"I've always tried to escape from the style question - for a good reason. I've never found an answer that would satisfy me, nor would one appropriately fit the music I make. It's not because I want to be different or weird or anything, but I just don't believe in categories so much," says Patrick Pulsinger in gloriously evasive mode. When I infer that he has to answer the question - for instance if he were pressed into a corner and forced to confess under great duress - Pulsinger does relent.
"Before someone threatened to kill me to make talk, I guess I would say it's techno!" he laughs.
Pulsinger harks from Austria, and being Australian myself, I always had a special affinity for the breed since we're continually mistaken for one another when we travel overseas, despite the variant native language and wildly different lengths of history. Besides, my favorite film is The Third Man, shot in late '40s Vienna.
My own interest in Patrick Pulsinger, however, has different origins.
From 1994 I had a radio show on community station 3PBS FM in Melbourne. It was called 'Cyberdada', and it was my other baby aside from my record label IF?, and in 1995 the most-played record on the show - amidst awesome 12-inches and tapes of stuff from Relief, Axis, Tresor, Trope, Sativae, Mosquito, Ninja Tune, Force Inc. (and IF?) - was actually a double-CD from Austrian label, Cheap Records.
The title? 90 Minutes in the Eyes of iO. It was produced by label bosses Patrick Pulsinger and Erdem Tunakan, with mates.
The release quite literally decked me, and Pulsinger has continued on as a mainstay influence in my own musical reference palette ever since, via the Austrian producer's own output (on labels like Disko B, Compost, Studio !K7, R&S, and International DJ Gigolo), as well as some of his brilliant remixes of people like DJ Hell, Chicks On Speed, Tosca, Tanzmusik and Ken Ishii. He certainly seems to have an eerie knack for a shnazzy remix.
"I try to keep the good stuff from the original, twist it around a bit, and attempt to create something exciting and new," Pulsinger says now, some 14 years on from the first time I heard that iO record. "There're so many possibilities and paths you could go after; I think it's important to grab the essential vibe of the track and shift it in a surprising but respectful way."
Unlike many artists from his generation who have lost interest, dropped by the wayside, fallen out of relevance, or just plain lost the plot, this Austrian is still right on top of the game, and seems surprisingly far from disenchanted with the music biz.
"My approach always revolved around meeting my personal taste, and I wanted to try out as many different styles as possible - but of course, that doesn't really help you when you want to have a professional career in music," he muses.
"I never considered myself a songwriter; the technical side of things was always more interesting. Making the music is one side of the business, but the other side always seemed a bit boring to me."
That other side, it turns out, was the business of running a record label. Since its inception in 1993, Cheap released some sensational records from people like Pulsinger and Tunakan, Robert Hood, Khan Oral, Christopher Just, and Dez Williams - but by 2007 Pulsinger had had enough of the accounting and A&R bit.
"Doing a label is pretty much the same as selling vegetables or furniture: Once the product is out there, you spend so much time telling other people why it is a good product and why people should like or buy it. While this can be interesting and challenging, it's not what I wanted to pursue in life. That was also the main reason why I left the label [Cheap] after 12 years - it was time to move on. Today I can concentrate on studio work, producing for other people, bands, my own stuff or mastering... As long as it's music and sound.
"Our general guideline with Cheap was that we wanted something that didn't sound like all the other releases, we were always looking for artists who'd have their own ideas about sound and music, and would fit in with the sound of the label in general.
"My former partner, Erdem Tunakan, is still doing stuff with the label - not as extensively as during our time together in the '90s, but he's putting out good stuff. The latest release from Tin Man is a real good one! Besides that, he founded a sub-label called Cheap Record Rocks for, well, rock music. I've just produced an album for him by this band, Freud; good band, good songs, and it was fun to record and work with them. I produced some rock bands before that, and found it very refreshing. It draws the attention to fields other than working with electronic music."
Over the years, Pulsinger has worked extensively in his own name, of course, but also under aliases like Showroom Recordings, Sluts'n'Strings & 909, and Restaurant Tracks with Erdem Tunakan, along with iO - with Erdem, Gerhard Potuznik, and Herbert Gollini.
"For me, those projects are something from the past," Patrick reports.
"It's a good and joyful past, but just not what I'm interested in continuing today. My colleagues and I had a blast doing so many records together, and we're all still good friends, but each of us has a new approach to things and I've needed the flexibility to change to stay interested in music for so many years. It's healthy."
The interest in music, it seems, is the continuing thread that keeps the man involved and interested in its various tangents.
"I was always interested in sound from a very early age on," he confirms.
"When I was listening to the radio or my parents' disco tapes, the tunes that had some synthetic sounds were the ones that got my attention. I was always wondering what kind of instrument would produce a sound like that. Then, when I got older and found out that I could produce some of those sounds with cheap flea-market keyboards and drum-boxes, I started to collect and repair them and recorded my first experiments with a cassette recorder - it's hard to listen to that stuff now!" he laughs.
