Frank Sonic is a bit of a big deal in Germany. Many of you won’t know the name, but if you consider he is the go to guy in Dusseldorf to warm and close after the likes of Sven Vath and Chris Liebling, that may indicate to you just how highly regarded he is. After finding electronic dance music on train journey to Berlin in his youth, Frank quickly became obsessed by techno in particular, and from a good schooling at the best underground raves with the likes of Yves Deruyter whipping up a storm, Frank learned the invaluable lesson that good music is good regardless of genre.
Fast Forward 15 or so years, and Frank regularly plays with the great and the good in the techno scene, and on 28th November, headlines for the first time in Breda, Netherlands alongside our own Pell & Preda. A&R Simon Huxtable caught up with Frank to get the low down..
Hi Frank, so glad you could join us at Decoded Magazine. How has your day been so far?
Hey! I’m very well, thanks! My day started very late because for the last few weeks I am busy in my studio on new tracks. So the days are short and the nights even longer. In the colder part of the year, I love to make music and produce tracks. I stopped releasing every fucking track I make now, but I’m producing a lot of bootlegs, cuts and personal edits for my DJ sets. I have so much unreleased stuff on my machine, that I think next year I could release an albums worth. But step by step! We will see!
Tell us a little about Dusseldorf. Where are the good places to eat, drink and party?
Dusseldorf lost a lot of good clubs recently, and the electronic scene here is not really as good as some years ago. It’s a real shame that we don’t have one really good techno club. In summer it’s even better than in the winter because I’m doing my Feier Rhein Open Air at a cool off location called “Treibgut” – it’s a beach club with a big dancefloor on sand, a huge pool area and more really cool relax and chill out spaces. It’s a little bit Ibiza feeling in the middle of the city. As bad as the nightclubbing scene is, we have a lot of really good restaurants, bars and of course an impressive shopping mile, but thats all very far away from techno.
With the worlds attention focused on Berlin, do you feel the rest of Germany doesn’t have the chance to show how good it is?
For me, Berlin is really the biggest spot for Techno. You can go dancing from Monday till Sunday. DJ’s playing gigs on Wednesdays and the clubs are full. That’s really a great hot spot for every techno-tourist visiting Germany. But there are a lot of more motivated people and crews throwing parties even better than every single Berghain night. Only the law and permissions are frustrating. I would love to find an old barn somewhere in the woods and do a legal rave there. For me it doesnt depend on naked walls and a Function One soundsystem – the crowd on the dancefloor is the most important thing. It’s not only Berlin, who stands for ‘German techno’.
As a well travelled man, how do you find the various other countries scenes differ from one another?
Well, I saw a lot of countries and I met a lot of people, promoters, DJ’s, dancers, lightjockeys and bartenders. In the end the people in every country go out to dance, meeting friends and have fun. On the dance floor everywhere is the same I think. It only depends on the party vibe and the crowd of the venue. In some places you have people dancing the whole night. You can play track by track and the people party non stop. Then you have clubs where the people are waiting for you playing the next popular song. If you don’t bring it on time, they stop dancing. If you want a really good answer to this question: I like countries, where smoking is allowed on the dancefloor. Some really good clubs in Germany crashed by the the non-smoking law, because most of the people go smoking with the whole group, and the feeling and the vibe on the dancefloor is always interrupted. On – Off – On – Off – On – Off. I saw a lot of packed dancefloors, which got empty in seconds cause a big group of people go smoking together – specially in smaller clubs! That sucks.
Techno has always been your sound we understand. From its inception in the minds of artists like Kraftwerk, through to over a million music fans dancing in the streets of Berlin. Illegal gatherings at UFO and Planet to Tresor, E-Werk and Der Bunker, there have been many changes. Which were the most significant for you?
For myself those early Love Parades, Maydays and smaller raves like the legendary Union Rave in Dusseldorf have been the entrance to techno. When my mum sent me on holiday at my aunt’s house in 1994 or 1995, I listened to electronic music for the first time. You must imagine, I was young and sitting alone on the train to Berlin, which was full of drunken and doped raver people. I think, when my mom know the fact, that on the same weekend the Love Parade happened, she would never let me go alone to that holiday.
Well, I had played piano and keyboard since I was 6 years old or something like that, and was always fascinated by music, but that new sound, I had to listen to in those 6 or 7 hours on the train infected me massively. When I arrived at my aunt’s, I watched the Love Parade that everybody on the train was talking about on the TV, and when I came back home I went straight to a CD store in our shopping centre and bought my first techno compilation. I took that CD to our youth club and showed it to my friends, they where not really fascinated like me, but from this moment, I dedicated every moment of my free time to electronic music. So you can say, that the Love Parade was the most significant event for me and techno, even when I have been there myself a few years later.
How do you see the development of the scene going in the next 10 years?
