Scooter ignore major labels to break records
- 31 May 2012
- From the section Business
By ignoring major labels and taking total control of every aspect of their career, dance band Scooter have become the most successful home-grown chart act in Germany since records began.
They achieved the accolade with 49 singles and 24 albums, racking up sales above 30 million; winning 80 gold and platinum awards worldwide; and spending more than 400 weeks in the charts.
But when their first happy-hardcore single Hyper Hyper reached number two in the charts, Scooter had no idea they would still be creating a buzz 18 years later.
Sipping Earl Grey tea in a west London hotel after spending the morning buying antiques in Portobello Road, frontman HP Baxxter still can't quite believe it.
"Hyper Hyper was a huge hit but we thought it might just be a one-hit wonder," he muses. Little did he know.
HP (Hans Peter) Baxxter grew up in a small town in the north of Germany before moving to Hanover.
With ambitions to be a singer and influenced by the synth sounds of Soft Cell and Depeche Mode, he placed an advertisement in a newspaper to find a keyboard player.
Together with Rick Jordan he formed Celebrate the Nun, but success eluded them.
"My taste in music began to change. Overnight, I was only interested in the sounds I heard when I went to my first acid house party in 1987," he reflects.
"There were a lot of British soldiers in Hanover and I listened to the programmes broadcast by the British Forces Radio."
He recalls hearing Stevie Mason playing What Time Is Love by KLF, and being enraptured not just by the music but the whole production.
Birth of a label
Scooter's first five singles were released on the Edel label, where HP worked in the distribution department.
That was where he met Jens Thele, who now looks after the band's business affairs.
They formed their own label because they thought they could do the product management and promotion better themselves.
"There were people at Edel designing five record covers a week, and we wanted more control of the whole thing. And besides, running your own label is more profitable."
And so Kontor Records was born, which concentrates on releases by other artists, along with Sheffield Tunes, which handles Scooter's material - all distributed by Edel.
"We are very proud that we never signed with a major company. You have Warner or Sony and someone from the US tells them what to do in Germany, so you wouldn't have the same degree of control," he notes.
Change in trends
Ordering another cup of tea, he emphasises how the success of the group is very much a team effort.
Keyboard player and co-producer Michael Simon is currently the third member of Scooter.
Apart from recording, the team oversees its videos, but things began to change when people started to burn their own CDs and alter their buying habits.
"In the beginning I just ignored the new technology. I told Jens I didn't care and 'People will still buy records', but of course it went in another direction," he says.
"There are times I still don't want to believe that it is not like the early days, but now it is hard even to find CDs anywhere," he laments.
All Scooter material is now available to download, and another way they have embraced the new market, is by streaming some of their concerts live on the internet.
The beat goes on
It is difficult to imagine that the youthful guy lounging back on the leather sofa has been at the forefront of techno music for 18 years.
He laughs heartily when it is suggested he might have used Botox.
"When I am at home or working in the studio I normally go jogging in the morning and I try not to drink too much during the week," he says.
"We were never into drugs so maybe that helped us survive. I always feared to try out anything because I know that if I like something, it is really hard for me to stop - like smoking, I can't quit."
HP has to ensure that Scooter is successful enough to enable him to continue purchasing his antiques - so how has the euro crisis affected them?
"In any crisis there is also chance - like in the 1920s - people said: 'Life is too short so we are going to party.'"
"It horrifies me sometimes to hear what the banks are doing, I try not to think too much about it - that is is why I am a musician," he grins.
When it comes to bailing out Greece, he says you cannot pay for everyone.
"On the other hand, because of our history, I think Germany wants to help if something is wrong because there is a bad conscience about our past," he adds.
He has never contemplated quitting the music industry and with Scooter's innovative use of sampling and guest artists as diverse as UK rockers Status Quo, Vicky Leandros (who won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1972), and the Italian soprano Antonella Ruggiero, there seems little reason why their success should not continue.
Judging by the crowd waiting to see them perform later that evening, there is evidently a large audience who want Scooter to be around for many years to come.