Interview Delfonic – OYE Records
After receiving a delicious mix from Delfonic we had a “little” chat with him. We have written it out here and it might contain some grammatical errors. But the main goal of the chat is Music. So be gentle on us <3
While reading this long chat you can take a listen to Delfonic’s mix for the optimal experience of reading 🙂
BHM: How are you? And how has your day been so far?
Delfonic: Thank you, I am fine, it’s quite cold at the moment in Berlin so it’s hard to go out. And you see not that many people on the streets. But so far everything is fine, thank you.
BHM: How was your vacation in South Africa?
Delfonic: It was amazing, it was warm and super nice. It was a straight family vacation. We were traveling around the countryside and the ocean side. It’s an amazing country, it is nice to be there in the winter time, because it is summer there. That is always good.
BHM: Is the press picture that you sent also taken there?
Delfonic: Yeah, it was funny because it was in the country side at this really nice lake and we had this mixture between a house and tent. My girlfriend is a photographer so there we thought: ‘Let’s take some funny pictures’.
BHM: Thank you so much for making the mix for Berlin House Music. What is the reason behind your track selection? And what do you want to communicate with the mix?
Delfonic: I chose funky House music I would say, like funky stuff and this was my intention. I mean making a mix is always difficult because there is no party vibe at home. You can’t really or hardly imagine a party vibe at home. When I play in the club it is not really planned, maybe the first and the last song but in between everything can happen. And that depends on the communication with the dance floor. Sometimes it’s harder to get the people dancing and sometimes it’s very easy and people can freak out when you play some weird stuff or a break-beat or go somewhere totally different. But that depends on the night. But you can’t copy that when you are doing your podcast or mix at home.
So I just tried to start deep with exclusive, unknown stuff and some groovy House, followed by more dancey ‘House’. And at the end it is ‘totally positive vibes with some Disco tracks or edits’. This was the idea for the mix. I hope it works out. I chose some upcoming music and old stuff that I would play right now.
BHM: What is your definition of House Music?
Delfonic: House music is for me like groovy Dance music. You can say it’s in between 110 or 115 bpm (beat per minutes) up to 130. The parts of the production are mostly organic. This is for me House music and it is based on Disco grooves or Disco music from the 70s and 80s. Combined with drum machines samples and it is House music.
BHM: Who are your favorite House DJ’s in Berlin?
Delfonic: Cinthie is a proper House-House DJ. She is doing it for ages and she is running labels and hosting a radio show at Radio Fritz and has good vibes and residencies. She does proper work and totally deserves the success, as she is getting more attention at the moment. So she is a really good House DJ.
Then you have the legends like Tama Sumo and her wife Lakuti. They are hosting the House club night at Panorama Bar on Fridays. And they are really-really good House DJs with a lot of knowledge. So these three women are my favorite House DJs in Berlin.
A lot of my friends play House as well but also more Disco. When I listen to Claas Brieler playing a House set, it is amazing, you can learn a lot from it. But it’s difficult to say who is a good DJ. I mean what is the definition of a good DJ? When I listen to a DJ set, I need to get the feeling that he was thinking about the set that he is playing. Is the DJ telling a story? It’s not just playing the newest downloaded MP3s promos. The DJ is playing a mixture between old and new House music and is switching to Disco tracks in between, because this is connected to House music directly.
Is the DJ trying to build a mood to catch the people in the first hour? Because when there is a connection between the crowd and the DJ, you can bring them somewhere else. But then it depends on the venue, the promoter and the night itself. Furthermore, I think it is very important that the DJ takes good care of the music by going to a record store every week for example. It is easy sitting at home and buying expensive Discogs records. But it’s harder to go out and do a “face-to-face” in the record store. There you can still discover new music that you do not know.
So it’s a mixture between digging and showing the people something unknown. But at the end; ‘have a proper party’ because it is about a party. Bring people to dance. I always say: ‘don’t look at the DJ but look at the crowd’. When the crowd is having fun, the DJ is right. End of the discussion.
BHM: What about the mixing technique?
Delfonic: I still remember the day I finally mixed two House records together for 10 minutes. It doesn’t make sense to mix 10 minutes with House records. But you started with turntables and it was like: practicing, practicing, mixing, scratching, everything. Mixing was for me always very important. Even when I played Hip-Hop, I mixed Hip-Hop like House music. For me it was really important to have a steady groove. But nowadays the productions have an intro of a looped beat for one minute. Its easy with the technical support of thePioneer CDJs. So everybody can mix within one hour if you show them, but this does not apply to vinyl.
