Marlon Hoffstadt’s ethos when it comes to the club is pretty simple. Turn off your phone, savour the moment, communicate through the music on the dancefloor.
Berlin-born, raised and based, Hoffstadt launched onto the scene to tremendous response with singles like G-Funk hit, ‘Shake That’, with Dansson in 2014 – the surreal video for which has racked up over four million views on YouTube. But the immense pressure that comes after producing a hit didn’t sit right with him, and expectations to tour more, release more of the same and play the industry game with all hedonism that comes with it led to a period of mental burnout and anxiety, and a need to step back.
Since, a lot of has changed in Hoffstadt’s life. For a couple of years he DJ’d a lot less, putting primary focus on his own wellbeing and letting the music come naturally. The resulting releases have featured his most vibrant, alive and danceable music to date, with EPs on his own 2017-launched label, Midnight Themes, showcasing an artist doing precisely what they want and allowing the sounds all the room they need to expand, ensnare and captivate – be they urgent and melodic house cuts, syrupy electro or dazzling proto-trance.
He also launched Savour The Moment, a party at Berlin’s Wilde Renate – No. 94 in DJ Mag’s Top 100 Clubs poll 2019 – which places an emphasis on creating a safe, open and friendly environment for all dancers, DJs and staff. With a penchant for marathon parties that can run over 30 hours and stellar line-ups that have featured the likes of Ciel, Breakwave, Prosumer, C.C. Disco, K-Hand, D.Tiffany, Moxie and many, many more including himself, it’s safe to say it’s been a hit. And crucially, Savour The Moment parties actively encourage attendees to do just as its title suggests – to turn off your phone, take no photos or videos, and politely ask the DJ what track it was they played instead of shazaming (when the time is right of course). As Hoffstadt tells DJ Mag, the idea for such a party came after having experiencing frankly insufferable number of raves where all he could see from the booth were lights from phone screens.
“After experiencing a bit of fame back in 2012 - 2014, I learned how annoying it can be when people film you with their flashlight on without even asking you,” he explains. “It’s just taken for granted that they can film, whoever, whenever and however. And it can get even worse: I saw people using Tinder in Clubs! I mean, just open your eyes, put your phone away and talk to someone. This really destroys the way we communicate with each other. And communication is one of the main ingredients for culture, I believe.”
The vitality of communicating with one another on a human level, in not allowing ourselves to be sucked entirely in the 24/7 of digital life, is at the core of his outlook, and even informed the robotic voice on his recent melodic electro cut, ‘Captain’s Announcement’, a track that could essentially be the party’s national anthem with the words “savour the moment” and “turn off your phone” echoing over trance melodies and a rubbery bassline. Hoffstadt, while admitting that he’s not a technophobe, and still finds himself checking his emails or sending voice messages at all times of the day, worries that, in a clubbing context at least, technology and devices are severing the fundamental joys of making friends, bonding with strangers and truly escaping the world, vital things that dance music has facilitated for so long.
“I hate it to see people shazaming track I.D’s while I'm playing,” he says. “Just say hello! Ask me for the track I.D. Maybe we'll have a chat after my set and maybe we can even become friends, because we have something really important in common: Our taste in music.”
The need to be plugged in and engaged with social media at all times has, of course, become one the most contentious conversations in electronic music, with talk of “business techno” and “instagram DJs” ironically filling our own feeds all day every day. As often discussed, the expectation for a DJ to be a “brand” and a funny, intellectual, vocal figure on all social media platforms is increasingly being deemed as quick a path the success as any actual skill behind the decks or as a producer. It’s something Hoffstadt is all too aware of, and quick to dismiss when considering the importance of one’s health and mental wellbeing over what the industry would calls “success”.
“These days everyone thinks that you need an Instagram account to be successful,” he says. “And it’s true that having a bigger reach might get you more gigs. But that does not really mean success to me. Having short term success and playing 20 shows a month is not really what I call being successful. This is what I call ‘having a really stressful life’. Many people forget how exhausting it can be to feed your timelines, and to think about frequent posts and all that stuff. And just as Facebook is currently losing its attractiveness, Instagram and Twitter will lose it too. Then, the only thing that's left are your skills, friends and your music. And hopefully your mental health!”
It’s all too often that industry bullshit has seen DJs, musicians and performers face burnout or worse. The tragic story of Avicii, who died by suicide last year, sent a shock through the system of the dance music world about the dangers of the industry that few on the outside see, and how the overwhelming pressure to meet the expectations of others can take an immense toll on both the body and the mind. It’s an environment that Hoffstadt came all too close to falling into, and one that he is glad to avoid now as he manages everything in his career with total, personal control, with the help of a few close friends and colleagues – from the label, gigging, and Savour The Momen to his recently launched PR agency, Savour The Music.
“The music industry can be really hard to its participants,” he says. “The whole system is really money driven, even though its listeners can not see this from the outside. There is a big economical process behind all the structures and as an individual it is hard to survive. Many of your so called friends are just interested in your success and in making money with you, and as soon as your hype slows down they simply drop you. That’s something that I needed to learn in the past.”
