value for me. Techno (or IDM, only that term didn’t exist yet) was in this case cold-blooded, snotty and experimental and, like General Magic and Pita, could consist only of refrigerator sounds. Strictly speaking, it wasn’t clear if this was techno at all or something else – and what Autechre friend and collaborator Russell Haswell pulled off later the same night, with the hosts simultaneously despairing as Hard Disk Jockey, was genre-denying, wild, and liberating: INA-GRM and Bernard Parmegiani meets Masami Akita, Black Metal, and Underground Resistance. But it was technical and modern and totally forward. THAT was what techno was for me.
Peter and I met in 1998 at an a-Musik event at Gebäude 9 in Cologne. I had just played a concert, was still a bit out of it and he was backstage and excited and enthusiastic. He immediately understood how to categorize what he had just experienced and didn’t need a lot of words to do so. But all the more he was able to convince others of this and never relented. He was a guy you don’t forget once you meet him, because he had a message: his idea of sound. His persistent manner could get on your nerves, or you could love his dry humor, but either way you knew who you were dealing with, because his enthusiasm was contagious.
In 1999 I invited him to come to Cologne and we played the first concert together at the Dom/HBF subway station in Cologne and both became members of a group called MIMEO, a 10-piece band thrown together from all over Europe with Fennesz, Kaffe Mathews, Keith Rowe, Jérôme Noetinger and others, with whom we performed regularly in the 2000s. In 2000 we toured the USA with Fennesz and Kevin Drumm for two weeks, were arrested at the Canadian border and subsequently released. While my memories here remain mostly vague, Peter had these events all sorted out in his head. He loved ordering systems and codes. Among other things, he collected maps, buying new ones at every gas station on our tour. But he also constantly bought records he already had, because they were rereleased with new details on the cover, and enjoyed his haul. This often went too far for my taste, but you were able to enjoy it with him. We enjoyed speculating about Kraftwerk and politics while eating Indian curry, or about his next releases. His insights were always disarming: “It’s no use saying that everything was better in the past or that today’s youth doesn’t know anything at all. That’s just the interesting thing, it would be boring if everyone knew everything.”
We were the same age and that is one of the reasons why he was something like a brother to me – you could love him and hate him at the same time for the way he was, but I was always proud of him. He was consciously a professional non-musician and all muckraking was basically repugnant to him. Just like the “composerly people”, among whom he sometimes counted me, and at whom he liked to roll his eyes, barely noticeably. Our work together in the studio, for example on R/S “One (Snow Mud Rain)” (released in 2007 on Erstwhile Records) or with KTL was exceptional: At best, a track should be finished recording in the morning, because he wanted to be on time for a lavish lunch; in the afternoon, there should be another two hours of mixing. In principle, an album was finished in two or three days. “Done, shall we go for lunch, then?” He called his studio “twisted hard disc”, the term “twisted” was a distinction for him in the field of sound, just like “wicked”.
A particular highlight was our concert at a PAN label night at Cafe Oto in London in 2012, where everyone had a particularly good time, and the chanted comments (“more, more, louder, louder” etc.) from the audience can clearly be heard on the recording. He was incredibly loyal towards the many musicians he supported. With every release it was always just about implementing the artist’s idea, no idea was too far-fetched, no compromises were made. Like everything from Factory Records, he did, after all, love New Order’s “Blue Monday” with its super elaborate floppy disc 12″ cover designed by Peter Saville, on which Factory Records reportedly paid 50 pence extra for every copy sold. But the success of his label is also due to an incredible business instinct: Our concert at No Fun Fest in Brooklyn in 2008 only lasted 13 minutes, but he signed The Emeralds and Oneohtrix Point Never that same night. He was fast.
I was lucky to have known and worked with Peter Rehberg – and to have been his friend. I owe him an incredible amount; he didn’t just help me make a lot of things possible.
What he has achieved with the Editions Mego label and the sublabels, I will not try to describe here, this mixture of consistency and change over 25 years on a consistently high qualitative and quantitative output, is unparalleled. He did not like pathos, no pompous gestures. He liked it short and crisp, to the point, so now his farewell will be: over and out. Peter will leave a huge gap. Friend, I will miss you all my life, take care!
Text: Marcus Schmickler, Translation: Denise Oemcke