So how does an Australian end up all the way in the heartlands of Techno – Berlin?
A long-time love-affair with the city’s ‘social experimentation’, cheap-living, simplicity and constant change are largely to blame for my living here. I first visited around 2005, had my first shows over the next couple of years (Watergate with the Get Physical guys), and then just made it a habit to continually – return. I first knew very few people there, came and stayed alone, and knew barely any German. But something about the texture of the city, its spiritual resonace captured my heart immediately. It’s a broken city, working out how to repair – and in doing so tends to wear its wounds, its sorrows and joys large. I feel like its a city with an open heart – it’s so very different from somewhere like New York which is loud, brash and larger-than-life, but i suppose it might be considered a sister-city. Berlin is slower, more silent, and infinitely more unpredictable. Also, strangely enough, I’m slightly partial to the long, dark winters. Berlin is a city in progress, and as long as it remains this way, I’ll be happy to live there. Oh, and there’s the music…but it’s felt secondary…Ive had the best gigs of my life in Berlin (Berghain, for example), but i never moved to Berlin to be a ‘Berlin dj’. The roots felt deeper for me, and slightly different. Berlin just felt HONEST to me.
How have you found the transition to such a different country?
Wonderful and inspiring, to be honest. I love feeling of having to start from scratch again, and to learn a new language, new skills, new community. Life is a process of constant change, but people like myself are too often creatures of habit. Berlin has a way of keeping me on my toes. My German language skills are getting to a point where I’m semi-fluent and can read the newspaper etc easily, and it’s been such a joy to discover that part of my ‘brain’ once again. As an Australian, we’re used to constant temporate lushness – not -15 degrees, and the first major lesson I faced was how to ‘slow down’ in the winter months. The change of season in Berlin is so extreme and unique from high 30s in summer, to -10 or -15 degrees in winter. Its fascinating, wonderful, confronting. One of the beautiful changes I found in Berlin was that everyone lives quite simply – well over 90% of Berliners live in rental flats, and don’t own things like cars. This means that a lot more life is lived in public-spaces, and in close proximity…this often seems to have a social ‘levelling’ effect – ie. many of the signifiers of social status are a little less immediately obvious, which I like. It’s also quite a remarkably wonderful place for young families and children. I’ve never been surrounded by so many small kids in my life, or seen so many children on a daily basis. Its quite lovely. For the first time, I know almost everyone in my apartment building. Simple things like this are just so affirming to me.
Would be fair to say 2013 has started off as a big year with your online radio show, Diversions, a tour of the US and a string of European shows?
2013 feels like quite an unexpectedly LARGE year, but also SO much smoother and positive than 2012, which (whilst yielding an album which is pretty special to me) was fairly difficult, and deeply unsettling personally. Something changed in the depths of this year’s Berlin winter – something quite lovely and unexepcted…..and largely related to finding myself surrounded by a number of incredible new members of the ‘deepchild team’. A new manager, a brilliant social-media crew, and support from some wonderful, decent-hearted labels. Music is a silly, complex and exhausting game – made easier in the company of wonderful co-workers.
Much has been reported about the US ‘EDM’ scene, how receptive was your more underground sound on your recent tour to the States?
The USA is quite remarkable…the place still frightens me, quite profoundly, politically and in terms of the reckless power they yield. On the flip-side, Ive had some amazing gigs there, and have a lot of brilliant lifelong friends there who continue to selflessly inspire and support me. Kids with passion, heart, and such hospitality. People I’m proud to call my friends, who continue to support people like myself into their world, at great expense. The audiences I’ve played to there have been almost universally enthusiastic, passionate and knowlegable. Perhaps I just lucked out. Seattle and SanFrancisco continue to lead the game. These people are my extended family.
Do you ever find your touring translates to the music you produce?
Touring helps me out of my ‘head’ and into my ‘body’. Too often I start choking music, forgetting about the bigger picture. Touring is as exhausting, but deeply grounding antidote. I write new material in hotel-rooms, in transit, on buses, planes, futons. Music becomes a way to diarise experience, and often helps me ‘cut to the chase’ of ideas a little quicker.