“And yes,” he adds. “All this can also damage your relationship to music. With all the pressure on you, it is just hard to find your own way. It’s even hard to know what you really want. This is the main reason why I handle everything on my own these days. This way I can make my own decissions, in my own tempo and own style. Of course I also work with other people. For example, my booking agent Sara. She is super friendly and patient with me. I have a lot of output, but still I never want to play 20 shows a month again. She respects that and goes the long way with me.”
From where he is standing, then, he sees the patterns repeated again and again in aspiring the DJs he crosses, and the age-old concern of how dangerous that culture of excess in dance music can be raises it's head, especially alongside ridiculous touring schedules.
“I sometimes see DJs play more shows in one month than I play in one year,” he says. “This simply can't be healthy. Physical and mental health are super important and that’s where meditation kicks in for me. Instead of running away of your own self with drugs, alcohol or endless sleepless nights, this practice helps me to learn more about myself and how to handle my insecurities. Yoga is also really helpful, because it is a wonderful mixture of both mind and body exercises.”
Vitally, Hoffstadt emphasises the importance for breakthrough DJs and producers to surround themselves with people who genuinely care for them, at put their best interests first.
“It is important that we start caring about ourselves and the ones around us,” he explains. “If you see someone struggling with mental or physical health due to heavy touring you should help the person. Adding more and more dates to the tour plan is not really helpful and leads to more and more health issues, and sometimes even drug abuse. We have seen enough examples of how this can end up.”
Reclaiming autonomy and embracing a quality over quantity approach when it comes to music seems to have placed Hoffstadt the best place one can be. Not only is Savour The Moment thriving and his self-released music getting played in clubs the world over, he is also in his fourth semester of a Journalism & PR Management degree with which he aims to bring the Savour The Music and its artists to new (and manageable!) heights. Not only that, but he and his girlfriend have moved flats as they prepare to welcome their first child into the world this summer. The new place is quieter, with a view of a back garden in a calmer area of Berlin, a city he says he’s never slept well in until now.
For a man so busy, you’d wonder where he finds time to produce the music he does? With all its colour, joyous melody and playful energy, you’d suppose, it is the sort of stuff only a person actively rejecting the typical monochrome techno DJ lifestyle could make...
“I try to not take myself too seriously,” he says. “There is enough serious techno all over the scene. Also I like to jump between genres. From disco to house to trance to techno and back to disco. There is also some really groovy, bouncy and soulful techno. But yes, you are right, I don't like music that is too monochrome.”
“I like every sort of music,” he adds. “Old music, new music, all the different genres. And as soon as it is danceable, I will try to include it in my set. I just try to keep it interesting for the crowd and also for myself. If I play the same music over and over again it bores me to death.”
Looking to the future then, Hoffstadt has a lot coming up before he becomes a father. Savour The Moment returns in August and so far he’s book “Merve, Lucid Stannard, Toni Yotzi, John Beltran aka Placid Angles, Ex-Terrestrial, Jordan and many others” for the occasion.
With Midnight Themes too, there’s a new record on the way.
“Its an homage to Eurodance era in a modern package,” he tells us. “I also want to encourage people to stand side by side in these difficult times and to make a change. Especially in the European Union we face a rise on the right wing, that we strongly need to fight. I still believe that music connects people, so with this new EP I hope to at least connect a few of the Eurodancers!”
Not only that, but he’s got some very special gigs of his own lined up at festivals like Gottwood and MELT, as well as a special Savour The Moment trip to Dresden’s objekt klein on 15th June and Gewölbe, Cologne on 2nd August.
In the meantime – where he finds the time, we’ll never know – Hoffstadt has sent over a radiant and perfectly timed mix to start the summer of On Cue.
“Its a mixture of my favourite house, trance, proto and disco anthems of the hour. The mix is quite hard and ravey, but still has some really good vibes to it. Even though I recorded this at home, I think this is how my set would sound if I would play on a truck at a street rave... Loveparade style!"
Check it out below.
The Daou ’Are You Satisfied (Def Mix Drums)’
A.T.S. ‘Baa.Daa.Iaa (Vocal)’
KC Flightt ‘Voices (Original Dub Mix)’
Afro Medusa ‘Pasilda (Knee Deep Club Mix)’
N.F.I. Limited ‘Love Is A Fiction (Hammond Dub)’
Astronuts ‘Voyager (Original)’
Black & White Brothers ‘Put Your Hands Up (DJ Tonka Full Version)’
Club Royale ‘Give A Little More (Original)’
Marlon Hoffstadt ‘Eurodancers Unite (Side By Side Mix)’
DJ Tonka ‘Old Skool (Original Extended Version)’Big Miz ‘Int'l Swayers Anthem (Original)’
Marlon Hoffstadt ‘Eunited Kingdom (28 Lovers Mix)’