A month ago Oval Space hosted a very special party… travelling to Bristol, Edinburgh and Brighton; London was the second stop of the Orb Tour. The so-called duo from the “other galaxy“ came back to spread their ambient house all around the UK and it felt like a real return to the magic of the old school! No one other than Dave DK, one of the most recent additions to Kompakt records, played for the first half of this spacey show. The Hamburg-based techno producer signed with the Cologne based, minimal pop and ambient powerhouse label, 2 years ago and we can see why!

Hard Life - Interview Dave DK

The explicit synergy between Dave‘s vibe and The Orb, one of the most influential groups in building the sound of the UKs early rave scene, seems to be a new turn in DK’s career. Dave DK’s set was a mixture of sensitivity and passion, it gave a pure feeling. Built through a most-melodic beats, Dave DK expressed a deep respect for the electronic music at Oval Space and Hard Life had the opportunity to have a chat with him.

Your professional career began in the 90’s with the release of your first album “Nerven” on Muller records  Since then, you have been constantly searching for a new sound – with a monumental list of collaborations with different artists! Resident DJ at Panorama Bar and Tresor, producer for very well renowned german labels … Television records, Play House, Mood sic, Pampa records, and now freshly on Kompakt records, how did you get into the so-called “Cologne sound” label? 

The first release on Kompakt came in 2013, 2 years ago but I’ve been associated to them since a very long time. They are friends of mine. I started sending some music to Michael but he always complained that it was too “Berlin style” ’cause I used to live in Berlin for 16 years. 

“After 3, 4 years, the music was ready, so we just get into the process to be able to release on this label [Kompakt]”

What do you mean by “too Berlin”? 

Kompakt is an institution based in Cologne, which cares a lot about producing a unique style and has done for more than 20 years now. On the other hand, Berlin also developed a certain sound as well during the 90’s and 2000’s. But ultimately it’s about local patriotism and keeping it’s own vibe from a musical point of view. 

You have produced two EP’s, which are named after physical locations: Palmaille (a street in Hamburg) in 2013 on Kompakt and Woolloomooloo (a district in Sydney) in 2014 on Pampa.  What influence did they have on the choice of name and the music you produced?

Palmaille is a street just next to the place where I live in Hamburg. I just like the pronounciation, it sounds very french, and I like the area . When I was touring in Australia I came across the Woolloomooloo district, what a funny name! When places become track titles there’s always a connection to my real life. “Kronsee” on my last album, is my favourite lake near my hometown where I grew up.

“Val Maira” is a valley which gets its name from the river Maira, in Italy. Your last album on Kompakt, also happens to share this name! This was an incredible release, with the emotion being driven via the melodies on the album. Other producers such as Pantha du Prince, Gui Borrato, James Holden and Jon Hopkin – have gone for a similar vibe. Do they have any influence on your sound?

Besides movie soundtracks they definitely had an influence on my sound. I’ve been following them since the early days. 

Have you ever considered collaborations with other artists and if so who?

I used to work with Holger Zilske a few years ago, we did some music on Playhouse and Moodmusic. Generally I’m working on my own and find it rather difficult to work with other people to be honest. There are many platforms nowadays, everyone is using different plugins and have their own studio setup consisting of software and/or hardware. When the teamwork is not clearly defined in the studio it can be confusing at some points. On the other hand it can be inspiring to learn from each other. I did the ‘Whitehill’ track on my album with Piper Davis, a Canadian singer/songwriter. We got in touch through Martin Stimming. I sent her over some ideas and she sent me something back so we got the thing going, that’s a modern way of intercontinental collaborations that can work. I kind of like it as you create something together, but still have control over your part.

It’s fair to say that your style has moved away from house and techno, towards a more ambient sound – potentially influenced by your move to Kompakt. Your name also appears on the label’s “Pop ambient” compilation alongside The Orb, Max Würden, Stephan MathieU, Thore Pfeiffer, Jens-Uwe-Beyer and Leandro Fresco even remixed one of your tracks. Do you see yourself remaining in this space, or would you like to explore other styles of production?  

I’ve always been a big fan of ambient music. Kompakt has released a lot of ambient compilations over the years. The next one will come out in 2016. The first one was released around 2001 or 2002, a long time ago. There is a very long history for Kompakt when it comes to Ambient music, it’s actually nothing ‘new’. 

‘New’ for me maybe. For a few years I have been more into that sound sphere because I had to find all the productions skills, alongside ideas about how to produce and how to actually combine it with dance music, because this is what I’m really interested in. 

As you said before when you mentioned Pantha Du Prince or Jon Hopkins vibes, they have really nice melodies. There are soft ambient sounds alongside contrastingly techno beats. I find this a very interesting mix and am looking forward to exploring music in that direction. 