"There's a wide range of music that inspires me. It's really hard to pin down, but I'm a fan of big band jazz from the '60s, as well as dub and disco, so you can imagine what kind of contemporary music would grab my attention."
The gear and software he uses in the studio certainly reflects this diversity and open-mindedness.
"I use all kinds of stuff from different time periods, from vintage synths to software, from tape machines to computers; it really depends on the sound I'm looking for. Recording-wise, I try to go as original as possible, using vintage preamps, mics and outboard, but the most important thing for me is limitation, being able to concentrate on a minimal amount of gear and trying to squeeze the best out of it. It doesn't really matter what you use, so long as you can produce a unique sound.
"The environment I make the music in will contribute a lot to the way my music sounds, acoustically and artistically as well. If I feel good, have good monitors and a trouble-free work-flow, then I can let myself go and just concentrate on the music."
Which brings us up-to-scratch - and my own cantankerous Funk Gadget project persona.
There's a Funk Gadget track I recently did called 'Blah Blah', which owes a great deal to the inimitable Paul Birken, and when it came to choosing a remixer for the track, Pulsinger's name was at the very top of the list.
Why? Because the man continues to do my head in, in completely cool Pulsingerian ways, a decade and a half after I first heard his mischief.
"I had a good feeling about the track and an instant idea for a remix," he says now, after having finished off the grand master challenge (it's set to be released through Hypnotic Room Special Edition on July 10).
"Since the original has a good, funky rhythm track, I tried to keep that and give it a more four-to-the-floor approach. The klonky stuff is all cut-up from the original; I just added a Juno and a Moog Bass, and here you are. I was aiming at people who go out to clubs, listen, dance, enjoy a big bass, a drink, a smoke, nice company, are nice to animals, love peace - that sort of thing!"
Again the grin - Pulsinger also has a new swag of his own original sounds about to hit the big wide world.
"I've produced some twelve EPs together with DJ Glow, from Trust Records, and stuff together with Diskokaine. Those 12-inches should come out pretty soon on vinyl. In Autumn I'll release an album under the name of dp-S - a duo project with Werner Dafeldecker playing double bass, and me playing modular synth; it's cool, improvised stuff with guests Sir Alice on vocals and John Tilbury on piano. No drums! And it's a vinyl-only release. Also at the moment I'm working on a new album for Disko B, which should come out later this year or early next: More dance stuff."
Pulsinger has a rather huge history, having released on vinyl and CD through various labels like Cheap, Disko B, Compost Records, Studio !K7, and R&S. CDs seem to be a disappearing facet of the electronic music industry, and a fair amount of people would appear to be cutting back on vinyl.
"I don't really see it that way," Patrick interjects.
"It's getting hard to sell any kind of product - CDs, vinyl, books - that are not distributed digitally. The CD suffers much more from that problem than the vinyl. As a matter of fact, labels are switching back to limited editions on vinyl. The biggest problem is the distribution. Here in Europe, some of the major players have dropped out of business and left a big hole for small labels. Most of them had poor performances and a totally wrong approach to selling music, and that was the main reason for the failure. Just having hundreds of labels and thousands of releases does not do the job - you have to know what you're selling and where your market is. The return policy was the big problem, and it broke everyone's necks."
So is vinyl's future limited?
"It is, and will stay, the format for the music lover. You can't get rich selling vinyl, but if you play it right, cut out the middle man, and deliver a beautiful, outstanding product, people will go for it."
Meanwhile, Pulsinger has a decent, growing presence on Beatport and other online digital carriers.
"That's OK! If someone wants to buy music in that format, totally cool. I think it's an extremely competitive but important market. Just because you haven't been around long enough to get the original 12-inch doesn't mean that you'll enjoy the music any less. There are sound issues, no doubt, but music should get around."
In October this year, Pulsinger is gearing up for another tour of Japan, one country he rates exceptionally highly. This is the place, after all, that reared such diverse and talented producers like Gadget Cassette, Toshiyuki Yasuda, Co-Fusion, HIFANA, DJ Warp, Shufflemaster, Merzbow, Alone Together, Captain Funk, Ken Ishii, Polygon Prompt and Y.M.O.
"The Japanese music scene is totally unique," he raves, and now he's beginning to sound just like me.
"There are so many different approaches to Western music there, as well as classic Asian, that it created its own context. Whether it's jazz, noise, electronic, rock... Japanese music is always a bit different, sometimes more radical, precise, or crazier than other music of the same genre from around the world. Why? Well, I could think of many reasons, the most important being that the country has had a strong identity for many years and it stands out."