Sunday, November 25, 2012

Pete Namlook 1960 to 2012. The man, the music, the legacy

On November the 8th 2012 Peter Kuhlmann AKA Pete Namlook passed away leaving a permanent void within the ambient/electronic music world.. Pete Namlook is probably the most prolific electronic music artist ever with well over 100 CD albums including solo work under a dizzying array of aliases and genres and many collaborations with some of the most influential names in electronic music, from ex Tangerine Dream member Klause Schulze, to Herbie Hancock producer Bill Laswell and with one of dance musics biggest exports Richie Hawtin and many more, all of which have released on Pete's cult label Fax..

Although Peter is probably best known for many of his ambient creations during the early to mid 90's ambient techno boom, Pete was never really comfortable with the tag "Ambient" he preferred the term "Environmental" as he got most of his early musical inspiration from nature.

In his early years Pete enjoyed sitting by rivers and  finding a rhythm within the flowing water were he could attempt to play his guitar in sync with the streams. Pete's further musical inspirations came from psychedelic rock masters Pink Floyd and the classical chamber music of Bach, he also grew great inspiration from early subharmonic electronic master Oskar Sala along with many jazz masters.

In the early nineties Pete became exposed to the dance music explosion that swept across Europe and into his homeland of Germany. Pete began to make his own techno and trance etc, with a vision of releasing 12" vinyl with a slamming techno track on one side and one of his environmental tracks on the other. He wanted to give the DJ's something that could be played in clubs, chillout rooms and at home.

Many of the labels he went to in Berlin, Frankurt etc, were not really interested in mixing the styles in this way, so after some frustration in 1992 Peter set up Fax +49-69/450464 his first release was a limited 12" under the alias of True Colours with  Non Eric, Pascal F.E.O.S. within the year Pete had released several techno/trance 12" releases  under various alias from Subsequence to Hearts Of Space some of which were collaborations with some well known DJ's, many of which made quite an impact on the German club scene.

It was his first full length ambient masterpiece with Dr Atmo under the Silence alias that really introduced the world to Pete's ambient side. Due to the success of Silence and a rather limited initial run Pete liscensed the album to UK electronica label Rising High, which lead to another cult collaboration with Mixmaster Morris AKA The Irresistible force called Dreamfish in 1993 and to worldwide acclaim. Pete also licenced many releases to other labels like Instinct in the U.S and Music Man Records and Belgium's Mighty R&S offshoot Apollo.. In later years Pete took 100% control of the label and no longer licensed Fax releases.

By the end of 1993 the Fax label was regularly releasing 12"s and CD albums all within different
genres and aliases many were collaborations and some had nothing to do with Pete at all.
To avoid confusion the Fax label was broken up into different divisions and color coded depending on the style of music. The releases also had unique cataloging for example a release with Pete that was a collaboration from an artist outside of Germany have had the PW initial [Pete World] any that Pete had not been involved with were PS [Pete Sub] and the PK catalog was for Pete's solo work or collaborations within Germany..

PK releases left image, PW right :

The PS side of the label became a great platform for many established techno/electronica artist to release more experimental/ambient music and over the twenty years of Fax, big names like Anthony Rother, Atom Heart, Move D, Steve Stoll, Spacetime Continumm, along with many more and lesser known artist got an oppurtunity to release on the label.

PS releases :

Also the Ambient World label was set up to re-issue any releases which where in high demand but out of print on the Fax label. These AW releases add unique artwork which separated them from the minimalistic yet iconic circular images that identified the original Fax material.

So right through the 90's Pete and his label continued to release an incredible amount of  electronic music covering a dizzying amount of genres, sometimes releasing two or three releases a month. By the end of the 90's the ambient trend had died off somewhat and illegal downloading and sharing was a new problem for many labels so Fax became a little less prolific and began to release more manageable numbers, maybe only eight albums a year.

While many music journalists and music fans had written off the ambient genre as a place where no new ground could be covered Pete continued to bring new levels within the scene mixing up jazzed out drum and bass with Atom Heart on the Jet Chamber series, mixing up classic space ambient with IDM intricacies on SHADO with The Higher Intelligence Agency along with many more ground breaking releases..

By the mid to late naughties, technology was marking the end of physical formats, but Pete continued to push his music on CD now in limited numbers of anywhere between 1,000 or 300 copies depending on the project but yet he also experimented with new formats like the MP3 CD, where you could get a complete series like Jet Chamber or Silence on one disc or the DTS CD which Pete was now releasing all his PK releases mixed in 5.1 audio along with a stereo mix CD.

While many people will remember Pete and Fax just for the seminal ambient music of the early to mid 90's I find this somewhat unfair. The label had released just about any kind of music that could be made with electronic instruments along with eastern and traditional jazz instrumentation and beyond.

Another very unique element to Fax and Pete Namlook was the fact that he handled almost every aspect of his business, orders could placed directly from Pete via email, there was always a friendly and personal connection with him.

Many orders came with a greeting card and a personal message like "Enjoy the summer Mick, greetings from Germany", signed Peter, or in the past I received plant seeds which came with advice from  Pete on how best to grow them or bonus CD's I wasn't expecting. Pete was actively involved in the Fax forum on Discogs, and enjoyed getting into lengthy discussions with the fans directly. It was these personal touches that really separated him from other artists and showed his rather humble and generous side.

Pete and his label continued to redefine electronic music right up to his untimely and deeply sad passing this year and the legacy he has left behind will continue to be a timeless stirring of emotions.

R.I.P Peter Kuhlmann, you are sadly missed.

For a full comprehensive look at Fax and its output check out Fax @ discogs or 



  1. You can tell that Pete inspired you Mick. I think that I agree with him, the term environmental may be more apt than ambient. I love the image of someone playing in sync wit nature as it juxtaposes the 'technology' aspect of the music. it's a great read and also a good mix. RIP Pete

  2. Absolutely Des a major influence both musically and with his drive to pursue what he loved, never swayed by trends or by major financial gain, very much in tune with what really mattered in life..