Ambient music, is sometimes labelled as ‘Intelligent Dance Music’, something Apex Twin fans may appreciate! I’m from Paris and have seen that techno has gone through a huge revival, particularly for people in their twenties. This has been, in no small part, due to labels such as Concrete Music and Weather festival, as well as the ‘after party’ scene. Rather than ‘music first’, we tend to see the ‘party’ as the driving factor for a night. Do you think you can combine these two aspects?

Dance music is made to make you swing your hips, and there is a lot more in the world of electronic music. We’ve been talking about ambient music for instance. For me it’s very interesting to combine the various styles. Today we have The Orb playing and I am touring with them now for the entire month in the UK.  Discovering their style is very interesting. They are mixing very different vibes and you can recognize some tracks but only short loops.

This is an example of very unique live DJ combinations of style.  

You don’t play live?

No, I don’t. 

Why? 

I like deejaying too much. Nowadays the borders between both styles are mixed up, like The Orb for example. I don’t find it easy at all to play live . If I imagine being on a stage, controlling the software and external controllers; presenting it live, I think would be an overstrain. 

” I’m very lucky that I can handcraft the tracks as they are now by myself in the studio, but it’s a long journey.”

But you did try this once?

Yes, one time but that was 15 years ago. During that time it was totally analog. I like live shows because there is something happening and not only the computer. When I’m watching someone playing live it’s also nice to have a singer or someone play a real instrument. A big live show like Apparat, for example, in a band context is always something special but that’s another level.

Are you classically trained? 

Not at all. I can play some chords but I can’t play anything fluently. 

I love freaky stories. Can you tell us your most experimental experience ? 

Well the freakiest experimental happening was actually one time a few years ago, during a festival in Australia, the “Rainbow Serpent” near Melbourne where I was playing a set. After this I was with my Aussie friends and I had a tiny piece of LSD, and there was also some laughing gas going around. Generally I don’t take drugs I would never do it again but it was quite an experience. 

Hopefully you didn’t take everything at once…..

Not at all. I would have been way too scared for that. 

I’m quite disappointed, you are not as crazy as people say… Have a look. These are the words describing your track «Wooloomooloo» released on – PAMPA records.  They say that “Dave DK – you- sounds a bit like “crazy man”. Those already familiar with his work know he’s got a bit of that madness-bordering-on-genius thing going on. “ What do you think about this, do you like this label of the ‘crazy man’? 

Well my name in German is “Krasemann” so it’s very easy to pronounce it in english as it can be translated as “crazy man”, this isn’t the meaning though. But I’m not that crazy in real life! 

Hard Life - Dave DK

Your last album is very well produced, it is quite complex and has a lot of depth. Do you think that the advancement in tech and therefore hardware, increases the quality of your music? It has often been said that with a lot of new hardware, ‘you can make a well produced track, that is actually poor musically’. What is your definition of a good track?

It’s very subjective, everyone has a different feeling for music..sometimes putting 3 samples in the right place can create an amazing groove. I have to say that when I started with Ableton Live a few years ago, it definitely changed my music style and I needed a long time to adapt myself to Live as I was used to Logic for many years. 

I set up my studio computer in 2009 and it’s still the same set-up of softwares because it’s working very well. I got a new Macbook last year, in order to be more flexible and I’m just installing/updating some software. I had to find some substitutes of older plugins as some won’t work on the new system. It’s bothering me a little bit because when I’m using something I want to use it for while, and sometimes I have difficulties adapting to these new surfaces.

There are tonnes of options for software/hardware. Many plugins can do everything. You can use chords, you can use beats, you can use samples…It’s very complex nowadays. Which doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing great in production. Sometimes reducing yourself to a setup that best suits your needs will benefit your production process. I have a sample library and I’ve been collecting records since the middle of the 90’s, usually a sample is always my starting point. 

I don’t produce music myself but I guess you can easily become a slave of the technology…

Yes exactly, there are a lot of people who are very technical. For them it is really easy to play around with stuff, but I am really fixed to my set up. When I have software that I’m using I usually stick to it for a long time. Otherwise I couldn’t concentrate on the music, especially when it’s getting too complex.

This is maybe where we find the limit between the sound engineer and the artist… 

“Yes. At the end it doesn’t matter what you use, what is really important is what feeling comes out of the speaker. “

One last question before you go. Can you leave us with the last track you played, before coming to Oval Space tonight? 

It was actually the new Pop Ambient compilation [Kompakt]! 

How did you find it? 

It’s fantastic again! ‘Cause there is also a remix of Leandro Fresco he did for one of my tracks! 

– Last call for Dave. Time for him to take over the turntables of the club…IMG_0659

To sum up the show was like a sensual trip exploring German fantasies. Dave DK’s set seems to be exquisitely built with weighty grooves based on minor chords, static and tinkling bells…A pure feeling of floating in space, the perfect combination with the Orb’s harder grooves that came later on. An explicit musical symbiosis which brought us light years from East London tonight.

A true beauty, from Oval to Space. Lights off Maestro

• Photo credit : Lena Novello •