Introducing: Space 92, Techno’s New Cosmic Champion
Introducing: Space 92, Techno’s New Cosmic ChampionMay 25, 2021
The day before Christmas in 2020, Mathieu Mourareau (AKA Space 92) opened up his phone to find a DM from Ukrainian techno legend UMEK. “He wrote me on Instagram saying, ‘I know that you will be the next number one,'” Mathieu says. “And yeah, I totally thought I was dreaming.”
By the time the New Year hit, his prediction had come true. After spending each year at the top of Beatport’s techno charts, UMEK gracefully relinquished his title and handed it off to hotly-tipped French DJ/producer, Space 92 — Beatport’s top-selling techno artist of 2020.
For an artist just coming into his own during a global pandemic, Space 92’s ascent to fame flies in the face of the notion that you have to be on tour to become a popular dance music act. Last year alone, Mathieu released three tracks that topped Beatport’s techno charts, showcasing his impeccable talent for producing potent and sophisticated techno that’s taken the world by storm. He currently sits as Beatport’s second overall most popular artist across all genres. Having only first started producing under his Space 92 moniker two years ago, Mathieu Mourareau’s meteoric rise has put him on a fast track to becoming one of techno’s most sought-after acts of the decade.
Growing up in the medieval town of Carcassonne in France, Mathieu was just 14-years-old when he first fell in love with electronic music. “My friends and I were really into BMX and dirt jumps, and while we were hanging out and riding our bikes, we started listening to a lot of Stephan Bodzin, in particular, his debut album Liebe Ist…,” Mathieu explains.
“I was cycling in the city and remembering some of Stephan’s melodies, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how much I would love to get my own melodies; the musical imagination that I’ve always had running through my head translated in a similar way.”
His production journey started shortly after. He picked up a copy of production DAW FL Studios in his mid-teens, and eventually taught himself the ins and outs of DJing, practicing on vinyl and a two-channel Numark mixer. By the time he was 16, Mathieu was releasing original productions as Matt Minimal.
“When I first started this alias, I was fascinated by the sound of minimal,” Mathieu says. “And with this profile, I had the chance to travel all around the world and to make some really interesting parties and discover cultures with great nightclubs and beautiful people in a lot of countries.”
At 18 years old, Mathieu was being booked for international gigs, including a headline slot for the second opening night of the Seoul club Ellui, shocking the promoters with how young and talented he was. A year later, he was performing in front of thousands at &Festival in the mountains of Mexico while holding down steady gigs throughout Europe.
Despite his early success, the minimal wave that populated so many dance floors in the early 2010s wouldn’t last. And for Mathieu, the sound he had created around his alias was beginning to lose its creative appeal.
“After ten years of working with this alias, I simply did not feel synchronized with the minimal music anymore,” Mathieu explains. “I really wanted to explore techno music, and Matt Minimal was a choice I made when I had 16 years old. At the time, I didn’t realize that creating an alias that had the word ‘minimal’ in it would end up limiting my sound.”
So between 2018 and 2019, Mathieu decided it was high time for a complete rebrand and refreshed approach to his production and musical styling. “I was questioning myself so much, but I wanted my time in coming up with something personal that I could build on,” Mathieu says. “I’ve loved space since I was a child, and I have fond memories of looking up into the night sky through the telescope I had in my room. Also, I was born in 1992. And so… Space 92.”
Approaching the project with a “no pressure” attitude and making sure to take his time with its execution, he released his first two-tracker as Space 92, “Another Galaxy,” via his Perfekt Groove Recordings imprint in June of 2019. In pushing the music out on his label — a previous home for his Matt Minimal productions — Mathieu saw it as an opportunity to “test” the new project with a small and controlled rollout.
“But I already found what I wanted to produce,” he explains. “It was a combination of the rolling techno that I always had in my body, but also the melancholic, melody-driven stuff that I have in my soul from listening to artists like Stephan Bodzin, Tale Of Us, and Paul Kalkbrenner. For me, it’s the combination of solid energy and nostalgic vibes that created the basis of my new profile. I didn’t want to reproduce anybody, but I wanted to be an artist with a particular sound that you can recognize, just like those acts I mentioned.”
By March of 2020, just as the pandemic was settling in for its long haul, Mathieu sat anxiously at his home in Toulouse, France, contemplating what the future would hold and awaiting his remix drop of the Twins Project‘s latest single, “Bass In Your Face.” What would follow, in Mathieu’s words, was “the beginning of the story.”
“It was the second day of lockdown in France,” Mathieu says. “I thought to myself, ‘Okay, this is bad because I wanted this track for the clubs, but oh well, maybe next time.’ Then I saw it slowly but surely climbing the charts until it reached the Beatport Top 10, and I couldn’t believe it. I’d never been in the Top 10 in my life before.”
