Bug in the bassbins

The Levon Vincent chat went down well so I thought I'd continue to talk some of my favourite DJ/Producers into a little chinwag. 

 Photo credit - Marie Staggat

Photo credit - Marie Staggat

RL
We’ve crossed paths many times over the years and I’ve always felt we’re kinda similar in the way we have led our lives in electronic music.  We both established record labels; Poker Flat and 20/20 Vision respectively as ways of releasing new electronic music. We both produce music, although you are way more prolific on that front, and we’ve been known to throw down a track or two as DJs.  We also both started our careers in northern industrial cities, not many people know that Poker Flat actually started in Hamburg right?

What were those early days like in Hamburg and how important was the city for your early development ?

SB
I grew up in a city called Bremen, which is 100km away from Hamburg. My first visit to a house club was in Hamburg in ’87/’88. The club was called The Front. After that first visit I went back to the club many, many times. And I started mixing at home. In ’91 I finally started Deejaying in clubs, at the same time there was a shift to more techno music, and new clubs opened up in Hamburg, like Unit. At Unit, we exchanged Djs between Bremen and Hamburg and that’s how I got to know Tobias, my label partner and Henry, my first studio partner. In the mid nineties I finally moved to Hamburg and started throwing my own parties and bought my own gear. My tracks were definitely influenced by the early days of house and techno. But at the end of the nineties there were many smaller places like The Lounge for example where we played super deep house music.   From that foundation I grew out of my first imprint Raw Elements and started Poker Flat and Dessous. Dessous for the deeper vibes and Poker Flat for more tech, but still melodic tunes. I think if I had grown up to house and techno culture in a different city, my sound might have been different.


RL
Since those days you moved to Berlin, when was that ?  So many creative people have moved there since the 1990s. I love visiting but never lived there. Do you think Berlin is as important to electronic music as the rest of the world believes ?  

SB
In 1999 I moved to Berlin, at the time there weren’t that many international DJs here. It all started after 2000. For Germany, Berlin played a big role in the development of the techno scene with legendary clubs like Tresor, Planet, and E-Werk. Through its special political situation it was much easier to throw raves and parties in extraordinary locations than in all other German cities. Also because Berlin was Insulated for so long, people here were in a very special mind state. Many guys moved here to avoid going to the army for example. It was a melting pot. But I have to say, even though Berlin is playing a big role in electronic music, not only because the city is still very liberal when it comes to nightlife, it is nothing compared to what it used to be. But then again, which other cities has so many clubs and artists? And on top of that, clubbers who are flying in for the weekend just to party their asses off.

For me as a musician, I love living here, the city has a great energy, and it is still very affordable to live and even have a studio aside. 

RL
What are some of your favourite spots in Berlin to eat, drink and get records ?

SB
Luckily Berlin finally stepped up in the restaurant businesses. There are a lot of great places, various opportunities for everybody’s needs - It wasn’t always like that. Some of my favorite places to eat are ‘PeterPaul’ (modern German Tapas), ‘Ula’ (Japanese) and ‘Neta’ (Mexican streetfood). ‘Cordobar’ is good for wines and Austrian Tapas, for Cocktails and good spirits I mostly go to the ‘Melody Nelson’ bar. Another great bar is ‘Anita Berber’ in Wedding. Records - I am buying most at ‘Melting Point’, basically because it became a tradition over the years and they know what I want. But there are plenty other great stores, like Spacehall, Hardware and so on..


RL
‘Loverboy’ was a huge record for you right ?  Was that instrumental in kick-starting your name internationally ?  I mean you also had the whole ‘Minimal Funk’ DJ mix series out there and many other productions. To be honest I was playing more the Raw Elements and Traffic Signs series at back to basics.  But was the ‘Loverboy' effect big for you ?

SB
It was becoming a hit over the years though, we did big numbers, but constantly, there was never a big boom. But I think that’s a good thing :)


RL
How important do you believe ‘big records’ are for DJs today compared to back then ?  Do we live in the cult of the producer ?

SB
Back then, we were just a few DJs, everybody knew everybody. Clubbers were buying the records, or people who hoped to become a Dj one day. It was way easier to make your way just as a DJ, you didn’t need a big hit, even though it definitely helped. Nowadays, it seems all to be about clicks, likes and chart positions. No matter how good you are, or if someone else produced your ‘top ten’ track, as long as you have clicks and likes that make you look important/big enough, most people will come to see you, sometimes not even knowing what you are doing.  

 Photo Credit - Marie Staggat

Photo Credit - Marie Staggat

RL
How active are you in sourcing new music for Poker Flat ?  I don’t know if it’s widely known but you also have other labels such as Dessous & Audiomatique. There’s been really heavy output of music on them for years.  What’s some of your favourite moments ? 

SB
Wow, that’s always the most difficult question. but I have to say that I was always enjoying the present selection the most. For all 3 labels we get great demos and the standards are up to our needs. Good music that moves me, simply makes me a happy person.


RL
I also know you are in the studio religiously, I believe you set aside days in the week when it is studio head only. I’m also the same, I have to totally cut off from emails and work stress and not even answer the phone in the studio. How many days can you manage a week and how do you flip into your ‘artist space’?

SB
Since I have a studio outside of my home, I open the door, turn on the gear and I’m in the zone. Sometimes I work for 3-4 hours and get more done than in 16 hours at my studio at home, simply because I am way more focused. But lately I spend I haven’t been in the studio much, I guess I am hanging out too much in the bouldering gym… 


RL
Where is the studio ?  Who are you currently working with or what are you working on ?

SB
The Studio is around the corner of my apartment, very comfortable situation. Right now I am working with Max Heesen aka Langenberg who just released an album on Dessous. I also go in the studio with Cle, we just signed a record to Joris Voorn and Edwin Osterwall’s Rejected label. But we will also start on our next “Apes Go Bananas” soon. Besides that I finished a couple of remixes and some new tracks of my own, that will hopefully be released in the next few months.


RL
Any new toys you’re having fun with ?  

SB
Always, right now I dig this new Cyclone TR606 clone. But it’s funny with these things I always have a great time in the studio, but I never finish a track with them. I don’t know why…

RL
You’re still travelling a lot, do you ever get tired or are you still loving the lifestyle ?

SB  
The traveling part gets tiring, as I’m sure you know. Being alone so many days of the year doesn’t help either, but once you’re in the club playing the first record, it is the best job ever.  


RL
What is the single most important thing for longevity in this game ?

SB
Consistence and passion