Steffi is something of a hero - in a world of DJs desperately carving their lives into ever smaller social media nuggets, chasing branding and kissing arse, Steffi remains a resolute refusenik. Whether working the floor as Panorama Bar resident or delivering her nuanced techno production, she comes from the old skool, from a place where DJs were judged on their ability rather than their Instagram. As a result, we're really happy to have grabbed this interview - Steffi is notoriously reticent with press, but, as it turns out, ask the right questions, and she has a whole lot to say....
If you want more, we recommend you grab The Power of Anonymity, Steffi's excellent new album, released this month through Ostgut - pre-order/ buy a copy from over here.
I WISH I HADN’T JUST RIDDEN MY BIKE IN THE RAIN. IT’S PRETTY MISERABLE HERE AT THE MOMENT.
The good old UK right?
OH IT’S GREAT. WE HAD BEAUTIFUL SUNSHINE LAST WEEK AND NOW IT’S GOING TO BE SIX MONTHS OF RAIN.
That’s what you get for stealing everybody else’s countries you know! They piss on you with rain! Although the Dutch are as bad as you guys so we’re not really allowed to say anything to be honest…
PEOPLE IN GLASS HOUSES... ARE YOU IN BERLIN?
Yeah, I’m home.
HOW IS IT? IS THE WEATHER MISERABLE THERE?
No, it’s actually quite interesting. It’s still very pleasant but with a little bit of drizzle and then there’s nice sunshine. Then there’s a nice sunset in the evening like there was yesterday with a pink sky – bit weird but I prefer this way rather than freezing my ass off to be honest.
WE WERE THERE A FEW WEEKS AGO. IT WAS BEAUTIFUL BUT YEAH, ANYWAY. HOPEFULLY You've been prepared for this a little bit. THIS KIND OF THING CAME ABOUT BECAUSE I KNOW HOW BORED PEOPLE GET WITH ANSWERING THE SAME SORT OF QUESTIONS…
I thought you were going to say that you know how bored I am with DJing! I was ready to be like, ‘who told you that?!’
HAH! SO, I’VE HEARD HOW BORED YOU ARE WITH DJING.
Fucking hell… No, oh my god. Seriously?
NO. BASICALLY, THIS IS JUST TO DO SOMETHING A LITTLE BIT DIFFERENT AND SEE WHAT YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT...
Shall we call it the Ranting Note?
YEAH, PERFECT! STEFFI’S RANTING NOTE. HOPEFULLY YOU’VE GOT SOME THINGS TO SAY, BUT I’VE GOT SOME HERE IF YOU WANT ME TO KICK THINGS OFF.
Do we know each other by the way?
I THINK WE MET A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO…
I was probably drunk…
I WAS GOING TO COME AND SAY HELLO THIS WEEKEND AS WE WERE AT PANORAMA BUT I WAS DRUNK SO I DECIDED NOT TO.
Oh my god, are you kidding me? What held you back?!
MY BABBLING MOUTH WHEN I’M DRUNK. I’M BAD ENOUGH WHEN I’M SOBER!
It’s all good.
SO ARE YOU BACK IN BERLIN NOW? HAVE YOU BEEN PLAYING RECORDS?
It was ADE so I’ve been over there.
Oh yeah, of course. So yeah, I wanted to start off with this. A lot of the internet is moving towards clickbait- sites are saying contentious things just to get any interaction I guess. That’s something that we’ve always tried not to do, although obviously we’ve all been guilty of it at times… But I looked at clickbait and I was looking at Ebola and the way that it’s such huge clickbait at the moment. I’m on this website at the moment called Brand Awareness Velocity, and it's saying mentions of Ebola have gone up by 700% in the last few weeks. IT WAS INTERESTING LOOKING AT THE MAPPING, HOW, NOW THAT Ebola’S HIT AMERICA, IT became A PART OF PEOPLE'S CONSCIOUSNESS. Like, IF IT’S NOT AFFECTING US, PEOPLE SIDELINE IT. I GUESS MY FACT WAS THAT PEOPLE JUST DON’T REALLY GIVE A SHIT UNLESS IT’S HAPPENING IN THEIR BACKYARD.