But the track wasn’t done after just cracking the Top 10. Space 92’s “Bass In Your Face” remix rose higher in the charts with each passing day. Mathieu made a bet with his friends that if the track climbed to number one, he’d let them shave his head. Before he knew what he’d signed up for, the clippers came out in celebration, and the 27-year-old French artist was sporting a new, hairless look. “I love my hair, and I didn’t want to do it, but I told them I would, so I had to go through with it,” Mathieu laughs, reaching up to check on his regrown mane.
Without warning, and with only a handful of tracks under his belt, Mathieu’s steady rollout of his Space 92 moniker had accumulated a tidal wave of attention. Labels and artists across the electronic music spectrum were now reaching out to work with the artist, including the formidable German techno duo, The YellowHeads.
“Their manager reached out to me and said, ‘I know we can do something big together. We have to try.’ And for me, it was an easy decision since they are much bigger than I am, and it sounded like a great opportunity,” Mathieu says. “We were only supposed to release a single, which ended up being the record’s b-side, ‘Afterlife,’ but we decided to go another round in the studio, and what we came up with was ‘Planet X‘.”
Just like before, Space 92’s collaboration with The YellowHeads skyrocketed with a phenomenal speed, hitting the number-one spot on Beatport’s Top 100 Techno Chart and holding the position for seven weeks, making it the site’s top-selling and most-streamed techno track of 2020. A gigantic floor stomper with a steel-plated 4×4 progression, the trance-oriented components found in “Planet X” resulted in the tune finding a universal appeal that stretched far beyond the techno scene.
“It’s been amazing to see the massive amount of support that ‘Planet X’ has received from big trance acts like Armin van Buuren, Markus Schulz, and MORTEN,” Mathieu says. “I was amazed to see how the track crossed over and touched techno fans as well as more EDM and trance-focused audiences.”
Making the most of his unprecedented musical momentum, Mathieu wrapped up his summer with another Beatport chart-topping single, “Phobos.” Returning to his Perfekt Groove imprint, he enlisted Ramon Tapia to help out on remix duty, seeing the release as an opportunity to expand and bring further attention to his label. Like before, Space 92’s walloping techno tune reached the overall number-one spot in Beatport’s techno charts and stayed in the Top 10 for over 200 days, making it Beatport’s second most-purchased and streamed techno track of 2020.
“So crazy, crazy, crazy,” Mathieu exclaims, shaking his head in disbelief. “Such a shock to see all this amazing support, especially because tracks usually don’t stay in the Top 10 for that long. It’s been an insane experience and a big, big take-off that I never expected.”
For Mathieu, his rapid rise through the techno ranks really came full circle when one of his idols, UMEK, first reached out to him through Instagram to release on his storied 1605 label.
“He didn’t realize it at the time, but I tried to get signed to 1605 so many times under my Matt Minimal moniker, and all my demos were rejected,” Mathieu explains. “It’s like that sometimes, the sound wasn’t there yet, and it’s tough to get signed to a label. But now, I woke up one morning to a message from him asking, ‘Hey man, do you have some music for me?'”
Space 92’s first track on UMEK’s label, “Run” — an ode to his love of running — appeared on the Desiderati 4.4 V/A compilation and was followed up by a ferocious peak-time two-tracker of his own, the Dune EP. “It was amazing for me to work with UMEK because, since my early days of listening to electronic music, his stuff has always been a shining example of what quality techno productions should sound like,” Mathieu says.
In a second fortuitous series of events that took place via Instagram, Space 92’s follow-up EP, Atlas, would find a home with Filth On Acid — the imprint belonging to another one of Mathieu’s techno heroes, Reinier Zonneveld. After sending several tracks to Filth On Acid and getting a direct response telling him that demo submissions were closed at the moment, Reinier Zonneveld came back days later, personally telling Mathieu, “I want all the tracks.”
In addition to his high-octane Atlas EP, the label has recently dropped a second Space 92 record called The Game — a driving three-tracker that sees the French techno savant turning up the filth factor like never before.
Despite enjoying such unprecedented success during a year that has confounded so many prospective artists in the dance music scene, Mathieu has made a point to stay humble and intensely analytical of his production choices.
“I don’t want to be too repetitive. It’s always hard to find new ways to reinvent yourself, so I started to experiment with new sounds a little bit,” Mathieu says. “With my music, I always want to take all the time I can to make the production really simple. I don’t want to create complicated tracks with a lot of FX and tricks. I want to find the right groove and the proper structure to be efficient on the floor. I just want to make tracks that give out a lot of power and energy to the people in the crowd. With Space 92, I will always cook up the same thing, but with different ingredients each time.”
This Summer, Space 92 will be making his stage debut since becoming one of the world’s best-selling and most talked about techno artists (a definite first in clubland history). With gigs already lined up in Bulgaria, Finland, Germany, Mexico, and some massive festival announcements coming soon, there is no telling how far Space 92’s stratospheric rise will take him.