DJ T. has a wealth of experience in electronic music as both a journalist (he used to edit Groove Magazine between 1989 and 2004) and as one of the co-founders of seminal Berlin-based label Get Physical. He – unlike most of his contemporaries – has seen both sides of the music industry, for better or worst, but nowadays he's firmly on the DJing and producing side of the fence, and this month sees the producer release a new EP, 'Music Is Therapy', via Matthias Tanzmann's Moon Harbour imprint.
'Music Is Therapy' is three-tracks of thickly set tech-house, and the title track – which we're premiering today – sees the German producer deliver a sizzling seven minutes of undulating basslines, twinkling percussion lines and cyborgian vocals, and once he has that groove locked in, he brings it all to the boil for a protracted breakdown.
We sat down with the German producer for a quick chat to see how 2016 is panning out so far, his thoughts on the current state of the music press and rise of social media, and how he winds down from a punishing tour schedule.
Hello DJ T – what’s been good and bad about 2016 so far, have you got any hopes and dreams for the year?
2016 for me started with endless tour madness in Australia and South and North America. This tour was by far my toughest one so far because I was constantly travelling through time zones and never found any kind of biorhythm for almost 2 months. It all started in Australia with 6 shows in 12 days, then I went - via one night with one show on Hawaii – to Mexico to play the Moon Harbour showcase as the first gig of the American part of my tour and after that 6 more weeks in North and South America, with 2 or 3 shows a week. Overall the whole trip was really successful, can’t complain at all, had almost only good and packed shows, saw a lot of new cities and venues and met countless new people. After my two last shows in Ecuador, I finally ended up with a few days of well-deserved time-out in the Peruvian mountains. I will reload my batteries and detox here for almost 6 weeks before I return to Berlin and continue working on new music and other projects.
Tell us about your new one - which were premiering today for Matthias Tanzmann's Moon Harbour imprint – did you write it with the label in mind? Did you already have a relationship with Matthias Tanzmann?
Yes, these three tracks are made to measure for Matthias and his label, especially the main track 'Music Is Therapy'. When I went to the studio with buddy Emanuel Satie for this one, I had these really forceful tech house tunes in mind, that Matthias as a DJ and also his label stand for. At the same I think, that with the sound I am presenting on Moon Harbour, I am a little bit of an exotic bird because it's – compared to the majority of the label’s recent output – it's a bit out of the ordinary and I enjoy being that bird. I know Matthias since the early 90s, and I have huge respect for how he and his partner Andrè Quaas and the whole crew around them were able to re-invent the label from time to time, to keep up a consistent level of interest out there for such a long time, and I know from my own experience how hard that is.
What keeps you inspired and enthused after all these years – you must have seen and heard it all by now so what keeps you going?
The only thing that keeps me going is the music itself. Music is the biggest love of my life and it can save my day, especially our kind of electronic dance music. If it wouldn’t be for the music, I would have stopped doing what I am doing a long time ago. I have to add, that as exhausting the amount of travelling and touring I do nowadays, I still feel that it is a privilege to see so many countries and cities and meet so many people, I think I would miss that if I would give it up one day completely.
How do you feel about the impact of social media on dance music – is it good or bad? Do you like interacting with fans, or does it lead to everyone having to have an opinion like DJ Sneak, who loves to have a beef?!
It's hard to answer that question in a few words. There is a lot of good and bad aspects I see in the internet and social media and the way it has changed our scene and industry over the last 5-8 years. I have to say that I like interacting with fans. I am trying to give feedback to everybody as long as my time allows it, and I understand their urge to follow the activities of their favourite artists as close as possible, but at the same time, I see a lot of bad influences in the internet and – talking about our electronic realm – especially in some of these new omnipresent only digital media platforms which I call "the electronic yellow press“ of our scene. I think I don’t have to give names because everybody knows which platforms I mean by that. Having been the publisher of one of the most influential print magazines (Groove) in Europe for 15 years between '89 and '04, I think I have put out enough quality work in that field to be in a position that allows me to pinpoint that this has nothing to do with any kind of musical journalism anymore. It's just about chasing people for clicks with the most cheesy and sensational topics and headlines, often not anymore related to the music itself but to any kind of gossip. But that was just a small piece of the answer.
What is your favourite environment to play in nowadays – a small intimate club or an outdoor festival, or do you still love both?
I always liked the intimate atmosphere that you find in clubs more than the ones that you find on huge festivals and big floors. 200-350 people are my favourite capacity for a floor. My eternal goal is to create an invisible connection between me and the crowd and everybody in this crowd during the time I am playing, I love to connect with each and everyone in a room in a non-verbal way so that in the end you can feel the bond that created during that set.
Do you find your sound is slowing down and getting deeper and headier as you get older? How does maturing effect your style as a DJ and producer?
After I was passionately into the renaissance of classic, disco-ish and deep house around 4-6 years ago, I got bored of the formulas that were arising out of that. Since then, we are witnessing a moment where the majority of the people are not taking risks anymore, no matter if it's the artists or the audience, they are just chasing a few big names and brands and don’t look to the left and right anymore to discover new stuff that's under the radar. So, consciously detaching from these formulas I found my freedom and happiness in playing more track-ier and tool-ish sound again. For me, right now, it's mainly about the funkiness and sexiness of grooves and beats, which kind of connects me to certain periods in my past when it was the same. But as I have so many different roots you will always get very different sets from me and that's the moment where the matureness comes in, because it's less easy to totally depend your set on the conditions of the moment, how big the crowd is, the time of the day/night. If it’s outdoor or indoor etc. Than just stereotypically always playing the same style without really feeling the room and reacting on it. And sometimes you have to have the guts to completely reset a floor when you feel it needs something different than what the DJ before you was delivering. You accept the fact, that you might loose a big part of the crowd in the first moment, but only to rebuild it even better after than it was before.
What other projects are you working on this year, any news of a new album maybe?
I just wanna continue putting out strong EPs and remixes right now. I have three labels that I wanna focus on, Moon Harbour, Aus Music and last but not least, my old home Get Physical, which I will always stay connected to.
DJ T’s ‘Music Is Therapy’ Ep is out on February 26th via Moon Harbour.