Yeah, very accurate these days among the population. I’m always surprised by the amount of people that just stay in and don’t give a fuck. As soon as they have their rant on any kind of social media platform, it’s enough for them to ventilate their feelings. People aren’t really aware of how important it is that for social issue you have to raise awareness by making yourself visible, literally, not virtually. I think that’s one of the reasons people don’t really care. I think a lot of our generation, mind you I’m 40, we never had any situation where they had to eat potato for two weeks. Or for six months. You know what I’m saying? If I talk to my mother about economical crisis she just looks at me as if to say ‘Yeah whatever.’ I’m from 1974 and I can safely say I’m from a middle class family, and I had everything I needed. So we’re not really used to anything lacking in our society. I think that’s the reason why our generation and the generation below us just don’t go out on the street if anything happens. They’d just rather ventilate online. The problem is, if you’re venting online, no-one’s going to give a fuck because it’s not reality. Nobody cares about that.
EXACTLY. AND IT’S LIKE, WITH THE FIRST IRAQ WAR, I REMEMBER WHEN I WAS AT SCHOOL AND PEOPLE WERE GOING OUT AND THEY WERE SHOUTING ABOUT IT. BUT BECAUSE WE’RE EXPOSED TO IT SO MUCH NOW, WE’VE KIND OF BECOME DE-SENSITISED TO IT. NO-ONE REALLY ENGAGES WITH IT ANYMORE.
It’s not like when the punks went out on the steet and protested against Margaret Thatcher or the Nuclear Bomb you know. When I was living in Amsterdam there was a thousand people marching through the streets all about the Iraq war. However, the flip side of it all is, if you were to sign a petition saying like ‘I’m against all forms of homophobic laws’ or something like that, no-one really gives a fuck about a petition. But the funny thing is in our world, the entertainment business, the amount of presence you have in the online world is very important.
IT’S ABOUT UTILSING PEOPLE THAT HAVE THIS HIGHER POSITION AND ACTUALLY MOBILISING IN ONE SENSE. PEOPLE ARE SO OBSESSED WITH THE BRAND NOW. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE BRAND.
Certain platforms create a lot of laziness. If you can slick from your laptop and go to YouTube, you can just sit there and watch a whole rave going by for an hour and half. Then you can ventilate on there too like ‘Oh my god, did you see the mixing at 11.03 minutes, that was shit.’ You weren’t even there to judge. It’s just a form of laziness that creates a lot of negativity. What’s the use of you critisising somebody online when you weren’t even there and you didn’t even enjoy the moment.
But then people also provide the platform for these people to stay at home, which I think is really really… Well, I would say I don’t understand because this is the new generation, and they don’t know any different. For them, it’s like, ‘shut up you old twat, I’ve heard enough about this.’ It’s a very delicate situation at the moment, where you see a very fast development of technology vs new media vs virtual reality blah blah blah. I don’t think everybody is ready yet, younger generations will be fine because they don’t know any different, but older generations will be like ‘oh shit, what’s going on?!’ And they won’t be able to deal with that amount of pressure, because I think we all vibrate at different frequencies as human beings, and the younger kids vibrate much faster than we do. And in terms of what they can absorb, I think their tolerance level is much higher than ours because they are literally from a different time era. I think for them it’s all very normal, and I think the only problem is that nobody thought about social etiquette. How should you behave as a virtual person? It’s like a fucking Disney World. You can do whatever the fuck you want. It’s your world, your fantasy. The level of respect drops dramatically in some people and for some of them it’s too overwhelming.
Now I’ve completely forgotten your question!
IT DOESN’T MATTER! IT WAS JUST A POINT TO TALK AROUND! ON THAT POINT I WAS TALKING WITH SOMEONE YESTERDAY AND WE WERE SAYING THAT DO WE THINK THEY WILL TEACH ONLINE ETIQUETTE? KIDS ARE GROWING UP AND LEARNING THIS OUTSIDE OF SCHOOL.
I think in general, it’s fair to say that at some point the very young kids will get new media as one of their core subjects. I think, hopefully, there are teachers who also try to talk about social context and social respect within a virtual reality. If nobody does that and educational institutions don’t think about it, things are going to get pretty weird. I mean, you already get swearing and racism and all forms of hate and they will never disappear, but it would be nice if there was a certain level of self reflection where people think ‘Oh, I might actually turn my phone off now because I’m at the dinner table’ or ‘If I’m going to comment on this thing I’m going to form my language in a way that is more acceptable.’
