This is a well-spun and oft-heeled quote that rings true for many hedonists and party people the world over. Few forms of music casts itself in such a spiritual light, bathed in emotional manifesto, yet house music has been warming, healing, fusing and elevating minds and gliding limbs now for an impressive amount of time.
Co-founder of Germany’s Get Physical label, DJ T has been a main proponent of this scene’s more recent output. Yet his magnitude in what ‘House’ means and what it should do is getting magnified through epic amounts of shit minimalist dance music swarming around his native Germany and beyond.
We caught up with DJ T – we had to, given his second album ‘The Inner Jukebox’ has been a mainstay on the Clash stereo for some time – and talked aesthetics, backlash and historical moments. His beloved genre is a considered format, and its nuances have helped educate and influence ever since New York and Chicago’s dance floors and lofts seeped their strange sounds over 20 years ago.
What are DJ T.’s three golden rules for DJing?
There is probably only one golden rule that applies for DJing in general. All other rules can more or less be derived from it: Always stay true to yourself, try to find your own individual, distinctive expression of what represents you as an artist and what represents your feelings and mood in the moment of the set. As soon as you compromise that through trying to sound like somebody else, or trying to fit in a concept and please everybody you will – sooner or later, in one way or the other – fail. Especially when you decide to go down that path for a longer time. Maybe you can even be economically successful for a certain time, in the end it will become a dull job and you won’t be happy with it.
What has been the best technology to emerge in DJ culture in your 25 year tenure?
Definitely the invention of the Pioneer CDJ-2000players, in combination with the Rekordbox software: the option to carry around all your music on a USB-stick is amazing. This great set up helps me prepare and organise my music in a much more efficient way than before. It gives me maximum control over the moment.
And what’s been the most detrimental technology to emerge in DJ culture in your 25 tenure?
Hmm, detrimental is a hard word. I don’t want to be presumptuous when I say that laptops should never have found their way into the DJ booth but I still can’t get used to seeing DJs stare in their laptops for hours. I also can’t get used DJs coming in 30 minutes before their set starts, connecting their jumble of cable, scurrying around you and seriously disturbing your vibe.
If you had to pick one year as a vintage for electronic music – a year where things were unarguably rich in quality – which year would it be and why?
There were indeed key years in electronic music. Actually the key-periods usually include between two and three years. But to stay in years, 1988 was an early example where a lot of the essential acid house tracks arrived. 1991 was the initial year forEuropean techno and 2000/2001 were also great years in electronic music; it was a time of musical clearance for house music… Especially deep house, which has been stuck in formulaic rut for a while. Suddenly there were all these new elements in there; disco was coming back, everything was merging. It was the time when Metro Area, Chicken Lips and all these acts were happening. By the way, those exact acts were some of the main inspirations for my first productions on Get Physical.
Who or what influenced you to take up DJing?
Years before I became a DJ I discovered my passion for music, dancing and collecting vinyl. DJing was just a natural consequence. I can remember when I did my first mix as if it was yesterday. 1985; we prepared the birthday-party of a friend and I had two pitchable turntables in my hands for the first time. There was one hour to go till the start of the party and I had nothing to do, so I instinctively started to play around with two records of Kool & The Gang.
20 minutes later I had them so perfectly synchronised that I could let them spin for minutes. This moment was probably reaching further than I realised back then. Later, after I already had three years behind me playing mostly all kinds of black music, there were a lot of DJs in the electronic world coming my way who all influenced me in my work.Sven Väth and Laurent Garnier are on the top of that list.
If you had to pick just one track, what’s your favourite?
My personal favourite of this compilation is theGary Martin’s “Turkish Tavern”. Gary Martin is an almost forgotten producer from the US who had his biggest times in the late 90s/early 00s. He was the founder of the legendary label Teknotika. It was completely outstanding for its unique, unconventionally definition of techno. It feels good to remind people of the great work these people achieved. For me “Turkish Tavern” is a masterpiece and I think my edit of the arrangement gets even more to the heart of it.
What for you defines true house music, opposed to passing trendy noise?
I admit that the transitions between the kind of minimal that uses organic sounds and more traditional house – that has the heart to make use of more contemporary, minimal drum programming – are fairly fluid. There is a large grey area between house and minimal, and it is up to individual subjectivity to decide where the divisions lie. There is the wonderful statement: “house is a feeling”. And this feeling has a great deal more to do with soul. In most current productions that follow the most successful house formulas – let us label them as ‘minimal loop percussion house’, so that everybody knows what we are referring to – it is exactly this kind of soul and deepness that is missing, and which I associate with house. To illustrate this with a current example: I have the greatest admiration for the Motor City Drum Ensemble’s work. His music clearly does not belong to this minimal house consensus, but even in his beats there is an inherent sexiness that all the ‘loop house’ people, with all their vocal and percussion samples, cannot begin to achieve. He is just 24 years old and comes from Stuttgart – and we will be hearing a lot about him in the next few years.
How do you think your sound has changed over the years?
People always tell me that they recognise the way I programme my grooves and beats, although the latest stuff sounds quite different from my earlier releases on Get Physical 4-6 years ago. When the label started out, I really had to work on my own definition of my style and influences. Once this chapter had been closed, the 70s and 80s retro elements more or less vanished and made room for a more contemporary and stripped down sound. Currently, I am reverting to my very early roots, but in a way that is very different from previous endeavours.
How is Get Physical going? Are you working a lot on the label or more on your own stuff?
Just like everybody else we are struggling a bit and had to trim the fat, but we are still doing well. After putting more energy into the company than into DJing and productions for many years, I recently withdrew from the business side of things to focus more on my work as an artist. At the moment, I mainly contribute a few bits and pieces to the label’s A & R.
What do you listen to in your own time? Dance music? Or do you find it becomes too much?
Over the past few years, I listened to almost no electronic music in private situations. And then, during recent months, the club-related stuff started to grow on me again because there is a lot of more musical and song-oriented stuff around that I really appreciate.