Name: Klaudia Gawlas
Occupation: DJ, producer
Nationality: German
Current releases: Klaudia Gawlas's most recent EP is Sakura, a collaboration with Gary Beck via BEK Audio. She also contributed a remix to Simina Grigoriu's "Sector Uno", out on Kuukou.
Recommendations: I like the paintings of the new shooting star of Germany Leon Löwentraut and I am still in love with the books of Jules Verne - just classic and so nice.

[Read our Simina Grigoriu interview]

If you enjoyed this interview with Klaudia Gawlas and would like to find out more about her music and current DJ dates, visit her official website. She is also on Instagram, and Facebook.

Can you talk a bit about your interest in or fascination for DJing? Which DJs, clubs or experiences captured your imagination in the beginning?

I’ve always been fascinated by the spirit of techno and the love you can get from the people around you when you play. No one is interested in where you are from, who you love, what you wear or how you look, its all about enjoying one thing together and that's music.

At the beginning I went to all the gigs I possibly could to see artists including Chris Liebing, Takkyo Ishino, DJ Rush, Jeff Mills and Monika Kruse as I loved their energy and style.

[Read our Chris Liebing interview]
[Read our Jeff Mills interview]

One special club was called Alcatraz in Landau which is in the area that I grew up. I went there almost every weekend for years, so it's a special place for me. I then moved to the US where I started to learn how to mix vinyl and the club sadly closed whilst I was away, and many things changed.

We missed the parties but started creating our own events.

What made it appealing to you to DJ yourself? What was it that you wanted to express and what, did you feel, did you have to add artistically?

As I mentioned after my studies, I went to the US for a year. First it was to learn English at a more advance level, and to be able to open my mind and eyes to a new world. I went to a record store every day and started to hang out there, when I realised that I missed techno so much, as the guys there were only ever spinning hip hop and reggae. So that's what I started to learn to mix first before techno.

For me, it was always about the love for music so this is what I wanted to share. When I am into the music, I feel carefree and happier than at any other moment. The artistic side came later, when I started to get more comfortable with vinyl and started to play a lot more. It think this happened naturally, as you then start to develop your own style.

What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to DJing? Do you see yourself as part of a certain tradition or lineage?

I try to shape my sets to make them energetic but with a heavy bass drum. When tracks work together, I play a few at the same time, up to four. I don't know if I have an idea behind this approach really, but I just try to create moments for the crowd, with my understanding of techno.

I don't think that I am a certain tradition or lineage, but I think I was able to learn mixing with vinyl to give me a deeper understanding of what tracks work together and how to use them at the right time. That can make all the difference between a good and bad set for the crowd.

Clubs are still the natural home for DJing. What makes the club experience unique? Which clubs you've played or danced at are perfect for realising your vision – and why?

For me, it’s that kind of intimacy that makes it unique. You are next to the people; you feel their energy and right away you love every moment of it. It's so real, pure and honest.

To pick one special place is very hard, but I have had a lot of great moments at clubs like Loft Ludwigshafen, Nordstern Basel, Boothaus Cologne, Kesselhaus Augsburg and Fabrik Madrid.

Every club has its own charm, but the ones I mentioned were places that it all came together and was on point – the crowd, artist care and mood. Unforgettable moments.

There is a long tradition of cross-pollination between DJing and producing. Can you talk a bit about how this manifests itself in your own work?

For me, it’s essential to produce tracks as I feeling something is always missing in my sets. So, I need to make my own music to fill the void.

When you play around the world you get a feeling for what tracks work on the dancefloor and that's how I work in the studio. I try to mix experiences as a DJ with the idea of tracks that I would love to hear or dance to.

I try not to flood my thoughts with expectations, or where I want the track to go. Follow feelings in the studio as you would behind the decks, judge the vibe, and see where it takes you.

What role does digging for music still play for your work as a DJ? Tell me a bit about what kind of music you will look for and the balance between picking material which a) excites you, b) which will please the audience and c) fulfill certain functions within your DJ set.   

It’s all about digging for new music and new sounds. I spend a lot time searching for and listening to promos, because I love to play new stuff.

Every gig is a different one. For sure there are tracks that accompany you for a long period and lot of gigs, but not to get lazy or bored by myself it’s my claim to create new music on stage as often as I can and that’s why I need a lot of new stuff every week.

I think it’s that balance between the three things you asked for that makes a DJ mix special and shapes an artist’s personality. You need to like and know the tracks; you need to know or be able to read the crowd and you need tracks in the right position to create a suspense that keeps the audience at bay. You need to be prepared for every circumstance, as every audience is different and I see it as my mission to catch them the way they need it.

I've always wondered: How is it possible for DJs to memorise so many tracks? How do you store tracks in your mind – traditionally as grooves + melodies + harmonies or as colours, energy levels, shapes?

