Answer Code Request
When Answer Code Request first emerged in 2011, the likes of Shed and Marcel Dettmann were rumoured to be behind this shadowy persona.
The tight, stepping techno that defined the debut Subway Into EP was also the first release on a label under the Answer Code Request name, and its assurance immediately sparked intrigue. But the man responsible for the work was, in fact, Patrick Gräser, a respected but little-known Berlin DJ.
Gräser has since gone from strength to strength, releasing a handful of EPs on Marcel Dettmann’s MDR label, devising highly rated remixes and becoming a resident at Berghain. When we meet Gräser in a busy café in Mitte, Berlin, it’s just a few days before he is due to appear at that residence to celebrate the launch of his album Code on Berghain’s Ostgut Ton label. Though a little weary he’s clearly delighted to be busy, and quietly thrilled at the critical acclaim his album has been building over the last month.
“I’m actually more of an album producer, I would say,” muses Gräser when probed on the motivation for shifting to the full- length format. “My music is always a bit different, more to listen to, not always for a dancefloor. My fourth EP, Breathe, was released in February, and this seems like the next step. It’s time for an album, I think.”
That EP marked the beginning of ACR’s affiliation with Ostgut Ton, one which has since flourished. “It’s a great label” Gräser enthuses with little prompting. “Ostgut gives me more opportunity to show people what I can do. The label is good for albums, the artists being able to express themselves, in the sense that music is not necessarily just ‘four to the floor’. DJs and residents play more dance tunes in the club, but when they produce they all have their own style.”The release of Code feels like a grand achievement for the Answer Code Request moniker, but also for Gräser himself. “When I started producing in 2008 or 2007, I wasn’t too happy because I was still new to it and it was not my sound, as I was producing with friends”, he reveals. “I began to work on my first Answer Code Request track, Escape Myself, in early 2010 as more of an experiment, and it was like ‘OK, I know what I want, I know which way to go’. It has to be timeless. I thought maybe it could be something from my experience from the 90s as well as the influences I have now.”
The release of Code feels like a grand achievement for the Answer Code Request moniker, but also for Gräser himself. “When I started producing in 2008 or 2007, I wasn’t too happy because I was still new to it and it was not my sound, as I was producing with friends”, he reveals. “I began to work on my first Answer Code Request track, Escape Myself, in early 2010 as more of an experiment, and it was like ‘OK, I know what I want, I know which way to go’. It has to be timeless. I thought maybe it could be something from my experience from the 90s as well as the influences I have now.”
Gräser’s DJ sets and live shows are steeped in the history of house and techno, incorporating aspects from across his love of classic dance music. The music he releases as Answer Code Request is no different. Patrick Gräser has absorbed his influences from half a lifetime involved in the scene he now fully inhabits, and when it’s suggested that there might be elements of Warp’s Artificial Intelligence series (released between 92-94) and Aphex Twin within Code, he’s quick to elaborate. “[Aphex Twin] is one of my biggest influences.” Gräser is again eager to contextualise his music outside of the club setting. “I want to be musical. I always go back to these tracks, like Aphex Twin or Autechre; they are more special.” These are the influences he earlier referred to as ‘timeless’. “I go back, sure, but I try to mix it with some new sounds. A kind of mix of breakbeats and dancefloor tracks and more experimental, IDM tracks like Autechre. For me, all Aphex Twin is perfect: Polygon Window, AFX.
“Most of the people that go to Berghain want hard techno” he sighs. “But Berghain offers more than that. There’s house in Panorama Bar, concerts, live acts and art exhibitions on any other day. I know it doesn’t work when you play one hour of ambient tracks, but I think sometimes you have to play something different.”
It’s as if this passion and understanding for Berlin techno culture was embedded in Gräser from birth, but his roots lie a little further afield. “I grew up in Fürstenwalde, the same hometown as Marcel Dettmann and Marcel Fengler. We sometimes call it the ‘Detroit of Germany!’” he laughs. At this point our waitress returns to our table to ask if we’d like anything else to drink. “Maybe I shouldn’t – at the moment I drink a lot of coffee!” laughs Patrick. “Sometimes I need it, it’s like a cigarette, but I don’t smoke. You always see DJs” – he mimes intense chain smoking – “but me, I drink coffee when I play.”
A few days later, and we’re at the aforementioned launch party. Presumably wired up on copious amounts of caffeine, Answer Code Request opens his set with one of his own tracks, Odyssey Sequence – four minutes of drifting, rave- tinged ambience. Such confidence builds momentum, patiently developed with a style suited ideally for the ‘big room’. It all seems like second nature.
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Words: Thomas Painter
Photography: Valeria Haase
Code is out now via Ostgut Ton.