I’m off my personal Facebook, which is probably why I missed out on the whole thing.
BUT NOWADAYS THAT’S HOW PEOPLE COMMUNICATE THE FACTS OF THEIR LIVES.
Yeah, you see a lot of people announcing their birthday or announcing death or a newborn on Facebook. It’s very integrated with society these days. It’s unavoidable to be very honest. Sometimes you want people to just reflect on it and look at what they’re doing, but then on the other hand it’s so integrated in our lives that this is the way people communicate. I think it’s very much a personal decision whether you want to be a part of the circus. I decided to erase my personal profile and now I have to say, there’s a lot more peace in my private life. I don’t have to worry about missing anything online, if people want to reach me, they have my phone number, or my Skype and even email. That’s as far as it goes really because I was sick and tired of people just going on about bullshit things! And as soon as you want to raise some proper awareness about things, that could actually be of interest to some people, you just found out that people can’t be bothered because it involves too much responsibility.
IT’S LIKE WHEN YOU WRITE A REALLY INTERESTING ARTICLE ABOUT SOMETHING THAT ACTUALLY MEANS SOMETHING AND YOU GET 5 LIKES ON IT...THEN YOU STICK UP SOMETHING LIKE A PICTURE OF A CAT AND YOU GET 100 LIKES. I’M NOT AGAINST CATS, FAR FROM IT...
MOVING ON, 91% OF ALL ADULTS HAVE THEIR MOBILE PHONE WITHIN ARMS REACH EVERY HOUR OF EVERY DAY. HOW DO YOU COMMUNICATE, ASSUMING YOU HAVE TO IN SOME WAY OR ANOTHER AS AN ARTIST.
I think as an artist you have to decide what you want to reveal really. Facebook started off as a free website and when it first got big it was basically free advertising space, you didn’t really have to have your own website just to let people know where you’re at. It kind of took over the whole function of a normal website. For me that was just the beginning really. It looked quite innocent because most of the time people were just communicating what they were doing and where they were playing in the musical aspect of things and what they were releasing when and stuff like that.
I think at the time it motivated people that didn’t have a website to be on it, so that they are visible. I don’t think that anyone knew in the very beginning, apart from the people that designed Facebook, that it would become such a major thing. There are rumours of some festivals booking their line-ups based on likes on Facebook. We all know that we can buy visibility with just one click. And slowly Facebook has made those rules much more cheeky, you have to have people following you otherwise your messages aren’t going to be visible or you have to pay. It’s nowhere near as free as it used to be, which kind of creates a fake society. It doesn’t give you a real perspective of what’s going on because you can promote yourself and put a lot of money into Facebook which will generate a lot of likes, and then people will think you’re a high profile artist – when in reality you’ll have only bought followers in a way. People like to click Like very quickly.
If I look at my own profile, of course there are people on there that just clicked Like for the sake of it and aren’t really interested in me or the label at all. They just click it because they can. You can see though, there are people that keep their content very minimalistic and just keep it to the positions that they do such as DJ, gear freak, records collector etc., and they only post about issues to do with their job.
I find it interesting how you can see how things affect people if you post something like ‘Oh my god I had a great time today, thanks for being there.’ It just doesn’t have that much impact on people in comparison to posting a YouTube link or even a next level thing like a photo with a crazy crowd where the response is much bigger. I think as an artist you have to decide which way you want to go, if you want to reveal a lot of your private life, or you take a picture of your record box every week, or one of a screaming crowd. I think it’s a very personal choice, how you want to have the world look at you. Without being judgmental or anything, it doesn’t really fit my profile to take pictures of crowds going wild and to create a ‘you should have been there because it was an amazing feeling’. To be honest, I have a lot of gigs where it’s a struggle to get the people going because of technical problems, or I wasn’t having my day, or I just wasn’t satisfied with what I wanted to do. But what do I do? I don’t have to rant all day about shitty equipment or blah blah blah. I think it’s healthy to keep it a little bit closer to what the essence is of what you’re actually doing. What are you? A DJ. For me, it’s much more interesting to ask people if they’ve heard a certain record or stuff like that.
