MFS (Masterminded For Success) is an independent record label from Berlin, Germany.
It was the first record label to be founded in East Berlin, after the fall of the Berlin Wall by Mancunian Mark Reeder in December 1990.
PHOTO CREDIT: ROBERT RIEGER/ LOLA
In Late 1989 Mark Reeder was invited by the Communist state-owned record label AMIGA to produce Torture, the debut album of the GDR’s (German Democratic Republic) only English-language indie band Die Vision. It would become the last album ever produced in the old East Germany. During the recording, he built up a close working relationship with AMIGA but unknown to him, the invitation was really a front for the STASI to closely monitor his subversive activities and contacts within the GDR. Consequently, he became the only Westerner ever to produce an album in the GDR.
After the Berlin Wall fell in November 1991, Reeder finished the production of Torture in West Berlin, which made history as the first musical East/West collab. However, being an avid dance music fan, Reeder was aware the changing musical landscape of Berlin’s club scene. The small Techno scene which initially revolved around the UFO club was rapidly expanding due to the desire of many young Eastiekids to experience a real underground club and the trappings of club life.
Masterminded For Success
In December 1990, Reeder convinced Zong Records (former AMIGA Records) to allow him to start up a new Techno record label Masterminded for Success, aka MFS, using the facilities of what was now the DSB (Deutsche Schallplatten Berlin). The moniker MFS was taken from the initials of the East German secret police, the Ministry for the State Security (in German: Ministerium für Staatssicherheit, aka MfS), which was commonly referred to as the STASI. Reeder’s idea was to bring the initials to the foreground, give them a more positive meaning and probably terrorise the parents of the future rave kids.
MFS started with the distribution arm taken care of by Mirko Whitfield (SXSW). Reeder also brought in East Berliner, Torsten Jurk and fellow Brit, Matt Craver to assist him with the label. Matt left shortly after to concentrate on the management of Atari Teenage Riot.
The initial concept of MFS was to provide a platform for young East European musicians. As it transpired it was before its time as none of the artists had any money or instruments, nor were even aware they had any talent. Reeder was forced to turn to the musician friends in the West. Some of the first artists to be signed on MFS were Paul Browse and Johnny Klimek, known as Effective Force followed by Voov, 2 German Latinos (Gabi Delgado of D.A.F. and esoteric artist Saba Komossa), Neutron 9000 and Mijk van Dijk.
At this point, the revolutionary sound of Techno-Berlin hadn’t yet resonated with the rest of the music world. Most capital cities hadn’t experienced the political upheaval like Berlin had, with its huge influx of Eastie kids all eager to join the Techno party.
1990s The Way To Trance
The Techno idea had been invented by the underground resistance of Chicago and Detroit, but its roots had been born in Düsseldorf, Frankfurt and Berlin. It stemmed from a vague idea of creating music that basically sounded like a Sci-Fi dance version of Kraftwerk. Fortunately, for this handful of Techno pioneers, the U.S club scene was still stuck in the 80s and Britain was still wallowing in the Acid-House raptures of rave music provided by bands like 808 State, The Happy Mondays, The Stone Roses or The Inspiral Carpets. Post-Wall Germany became the only place where their Techno music was eagerly embraced.
A Change Of Scene, A Change Of Style
Firstly, Reeder wanted to introduce Berlin-style Techno to his UK friends, but they didn’t really understand the idea behind the genre. They seemed to be still wrapped in convention and needed at least a melody or a hook-line, something catchy they could latch on to. Reeder decided to try and open their minds to this new sound, to fuse two or three musical styles.
The idea was to create a soothing hypnotic sound that would be equally suitable for the drive home, an after-party, or even on the dancefloor. Something that would resonate not only with the clubbers’ ecstatic euphoria, mainly generated by a few pills and the underlying thrill of German reunification but also with those outside of Germany and beyond.
