Having released one of the best electronica albums of last year on German techno staple Kompakt Dave DK is surely the man to talk to about the music scene in Berlin, London, production tips, and getting older... There are many aspirational factors in the lifestyle of a man who has been producing music for the last fifteen years. Throughout this time he has appeared on the likes of Pampa, Playhouse and Moodmusic amongst many others. At the age of 40 he has also somehow managed to find the time to maintain his love of surfing, in between sets at Panorama Bar of course. Dave DK has long since mastered the nature of emotional electronic music, he was deep long before the bros and vest wearing posers adopted the term. We caught up with a man still very much on the move...
While everybody I know is moving to Berlin, you chose to move out. Why?
I have lived in Berlin for sixteen years before I moved to Hamburg four years ago. I got bored of Berlin a little bit, I feel more creative when I change scenery. My brother lives in Hamburg as well and we have a lot of common friends. I know a lot of people from the music scene in Hamburg.
Is there a music scene in Hamburg?
Hamburg established a famous hip-hop scene in the 90’s. There was also the ‘Hamburger Schule’ movement between the 80s and mid-90’s. During that time various bands experimented with indie rock, pop and punk. Nowadays, there are a lot of electronic music labels that are based in Hamburg, the most famous being Dial Records probably. Smallville and Diynamic are from Hamburg. Pampa is also from Hamburg so it definitely has a sound! It’s the biggest city near Berlin, second biggest in Germany. I like the industrial harbour feeling and the quality of life. I have seen everything in Berlin since the 90s so it was time to move.
Did Berlin lose a bit of soul since then?
I have been going to Berlin since I was a teenager, it was a one hour drive from my hometown. The main change is that all the nightclubs got very professional. In the 90s they all started out as part of an underground culture and now it is a machine. Some venues were forced to shut down or move to other neighbourhoods. Maybe it lost a bit of soul because of that but it wasn’t due to the tourists. In the summer it gets really crowded but the city makes a lot of money from the nightlife all year around. You can’t find anything like it in the world. Berlin is unique.
How does London compare?
I think the first time I came to London was in 1996. I went to a party where Laurent Garnier was playing when I was 18. The first thing I noticed is that people are not very easy going. They get drunk very early and they’re in a state early on. In Berlin, everything is much more laid back and the atmosphere is more energetic.
It’s still too early to talk about the effects of Brexit but do you think it will put Berlin more on the map?
There’s so much good music coming out of London, I’m sure the city will stay strong. But I feel really sorry for this decision. Personally, as a musician, I loved the free movement and having no borders. Borders for me always mean conflict. I grew up in East Germany and witnessed the Cold War. I just met a guy from England and he says he never wants to go back to London. I feel sorry for all the immigrants, especially Polish people. I’m half Polish and it’s just bad vibes. There’s a big Polish community in England. You said you’ve been in London for four years; have you ever felt anything here?
Nothing until now but a short while ago when I told a guy who is a well-known figure in the music industry that I was from Turkey, he asked “Oh, what’s your religion? Are you Muslim?” I thought that was a strange question.
Well, I don’t think anybody would have been interested in your religion a few years ago. Things are really complicated nowadays, also in Germany. That’s why we need to have an open mind. We can’t shut borders, how can you do that? How can you blame the German chancellor because she was so kind? I understand that some countries are so behind in how they treat their women. I was in my hometown a few weeks ago and there’s a small group of Afghan and Syrian people there. We tried to talk to them and it’s terrible the stories they tell us. Some of the women told us they don’t want to wear their headscarves but they have to because of their husbands. The men have to be more open-minded. They can’t be like how they are back at home. The kids can more easily adapt to the culture. But the parents will try to hold on to their old ways. It is definitely a challenge but it is not a reason to not let them in. It’s stupid.
This ‘othering’ can have terrible consequences...
Exactly! I am a firm believer in the good vibes music creates. I always wanted to go to Israel and play. I also wanted to go to Russia even when people boycotted these countries. What do the normal people, people from the arts scene have anything to do with their governments? Nothing! Why punish them? What do you achieve at the end of this? It makes it worse.
Back to your shows, you don’t play live but only do DJ sets. Why is that?
Because it’s too complicated for me. When I work on music, I am controlling all the fade outs, all the parameters and I can’t see myself doing that onstage. I’ve been DJ’ing for such a long time now…
Your background is in DJ’ing but Val Maira is not a dance record.
My last record was a concept album. As a main concept, I wanted to have organic sounds and atmospheres. When you listen to some of the tracks on the right sound system, they could feel great in a club at the right moment. I wanted the tracks to connect you with your surroundings, that’s why I used so many field recordings. Maybe it’s just a production trick. When you want something to sound warm, you can just add noise from a room. It can be a bus, the hum of an empty room…
Since you are giving production tips, what are some of the plug-ins that you swear by? I can detect the Soundtoys crystallizer but what else?
I use a lot of plug-ins. There’s so much you can do with plug-ins, it’s overwhelming! I don’t have much gear. I have been using Soundtoys for almost ten years now. Crystallizer is one of my favourites but I also use other harmonisers. I’m a big fan of Universal Audio plug-ins, especially delays.
Sometimes I record with analogue synths but mostly, samples are my starting point. I have collected so many records over time.
In almost all of your interviews, you mention how much you like soundtracks. If you could write the soundtrack for one film, what would it be?
Hmm, it’s a difficult one...I know! It’s Mulholland Drive! I’m such a David Lynch fan, I’ve seen all his movies so many times. Twin Peaks also. I like the mystery, the weird changes, how all the different storylines work together...
You’re almost 40 now. Many artists find it increasingly harder to keep healthy and sane during rigorous touring as they get older. Does age matter?
It matters when you’re travelling. When I was younger, I would wake up just fine after six hours of playing but now, I have to give a break for a day or two between gigs. When you’re a DJ, you have to take good care of yourself and if you do, you can go on for a long time. I don’t do drugs, I do a lot of sports, I don’t go crazy with drinking...When you work too long in front of a computer, your back starts hurting so I bought a very nice chair for my studio last year. I thought it was good investment! I love DJ’ing and I want to do it for as long as I can. You’re as old as you feel!
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