Let's say you have a gig coming up tonight. What does your approach look like – from selecting the material and preparing for, opening and then building a set?
I want to be flexible at all times. I build different playlists for different moods and intensities. I'd label them “ultradeep”, “warm”, “steady”, “powerful”, “peaktime” or “crazy”. Then at the gig, I pick music straight out of the playlist that I feel is best for the moment.
When playing, my strategy is to build a set in waves, build it up for 3 records, then take it back a little. By repeating that process you slowly climb higher and higher but allow people the occassional breather. Then in the heat of the night I go full throttle and try to think as little as possible, just go with the energy of the room. I am always looking for interesting contrasts between 2 records, I do not want each record sounding like the one preceding it. That keeps the attention of the floor.
Can you describe your state of mind during a DJ set? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
The ideal state of mind is total relaxation and working from the subconscious. Not thinking about choices but simply letting them happen. To reach this state, I need to feel connected to the room. Establishing eye contact with the crowd helps a lot, also letting go of worries and fears of failure and rejection help me find this state. Big distractions are poor sound, technical problems, DJ booths that are far away from the crowd and simply a room of people I do not seem to understand. Nothing brings me down to earth like an unresponsive room that slowly empties out. But even then it is important to find those 2-3 people who are paying attention and then play the best you can for them.
Experience helps, also abandoning the ego and seeing yourself in a serving role takes away a lot of pressure.
What are some of the considerations that go into deciding which track to play next? What makes two tracks a good fit? How far do you tend to plan ahead during a set?
I continuously ask myself: Where do we go from here, what energy do we need now? A track that delivers a convincing answer to these questions is a good next track. Two tracks are a good fit when their grooves, keys and energy levels match or clash in an interesting way. You are always looking for that 1+1=3 situation. I usually plan 3 to 5 records ahead in a set, less on a bad day.
Would you say you see DJing as improvisation? As composition in the moment? Or as something entirely different from these terms?
Good DJing has moments of improvisation, tightly integrated in a strategic blueprint that never loses sight of the overall direction. Improvisation provides the magic, at the same time functionality is the bread and butter, the foundation of a set. For every king there have to be eight pawns.
How do playing music at home and presenting it in the club compare and relate? What can be achieved through them, respectively, and what do you personally draw from both?
I play zero club music at home. I listen to music that is far less strict, sometimes more experimental, sometimes sentimental and silly. I try to reset my musical brain completely, which sometimes gives me fresh ideas for my sets and helps me expand my limited club music vocabulary. Silence is my big friend at home, though.
How would you describe the relationship between your choices and goals as a DJ and the expectations, desires and feedback of the audience? How does this relationship manifest itself during a performance and how do you concretely tap into it?
I have aligned my personal goals much better with the expectations of the audience today then in the past. I used to not care about the people and just try to manifest my artistic voice. Today, I am all about the people and, as I mentioned earlier, creating connections. I play the big records, I want them to go crazy, I want the floor to be a happy place where people look at each other and just think “wow, I'm having so much fun”. I smile so much more than I used to, I fist bump, I wave, and I have a sense of deep gratitude while doing my job.
Especially thanks to the storage facilities of digital media, DJ sets could potentially go on forever. Other than closing time, what marks the end of a DJ performance for you? What are the most satisfying conclusions to a set?
The last record of a set is extremely important. When I am warming up it plays a small role, all I want is create a good continuation into the set of the next artist. Later on, however, the last record forms a big moment. I want it to be a track that is still stuck in people's heads on the way home, something that makes them feel warm and fuzzy or extremely pumped. It is also important to not fall for the temptation of an encore when everything has already been said and done. A bad encore can be an anticlimax to a great set.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
I love art that liberates my mind and soul, that opens doors I previously didn't know even existed. Art is one of my main sources of inspiration. I personally see myself not as an artist first and foremost but as a craftsman who has a job to do, like a baker who feeds the people and a painter who paints houses.