To translate this feeling into a more melodic and hypnotic trance-inducing form of Techno, by merging the emotional chord progressions like Wagner, with the hypnotic trippiness of Klaus Schulze or Tangerine Dream, all held together by squelchy synths, bubbly sequencers, and a driving clubby beat with a bassline. To present some form of easy to digest techno sound, and offer a balance against traditional Techno while providing anyone who couldn’t connect with the stark hardness of Tekkno, an alternative style of melodic techno music to trance-dance to. By creating this more accessible mainstream offshoot, Trance would give people a choice but eventually, it would descend into EDM, allowing Techno to develop as the true sound of the underground.
In early 1991, MFS started to gain a Trance profile, it signed Mijk van Dijk, Cosmic Baby (Harald Blüchel), Humate and Paul van Dyk.
Cosmic Baby was the first to understand Reeder’s vision of creating a melodic, uplifting and positive sounding version of Techno. The successful side-project of Cosmic Baby on MFS was The Visions of Shiva, a collaboration with Paul van Dyk. Together they released Perfect Day (1992) and How Much Can You Take? (1993).
Another hugely popular MFS release was Love Stimulation by Humate in 1993, which not only launched the careers of Oliver Huntemann and Gerret Frerichs but also revealed the remix talents of the young Paul van Dyk.
1992: First Ever Trance Compilation Tranceformed From Beyond
In February 1992, MFS released the first ever Trance compilation Tranceformed From Beyond, an album which became a milestone and practically set the standard for all other compilations to come. The album was sequenced and mixed by Cosmic Baby and Mijk van Dijk.
In 1992, Dimitri Hegemann (Founder of Tresor) decided to make a Tresor compilation to celebrate the first year of the club, but at that stage, there was no real Tresor label, nor artists, he turned to Reeder. Their friendly relationship went back years. Reeder performed with Die Unbekannten at the first Berlin Atonal festival for Dimitri in 1982. They shared a practice room together when they each played in new wave bands Shark Vegas and Dimitri in Leningrad Sandwich in the 80s. Out of the 13 artists featured on the first Tresor compilation, 11 were MFS artists, all appearing on the album under different guises.
In 1993, MFS asked Paul van Dyk to make a mix for the second compilation album, a soundtrack for an early computer graphic video which they called X-Mix 1 – The MFS Trip. A collaboration with the then video label Studio K7! run by Horst Weidenmüller.
Most popular MFS releases were Cosmic Baby’s Stellar Supreme (1992), 030 feat. Dr. Motte’s Ki (1993), Mijk van Dijk’s Afreuropamericasiaustralica (1994) and Paul van Dyk’s 45 RPM (1994), Seven Ways (1996).
Initially, Cosmic Baby became MFS’s main artist but subsequently, he left MFS in 1994, allured by promises of stardom from the major record company BMG. Understandably, at this point, the DSB company started to have problems. Their palatial premises behind the Reichstag had been re-appropriated by the state, as the home of the president of the Bundestag. It meant MFS had to move out, it was the final blow to the DSB company who had been rupturing money heavily, as one record bombed after another, not even the sale of their classical music arm could save them, MFS certainly couldn’t. When the DSB catalogue was cannibalized, Reeder was given back his MFS catalogue and it was time to go it alone.
Although Cosmic Baby justifiably had reasons to doubt the survival of MFS, Reeder carried on regardless and focus now on his new protégé Paul van Dyk, to work on his profile as a musician, not just a DJ. Reeder started signing more underground artists and tracks to the label, too. MFS also run a booking agency and introduced music publishing into the label work.
Ellen Allien joined MFS in 1994 and released one EP Yellow Sky (1995). She also contributed to the European compilation album in 1995. The album presented a musical impression by each featured MFS artist of their chosen European country. Ellen chose to represent France and created the track Atomique, which was her statement towards the French nuclear atom bomb tests in the South Pacific at the time. After appearing on the first leg of MFS European tour, Ellen decided she wanted to move in a different direction musically and left MFS in 1996 to create her own label BPitch Control.
