A few albums really blew my mind this year, one of them was by Daniel Steinberg called Left Handed. A Berlin native, Daniel has etched out a career on the edges of the House and Techno scene, never really belonging to either. And that suits him fine. Daniel is the kind of artist devoid of genre that makes music as sonic art. Growing up in East Berlin behind the Iron Curtin, he has seen first hand the changes that shaped 20th Century Europe, and that sense of hope is translated into his music.
Already a fan of his work, A&R Simon Huxtable took some time recently to meet Daniel and find out a little more…
Hi Daniel, so glad to finally get a chance to meet. How has your 2015 been?
Likewise! 2015 was really busy and fast.
Let’s start with a bit of history. Can you tell us about how you became interested in dance music, and who your influences were?
When I was a kid say around 88-89, there was a music radio show on the East German GDR channel called Maxistunde every Sunday night. They played extended mixes of all the week’s dance and disco releases, and I listened to the show religiously and taped it every week. Subsequently, there were two other radio shows in the early 90s that further fed my interest in electronic music, Monika Dietl’s ‘The Big Beat’ and Marusha’s ‘Rave Satellite’. I was massively inspired by these radio shows, which introduced me to some of my early influences like Mr Fingers, 808 State, KLF, Technotronic & Black Box.
Have you always lived in Berlin? How has the city changed over the years, and are there places you miss?
Yes I was born in Berlin and have always lived here. I’ve seen a huge amount of change in my lifetime. I grew up in East Berlin; I was 12 when the Berlin Wall came down. Berlin is constantly in a state of change, it’s a permanent construction site which makes it an exciting and interesting place to live. There is no place I miss, everything has it’s it time and place in history, but I think change is a good thing.
Over the lifespan of your career, has there been a favourite period, or musical style that captured your attention?
Yes, Early 90s house & techno and around 2005 with the beginning of minimal.
We’ve featured a few Germany artists over the last 6 months, and the over all feeling is that the German scene is really healthy right now. But do you think there is a danger that Berlin in particular will become its own worst enemy, a little like Ibiza has?
Was it ever unhealthy? We’re very lucky in Germany almost every village in the country has a club, and Berlin is still a relatively cheap city to live in so there are a lot of producers / DJs. I think these two factors conspire together nicely to create the perfect conditions for a healthy and creative scene. I don’t think Berlin will ever become like Ibiza, even though ‘techno tourism’ has exploded here in recent years, the culture and vibe of the city and type of people it attracts is very different to Ibiza.
Remaining defiantly on the edges of the House and Techno dynamic has afforded you a certain license to create some stunning tracks. Do we focus too much on genre definition these days, desperate to find the right pigeonhole so our music sells in quantity?
Absolutely, but I understand it. It’s just much easier for people to process and digest this way. If you’re straight house or straight techno, its really obvious for promoters where to book you, who to put you with on a lineup etc. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the music I make never really falls easily into one of these pigeonholes. But it doesn’t bother me at all, I never make music or even listen to music with a genre in mind.
Over your long and colourful career, you’ve played some fantastic venues. As loaded as the question always is, do you have any stand out places you love to return to?
Hard question. I’d really love to go back to Japan, it’s such a unique place.
As dance music has changed, so have the fortunes of some of its artists. In todays climate, how hard is it to support yourself and your family solely with music? Like many others, have you had to find work elsewhere?
I’ve lived from producing and DJing for over 10 years, hopefully there’s still another 10 to go without having to find work elsewhere! For me there’s no plan-B so I work really hard. But your right, fortunes do change and I’ve seen a lot of great artists come and go. But I’ve never been a mega-hype-of the-moment producer so when the music fashion changes it doesn’t really affect me too much and I tend to just keep rolling happily along.
Following on from that, what motivates you as an artist?
Gigs like the one I had recently in Cholula Mexico, amazing crowd of smiling beautiful people celebrating like their lives depended on it. So refreshing and totally inspiring.
Do you have a tried and tested workflow for making new tracks/remixes?
No, you can never predict when the magic will strike. Some of my most successful tracks I’ve made in 2 hours after a gig. Others I’ll tinker with for a week or more and they’ll be an absolute dud.
Congratulations on the new album, having heard it now a number of times, I’m really impressed by it. How long did it take from conception to organise and write?
Thank you for the feedback! Most of the writing I did in an intense 1 month period last December. But it took about 6 months for the whole thing to come together when you include the graphic design, mastering etc.
You’ve put the album out on your own label – Arms & Legs which you co-founded with Nils Ohrmann back in 2011. When you started the label, did you have a particular vision for it?
When we started the label our vision was to simply to release music we loved, irrespective of genre, trends or commercial constraints. It still is.
Daniel, its been wonderful to meet you, we wish you all the best for 2016, and the album. Do you have plans in place yet for releases/tours in the new year?
I’m kicking off the year with a gig in the Mexican jungle; I’m well excited about that. In January I’ll be heading to Bogota Columbia for the first time then to Dubai in Feb also for the first time.
Release wise I’ve got a 2 track EP coming on Waze & Odyssey’s W&O Street Tracks label in Jan then the Left-Handed remix album coming on Arms & Legs soon after. I’ve asked some pioneering electronic producers that have been big inspirations to me to do the remixes and they’ve delivered really interesting results, I’m really looking forward to sharing them with the world!
Thanks for the chat, wishing you all the best for 2016, I think it’s going to be a good one!
01// Visit Venus – The Big Tilt (DJ Koze Remix)
02// Flexitone – I Am Sitting In A Version (Re-Edit)
03// The Ron Honey Experience – Nitedrive
04// Jamie Jones – Half Human
05// Motorfunk – This Time
06// Solvpil – GTV
07// Ricardo Villalobos – Waiworinao
08// Cai Bojson Moller – Combiner
09// Harry Axt – Montecarlo
10// Goto – DK Magic
11// Harry Axt – Roulette
12// Laurent Garnier – Rex Attitude
13// Levon Vincent – I Owe You Everything
14// Visit Venus – Planet Of The Breaks (Herbert Remix)
15// Rebolledo Ft. Matias Ag – Pitaya Frenesi
16// Daniel Steinberg – Crack
17// Lawrence – Grey Light