DJ Seinfeld spoke with Marko Kutlesa about the influence the British club scene has had on him, his different aliases and much more.
Date published: 6th Jun 2018
Image: DJ Seinfeld (Credit: Dani Canto)
When Skiddle catches up with DJ Seinfeld he's just come back from a run in his native Malmo, Sweden. It's the city he's just moved back to, having lived in Barcelona for a few years and Edinburgh before that, where he studied.
Born Armand Jakobsson, he also records under the names Rimbaudian and Birds Of Sweden, but it's probably fair to say that it's with the DJ Seinfeld moniker he's generated most interest.
His retro-respecting, melancholic and degraded deep house sounds have been released on Or:la and Breakwave's Deep Sea Frequency, Manchester's Natural Sciences, E-Beamz and Lobster Theremin/Lobster fury, who released his debut album Time Spent Away From U in 2017. He's also about to release news of a major new project.
Alongside the likes of Ross From Friends, Mall Grab and DJ Boring, DJ Seinfeld is a leading protagonist in what's been dubbed the lo-fi house scene.
Marko Kutlesa sat down with Armand Jakobsson to ask about his various aliases, the emotional content of his music, the influence of the British rave scene on him and to quiz him about his preferences in Swedish music.
How was your experience of living in Barcelona?
I found it to be really comfortable on one hand. I think it's one of those cities where you need to know someone to get in with the lifestyle. At first I was studying there and then I worked there so it was kind of hard to get involved with the local culture. It is an inviting climate but I only experienced it to a certain extent.
But I am kind of a loner so it was comfortable for me to walk around, have glass of wine here or there. That's something I enjoy doing so, for me, it was kind of the perfect scenario. I quit my job to do music full time when I was there and it was a comfortable place to do that.
Prior to that you lived in Edinburgh while studying. Did you experience any of Scotland's club scene?
Yeah, for sure. I'd been going out to a few clubs before I went to Scotland but I think that's where I got my first real experiences. I used to go to Liquid Rooms, Sneaky Pete's and The Bongo Club. I used to go out quite a lot, most often alone. I got to see some really good DJs.
Back then I didn't really have a specific sound that I was really into so it might be techno one day and then something quite Balearic a couple of days later. As far as I remember it, the scene back then had lots of different things happening at the same time, so it was quite vibrant.
What years were you in Edinburgh?
That would have been 2010 to 2014.
Were there any specific DJs you saw there who made an impression?
Oh yeah. Jeff Mills was definitely one of them. I also saw Cottam play. Nathan Fake one time too. They were all really special.
Did you ever venture over to Glasgow to experience the club scene there?
Haha! I did, to try and get into Sub Club, but I went with a friend and he got a bit too drunk so we didn't get in. Ha! It kind of came full circle recently though because I just DJ'd there for the first time. It was a really wonderful experience. If you live in Edinburgh you always hear how the Glasgow scene is boiling. Getting to experience it first hand was a dream come true.
You didn't take your drunken friend this time?
Ha! No, I was perfectly alone.
You said in a previous interview that the Detroit, Chicago and British house music which inspired you seemed to be carrying a political message. What exactly do you mean by that and what kind of political message did you infer to be coming from that music?
The music that came from Chicago, Detroit and New york to me seems like it all serves a certain political purpose. It was the soundtrack to an experience where their sexualities could be freely expressed, where barriers of race, gender and sexuality were not in place.
It was a conscious effort to make a haven removed from the usual social, political and economic stereotypes you have in the outside world. It came from a very specific context.
If you look at the history of Detroit producers, Omar S was still working in a factory when he started. All of those guys from Detroit were expressing something that was very specific to their experience of being in Detroit. Music is always going to contain a certain amount of politics in it; if it's not a conscious decision by the artist then it may be construed by the listener at some point.
What kind of political message do you feel you might be trying to convey with your own music?
I don't really have a political agenda behind my music. It's not something that I strive to make. I try to keep it as open as possible. Certainly, as far as the music that has already been released, it has only been therapeutic. A selfish endeavour; taking whatever circumstances I have around me and interpret them into a sonic form.
I do, of course, have my own political opinions. I just choose to make a stand for them in other places than my productions.
You also said in a previous interview you liked that “lo-fi” house had been an entry point to so many young clubbers because it allowed them to go on and explore some of dance music's past sounds. Why is it a good thing for them to do that? What is there in old music that young people should discover?
