Things work differently in Berlin. It's not a press photo or an interview that garners attention for artists there—those that have grown up in the scene over the last two decades. While the Western Hemisphere has been steadily increasing its focus on digital marketing and media, Berlin's DJs have been confident and comfortable in their talents alone. So, it came as a surprise when a new and unknown 12", released by an equally mysterious label—ACR—flew off the shelves at well-known German record store Hard Wax some four years ago. That release, Answer Code Request's Subway Into EP, has since proven to be a massive breakthrough for him.
The identity of the EP's producer, Answer Code Request or Patrick Gräser, was originally shrouded in mystery, but that's exactly what Gräser wanted. "Subway Into was extremely well-received to my pleasant surprise, although it was on the very experimental side," he tells THUMP. With a newfound confidence, backed by the incredible reception of Berlin's music community, Gräser went back to the studio. "It was clear for me that if the EP did not go well I'd move on with less pressure and expectation," says the producer. The German native, who has been DJing since he was 13, didn't begin producing until almost a decade later when he moved to Berlin. "I started late with production was because I needed to find my style and experiment with it," he admits. "The success of the first EP was an indication that I should continue with this signature sound where I can bring all my influences together."
Not unlike his colleague and childhood friend Marcel Dettmann, Gräser is undeterred by foreign expectation. Whether he is releasing on quintessential Berlin labels like Ostgut Ton or Marcel Dettmann Records, he says he's not necessarily concerned about the reception. "Being able to work with such nice colleagues and friends is like a family where we have one another's backs," says Gräser, which translates to his selections whether he's playing his residency at Berghain or dark, clustered, strobe-lit rooms around the globe.
"If the balance is right between what one actually does and what the crowd wants, then that is a good mix. A little bit of self-confidence is what you need, too."
He laments that, due to his association with Ostgut Ton, fans often become too accustomed to hearing "a certain Berghain sound." It's for the people who come expecting something different that Gräser likes to push the limits: "To me this means that you need to risk things now and then."
By limiting the people he works with, the producer has also crafted a professional network of people who are confident in his abilities—and rightfully so. "Artistic freedom is very important for one's ego. To me, it doesn't make sense to do things just for the money or to follow what others are doing," he says. Although Gräser is comfortable with his sound, his self-criticism is a driving factor behind his success. "I guess that's how I push myself," he concedes. "Otherwise, everything will be very boring and monotonous to me." Though, he admits, "I don't have a clue where to start sometimes."
"My has always been somewhat deeper, with a heavy bass and my moody vein," he says. And those dark, subterranean basslines, so synonymous with an ACR release, are no more exemplary than on his recent remix of Steffi's "JBW25" on Ostgut Ton. Although Gräser has obliged in the past, he's not actually an outright fan of remixes. "If I were the one who is asking for a remix from another artist, then I would leave it entirely to him and discuss fine-tuning the remix after it is done," he says. "The artist should just reject my offer, if it doesn't suit what they are doing."
As a result of his persistence to maintain both an authentic and creative work ethic, Gräser has established himself as one of Germany's leading artists. With a brain full of ideas, he's set his sights on expansion and is hoping to grow the ACR label around experimental music. Although his debut album, Code was experimental and ambient in its own right, he says he has also thought about making music for the film industry—as if Berghain wasn't enough.