Daniel Stefanik Interview: When I play as a DJ I do it with my heart

Read our interview with German techno tyro Daniel Stefanik.

Jimmy Coultas

Date published: 22nd Nov 2013

Daniel Stefanik's blueprint for house and techno in it's purest form has seen the German DJ quickly become one of the more vaunted members of the Cocoon reared underground elite, no mean feat considering the company kept on Sven Vath's musical empire. The DJ headlines Mute and Under's forage at South in Manchester on Friday 22nd November and ahead of the show, Amber Haque grabbed five minutes with him to discuss the integirty of the music scene, Berlin's debt to the UK and Detroit and much, much more.

So Daniel, tonight you're playing a set at South nightclub in Manchester. For you, how does the UK house/techno scene compare to cities like Berlin, Ibiza, Amsterdam etc? What are your thoughts on the 'glamorous' side of techno nights in Ibiza and their 'show' elements, is it necessary or should music be kept simple?

I guess, the UK scene has its own vibe and this is important. A lot of German artists like me are influenced by "British" stuff like Warp, Downwards, Blueprint, Mosaic, Hyperdub and all the other labels. So you British guys can be really proud of your music scene! 

I'm not interested in the glamorous side of it all. Of course, now we are infected with it because there is a whole industry behind it. Everyone wants to make money with it. This is the time, so there it is. I earn money with it, too. But when I sit in my studio or when I play as a DJ I do it with my heart. Maybe that's the difference.

You are an artist that devotes a lot of time to the studio, so for you, what are the most important differences between an artist being a great DJ and being a great producer- which is more important? We see a lot of people in the scene getting more recognition for their live shows than the work they're putting in in the studio, how do you feel about this?

Of course it’s really difficult for artists who want to live exclusively from their productions. I guess it's not possible anymore but who knows. I can only say "Be yourself, it works for you!" 

I love to produce music and also I like to play as a DJ. I can't say I prefer one thing more.

I am very surprised at the development that artists sharing their private things via facebook or other social network platforms to have a supposed advantage over the others. The only thing what I can say about this is: Don't forget to do your homework.

A lot of people worry that the 'hard work' factor in DJ'ing and producing is fading because of the advancements in technology and it's too 'simple' to become a DJ now. You spent your childhood exploring your father's record collection and experimenting with keyboards and drum kits- is this a dying art now? To what extent do you rely on technology in your sets?

Today, you can find also this kind of kids. They do it in their own way with the possibilities they have now. Sure, there are a lot of sooo boring DJs out there. Sometimes I think their skills are only to wheeling a knob for delays and reverbs. Anyway, I'm sure the crowd can differentiate between "FX-Djs" and "mixing Gods". I believe in the new generation. I'm sure one time there is a new face, who kicks us with a bombing tune or great DJ skills.

I prefer to play with three CD-decks and a sampler like the redsound looper. In the past I often played with three vinyl-decks but times have changed. You can do also other nice skills with CD decks which are not possible with vinyl.

Who are artists you would say personally inspire your sound at the moment? In particular, how has Cocoon founder Sven Väth been supportive/influential on you?

My first record was Sven Väth's - Harlequin ‘The Beauty and the Beast’ (below). So I’m really influenced by his music and also by his DJ sets! Of course, Ricardo Villalobos is also one of my heroes for music productions.

Your music is filled with deep and multi-dimensioned themes, with fusions of dub and Detroit sounds, where do you gain your inspirations for the unique noises that layer your tracks? Do you go into the studio with pre-planned ideas or is it all quite spontaneous depending on your mood?

All what happens in the studio is what happens in this moment. My feelings, my vibe, the weather, my joys, my problems. For me it's impossible to say: "Now, I'll produce a dub-track." I love to layer sounds. I record a lot, several times, looping things by my FX boards. My new experience is my modular system. It's crazy and like a little addiction. You've to spend a lot of time and of course a lot of money for this.

The Detroit techno scene played a key part in your development as an artist- how does the Detroit style still influence your music and do you feel that Berlin has taken over the role of the 'city of techno' now? Have you ever been tempted to move from your home town of Leipzig to work there?

One time I hope a can be a guest for the DEMF. I will take my time to visit this city and of course will put all these feelings in new music. I've never been there before. In the past I was buying my records at the Hardwax store. That's the reason why I'm totally vulnerable for the Detroit sound. But I guess it's a lie when people say: "Berlin is the city of Techno." - It isn't.

All the records on Ostgut Ton for example are really inspired by the Techno sound of the British and Detroit guys from the past like Planetary Assault System (Luke Slater), James Ruskin, Surgeon, Female, Oliver Ho, Regis, Jeff Mills, Robert Hood and so on.

In the past you have said that music is a way to 'express yourself' and you have actually defined some of your releases, like Confidence, as music of 'courage' and 'defiance'- how has your journey through music defined your character and how do you translate this into your sets?

My musical character was formed by the scene over the last 20 years with all the facets they have. When I play as a DJ, I don't play one sound the whole time. I switch from House to funky stuff, from Tribal to Techno tunes and back again. This is also the reason why I produce so different records, sometimes. For sure, I know it's not so easy for the most. They need drawers. For me it doesn't matter. In the past for me the best DJs were the ones that played a lot of different styles. It was like a little journey into the whole electronic scene.

How has working with the Cocoon helped to evolve your production? Do you see yourself continuing work with the label or are you heading towards more individual challenges in 2014? You have collaborated in the past with Matthias Tanzmann and Mathias Kaden, do you have any plans of more work with others?

For me it was the best thing what could have happened to work with Cocoon. These guys are really respectful of my ideas of music and also they are really cool guys. Next year I'll produce some tracks together with my partner in crime Mathias Kaden.

Finally, for you as an artist who threw your own parties in the 90s, what defines a good party/venue to play at?

Best case: crowd is into the music.

Worst case: crowd is into the fashion thing.

For further info on Mute & Under w/ Daniel Stefanik & Anthea head here.

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