Having said that, there are people that are crazy about posting party pictures and exposure. I think what’s really distracting is the realness about it all really. If you’ve virtually been there, that’s enough for a lot of people. Maybe even the majority likes to be there virtually and not feel what you actually feel on the dance floor listening to a record.
IT’S THE PANORAMA BAR AESTHETIC OF LESS IS MORE. DOES THAT TRANSLATE TO MUSIC AS WELL? CONSUMING MUSIC, SHARING MUSIC…
Consume is a very relevant word these days as we live in a very consumption based society. At the moment it is at its peak, we are at the peak of consumption. We’re in an economical crisis yet you see people walking around with a laptop and an iPad and an iPhone and Nike sneakers and an expensive backpack. To me, that is weird. When I listen to my parent’s story, my mum told me stories about when her sister had a pair of shoes and they weren’t the right size, but they’d just put newspaper in the fronts and you’d just have to wear those shoes as it was a normal thing to do at the time. That’s much more an economical crisis than what’s going on now. Especially in Western Europe where we are at the moment, I think maybe in a lot of ways we’re not doing so well, but have we really found ourselves in a situation where we have days that we don’t have anything to eat?
I forgot your question again!
IT’S JUST ABOUT CONSUMPTION. I WAS JUST READING THE OTHER DAY ABOUT RECYCLE, REDUCE AND REUSE. THE ONLY THING THAT WE SEEM TO HAVE GOT OUR HEADS ROUND IN EUROPE IS RECYCLING. WE’RE NOT CONCERNED ABOUT REDUCING.
Exactly. And it would be nice if we were choosing quality over quantity. If all this exposure would be worth something I wouldn’t have a problem with that. It wouldn’t matter that much to me. I think that if we reflected on our business, people are more concerned about exposure and virtual reality than trying to make a difference or really trying to make an impression or trying to teach someone something interesting through their form of art. It’s a tough one really.
IT IS A TOUGH ONE. EVERYONE, EVERYBODY, EVERYTHING IS A BRAND NOW. AND FACEBOOK IS IN PART RESPONSIBLE FOR TURNING US INTO BRANDS.
I think we should not forget that Facebook also helps us a lot. It’s so easy for people to say ‘I’m so against social media.’ There’s just a lack of social etiquette on the Internet, an we might have spoken about this earlier, there’s a lot of ranting and a lot of negativity. If we were to find a balance within ourselves, the circle is kind of round, because your statement about 90% of people having a mobile device within arms length, I think we kind of have to think about how things like this work within our society. In the long run, what kind of effect does this have on our society? What can we do so that we don’t lose the real feeling of society? Talking to people. Communicating through body language, normal language, and energy vs. using a device to talk to you for example because you’re an hour away on an airplane. But that device enables me to lie on the couch and talk to you, which is the great thing about these technologies. It’s just that there are no rules, there’s a lot of anonymity in this whole development. People just don't need to give a fuck about one another if it’s over social media. It would be nice if we could somehow come up with a little bit more awareness of how we can actually use these instruments in our lives. You’re saying it’s all a brand, how can you come up with something new without it becoming overexposed within two weeks.
I INTERVIEWED SOMEONE YESTERDAY AND WE WERE TALKING ABOUT SCENES AND HOW THEY BLOW UP SO QUICKLY NOW BECAUSE OF THE INTERNET. THE INTERNET IS A GREAT THING, BUT EVERYTHING JUST DISSEMINATES SO QUICKLY NOW. IT’S ALWAYS GOOD TO BUBBLE UNDER THE SURFACE RATHER THAN TO POP YOUR HEAD ABOVE BECAUSE YOU’LL BLOW SO QUICKLY. WE WERE TALKING ABOUT L.I.E.S. ACTUALLY AND HOW IT’S STILL AN AMAZING LABEL, BUT IT’S DIFFICULT BECAUSE THEY’RE FLAVOUR OF THE MONTH, IF YOU LIKE. WHEN YOU BLOW UP ON THE INTERNET, IT’S SO DIFFICULT TO MANAGE.
What you must also not forget is it’s someone’s favourite. But they might also happen to work for a really big portal and they happen to have a really big influence on where the market is going. If I have a music website with reviews and portraits and features on artists, and then I have the foresight of a label going big, I’m able to actually make that happen really. It’s the same with the DJ Top 50. What is it even based on?
