Peter Rehberg, RIP

Peter Rehberg, RIP

Date: 2021-07-29
Author: --john w.

I met Peter Rehberg at the end of a long chain of acquaintances that began in a laundromat in Berlin in 1983:  I couldn’t figure out what the yellow light on the washing machine meant so I asked a woman named Inga, whose roommate’s boyfriend was Sigi, who later referred me to Christian in Vienna, who later introduced me to Christof, through whom I met Olga, who in early 1998 was going out with Peter.
I helped him move twice; a couple years later, he returned the favor.  We spent Easter 1998 and Christmas Day 2003 together.  In 2002 he invited me along to celebrate his birthday in a small gathering that was just him, Mego label co-boss Ramon Bauer, and their respective significant others and little daughters, at an outside table at “rhiz”, short for “rhizome” but pronounced “Ritz”, at that time the nexus of the Vienna electronic scene and site of many gigs.  After I relocated to Belgium, he nearly always guest-listed me when he played here, and I nearly always made it to the shows.
The first time I saw him perform was in 1998, in the distinguished company of AMM [!!], who were doing an evening set at jazz club Porgy & Bess at its old location right in the geographical center of the city, across from St. Stephen's Cathedral, and who had invited Peter and his Mego labelmate Christian Fennesz to accompany them on laptops.  The two relative neophytes fit in perfectly with the veteran free-improv trio, better in fact than some of AMM’s other guests have done.
Toward the end of that year, Peter introduced me, musically and personally, to Farmers Manual, whom I later wrote a feature article about in the debut issue of Polish arts magazine dwukropek (see p. 43 of the pdf here).
One day around that time, I walked into Mego’s offices and Peter announced to me, “Mark Sinker voted for Seven Tons for Free [his first solo album] in The Wire’s critics’ poll – HA!” obviously too proud to let on how proud he was to get such recognition.
A linguistic note:  I’m sure he adopted the artistic moniker “Pita” as a trick to get German speakers to pronounce his first name the British way, instead of something like “Pay-ter”.
In the early days, when he was travelling abroad, he got a lot of subversive mileage out of befuddling border officials, who typically asked, “If you’re coming to our country to play at a music festival, then where’s your instrument?” and his snarkily informing them that his laptop was the instrument.
Something that gets overlooked is that he was one kickass DJ.  In December of 2002 he dragged me along to choreographer Chris Haring’s birthday party, which Chris was throwing for his dance company and their friends in their huge rehearsal space.  When Peter put on “Atomic Witchdokta” by Underground Resistance (cf: ), the room exploded with energy, as though these professional dancers were finally getting to do what they really wanted to do – and the energy level stayed up there well into the night.
In September 2016 – by then he was using a Eurorack-type modular setup – I saw him give an utterly electrifying solo set at an evening of electronic music hosted by Brussels’ Halles de Schaerbeek, where he was the headliner and elder statesman. Afterwards a small group of younger electronic musicians crowded around him, politely bombarding him with technical questions; he was respectful, encouraging, and as generous with information as he always was.
Helped by his knowledge of the early 90s rave scene, he put together the excellent playlist and co-composed the interludes for the dance production I wrote about here.
His achievement as a musician, laptop pioneer, DJ, composer, tastemaker, label boss, impresario and entrepreneur was all the more remarkable given that he couldn’t read music, couldn’t play an instrument, had no musical training and, according to his high-school classmate (cf. link at The Quietus below), didn’t even pass his A-levels -- and boy would he be pissed off at my telling you that last part.

I’m really gonna miss the bastard.

Here are the best online tributes I’ve seen so far:
Obituary in The Guardian (UK):

Obituary in der Standard (Austria):

A clumsy (machine?) translation of the Liberation piece linked below, but still a very worthwhile overview:

The French original of that article, published in Liberation (just to show you his reputation on the Continent:  if you do a Google search you’ll find obituaries in French, German, Spanish, etc.):

4 pieces re-published by The Wire (see links at this webpage):

Among them, this excellent, highly recommended “blindfold test”, a survey of his musical preferences and formative influences:

Reminiscences and amusing anecdotes from his high school classmate:

And here are some places where you can sample Peter’s music and find further information:  the radio shows linked below have assembled a far more comprehensive survey of his and Mego’s output than I could do:

His Discogs page(with links to all the groups he recorded with and aliases he recorded under):

The website of his label, EditionsMego, which he established after the original Mego folded (with links to each release, and at the individual webpages, usually a track or two embedded from SoundCloud):

WFMU tribute program from July 27(featuring tracks he did solo, collaborated on, produced, and/or released):

Tribute podcast from Brainwashed radio:

Some tracks by Shampoo Boy, a band he played with in recent years:

KTL Live at Krems, 2007(a landmark performance not for the faint of heart:  
this is the duo with Stephen O’Malley [black metal/doom metal aficionado and member of Sunn O))) ], originally formed to provide the music for Gisèle Vienne’s theatre production Kindertotenlieder, hence the band’s name):