For me stagnation is the death. Every scene is turning like planet Earth does. I have now been in the electronic music scene for 15 or more years, and I’ve seen so many styles coming and going. Remember ‘Schranz’, ‘Hard techno’ or ‘Minimal’ – I saw a lot of DJs changing their sound with the years. That’s fuckin’ normal. For myself, I decided very early that I never will stand for this or that special sound. I love music and I love so many kinds of techno. I would never go on stage and feel like I’m playing in a golden cage. I know that this artistic license affecst my personal career is not the best way, because the people cannot identity with my sound 100%.
A promoter told me one day “If I book Frank Sonic, I don’t know what I get!” – I told him, “Yes, you’re right! It’s always magic. It’s always like a surprise egg!” hahaha. For me, I will never change this way of DJing or focusing on one special genre – it’s all techno. Sometimes harder, sometimes softer, sometimes groovy, sometimes melodic. When I visited my first rave parties I heard a banging acid techno set from Miss Djax after a trancy Yves De Ruyter. And there was none of us young ravers looking to the stage and asking, “why the hell are your changing the sound now?” We just dance! I miss this kind of rave. When you go to festivals in 2015 every style has his own stage. It’s all separated. If people go to a party mostly cause DJ XY is playing and not because of the party as itself.
We noticed you recently DJed with Chris Liebing. You covered both the warm up and warm down sets, it must have been amazing! How do you construct a good warm down set, and for you, what are the important factors which set it apart from a warm up?
I have been asked to be the headliner support for big names at Butan club for along time now. So when Chris or Sven Väth will play, I usually play before and after them. Not because I think that I have the biggest balls to do that, or I get a sexual arousal when seeing the packed crowd. No. I think on evenings like this it’s even more difficult to play a good warm-up and also closing set, because most of the people come to see the big name after you behind the decks.
So you have to ensure two things for the warm-up set: Play the right tracks to make the waiting crowd dance without using tracks which surely will be played by the main act. I never get a list with tracks that I am not allowed to play, but as a good warm up DJ, the stage is really not yours! And you should not fuck up the guy travelling maybe a thousand miles to your club before he starts. So I always try to create a smooth atmosphere around 123 BPM. A little bit like sitting in the cinema, eating popcorn and ice cream and waiting for the movie. Just with techno instead of popcorn and ice cream!
For the closing set it’s even more complicated, because today, a lot of people leave the club when the main act has finished. So you have to get the crowd with your first track. Mostly the headliner is still behind you when you start – so you are even more nervous than other times. Then there are a lot of people at the booth, asking for photos or offering blowjobs to the guy who played before. So it is also more busy in your ‘working zone’. For the party, it’s one of the most important moments now. Will you got the crowd there or will you leave them. To be honest, I have seen both sides. The music I play for a warm down set always depends on the last tracks of the main act. If you are playing a really hard techno track when he closes his set with a melodic offbeat track you got the crowd directly – but in this moment you definitely lose the respect by the guest DJ too. You are always in a conflict with yourself. Not easy!
On November 28th you’ll be playing in Holland alongside our own Damion Pell with his production partner Alex Preda at De Boulevard Breda. Have you been to Breda before? How was it?
I have never been there and I am very looking forward to the party. I’m in love with the Netherlands as my parents took me to the North Sea every year when I was a child. I loved the soft-ice and the drempels, haha! As a DJ I have played a lot of times in Holland and it was always a big fun. I have a lot of friends moved to Amsterdam and it would be the most interesting city for me, when I decide to migrate some day. I really love it. When you look to your state-of-the-art festivals like Awakenings, Mysteryland or the outstanding ADE and look over to us Germans with our unlovely, poor stage designs you can definitely see why they do so well.
We love your bootlegs of Hozier and Gotye. What inspires you to make music?
Well, as I already mentioned I played piano since I was 5 or 6 years old. When I’m listening a song on the radio I sometimes have ideas to add this or that to it to make it playable it in my sets. Could be a kick or just a loop. When I heard “Somebody That I Used To Know” from Gotye for the first time, I totally fell in love with this track. I definitely wanted play it, but to play the original would be very strange at a rave if you are not Steve Aoki!! So I called my friend Alex who is my studio partner for my more housey ‘Plasticboyz’ project and told him my idea. We met in our studio and finished it in a few hours. We uploaded it to Soundcloud and gave it away as a free track to our fans. Nearly the same story happened when we did the Hozier remix. It’s so unbelievable, that we have nearly reached the 200.000 downloads with this track on Soundcloud. We really appreciate the support.
Thats good of you to say Frank. Well, its been great to meet you, we wish you the bet of luck with everything. One final question if I may, where else this year can we see you play?
The next big party for me is our 18th Birthday Party at Butan on Friday 4th December. We invited Nicole Moudaber, who has been one of the most upcoming producers of the year for me. I liked her music for many years already and she previously did a remix for my trapez record in 2012, but I think she’s now on the point of getting to be one of the really big ones. So I am very very happy to share with her the birthday cake!