Touring can take a toll on the body and spirit, how do you enjoy your down time?
From my experience, mostly the body – the liver in particular. I spend a lot of time on the yoga-mat – infact i often take it with me on tour. :) I also spend a lot of time in cafes, by myself, reading and studying German. I like silence – for the same reasons I like techno…there’s a deep quietness and the heart of both yoga and techno.
The industry has seen many changes throughout the years, but one issue is the struggle for exposure in a flooded digital world of music. How do you find this affects you and releasing your music?
I’m far more careful when i chose labels to release with these days. There are so many labels, promo-services etc etc, and the quality is so very varied. More and more, I’m inclined to want to work with labels who are part of a respected community of like-minded souls – who release ‘less’ material, but promote it well. I’m also more inclined to want to give music away for free – surrendering music to a 3rd party is always an act of faith, and ‘labels’ as a purist ‘ideal’ are generally overrated. My questions remain the same – what do i want my music to achieve? How can i do this? Money is generally a secondary concern (there is none!), but being part of a bigger community is very important. Somewhere in between these 2 poles lies a number of workable compromises. Charting is of little to no value to me, but working as part of a team exploring the same paths is deeply inspiring.
Your music embraces many elements, have you purposely strived for a particular sound or have you felt it was more a natural progression over time?
My music is (often a little confusingly) diverse. Ive never had a central sonic ‘thesis’, although having said that, I have always been with sonic ‘dirt’, audio-biproducts, artifacts and smudges. I’m interested in music which betrays our humanity. And I’ve often found that ‘machine music’ is more human that a great deal of ‘traditional’ music. I’m interested in music which is reductionist – which seeks to do a lot with relatively little. I’m not very good at being ‘minimal’, which is why I like the inherant minimalism in techno and house. It remains deeply challenging to me. I’m also interested in approaching music a physical experience – again, due to existing so much in my ‘head’, I’m fascinated by music which gets me OUT of it, and by musicians who throw me back into mine. I’m surrounded (constantly) by musical idols. A lot of my work feels like thievery – trying to emulate and reinterpret them :)
Is there anyone currently who has caught your attention and one to watch?
Too many to list, but perhaps not a whole heap of new names. Burial, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Christopher Willis, Abe Duque, Robert Hood, Jonas Kopp, Andy Stott, The Weeknd, D’Angelo, Dilla, Dense & Pika, Joy O, Blawan….I do feel my eyes very-much focussed on UK sounds at the moment….
What advice would you give to anyone starting out?
No, jokes aside….from where i’m standing, there is no money, no glamor, no fame, little health, and ALWAYS a million producers and djs far far better than you. For the very same reasons, its a vocation worth investing in (ok, perhaps not the health part). My only real assets are people. Techno reminds me how to simplify my life. Techno reminds me that the deepest truths are probably the ones your mum told you, and then society quickly dissowned – people, family, simplicity, adapability, humility. Most artists who proclaim that they have a ‘statement’ to make are either a) deluded b) 15 years old c) Prince. I make exceptions for Prince. And many others, truth be told. Music fucks everything up, and it’s necessary. Like eating, we need in order to survive – and its both greatly undervalued (have you ever tried not eating for a week?) and over-valued. Music messes everything up. It will kill you, slowly..but you may die happy. Practically speaking – practice. Write, edit, destroy. Start again. Every day. EVERY spare moment. Make, destroy, create, repeat. Be shamelessly creative and frighteningly disciplined. There is no fail. There is only do or do not.
What was the weirdest/funniest thing that’s happened to you at a gig?
Hmm…there was that time I was given amyl nitrate and showed lewd photos on an iphone….or the time i was taken to a brothel…or the time i was refused entry to my own gig for ‘innapropriate’ dress…the rest I shall leave to mytholody…
Lastly, is there anything in the pipeline that you can tell us about?
Surviving the next 26 hour flight in 30 mins is a priority. The rest tends to work itself out….