Timo Maas has been on a 35-year quest to deliver his musical wizardry to the world. In fact, music is such an intrinsic part of his DNA that it’s one of his main modes of communication. Music is the driving force behind a career that spans three decades and is only gaining speed. From a residency at the groundbreaking Circoloco at DC10 in Ibiza, where he has been entrenched for over 15 years, to tours around Europe and the rest of the world, Timo Maas maintains a high level of performance. In tandem with his global tours, the visionary German also dedicates his time to conjuring up fresh new productions in his studio, picking up a Grammy nomination in 2004. His international recognition began with his seminal remix of ‘Dooms Night’ by Azzido Da Bass. Adopted by the UK’s garage scene, it launched him on to the world stage and he was soon being courted by a plethora of superstars including Madonna, Depeche Mode, Fatboy Slim, Muse and Kelis. He has produced three albums, ‘Loud’ in 2001, ‘Pictures’ in 2005 and, most recently, ‘Lifer’ in 2013.
35 years in the game is a lot. How many gigs do you think you have played?
I never thought of that, but surely several thousands on every kind of level. And it’s many gigs that really stand out: some for the vibes & energy, some for the craziness or uniqueness, some for the people i met, some for the trip i had. I love this all!!!
Tell us why your DJ sets are so diverse.
This comes from the experience of my very early DJing days when I was playing in “farmer‘s clubs” in villages near where I‘m still living. I had to play for the whole night, from nine o‘clock in the evening to four or five in the morning. So you had to do a bit of warm-up, touch different kinds of music styles, whichever there were. One of those guys who was kind of my teacher in the 80s, he told me “always play three to four tracks into one music direction and then change, because you always have to keep the whole club entertained”. And somehow this is in my blood until today: I touch micro-styles in the electronic field to build moments up, but then change, go a bit techier, or a bit trippier, so it won‘t be too boring. This is what I do with my albums also; and because they are not DJ sets but albums, I can do even stranger mixtures if I want to.
How did you start to produce?
It was a natural process I‘d say. At the end of the 80s, I did the first try-outs with some friends on an old Atari computer, four-track recording, sampling something from records, etc… It was really difficult back then, usable equipment was not affordable – I remember times in the early 90s where you‘d have to spend over 6000 Deutsche Marks [€3000] on sampler units with a sampling time of four or eight seconds. It was ridiculously expensive. And you could basically do with it, what you are doing today with your iPhone, while waiting for the bus. So I was always trying things out, and then I released my first and very, very bad cheesy record, in 1994, just because I wanted my own vinyl in my hands.
You are one of the few who started to produce early.
Relatively early. I mean there was a whole bunch of people who did music before I actually started. We had the tape recorders, the big ones, and we liked to cut the tapes and stick them back together, to do master mixes, this was an early stage of producing if you want to see it like that. And I had no studio, but I was always good in beat to beat mixing, so I was mixing on three decks, put different beats under different records, used acapella versions.
Did you want your whole career to be about DJing then?
I started collecting records at the age of seven or eight, I started playing them at the age of 12 or 13 and I’m 44 years old now; I‘ve done this for over 30 years! I come from an era when being a DJ was not cool, and travelling DJs were non-existent. So I naturally hesitated a lot before I decided to become a professional DJ. I kept my daytime job as a telecommunication advisor until 1994, back then I wasn‘t sure if becoming a self-employed DJ was the right decision, but I would go to the telecom store and see the very frustrated faces of my ex-colleagues, that always cheered me up and comforted me in my choice. And I was very shy as a kid and a young teenager, playing music is my way of communicating with people.
Your long and successful career is a dream-come-true for countless young musicians and at one point it must have been a dream for you as well. When did you realize that you not only wanted to be an artist, but an electronic musician?
I was always a DJ…loving and playing music from the early 80`s…. it was more of a natural process coming over the years, that at some point I wanted my own vinyl in my hand. Artist/electronic musician…it`s the same in a way…, as long as you are able to express your musical ideas! I always had more diverse, sometimes also strange ideas, that I liked, followed and realized.
While you were honing your DJ skills, dance music was in its infancy. What did the German music scene think of the 4/4 rhythms that House and Techno were spreading from their homes in Chicago and Detroit?
We’ve been there quiet early really…Germany also has a huge experimental electronic scene building since the 60`s and 70`s… a lot more than Kraftwerk and all those well known acts and artists. I do remember, when the US stuff came over, combining the straightness of early electronic programming with the disco and funk influences… loved it!
What were your preferred genres before dance music came about? When and why did you decide that you were going to focus on this specific area?
Again, that has been a natural process for me. I have been playing music out since `82, basically everything from the late 70`s and then growing with the music of the 80`s. The focus also came naturally, as I was bored of the other music at some point and I concentrated more on the electronic music. That was around the end of the 80`s.
Having played all over the world during a career that has spanned the genre’s lifetime, you surely have to have some preferences. Which is your favorite city to play? And which ‘era’ of dance music is your favorite?
I LOOOOVE Tokyo!!! And obviously Ibiza…. I am very grateful to have experienced the whole thing from the beginning and looking back, I can say, that every era has or had its highlights and downers. I`m still very ambitious of what I plan and do and obviously put all my emphasis on the future and the new upcoming times and projects!
Where do you think the mainstream dance music scene will go in 2016? More importantly, what do you have in store for 2016?
I really don`t know what the mainstream will do (if I did, I would be a very rich person, J!) I have a couple of very interesting projects seeing the light of day this year…from underground releases and remixes on, for example, MFR or Sasha`s Last Night On Earth label up to a big new single with my partner James Teej and Sir Paul McCartney. I will make sure you will hear THAT project, trust me 😉
What is on the horizon for Timo Maas?
New productions, remixes, projects and gigs… I am busy and I like that! Watch out!