During the mid-late 90s, Paul van Dyk became a huge commercial success for MFS. He released a series of singles and his first two albums 45RPM (1994) and Seven Ways (1996) on MFS. Reeder later convinced his friend Rob Deacon of Volume who just started Deviant Records to license Paul van Dyk’s Seven Ways (1996) from MFS for release in the UK. This move not only put Paul van Dyk on to the international stage, but it also opened up a whole new playing field for MFS. The relationship eventually resulted in a Silver Disc sales award. Paul van Dyk stayed with MFS until the end of 1998.
Reeder continued promoting the remaining MFS artists and newly acquired Hungarian DJ Corvin Dalek, with whom Reeder worked together on remixes for artists such as New Order, Destiny’s Child, Da Hool, Faithless and Mr Sam. MFS later faced a lawsuit from Paul van Dyk, over van Dyk’s third studio album Out There and Back which was eventually released on Rob Deacon’s Deviant Records in the UK. Rob claimed the album did exactly “out there and back”, and van Dyk left Deviant. Rob died in a canoeing accident in 2007.
2000s Sub-Labels and Discontinuation
Due to the label’s previous image and distributor’s demands, MFS had difficulty releasing other kinds of music genres other than Trance. MFS always tried to keep the label musically diverse, with artists like 030, Project Earth, Effective Force or Japanese duo Denki Groove.
However, with the dawn of a new decade, Reeder decided to distance MFS from Trance and focus more on different genres, mainly Techno and a new deeper sexier sound he created together with Corvin Dalek, the genre he called Wet & Hard.
Sub-Labels: Flesh and Telemetric
In 1999, Reeder started two new sub-labels Flesh and Telemetric to escape these creative restrictions. The focus on the Flesh genre was Wet & Hard while the short-lived Telemetric was created for Progressive dance. Telemetric only released one album Feel (2000) and one compilation Goa Berlin 2001 (2001) then ceased operations after the suspicious murder of label A&R Carlos Heinz in December 2001. It never had the opportunity to attain any kind of commercial success.
Reeder and Dalek created their own distinctive HotKunst (hot art) artwork style for all Flesh releases, which frequently caused controversy. Assorted Lovetoys (2001) was banned in Switzerland for its cover art.
Flesh released some classic club tracks, Corvin Dalek’s Pornoground (2000), Pounds & Penz (2001), Crystal (2001), Young People (2005), culminating in a series of compilations, Wet & Hard (2002), Flesh For Fantasy (2003) and Corvin Dalek’s album I Am A Dalek (2003). With I AM A Dalek, Reeder travelled the world together with Corvin Dalek, from Colombia to China, USA, Mexico and UK, almost everywhere else in between. Corvin and DJ Klang did a track Quetzalcoatl for Love Parade in Mexico in 2005.
Due to the demise of many main European vinyl distributors starting from 2000, Reeder eventually put MFS and Flesh on ice and ceased all label activity in 2008. He wanted to return to making and producing electronic-rock music again.
In the Spring of 2017, Reeder undertook a two-month tour of China with his documentary film B-Movie: Lust & Sound in West-Berlin, a film made up of original 80’s Super8 and VHS footage, about his early life in the walled-in city. During the China tour, he produced an album for a Chinese all-girl band Hang on the Box from Beijing.
While performing at the Morning House Festival in Chengdu, Reeder’s friend Ni Bing introduced him to STOLEN, a young Sinographic, Psychedelic-Techno-Rock band. Reeder was impressed by STOLEN’s brilliant live performance, they recorded a demo together in Chengdu. In 2018, STOLEN recorded their second album Fragment which was produced by Reeder and Micha Adam in Berlin.
Reeder’s own studio albums FivePointOne (2011) and Mauerstadt (2017) were released on Kennen. The label owner Werner Schrödl convinced Reeder to reactivate MFS.
Whereas Reeder originally started MFS as a platform for new and enthusiastic East European artists, he now moved his search further Eastwards to discover this interesting bunch of boys in the Far East. STOLEN, the sound of young China, and the sound of MFS.