It’s like an election. How many people are really happy with their president or their cabinet or their government? If you ask everyone for a serious answer, no-one is really happy with what’s going on because there’s a lot of manipulation of which direction people should be pushed. As I said, it’s a world within a world within a world. The music world has a lot of politics, a lot of disguise, a lot of distraction and a lot of lies too. It’s hard to judge if somebody is entitled to be called the best DJ in the world. Why would you even want to name somebody the best DJ in the world? Isn’t that just a snobbish thing to do? Why would you want to vote on who did the best job when you can't even tell who really did the best job? It has a lot to do with popularity and it makes absolutely no sense and it distracts the promoters that can’t look any further. Some people actually book artists because they came number five in the RA Top DJ Poll. Are you kidding me?! There are people that weren’t in there that I’ve heard that were absolutely so worth listening to. And then that means that those people never get a chance to be called a very good DJ because they’re not in the Top 100.
I think it’s fair to say that as soon as you emerge onto a scene, you all of a sudden pop up at the top, but then a couple of years later you’ve dropped down 50 places so does that mean that you’re not relevant anymore? I don’t care that these things exist really because a lot of people like this kind of stuff, a lot of people are excited about this. Fair enough if someone thinks you’re cool because you’re in the Top 100 DJ’s, good luck with trying to be in the Top 10, of course. We are not the people to judge and say this is wrong. It’s a shame to see promoters basing their line-ups on the results and what’s hot and what’s not. That’s a shame because they’re just missing out on a load of good people. There are so many cool people doing small things that might just want to stay in an unawareness. Maybe they can’t get a higher profile because of all kinds of factors. It’s just all a bit too much and I think it goes to show that electronic dance music is the biggest genre at the moment. The whole umbrella thing of EDM has knocked out R’n’B, rock, hip-hop. These are the new pop stars that we’re talking about. Let me tell you one thing, if you would compare this to pop stars, you have to think about what you’re actually doing. You’re playing somebody else’s records and you’re good at it and you’re trying to redeliver something and trying to move people. It’s a great thing, but you’re not fucking David Bowie are you? Do you know what I’m saying?
That kind of makes me think like, what level do you want to take this thing too? I think some people lose their touch with reality, as if all you’re trying to do if you’re a motivated and serious DJ you’re just trying to tell a story with the music that you pick and the way that you mix it and the energy that you put into it. But if you then take a look at the more commercial DJ’s, they kind of take the piss out of what a traditional DJ really is. I’m not talking about whether or not someone should play with vinyl or if they should or should not use a computer or beat sync or whatever your output is, I don’t care. I choose to play a lot with vinyl because I just love a record. But it’s not about that; it’s about how much effort has been put into a set. When you hear people say ‘did you know that guy uses a pre-recorded mix?’ and then it fills a stadium, that’s actually intense to see developments like that. Somehow, that’s actually something that you can do without people complaining about it. When somewhere like DJ Mag does the Top 100…
WHERE HARDWELL IS #1…
Who is that guy? Can you explain who that is?! It’s okay, because back in the day you had very commercial rock bands and then you also had very underground rock bands. There’s always going to be commercial and less commercial. Non-commercial hardly exists anymore. You hear people talking about David Guetta and his pre-mixing, but yet people really don’t seem to care. Someone the other day told me about getting a cake in your face. I was like, ‘Sorry?!” I must have missed something, because I have no idea what that is about.
IT’S LIKE MILLI VANILLI VS. A MORE CREDIBLE POP ACT. YOU ALWAYS NEED A MAINSTREAM TO KICK AGAINST. YOU NEED TO HAVE SOMETHING FOR THERE TO BE A REACTION AGAINST. I’M NOT DEFENDING IT AT ALL, DON’T GET ME WRONG.
Oh no, absolutely!
