How did you get your first DJ gig?
I made a little mix CD, gave it to a couple of venues, and one of them hit me up the day after and was like, “Our DJ left. Can you play this Saturday?” I’d never played outside of my own bedroom.
So I showed up. They had no monitors. The setup was some really weird all-in-one mixer and two CD decks with tiny jog wheels. I had to learn right off the bat to mix in my headphones with no monitors. (Laughter) And the booth didn’t even face the crowd.
But it taught me how to deal with adverse situations. I still mix in my headphones now because I feel it’s much tighter and my ears get less fatigued. I blast the monitors, but I mix in headphones. (Laughter)
Was there a moment when you realised that you were actually good at what you were doing?
When you’d see the same faces showing up to gigs because you were playing. It’s very flattering moment when you’re the reason somebody got off their couch and came to a venue.
From a production angle, obviously, it was when ‘Tarantula’ came out. People were like, “Wow, you guys have got such a unique sound.” And to be able to work with all these amazing producers and labels we’d always looked up to, it’s like, “OK — I guess I made it.”
‘Tarantula’ was playing everywhere in Berlin back when it came out.
Yes, it was a shock to us all. It got to number 11 or 12 in the tech house charts, and when it went down to 14, we were like, “Oh, alright… It was a great run.” Then it starts coming back up again and enters the overall top 10… And every day it was like number one… number one… When you go from no one knowing who you are to that kind of success, it doesn’t feel real. It takes a while to set in.
And the downside is you measure everything you do afterwards on that, which really hurts because most people never see that kind of success. When you see that right away, you’re like, “Well, we did it. Why isn’t it happening again and again and again?” You know? You have to divorce yourself from equating commercial success with the quality of a record.
Back to the DJing side, and can you say what DJing means to you?
DJing as an artform, for me, ultimately, is about communication — music is just an extension of that communication, or of language. Music is like the Google Translate of emotion.
When I DJ, I try to incorporate songs in a way that tells a narrative. Telling stories through a different medium than the spoken word. Music that has some sort of message. I have promoter friends who complain that the vocals I use for my tracks are “too serious for a club.” (Laughter) But it wouldn’t be Pleasurekraft otherwise.
Is this also the way you’d describe your sound? A ‘narrative’ sound?
The Pleasurekraft sound has evolved into what I call cosmic techno, which is this big room techno. That tries to encapsulate all the power and the beauty of the cosmos — all the creation and destruction and everything — in a seven-minute piece of techno music.
I take inspiration from things I hear, whether it’s in a speech or something I read; from an interview with Arthur C. Clarke; or something from the movie network. These are all on the [recently released debut album, ‘Friends, Lovers & Other Constellations’].
It’s all about the humility of where we are in the grand scheme of things. It’s just humbling to know how small and insignificant we are in the grand scheme of the universe.
Give us the evolution of your DJing setup in a nutshell.
And I go direct from the laptop into the Pioneer mixer’s on-board sound card.
Why use MASCHINE — a beat-making controller with its own software — instead of a dedicated DJ controller?
I did start out using twoX1s. Because of being on the road so much, I bought a MASCHINE for production, but because of space constrictions, it was like, “Could I deduct something from this equation, so I don’t have to carry so much around?” And that’s when I saw DJ Endo using MASCHINE mapped for TRAKTOR. I was like, “I’ve got to try this.”
Do you use DJ Endo’s mapping template, or did you tweak it?
There were a few things I wanted to customise, so I got in touch with him — just a great guy and so knowledgeable about everything — and he walked me through how to remap stuff. And we came up with the exact setup I use, which I’m extremely happy with.
Let’s focus on TRAKTOR. Do you like to open up a set of fully mapped-out tracks — or do you just load and go?
I’m not the type of person to put in all these cue points beforehand, even though it’s just a couple of minutes… I’m not that guy. I know me at this point.
I have a bit of musical ADD, so I’ll skip around a lot within tracks. The beauty of TRAKTOR, and knowing the record, I just know instinctively, “OK, I’m going to jump to this point… to this point… back to that point. Loop this section.” I can do all that on the fly, even if it’s the first time I’ve ever played that record. I have such freedom.
Ever since I started using this setup, it was like, “There’s no going back from this.”
So aside from BeatJump, what are your other go-to TRAKTOR features?
The Loop functions I use a lot. I don’t use Remix Decks, although I’ve tried it. The looping functionality, how intuitive it is, and the BeatJumping are the two I use most by far. I rarely ever play a track the way the artist arranged it.
Can you give an example of how you’d use TRAKTOR’s Loop and BeatJump features to keep your set fresh?
Coming out of a main break into a drop, for instance. So many records have just a kick drum and one single element — I generally don’t like that, because I think it’s formulaic. So I’ll find a part I think is more interesting to jump back into before the outro or whatever, and then looping a section that, groove-wise, fits with another track I’m bringing in.