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On Cue: Voigtmann

From co-running the legendary East London rave Toi.Toi to achieving international DJ acclaim, Claus Voigtmann has spent close to two decades refining his irresistibly deep take on house and techno. Alongside his hypnotic and groove-driven On Cue mix, he chats to Anna Wall about the golden age of Toi.Toi, inheriting his record collection from The End, his Subsequent label, and forthcoming album, ‘Life Miles’ 

Claus Voigtmann is feeling a little nostalgic. It’s an unseasonably warm and sunny October afternoon in East London’s Hackney Wick and, sitting on the canalside terrace of Number 90 Bar, he’s reminiscing about the early days of Toi.Toi, the party he co-founded nearby 13 years ago. “We had free choice of all the warehouses here,” he remembers, taking a sip of his beer.

Toi.Toi, which Voigtmann co-ran with Isis Salvaterra, was one of the most prominent raves in the capital’s underground in the early 2010s, taking place in various off-locations across East London. Over the years, it built a strong community of like-minded dancers around it, who came in search of the hypnotic, minimal strains of house and techno that were percolating at the time. The parties and their spaces were exciting, lawless and unconventional; they nurtured a new energy that could be felt on the dancefloor well into the early hours of the morning, when daylight cracked through the crevices. 

It was at these parties that Voigtmann earned his stripes as a DJ, mastering the art of the warm-up set, and sharing line-ups with artists he admired including Craig Richards, Jan Krueger and Zip. As Toi.Toi’s popularity grew, so did his, and before long he was getting booked to play at London clubbing institutions like fabric and further afield. By 2013, Toi.Toi had hosted events in Paris, Barcelona, Berlin and Moscow, and by 2014 Voigtmann himself was touring across North America and Japan. 

Like his ever-expanding record collection, Voigtmann has consistently grown as a producer too. In 2013 he released his debut EP, developing a deep, stripped-back and groove-driven sound that echoed through his DJ sets at the time. A decade later, he’s been enjoying one of his busiest years to date and, on top of a non-stop gig calendar and the day-to-day operations of his Subsequent imprint, he’s about to drop his second full-length album, ‘Life Miles’, via Ralph Lawson’s longstanding 20/20 Vision label. “Slow and steady wins the race”, he smiles. 

Voigtmann DJing in a busy, dark nightclub with a smiley face projected behind him

Voigtmann grew up in a small village two hours outside of Munich, on the foothills of the Bavarian Alps. “It’s the countryside, and there was no music scene whatsoever. If anything, it was heavy metal. I played guitar in a punk band as a teenager,” he says. He moved to Munich to study architecture, and it was there that he bought his first pair of turntables, but it wasn’t until he moved to London in 2001 that things really fell into place. Interning with an esteemed architect by day, he explored the city’s abundant club scene by night, venturing to clubs like The End and fabric. 

One of his most memorable experiences was watching Ritchie Hawtin play an all-vinyl set the latter’s hallowed room 1. Inspired by his impeccable mixing skills and command of the crowd, Voigtmann dreamed of doing the same one day. It wasn’t so long before that dream came true. In April 2012, he was invited to fill-in for a DJ who’d missed his flight at the last minute. “I didn’t really have any time to prepare anything,” he says, “which made it a lot easier actually, because you don’t really have a chance to panic. Everybody that you speak to about their first fabric gig goes in there with shaky knees.” In 2019, he officially became a resident at the club.

When he arrived in London, he had 15 records to his name, but by chance, he soon had a collection of 500. He became such a familiar face at The End that he made friends with the staff before it shut down in 2009. “They left everything behind in the building,” he explains. Among the debris was a bulk of Layo, Bushwacka and Mr C’s record collections and, one night, at an afterparty at the ex-bar manager’s house, he noticed a number of them nailed to the wall. Voigtmann couldn’t believe his eyes. He asked if he could take them instead; that night, he went home with the whole stash. “It was full of gems, all the bits that are still super expensive today were in there," he remembers. "That was my starting point. Obviously that shapes your taste, and from then on I just went on a buying spree.”

Toi.Toi was the perfect setting to test out these new records and the parties continued to gather momentum, booking some of the most exciting artists on scene to play in some of the most interesting spaces in London. “It was a proud moment when we had Ben UFO, Zip, and Craig Richards,” he remembers. “We had this back yard in Bow that we used to do parties at for a little while, and Ben UFO still says to this day that it was his dream to play with the two of them together.” 

Nowadays, the warehouses and yards that hosted Toi.Toi and numerous other influential parties are mostly long gone, demolished and replaced with new build developments and apartment blocks. “It’s changed so much these days, but it will always be the memory of Hackney Wick,” he says. “The vibe is still here.”

