Regular readers will know that Ransom Note long ago abandoned preparing proper questions for interviews, because 1) they make for really dull reading and 2) we're very lazy. So when we got hold of the one and only DJ Koze for second time in as many years, we decided to embark on a meandering conversation that took in (drum roll please) the best music to listen to in your kitchen, the strange joy of playing songs to an audience full of rich people banging good quality brown, his ambition to finally ditch the hippy techno tag and what a great David Lynch-esque album made by metal heads sounds like. OK, so, we are saying so ourselves, but it's probably the best interview Koze has given this year (Ian's words, not mine. W).
What do you think about when you’re thinking of settings for music? Maybe something like listening to a Brian Eno album in an aquarium.
When you create music, do you think about it being listened to in different scenarios and settings? <pause> Are you cooking at the moment?
Yes, I’m eating and washing up. I like that your questions are long because it gives me a chance to actually eat.
Hah! OK so I'll make it longer. What I’m interested in is that we only have a few settings to experience music. You have the studio, the club, headphones and at home with speakers. The thinking is it'd be nice to create a new space to listen to music, Have you ever created a particular space to listen to your music? Your music is not always for the club, it’s often more for headphones, so would be nice to create a new space to listen to music, or to listen to your albums...
Yeah, but headphones aren’t that bad. You can use headphones on a plane, or on the train or in the bed at home and the kitchen is also a great place to listen to music at home. For me, my favourite is the kitchen.
For any particular music, or just music in general?
I find techno is the worst in the kitchen, but every genre of music apart from that is really wonderful to listen to because it’s the perfect amount of focus and concentration. If you’re cleaning or something you’re not 100% concentrating on that so you can listen to the music at the same time. I find it’s the perfect place for me to listen to music and discover.
So it doesn’t matter what you’re doing there?
No not at all, it’s maybe the main place that I do everything. I even do my emails in the kitchen and listen to music there. The kitchen is super good.
For me it’s when I’m riding my bicycle. Probably a bit dangerous but I absorb music better there than anywhere else.
I know that from running. I just absorb it totally differently and you don’t have too much of an alternative. You have your playlist and that’s it. It’s almost like a video clip in your head; you combine it with moods and a woman and a nice cup and a nice tree and then it becomes emotionally-loaded like a video. It’s super nice in cars too if you’re driving along but I don’t have a car anymore.
It’s soundtracking what you’re doing in a sense.
What’s also nice is if you’re in a super nice loft or flat with a great view, full of really rich people that are art collectors or something and everyone is consuming really good quality heroin, and you’ve eaten maybe oysters beforehand. It’s wonderful. Everybody with belts round their arms and then you sink into the sofa or bed.
So the press release accompanying the album says you like to create playlists for people, but creating playlists for anyone other than yourself is difficult isn’t it?
Yeah, of course it’s difficult. But it depends on the intention really doesn’t it? The thing is, you only really ever make a playlist for someone you know or love…
So the !K7 thing is essentially just a playlist for you really isn’t it?
What do you mean by the word playlist though? It’s such an un-funky word…
Well I was just reading through some of your answers in the press blurb about this album and you were talking about "my own Hip-hop playlist" and stuff, but then you put this in a context for a mix album and it becomes something else. What is a mix album for you is what I'm asking?
I try to combine genres but I have to create a mix that is guided and full of colour and mood. I try to use genres that you wouldn’t normally put next to each other, if you went into a record shop some of these records wouldn’t even be in the same room as one another. This isn’t so easy because sometimes it feels like you may have tried to be a bit overambitious and then it doesn’t fit naturally because it isn’t natural. It makes me happy when I hear people on radio shows doing things like that because it is much more interesting. It just allows for a wider spectrum of music. I like it when it’s done live too. I like playing like this and I’ve been asking people for stems and things so that I can alter them and remix them so that they are easier to mix and fit into other things. My intention was to make it sound smooth if you are in the kitchen cooking but then also for the nerds that have put on their headphones to hear all the different tones.
It’s a great listening album. It’s very much a headphones and bicycle record for me. I was reading up on the number 50 (this is the 50th DJ Kicks release), and unfortunately there wasn’t anything particularly interesting about it. The only thing I really found was that it’s the smallest number that can be written as the sum of two squares in two ways apparently.
Yeah. That’s an interesting number about the number 50.
The funny thing is that we have the vinyl press now, the first vinyl, and I opened the package and took it out and it all looked wonderful. Then we said, ‘`Where’s the DJ Kicks?’ It’s just a 50 and my name. It’s the wrong pressing.
It says DJ Koze 50 and it looks like I’m getting my album’s 50th birthday or something, so now they have to repress it.
So 50 has become its name. I was trying to find other interesting things about 50 but I found a more interesting thing out about 55 which is part of hte Fibonacci sequence.
It’s really interesting and connected with the golden ratio. It is often said that sunflowers and similar arrangements have 55 spirals in one direction and 89 in the other. But that's the number 55 and we're talkinga about 50. So 50 is the atomic number of tin.
Is that boring or not?
It’s very boring. It’s so difficult not to be copy and paste about these. <Koze laughs> What else is interesting in your life at the moment then?
Hmm, I don’t know. For me at the moment everything is interesting to be honest.
Can we talk about the Bohren & Club of Gore? You put it as the album that sends you to sleep but I have to say that I’ve never heard it.
I highly recommend it! I highly recommend Midnight Radio by Bohren & der Club of Gore. It’s the kind of album that you can put on with you don’t really want to listen to music. It’s the slowest music that I’ve ever heard. It’s very David Lynch-esque. They are big metalheads, big metal guys from Germany and it’s so funny that they are now making this music. I saw them live and they are also funny as they sometimes make announcements between tracks that are like 8 minutes long and you sit. It’s wonderful. Midnight Radio is probably my most listened to record. For the first two minutes your brain really tries to analyse the music, but then after four minutes not a lot has changed as it’s morphing really slowly. You can go to pee between the snares, I think it’s something like 22bpm.
After 5 minutes you just start to feel how wonderful it is. It just doesn’t want too much from you. The problem is though, at about 50 or 60 minutes towards the end, there’s a song that is a little bit more uptempo and it wakes me up all the time! I can’t remember which song it is but it always does it. Apart from that the rest of it is wonderful.
When they were live it was interesting because it was this morphing ambient style music coming from this band of hardcore looking guys and then at eight minutes it gets a bit random and drone-like, but then they end the track super perfectly on this one tone that is really surprising. It just shows that it’s not random at all.
It was actually all calculated.
It’s a structured thing but you can’t follow it, but then at the end of it it’s on point. Everybody in the band knows that it’s coming to the end point. It’s weird because it really sounds like random drone, but it does have a structure.
And you saw them live?
Yes, this was when I saw them live. It was really impressive. It’s so slow and layered but at the same time super defiant. It really impressed me. It really wakes something up inside you that you didn’t know was there as it doesn’t really have a beat or anything like techno does. It’s the kind of music that makes a really successful concert. It’s quite overwhelming to go and see.
It sounds amazing.
It is amazing, but strange at the same time.
I’m going to listen to the album tonight I think. I’ll have to warn my girlfriend about the last bit though. Anyway, great. I’ll see you at Farr!
Yeah, definitely. I’m looking forward to playing some ice-cold techno in the woods. I want to get rid of that hippy image I have. I want to make a second Berghain in the woods.
DJ Koze's DJ Kicks #50 is out June 15th. More details here
See DJ Koze at Farr Festival on Saturday 18th July, tickets here.