Photo Courtesy of James Drobik, Embrace
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Solomun over dinner before his Canadian debut at Coda, to hear about what this future legend has been up to in the past little while. After whirlwind success in 2012 with his nights on Ibiza, Solomun has been working steadily on new material and his label, Diynamic. He shared a little about what makes his parties that great, having the cops called in Tulum, and what keeps his label so successful.
THUMP: So tell us, what is one of the best clubs that you've played at?
Solomun: It's a gift, I have so many different types of shows, so it's never the same and never boring. The best nights are usually in small clubs, 500 people, it's intimate, it's dark, and you have the chance to play as long as you want, all night and all morning. There is this one club though in Brazil, called Warung Beach Club, it's the temple of electronic music in Brazil, I've played there about eight or nine times, and we're throwing a mini-festival there on April 20th. This club is a bit bigger, more like 3-4000 person capacity, but the club is so perfect—every twenty metres you have speakers, the sound is perfect. It's a gift to play there. Whenever I bring my boys there I just stand to the side and watch their faces when they stand on the floor and feel how brilliant the sound and the atmosphere is.
I heard this year was your first at BPM—how was it?
It was our first year, and it was amazing. The festival, the people, just our kind of music—no mainstage acts, only our music, everyday and night. We stayed there for one week, then after we went to Tulum to this lovely simple resort. Next-door was a more hippy resort where we bumped into a lot of party friends, including this one girl Elena who persuaded the owner to let us throw a party. In the end, I played there for almost twenty hours—we started in the afternoon, and played through all the next day. It ended up being a thousand people partying on the beach for two days, and it was easily one of the most special events in my life. We even ended up in the Tulum newspapers with the headline 'Germans Make Loud Music', which we found very funny.
You started DJing in 2002, and then producing in 2005. By 2006 you had started your label, Diynamic—did you always have the intention of starting a label in the back of your mind?
I always like to have something of my own, I don't like asking people for things. If I have to do something, I will find a way to do it on my own before I ask for help. So this played a part in making the label. I hated asking people to release my music, so we solved our own problem by starting our own label. At this time I met H.O.S.H., and so we started making tracks together and he introduced me to Stimming, who was at this time this angry young kid from Frankfurt who insisted that everything had to be hard and techno, techno, techno. It was very funny. After that, everything sort of just fell into place; it felt destined to come together this way.
Who introduced you to electronic music?
I was always interested in music as a kid, but the first time that I realized there was other music outside of commercial radio, I think I was eleven or twelve at the time and my older cousin was 22. He was going out to clubs and bringing me a record tape from the discotheques when he came to visit—he gave it to me and as a kid who had just heard commercial radio, it was life-changing. After that, all the money I got for my birthday or Christmas or side jobs I was working went towards buying vinyls. So I had a small collection of 50-60 vinyls, and then I started to play at House of Youth, for other teens. So I was always interested, but I took a break from 16-17 to 23, and then I got back into it. I was playing a lot of soccer at the time, which took over my life a little. But I came back to music at 23 again.
Did you teach yourself how to produce after that?
I had a good friend at the time who started a hip-hop label, who I asked to show me how to make music. So for one or two years I learnt to produce just by sitting next to him and watching what he did. I met him once or twice a week, and then I got a $200 computer and some cracked Logic software and started giving it a go myself.
You are, of course, highly selective about the artists that you bring onto the label. How do you decide on who to invite to become a part of Diynamic?
We always take our time with our artists—we spend one to two years with them. Inviting them to label showcases or to our club, introducing them to Stimming and H.O.S.H. and getting their opinions, because besides the talent, what is more important is the energy of our members, how well they fit and contribute to our community. We never make contracts between our artists—I say to them, "you know, if you think it's time you want to stand on your own feet, we will still support you and be friends, there's no bad blood there." But so far no one has left, so I'm pretty happy about how that turned out!
Your label definitely seems to have a very collective, rather than hierarchical, vibe to it. Do you think that plays a part in keeping a label fresh and on point?
It sounds corny, but there's a true family vibe to this label. Our members bring so many new ideas—it's definitely a very collective environment. Sometimes it's getting tough though, because to make a decision and it takes weeks! But in the end, everyone has to feel comfortable with what we are doing, and ultimately that's why they all stand one hundred percent by what we do, because it's also their decision.
You've been credited with changing European house music. In your own eyes, what's your contribution to the genre?
I think you are always part of a movement. Our contribution? What I can say about us is that we've never been afraid to try something new. I think when we started our label it was super minimal, mostly because minimal was everywhere, especially in Germany at the time. Our earlier tracks and releases had more melodies though, some harmonies, trying to bring emotions to the dance floor, in our own special way. We were also one of the first to really try to mix this old school Detroit sound in a modern European way.
What did you try to do differently with your nights in Ibiza that brought you so much attention?
Four, five years ago I always saw the same line-up, same people playing there, so I always had a bit of a bad view of the island. What I didn't like so much on the island is that at other parties you have ten artists on the line-up, with super short sets, and they try to fill the night with lots of artists to bring in the numbers. So when I was coming up with the concept for my night, I came up with the idea of 'Solomun +1', I wanted to do something a little bit different, I love to be risky. It allowed me and my guest to play longer, and to give more. What's funny too is that the sound we were bringing to Ibiza was up to date everywhere else, just not on Ibiza, so I guess we got more attention than we deserved in some ways.
Who were some of the artists that influenced you when you were first starting out?
There was one party in Hamburg, it was the first time that I went to a techno party, and the guy was playing a track from the Kompakt label, and the artist was Antonelli. It was a fantastic techno dreamy sound, but with nice melodies. He takes things to another level—I was so impressed, it wasn't like the typical usual hard mono-techno, without anything happening, it was very different. It affected me a lot. Most of the artists I played out at the beginning were Kompakt artists—minimal techno. I think they just celebrated 20 years, which is incredible.