Ha ha, that’s still my biggest problem, I lose so many tracks.

Back in the days it was a bit easier because I associated the tracks with the cover of the vinyl and exactly knew what it is. Nowadays it’s harder with all that digital stuff, but for me tracks are numbers according to a special feature of the track.

There are tracks I only use the vocal to mix in, or maybe I don’t like the kick, so I use it from another part of another track. That’s hard to memorize, but I start to feel them and try to work as good as I can with the tracks.

I also organize my library very well, but please don’t ask me for track IDs - with that I’m lost.

Using your very latest DJ set as an example, what does your approach look like, from selecting the material and preparing for and opening a set? What were some of the transitions that really worked looking back?

I love to start with an intro, so always when I find a good one, I try to use it in my opening. After that I start building up. I have slower tracks and faster or straighter ones. So, I try to play the slower ones first. To see how it develops. And of course, the rest is the magic.

Sometimes I don´t even remember which tracks I played. When everything is perfect, the technique is good and the sound as well, I lose myself and just try to let go …

How does the decision-making process work during a gig with regards to wanting to play certain records, the next transition and where you want the set to go? How far do you tend to plan ahead during a set?

It´s not easy to make the right decision without knowing the location before, or the soundsystem or the crowd. Usually, I plan 4-5 tracks ahead while I am playing but often I get in a different mood and leave my enterprises for some other tracks that work for me better at that point.

The most challenging are the first and the last track, I think. I try to end my sets with a real banger for the grand final or with something off topic, that nobody would expect. Sometimes I play some self-made bootlegs with catchy character.

I do think about my intro before and all my groovy stuff, but I start pretty fast to go stronger. Nice vocals and melodies are welcome as well and I play around with them, and I know with which track I can mix them and where to loop maybe. Sometimes it works well, and sometimes not.

As a DJ, you can compose a set of many short tracks or play them out in full, get involved with mixing or keep the tunes as the producer intended them, create fluent seagues or tension. Tell me about your personal preferences in this regard, please.

Good question, but I haven’t consciously dealt with that yet. It depends on the tracks you’ve chosen. Sometimes the tracks need to be played in full to unfold their feeling, but there are tracks of which I only use specific parts to create something new within a mix of two, three or sometimes four tracks.

Pieces can sound entirely different as part of a DJ set compared to playing them on their own. How do you explain this? Which tracks from your collection don't seem like much outside of a DJ set but are incredibly effective and versatile on a gig?

I would say this should be the focus of a DJ set - to mix tracks the way you think they work together and create something new, or make them work better, so that’s why tracks or pieces sound different in every mix you do. It depends on the speed and the order or the parts you choose for your mix.

There are a lot of unknown artists and producers which aren’t recognised or spotted in the charts but work so well on the dancefloor. To name just two of them was ‘Your Love’ from Gero Jansen and Julian Brand, which I played a long time and always caught the crowd.

During the pandemic I started to play ATTENTION 2 from N.O.B.A, Dolby D and Shadym, which always was one of the peaks of my sets till then.

In terms of the overall architecture of a DJ set, how do you work with energy levels, peaks and troughs and the experience of time?

It depends on how long I play, but usually I try to start on a high level and build up as many peaks as I can, and the crowd can withstand. Troughs are sometimes necessary and useful to create to give the people time to fall into the music and to recover somehow to catch the next peak on a higher level.

Experience told me that a good set and the satisfaction of an audience is not always measured by the quantity of peaks. It's more about the overall energy level you can transfer.

Online DJ mixes, created in the studio as a solitary event, have become ubiquitous. From your experience with the format, what changes when it comes to the way you DJ – and to the experience as a whole - when you subtract the audience?

During the pandemic I did a few live streams at home, in closed clubs or as a streaming event at a festival location, but I have to say without the audience it wasn't the same. I create my sets for and with the energy of the people and that is missing. The magic moments are made by the audience.

The mixing part is the same, because I only did live mixes as I use to do it in clubs, but I felt alone with my music and that somehow broke my flow, as it’s more technical than emotional.

Advances in AI-supported DJing look set to transform the trade. For the future, where do you see the role of humans in DJing versus that of technology?

I think there is nothing that can replace the interaction of a DJ and the audience to build up unforgettable moments.

Let's imagine you lost all your music for one night and all there is left at the venue is a crate of records containing a random selection of music. How would you approach this set?

What a funny question - thanks for that.

Luckily, I’ve never been in this situation, cause not to know what is in the folder would be an interesting experience, but stressful at the same time. Probably I would scroll frantically through the tracks and maybe would loop a lot of fitting parts to be able to work and find a good flow.

And a lot of effects to cover my mistakes! Ha!