After announcing our special guest; Shonky for Hide&Seek Festival, we’ve had the pleasure to sit down with the man himself to discuss all things music including his favourite gigs, tips for budding producers and how he copes with such a busy schedule. The highly proclaimed DJ/Producer has carved a signature sound over the years while mastering his craft behind the decks. With complete precision and flawless selection in the booth alongside breathtaking productions he has become one of the most respected and in demand DJ’s on the underground circuit.
It’s so difficult to choose because they’re all so good, I don’t want to leave anyone out! Talking about Sunwaves, we had to leave straight after the show at 10 in the morning because Dyed and I had our party, Playground, back in Berlin. We had Gene On Earth and Edward playing, it was great to have such great music all night long. We start at 8 and go on until 9am.
We were tired but really excited after Sunwaves. Dyed and I arrived at my place at 6pm, we had a shower and then went straight out to Playground, at Hoppetosse. All the elements were great that night; good music, full house and great atmosphere.
MDRNTY’s festival, Caprices in Switzerland, was also very cool. It was with Dan and Dyed. We played the Cocoon stage with Sven Vath, it was super nice, up in the mountains, beautiful landscape. Music On Festival at the beginning of May was also great. We got to close the second stage with a three and a half hour set, which is rare for bigger festivals (except Sunwaves). We’ve played there for the last three years and it’s this kind of rendezvous where we see all our friends. We love Amsterdam too. That was a really hard question.
Sunwaves is an example of how location can act as a bit of a filter. To to there you have to make a commitment to travel all the way to Mamaia from Bucharest (and if you’re not Romanian, you must also fly to Bucharest). It takes about three hours to go to Mamaia from Bucharest, it’s quite a long trip. When people are willing to commit to that amount of travel, instead of a easier route to a local spot for example, they come with a certain attitude - and they’re dedicated to having a good time. I call it a firewall haha.
Sunwaves is also one of the really rare festivals where we get to play long sets. Three years ago we played 17 hours, five in the evening until 10 the next morning. Also there’s a great relationship between the clubbers and the DJs, a mutual give and take. It’s an honest relationship, quite symbiotic.
We live in a time where there are a lot of professional festivals, it’s great and I’m really happy. Electronic music is growing in a really good way, in my opinion - there are great parties and festivals all over the world.
Something I’ve done a little bit in the past, but want to do more in the future is collaborating with other artists. I have so many friends who are talented and inspiring, and I love to share my ideas and vision with others - and vice versa.
I released my album on Freak N’Chic 11 years ago, I actually posted about that the other day. It got me thinking that, perhaps some day, I’d like to do another album project. Now I have this experience and a new way of working, compared to how it was back then, it would be interesting to put my energy into making an album with features and collaborations with other artists, too.
I’ve been touring a lot, on my own and with Apollonia, over the last decade. I have a solo project, a project with my buddies, plus we’re spending most of the summer in Ibiza and we’re away from our homes a lot of the time. Among all of this it was important to find a method through which I could work fast. Not rushed, but efficiently within a short space of time. So, for example, after a weekend of gigs, I’ll go to the studio on Tuesday or Wednesday and spend five hours in a proper session and have one track ready. It might not be good, or something I want to release, but it’s just a demo. It was important to develop this method of working. Once the fundamentals of a track are done you could work on the arrangement or any other bits afterwards, the important thing for me is to get the main idea, or the vibe of the track down quickly and efficiently. I needed to figure out how to get the most out of the little time I have during the week, between gigs and digging for, and preparing, music before gigs. This technique allows me to get optimum production time out of these two days. Luckily I have a studio above my house, I also have a studio in Ibiza, so there’s no chance of me losing time.
It also means there is less pressure, I’ll sometimes make one track in the morning and one in the afternoon. It’s liberating. If you spend days and days working on something there’s the pressure for it to be good, which can affect your creative process. I like to do loads of tracks, then come back later and see which ones I’m going to keep… By working quicker and with less fear about whether the tracks are good enough to be released, I’m in a much better headspace when I’m in the studio.
So, for young producers, I would say try to work fast in the way I just described. For me, it’s more important to make lots of tracks rather than focus all your energy on just one because you can end up getting stressed, which is not conducive to creativity. When you start to relax, when you start to not think too much, and intellectualise, and when you stop repeating the same patterns it’s more creative and more interesting for the music. I get in the studio in the morning and I need to get one track down, done, out of the way almost, so that I can ease into the day. When that’s done, I can relax because my job for the day is done - a track has been made, then I can do more, with a relaxed state of mind. So don’t spend too much time on a track. The original idea is most important, you can always add sound design and a mixdown to work on it a bit more. I define my music as ‘club music’, it’s about energy, ideas, getting people moving and feeling something. If you spend too long on a track you don’t even know if it’s good anymore!
I’m looking for music all the time, it’s a daily job. There’s always a moment in the day where I’ll put on a record, or listen to some files on my computer or listen to some new stuff from friends. Anywhere I go, when I’m listening to other DJs, everyone is playing different stuff. There might be one or two common tracks, but mostly everyone’s sets are full of different stuff. Which is a positive effect of there being so many producers making tracks. 20 years ago there were less producers so you would hear the same tracks in people’s sets a lot more back then.
I look through my collection a lot, I buy a lot of vinyl. I like to go to my friend’s place, called Off The Grid, which is a distribution place. We live on the same street, he knows my taste, and he has a great collection. Yesterday I went to see him and I spend four hours there, going through about 60 records and I left with 20. Sometimes I go to record shops here in Berlin, or charity shops sometimes. I like to go to places which are not always accessible to everyone, or known to everyone. It’s a lifestyle, this is what I do every day I don’t just work Friday to Sunday, I work every day. There’s rarely a moment when music isn’t playing at my place.
As I said, my method of work. Back in the early days I was using a lot of samples and I became well-known through the stuff I was making at that time. But, after a while I started to feel uncomfortable in the studio, I got to a point where I always needed to find good samples to get started with my ideas. It wasn’t working the way I wanted it to.
A few years ago I decided to change things up a bit so that I could enjoy being in the studio again. Nowadays I work with a lot of hardware, a Cirklon sequencer that makes everything fun and interesting, a lot of synths - I’ve become very addicted to vintage gear, weird sound machines. I actually feel like I’m ‘digging’ for synths nowadays! Stuff from the sixties and seventies, which I like to modify myself. So, I hope, the music will sound a bit different to what other people are doing with my own special touch. I’ve never felt so happy in the studio actually, and the result is what you hear.
When I found out I was coming to this festival I was really excited. I’ve played twice before for this team; once on my own at a really nice open-air event and then I went to play a cool afterparty with the guys. We went back with Apollonia and played another really nice show, English people are always great. I’m glad to be coming back, Manchester is a city I’ve been playing for a long time - in fact, it’s one of the airports I’m most familiar with outside of Berlin, Paris and Ibiza! It feels almost like a second home for the Shonk, haha. It’s a place I’ve been invited to a lot since the beginning of my career, I like the energy there.
The lineup is also very cool, very impressive. It’s at the end of August so it should be cool, nice weather… even if the weather isn’t so good, English people know how to party regardless so I’m looking forward to it.