Well, you could look at it like a suggestion. Me giving them some advice. Because when I started discovering that kind of music, tracing back through the origins of house, techno and dance music, I just got so much enjoyment from it. It was an amazing journey.
I think also that, if you want to be more seriously involved with the scene, the industry, I think it's important to be aware of the cultural pillars, that which laid the foundations for it all. I think it's important to have an awareness of what it is that has brought us to the point where we are now.
Because of life experiences, much of the music contained on your debut album Time Spent Away from U was of a certain mood. Might your next album surprise people with a change in mood?
I think so, yeah. I'm yet to figure out the exact conceptual direction I want to take with my next album. The biggest priority I have for my own music is that it's supposed to be honest. Even though I might have a very specific conceptual idea of what I want to make, in the end it's always a compromise between that and what I feel emotionally.
Right now, I'm in a better place in my life than I was back then. Maybe my music will be reflective of that? Maybe I will make a much happier album? I don't know. I think my strongest side in production is to have these sad melancholic melodies. I think it just comes easier to me than making a happy melody. But I do definitely want to make something else, something different.
If you sat down and made something which sounded really, really happy, do you think you might assume another alias in order to release it? Is melancholy now innate in the music you make as DJ Seinfeld?
That's a good question. I've thought about it. I think there's room to have both happiness and sadness within the Seinfeld alias. I think the debut album wasn't just sad. I do have some tracks that I want to put out under another alias, because they are such a departure from the Seinfeld stuff. But I don't necessarily want to put barriers and restrictions on where I put different moods in terms of the aliases.
As we're talking about aliases, how would you describe to your aunt the difference between the music you make as DJ Seinfeld, Rimbaudian and Birds Of Sweden?
Haha! Well, if I had one (an aunt), I would probably say Rimbaudian is like walking in the park in spring, Seinfeld is like what a super serious teenager is listening to late at night while wearing post-Emo apparel and Birds Of Sweden is like a baby on a sugar rush.
Haha! Great! As part of your influences, you've cited the music scenes in Chicago, Detroit, The Hague and Birmingham. What music from Birmingham specifically have you been a fan of?
Back when I first started getting into techno I was listening to a lot of British Murder Boys stuff, Regis and Surgeon. In interviews, Detroit and then Berlin would be the two places mentioned first, but I was also aware that something huge had happened in Birmingham too.
As curious as I am, I just did some research and discovered these producers and that there was a vibrant scene. So, they were the ones who made me appreciate that hard, industrial techno. It's a lot more of a punk sound to me; raw, unhinged.
Obviously you took your DJ Seinfeld name after watching the TV show. What is the show's main appeal for you and who are your favourite characters and why?
I just find it hilarious. The characters are all so headstrong, stubborn, it's very easy to get lost inside the events that happen in the show and forget the stuff that's happening in your own life. It's a comfort show. It could have just as easily have been Friends or something similar.
I love George quite a lot. For me, he's the funniest one.
I've never seen it, but friends have recommended it to me. They also recommended Curb Your Enthusiasm, which I did watch for a while and I believe the shows share a link. Did you also follow that one?
Yeah, definitely. George is based on Larry David. It's been a while since I was really into it. The first time I saw it I really loved it. Now, there's something about it that makes me feel wary, the wider context. I'm a bit more sensitive these days to the fact that it's a show about very wealthy, middle aged men in Hollywood complaining about really banal stuff. At some point it becomes redundant. They probably shouldn't have made the last season, but there's still times you can find it hilarious.
Swedish music quiz time! Abba or Lykke Li?
Abba! I've been playing 'Gimme, Gimme, Gimme' every set for the past three or four weeks. I think it takes a lot to beat something that could be played now yet was made 40 years ago. That's not to say Lykke Li isn't good, it's just never been my thing.
Dungen or Robyn?
Robyn. It's been a while since I heard her. Is she the one who had that song “and it hurts with every heartbeat”? If that's her, then she had a nice balance between pop and electronic. Just on the border, it could have become quite cheesy. But it's been a while, I really don't know what happened to her.
Last one is perhaps the most difficult: The Knife or Fever Ray?
Oh...The Knife. The first time I heard 'Lasagna' I think I was in high school and we were in a park. There were a few of us and my friend put it on. It was the first time I'd heard electronic music played in that bent obscure way. I think both of the siblings, Karin and Olof Dreijer, are geniuses. Incredible individuals.