I’M JUST SAYING THAT IT’S GOOD TO HAVE A REACTION AGAINST SOMETHING. WHATEVER THE OTHER POLES ARE, WHOEVER THEY ARE, LET’S NOT PICK BONES, BUT I AGREE WITH YOU. I DON’T AGREE WITH THE WHOLE POPULARITY CONTEST OF THAT SORT OF THING, IT’S JUST NONSENSE. PEOPLE HAVE CURIOUS MINDS AND THEY WILL ALWAYS DIG SOMEWHERE ELSE. SOMEBODY SAID TO ME ONCE THAT IF THEY WANT TO KNOW WHAT TO PLAY, THEY DON’T PICK ANYTHING FROM THE TOP 100 RA RECORDS.
I’ll tell you something. Have you seen the popularity of the Panorama Bar music website? It’s got nothing to do with the club. It’s not supported by the club, it’s not organized by the club, and it’s just a very, very thin layer of all the stuff that’s actually been played in the club. What annoys me about this whole platform is you actually see people Shazaming around because they want to know the next day what they heard played at Panorama Bar that night. What is the use of not just absorbing it? Why do you have to be able to post it up the next day that you heard that this record was played? Sometimes you would have a phase where you would have a certain kind of unrecognisable record. Say over a period of time of six months, if you’re crazy about a record that’s normal, every time they listen to you that record would pop up. Then if someone goes onto that site, all they will see is that record. If you have a 4 hour set, there are going to be so many that aren’t on Shazam because they’re either hard to get, or it’s a small label etc. So the cool shit that you’re actually trying to feature in the club doesn’t actually get picked up because all it finds is old classics or tracks that have been put up on YouTube and it doesn’t say anything at all about what actually went on that night.
Then there are people having all kinds of discussions, I remember one artist that had a massive hit and it was played both upstairs and downstairs at the club, purely because it was a fantastic record. Everyone was playing it because it was an amazing record. Then there were people going ‘oh my God I can’t believe this record has been played AGAIN!’ I’m just there thinking that these people are such fucking arseholes because this guy deserves the credit that every single DJ playing that weekend picked up that record and thought that it needed to be dropped. And you know what? They’re all so busy imagining Paradise Garage and all that kind of shit, but seriously, we all knew that Larry Levan would play a record 5 or 6 times in a row. There was a phase where me and Andy Baumecker would play a record and then 2 or 3 different versions in a row, and then the night manager would come up to us like ‘Oh for fuck sake please.’ But then we’d have the biggest laugh about it as we were just so enthusiastic about the record. I just think that these people need to analyse that this record was played all weekend for a reason and it’s just the joy of people thinking that it’s a phenomenal record and that it has actually been featured in the club. Why would you turn it into a negative perspective? You’re pretending to be a ‘big fan’ of the club, but what you don’t realise is that with this kind of output, you’re also ruining the whole idea about the intimate possibility of celebrating the night together. I don’t want to talk about door policies. Seriously, I don’t want to go there, because I know so many more clubs back in the day that had an even more observant or member’s only policy.
I don’t want to go there.
NO, I’M NOT INTERESTED IN ASKING THAT EITHER.
What I do want to say to those kinds of websites is that; okay, if you’re such a big fan of a certain club with that kind of policy, why don’t you respect that policy and celebrate the fact that it’s a spontaneous thing in a place where it’s possible to run around naked or people just don’t interfere with what you want to do.
I just don’t get it, I really don’t get it. I just don’t understand why on one side you’re a fan of the club but then every week you’re trying to throw everything up online without even thinking about it. And the thing is, is that they don’t even ask the clubs if they’re okay with them doing this and using their name. Freedom of speech, of course, I’m very aware of this. But then things like this remove that certain level of magic that these clubs strive for.
THAT COMES BACK AROUND TO WHEN WE WERE TALKING ABOUT CONSUMPTION. PEOPLE HAVE BEEN SHOWN, WITH THINGS LIKE DISCOGS, THAT YOU CAN HAVE ALMOST ANYTHING, WHENEVER YOU WANT. YOU CAN GET YOUR HANDS ON A RECORD JUST LIKE THAT AND I THINK THAT’S INDICATIVE OF A BIGGER PICTURE WHEN PEOPLE JUST THINK THAT THEY HAVE A RIGHT TO EVERYTHING.
It’s finding the right balance really, because we all know that. Everything has its cons and its pros. It would just be nice if people had a little bit more awareness of how they use all these things. It all comes down to human behavior and etiquette and maybe just reflection, really.