Double exposed photo of Voigtmann posing against a green-blue wooden fence

With a patient and hard-working ethos, Voigtmann has managed to secure his longevity in this ever-changing scene. For years, he worked full time in architecture in parallel to building his DJ career. That was until he quit 2016, and decided to turn his attention solely to music. “It was a massive step for me,” he says. “That’s the reason I bought a houseboat: in case it doesn’t work out, to live rent-free on the canal.” It was a turning point that paid off, and he’s never looked back. He’s even renovating a new home – this time on land

It’s been a monumental year for Voigtmann on the DJ front. He recently returned from Australia, after playing the newly opened Carousel club in Sydney founded by S*A*S*H, with whom he recently took on a residency; he also played their legendary Day & Night party for thousands of revellers. Since 2020, he’s also been a resident at Ministerium Club in Portugal, which he last visited in July.

He played the VBX 10th anniversary party at The Loft in Amsterdam, and Club Transbo in Lyon earlier this year, and hit the festival circuit at Ploegendienst in the Netherlands, Wecandance in Belgium, Dimensions in Croatia and, one of his favourite gigs to prepare for, the inimitable Houghton Festival in Norfolk. At this year’s edition, he played an unforgettable closing set at the Terminus stage, having spent months digging especially for the occasion. “The dream gig of every DJ,” he smiles. “People are so ready to receive whatever we give them. There’s just something so magic about the Terminus, and the surroundings with the leaves”. 

As a producer, Voigtmann’s first releases arrived in 2013 via Vienna-based label Do Easy Records, followed by an EP Lisbon’s Assemble Music the same year. Tracks like ‘500 Shades of Grey’ and ‘Spin’ were deep and intricate, led by their attention to groove; Voigtmann cites the minimal techno and microhouse sounds of German label Perlon as key influences on his sound. Follow up EPs released via Jan Kreuger’s Hello?Repeat label, such as ‘Ground Effect’ alongside DeWalta and ‘Double Mind Reverse’, proved pivotal for his burgeoning sound. “We became super close, and he gave me all these tips on producing,” he says. “He was the first one that actually really recognised my productions.”

Voigtmann sitting in his studio

After co-running Toi.Toi’s in-house imprint in its early years, with releases from Mr G, Audio Werner, Ion Ludwig and more, Voigtmann launched his own Subsequent label in 2015. “I wanted to do something entirely new,” he says. “I had this idea that the music we played could be fresher, by a younger generation – the next generation. The label is about picking up youngsters, people that I meet along the way and giving them a platform to shine.” 

Over the past eight years, the label has put out early releases by artists including from Gene On Earth, Harry Wills, DMC, Jamie Leather, building a catalogue that explores the myriad sub-genres of house and techno. It’s also the platform through which he released his debut album, ‘Sublunary’, in 2020. “I find it awkward to put my music out on my own label,” he admits. “Because there’s no second line of judgement.” 

He confesses that he’s very critical of his own work, but these perfectionist tendencies have led to impressive outcomes. The 10 tracks on ‘Sublunary’ form an intricate body of work, revealing another side to Voigtmann’s vision that compliments his dancefloor-focused creations. ‘Tons of Tones’ journeyed into ambient with colourful atmospheres and grainy textures, while ‘The Silence After’ conjured hazy jazz soundscapes and glimmering melodies. 

Five years later, he’s about to follow it up with ‘Life Miles’, which lands later this month. The record started to take shape around the same time ‘Sublunary’ came out. The process began with the breaks-driven ‘Low Rider’ and, like his DJ sets, the rest of the album explores a variety of moods and tempos, travelling through house, tech house and electro into deeper spaces of progressive and trance. ‘Flight Of Fancy’ is fast-paced, reminiscent of early ‘00s liquid drum & bass; ‘Send Love To The Future’ explores slower tempos with broken beats and pensive warbling pads, perfect for sunsets and sunrises. ‘North Of The Sun’ and ‘Abundance’ are the kind of club-ready tracks that slide perfectly into Voigtmann’s peak time sets. There’s one key ingredient that brings it all together: his beloved MPC. “I replayed all the drums through the MPC,” he explains. “It now feels very coherent together, at least I think so, through all the different styles.” 

Voigtmann has another album on the way, set for release early next year: a collaboration with good friend Thoma Bulwer that’s to come on Yoyaku sub-label YoY. He also has another collaborative project alongside John Dimas under the VO1GT.M4S alias, which focuses on more techno-leaning sounds. He has plenty in the pipeline for Subsequent too, with the next release coming from Melbourne-born Berlin-based Reflex Blue. Thoma Bulwer will step up for the next in the label’s 10” vinyl series. 

All the while, Voigtmann continues to hit new milestones in his DJ career. He recently played in Seoul and Bangkok for the first time, and a few weeks after our chat he’ll make his debut on the Space Terrace in Miami. “I always have aspirations,” he says, finishing the last sips of his beer, so close to where it all began. “I hope it continues the way it does now with the quality gigs. I’m really happy if it stays on that level. It’s a mix between when we have to work, obviously, to make money to survive, and when we have to feed our souls. If it’s balanced, I’m more than happy.”  

Listen to Voigtmann's On Cue mix below. 

Want more? Check out On Cue mixes and interviews with Gacha Bakradaze and DJ Babatr

Anna Wall is a regular DJ Mag contributor and freelance journalist. Follow her on X (formerly Twitter) @DJAnnaWall