If you press your lips together to say Pingipung out loud, then you’ve understood the Hamburg label’s image. Pingipung is like a sound identity, a named record of what’s been spinning on the turntables in Hamburg since 2002. These are playful melodies »that make you imagine you’re out there collecting random coins in candy-coloured worlds«, explains Heiko Gogolin. He is one of the founders of Pingipung along with Andrea Wienck, Andi Otto and Nils Dittberner. He sits in his kitchen in Hamburg and grins into the laptop camera. He’s just returned from Gamescom in Cologne.
Gogolin is not just a »lifelong gamer«, but also the managing director of Rocket Beans, one of the largest German-language livestreaming channels for video games. During the day he manages 130 employees, in the evening he brings records by Anadol, Umeko Ando or hey-ø-hansen to the post office. In the meantime, Pingipung’s back catalogue would fill half of an Ikea shelf. 75 releases have been issued. For their anniversary, they’re treating themselves to the »king’s format«, says Gogolin. Important label acts and friends of the label celebrate their birthday on two 10-inchers.
It is summer
Pingipung began more than 20 years ago in Lüneburg, not an hour’s drive from Hamburg. Wienck, Otto, Dittberner and Gogolin get to know each other as students. They listened to records by artists and bands like Schlammpeitziger, F.S.Blumm or James Din A4. »At some point we wanted to release things ourselves – especially our own stuff,« explains Gogolin. In march of 2002 Peter Presto, which is the artist’s alias of cofounder Nils Dittberner, announced »it is summer«.
Because the release slipped into Michael Mayer’s rotation at Kompakt, they have been distributing ever since. What’s more, they put out different records by people who influenced the founding of the label from the very beginning. These are the artists whose records were spinning in various flat-share kitchens during the evenings they spent together.
»We’re too big to do anything half-assed. At the same time, the label is far from big enough to seriously finance people.«Pingipung
»Finally, with James Din A4, one of our heroes actually compiled a CD with us,« remarks Gogolin. Over the years, he says, he has released countless albums on vinyl, but simply deleted the songs afterwards. »For the best-of, we had to record from vinyl on a wickedly expensive record player so that we could release them on CD later.«
Din A4’s compilation is one of the few CDs to appear on Pingipung over the years. »With every single one I listen to today, I’m annoyed that it didn’t come out on record,« says Gogolin. »What’s not physically with me exists less – even if vinyl is expensive, takes longer and is even a pain in the ass to ship.«
Why Pingipung is named Pingipung
In the meantime, records from Pingipung are nevertheless landing in mailboxes all over the world. The audience is as international as the musical direction. In 2011, for example, Sven Kacirek’s »Kenya Sessions« was released, which earned Pingipung the German Record Critics’ Award. »A combination of African music with a Western approach in the form of live jams,« reads the jury’s statement. Something that is woven into the label’s DNA. After all, African highlife music from A. J. Holmes had been released before.
Pingipung is in a weird in-between position, Gogolin adds. »We’re too big to do anything half-assed. At the same time, the label is far from big enough to seriously finance people.« Because Andrea works for Greenpeace, Nils for Nintendo and Andi Otto is self-employed with his music and lectureships, they can be financially independent. »However, we have published so many good artists by now that it is incumbent upon us to make money for them as well.«
By the way: Those who have read this far should also find out why Pingipung are called Pingipung. »Nils’ brother couldn’t pronounce the word ‘penguin’,« explains Gogolin. »Instead, he kept saying ‘pingipung’.« He says Nils thought the name was so cool that he snagged the URL for it back in 1998. »He knew he wanted to do something under that name. We got together. The label was born.« The rest is 20 years of indie history.