Elektro speaks to Digitalism
Jence and Isi – better known as Digitalism – have been going for eight long, strong years. The German duo, famed for their well-made electronica offerings, has worked with some of dance and indie music’s finest: Daft Punk, The Klaxons and Depeche Mode, to name but a few. Now, though, they’re ready to take on the EDM’s global scene with head on, with their forthcoming DJ Kicks CD. ElektroDaily.com caught up with them for a chat…
Digitalism, how are you guys? Tell us how you both got started in music production...
We're good, thanks! We’re just on our way to the US where we're about to play EDC in Las Vegas for the first time, and a couple more DJ gigs. Sounds like it's gonna be hot! We got into music production in Jence's living room back then when we started DJing. Working at a record store, we got pretty bored with the usual weekly new releases. After a few years, you could see a lot of labels and producers repeating themselves, and lots of people only bought the same records, with the selection copied from some famous DJs’ playlist. That's when we started making own little edits at home on a shitty computer. After a while, we added a keyboard and started recording some own material, too, adding it to the edits that we were working on. Eventually, other people's material got less and less and we ended up with only our original stuff. We would play our new tracks every weekend in our DJ sets. A few years later, we started renting space in a WWII bunker (because we didn't have money and space in there is really cheap) and set up our first proper studio. Some friends joined and contributed a few items. They left a long time ago, and we're still making music now. That's nearly ten years ago.
How did you two actually meet and what was it that made you both decide to want to work with one another on a more permanent basis?
We met in a record store that was specialized on house and techno vinyl, so it was kind of for DJs only. Jence started working there while still in school, and we would meet up there nearly every afternoon to hang out, browse vinyls, practice DJing with the turntables and make plans for the weekend. We started our record collections around the same time, so we formed a mutual taste about club music from square one. It just happened that we became the protégés of the store owner – who was also a good friend of the Masters At Work guys, Roger Sanchez and them lot – and he put us on the bill together for some of the parties that he was organizing. We started DJing together as a team and that lead to the founding of Digitalism a while later.
You're eight years deep in the electro house game now. What has been your career highlight so far?
We have had a lot of great moments, like our first gig abroad, or our first live gig, the biggest one headlining a festival, first time we heard ourselves on the radio, etc... The release of our second album last year was also very important, because now we feel like we're absolutely free. We didn't really think about it, but it's probably true what people say about the 'second album jinx'. It's a tough one, so we were really proud afterwards.
You've done remixes for everyone from the Klaxons to Daft Punk, but who has been your favourite artist to work with up to now and why?
It was great to place our own imprint on big bands like Depeche Mode, Daft Punk and our friends from The Klaxons, but a special mention is due to The Presets. We first heard about them at the end 2005 via a friend from Montreal. When we asked them to send us some music they turned out to actually be fans of our stuff, and asked us to do a remix. We then went down under to play a tour with them and we’ve been hanging out a lot ever since. They're a great bunch of guys.
Out of all of your releases, what would you say is your best piece of work?
Honestly, it might be 'Zdarlight'. And that's not because it's our favourite tune – there are other ones, and for us, they're all on rotation – it’s more because when working on that track, it was the first time we ever took particular care of the mixing. In fact, it was just a mixing test, and we were jamming around. At the end, we had this somehow iconic track that we were giving away to friends on CD-R, and a few weeks later they came back to us, telling us about people going totally nuts. We're really proud of 'Pogo' too, it's one of those tunes that people always associate you with. Like, trademark and curse.
Tell us about the EDM scene in Germany. How does it feel to different to what’s happening in the US? What’s the feeling over there about what’s happening in US?
It's really different in Germany and Europe in general. People don't even know the word 'EDM', it's more like they've been surrounded by electronic music and techno for a few decades already (check Kraftwerk), so it's not a new phenomenon that just came up. We grew up in the 1990s with techno, charts trance and other kinds of electronic music; it was unavoidable. So, compared to the US, it's more steady and it's been out there for a long time, whereas it just blew up in the States. In Europe, no-one would have expected that a few years ago. The whole thing's become so big that the wave is coming over to Europe now, too. It's lifting electronic music from the underground up to popular music tiers, it seems.
You're a worldwide act, which means that you've performed in many EDM-loving countries. What country would you say appreciates Digitalism's work more than the next?
Electronic music has become such a global thing, especially with the help of the Internet, that it doesn't matter so much anymore where you are and where you play. Special mention goes out to Japan though where there've been times when we couldn't cross the streets without being asked for autographs, it was crazy. Also, we're glad that our home country finally got to know us better after a few years. People in Germany didn't know us when we first started, and it took them a while, but now it's one of our best countries.
You're working on the new DJ Kicks CD, which will also contain five new tracks from yourselves. So, what can fans expect from the forthcoming compilation?
Like our previous albums, this DJ Kicks is gonna take you on a journey, and you can explore a bit of our history as DJs, learn about our different musical influences and encounter new exclusive Digitalism material. We wanted to make sure that you could listen to it in your car or at home as well as on a party. Waves in tracklists for us are very important. When it came to choosing the tracks for this compilation, we picked old favorite tracks (even some from the '80s!) that we used to play nearly every night, as well as brand new stuff. It's not just a DJ mix; it's a pretty complete image you will get from us. It's great for the summer.
We hear through the grapevine that you're going to be visiting New York City next month. Apart from coming to see us at elektro HQ, what plans do you have whilst over in the States?
Eat some Cinnabons!
Quickie with a DJ:
Grime or dubstep?
Grime, because it doesn't resemble metal. We don’t like metal.
London or New York?
London – we’re from Europe. It might be very grey, but it's one of the best cities in the world.
Ibiza or Miami?
Ibiza – it’s quieter. Plus, it’s closer for us in Europe.