"When people close their eyes and sit in their seats, I really want them to experience this material.”
With decades of touring, critical acclaim and electronic music pioneering between them, you could consider Robert Henke and Susanne Kirchmayr – aka Monolake and Electric Indigo – a true power couple of the genre. They originally met all the way back in 1997, when they were both booked to play at the same Berlin club night called Hard:Edged. “I was DJing that night, and Robert was performing live with one of his side projects Helical Scan,” Kirchmayr recalls. "That night, we kind of...”
Kirchmayr glances over with a knowing grin, while her husband lets out a nervous laugh. “Something happened there that night that was not only to do with music,” he quips. “We lost touch after that. I saw Susanne DJing occasionally, and the vibes were always happy. I knew she played my records, too, which I liked, but that was the extent of it. In 2012, I had a concert in Vienna and made a mistake booking my flight back, so I suddenly had one day left there. I wondered if there was anyone I could meet, and then I wondered if Susanne still lived there. That's how we met again – and, completely independently of enjoying each other's music, we figured out that we are quite a good match as people.”
Much like within their creative spectres, the pair don't do things by conventional standards. After dating for over a decade, Henke and Kirchmayr were married last year in the latter's homeland of Vienna. Even after saying their vows, however, the couple do not live together – instead, Henke lives in Berlin and Kirchmayr still resides in the aforementioned Vienna.
“We are both workaholics, and we are both very stubborn – I think that's fair to say on behalf of Susanne and myself,” says Henke. “It works very well for us to go our own ways and have our own space – and besides, thanks to the internet we are always connected anyway.” Now the couple are back on the road, in Australia as part of a whirlwind visit that will see each give what Henke describes as the “world premiere” of their new live shows.
“When I play live, it's usually more on the experimental side,” Kirchmayr says. “For this show, I will play a combination of freshly-conceived sounds merged together with some material that is a little bit older. Some of it was released last year on a Ventil Records compilation called Fragility Of Sounds, that was an artistic research project of the composer Pia Palme. I provided a composition called Brittle, and part of it is in the new show. I also developed new video visuals that go with the music, which I created specifically for Australia.”
Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter
As for Henke, he is using these Monolake performances as somewhat of a litmus test for the follow-up to 2020's Archaeopteryx. “I created something that is also quite specific for this tour,” he explains. “It is partially focused on rhythmic stuff – Monolake has always been more my rhythmic side of things – but it also has a very strong focus on sound design and soundscapes. When people close their eyes and sit in their seats, I really want them to experience this material. A lot of it I have been working on for a long time, and I have reshaped it into something new. It was really just meant for these shows, but I had so much fun working on it that I am considering releasing it as an album afterwards. It depends if the Australian people like it!”
Over the next few days, Monolake and Electric Indigo will take to some of the classiest stages the country has to offer – Melbourne's Recital Centre, Sydney's City Recital Hall and Brisbane's Powerhouse Theatre. As artists that came up in the rave, warehouse and club scene, it's asked whether they find the prospect of playing such suit-and-tie formal spaces feels at odds with what they're doing – or whether it's a matter of having earned the right to be there given their decades of service to their genre and their scene.
“These are really valid questions,” Henke begins. “For me, I do not find it a contradiction at all. Music is such a universal language – you can draw so much influence from every musical culture. The problem is the expectation from these institutions about what fits in and what doesn't. That's a bit sad, in my opinion.” Kirchmayr agrees. “When it comes to a seated audience, I can delve into exploring very subtle details of sound that often get lost in the club PA – which is obviously very loud and heavily distorted. It gives me a lot more freedom musically – a chance to really have people listen and explore along with me.”