I AGREE WITH YOU COMPLETELY ON THAT. GOOD. LET'S TAKE A SIDE STEP NOW OVER TO YOUR ALBUM AND MUSIC NOW. ONE OF THE FIRST ELECTRIC MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS WAS CALLED THE MUSICAL TELEGRAPH AND IT WAS INVENTED IN 1876 BY AN ELECTRICAL ENGINEER. HE ACCIDENTALLY DISCOVERED THE SOUND GENERATED FROM A SELF-VIBRATING ELECTROMAGNETIC CIRCUIT AND HE INVENTED THE SINGLE NOTE OSCILLATOR. THIS MUSICAL TELEGRAPH THEN WENT ON TO BECOME THE EARLY SYNTHESIZER. THERE IS THE FETISHISATION OF ANALOGUE AND I GUESS IT WOULD BE INTERESTING TO TALK ABOUT HOW YOU PRODUCE MUSIC AND HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT ANALOGUE VS. DIGITAL.
I think that’s a very exciting description. Analogue synths then led to digital synths. Don’t forget, people are always trying to talk about analogue vs. digital. I have a couple of digital pieces of hardware in my studio that I wouldn’t get rid of for the world because they are just bad-ass.
I think maybe people want to kind of start the debate of twisting a knob vs. clicking a button or moving a slider. Hardware vs. software. I think it’s fair to say it’s just whatever rocks your boat really. I know a couple of people that work with Reason and they make really hardcore shit and you’re just like, ‘oh my god how did you do this?’ And they just say that they use Reason.
I saw a documentary where Bjork talks about when electronic music became more popular. People who were not ready for electronic music were saying that it’s all done by machine and she has no soul. But really, it’s about putting the soul into the music and the soul into the machine. I thought that that nailed it right on the head as I don’t think it matters what way you make your music, it’s what you put into it really. I’m a person that prefers hardware over software, more and more everyday because I’m changing the way that I work, especially with the new album. I’m absolutely not against people that are completely VST based, because if they get the sound out of that and they are happy that’s fantastic. That’s also a very exciting development for a lot of people and it opened loads of doors to make thins easier. It’s just like having peanut butter or cheese on sandwich really.
ABSOLUTELY. THE ALBUM THAT YOU’VE MADE, WHICH I LOVE, WAS PRODUCED MAINLY ON SOFTWARE?
No, I think I hardly used any software actually. The only software I used is to record everything. I use the software more like a multi-track. I do loads of jam sessions and record for like 7 minutes and then strip it own and re-arrange it into a more arranged version of the track. Rather than using effects.
I mean, if someone said that all virtual 808s sound the same, I would definitely end up in a full blown discussion. There are also people that think that if a record is produced hardware only, they need to advertise that. And I think that’s absolutely ridiculous. When people say that a set was vinyl only, what does it say about you? You play records, but what kind of records are you playing? Is it interesting? I think to just strip it down to the essence and talk about hardware vs. software. I might be more interested in a warmer, more edgy sound and if I listen to an MK interview, where he says like ‘Jesus Christ, I’m glad I can produce with software.’ As there is stuff he can do now that he wouldn’t have been able to do without it. For some, that might have been a bit of a shocking statement for him to make. He just wanted a more polished sound rather than a raw sound. Admittedly I was surprised when I heard that in the interview, but what I’m saying is that people have been making music for such a long time, they are so ready for anything that gives them the opportunity to access something much quicker by using something like Ableton or Logic or whatever you prefer.
It’s just preference right?
I AGREE COMPLETELY. IT’S ACTUALLY A DIFFICULT ONE TO TALK ABOUT WITHOUT IT BECOMING QUITE HEATED QUITE QUICKLY.
I don’t know if it’s difficult… It’s just like, if you were doing an interview and said ‘did you develop any new ways to produce an album?’ You just don’t make a fuss about it. I was really excited to do my new album because I started to do much more step sequencing instead of midi. For me, that was really exciting. I had the opportunity to pull everything through every instrument and then it was just one big circus of connection. So for me, that’s exciting to talk about because I found that very exciting.
If you were to ask an artist that question or something about the second or third process, it keeps you away from the discussion about hardware and software. It makes it more about the experience.
Steffi's album 'Power Of Anonymity' is out now.
Photos © Lisa Swarna Khanna.