So I think the selection comes first, then the mixing skills. I mean it’s amazing to see Terence Parker scratching and beat juggling with House music, it’s f*cking insane you know! But most of the people do not really practice mixing and such.
BHM: What are your favorite House Clubs in Berlin?
Delfonic: Wilde Renate is really good, more Eclectic, between Techno, House and also Disco bookings. And they do not only book big names but also unknown artists to give them a chance, which is really nice!
Paloma bar, it used to be a mixture between a club and a bar but now it has a new floor that is a proper dance-floor. And Finn Johannsen is doing the bookings over there. He is one of the House legends and a great House DJ, not to forget. I think tomorrow I will remember a lot of more names that I forgot to mention. So Paloma bar is becoming a proper House club.
BHM: What is the difference between the ‘Berlin-crowd’ and the ‘Tourists-crowd’ when it comes to House Music?
Delfonic: Without tourists, nothing would work in Berlin in the music scene. Record shops, clubs, bars and restaurants are mainly based on the tourist business. The tourists, who come to Berlin to party, are often better informed, they are more open-minded and they only have three days to party so they are really excited to see the DJs and have proper party. They really appreciate what they get music wise.
When you have lived for in Berlin for a couple of years, you have seen everything and after living in Berlin for 5 or 6 years you normally stop going out that much. In this business the circle is every 5 years and then fresh blood is needed. This applies to the party crowd, DJs, producers and clubs. Berlin based people are sometimes too arrogant, too lazy to freak out and too cool to have a proper party. But the tourists are refreshing the system every weekend.
For example, for Christmas I stayed in Berlin and Renate asked me to play on the 24th of December for a proper House booking with Moomin. And immediately from midnight, the club was packed. After my set, a guy from Australia came up to me and said: ‘Finally I saw you DJing and it was amazing! Thank you!’. He came all the way from Australia for a two-week vacation in Berlin and he already knew my name and was looking forward to see me and that is really nice!
At Gretchen, my residency, I have like a permanent guest-list. That means, when I play, these people are always on the guest-list. Because I was tired of putting them on the list every week. I mean they saw me play there for around four years. So they do not show up every weekend but they still come to some shows. It is different than the tourists who are refreshing the system every weekend.
BHM: Where do you see the House music scene of Berlin in a couple of years?
Delfonic: House and Techno are kind of a grown up woman, still good looking and never going to disappear. Because House Music and Techno are the main Dance music and its’ never going to change. House music has the exact tempo where people can dance the most and it’s easy to get, so it is always going to be there.
The only question is about the quality of new productions versus older stuff. Like now, 90s House music is on rogue. Everything sounds like 90s House music, even newer productions. But then the problem is that I prefer the old productions because they sound better and fresher then the new productions sometimes. Because most of the new productions sound alike. Well produced, but with exact arrangements, always the same and so kind of boring. Because House music sounds the same for the last 4 years.
And I am afraid that the evolution of House music is quite done. Because everything is set, every chord is played and every breakdown is done. That is fine because it still works on the dance floor. But then in 5 years I think minimal will come back again. Because then people will be tired of the full organic sound.
BHM: What about the club scene development in the past 5-10 years?
Delfonic: Berlin is a capital city and the biggest money in the city was made by selling streets and houses to big companies. It was a huge mistake from the government’s side, because this is connected to the club scene. I was a resident at the Icon club for 7 or 8 years. And they had proper contracts, they paid taxes and their staff was officially employed so it was a legit business. But then new neighbors started complaining about the noise. Icon club had legendary bookings over 25 years and then someone new comes to town and decides to complain which resulted into the shutdown of the club.
But the government recognized their mistake slowly because the tourists came for this kind of scene. I mean for sure you can see the ‘Brandenburger Tor’ but mainly they came for the underground scene. And also the music evolution like Native Instruments, Ableton and Soundcloud so it’s normal that clubs are opening and shutting down. Even in the 90s you had clubs that only opened for two weeks and then shut down. So the club scene now is more professional because it has become a business.
So the club scene is now moving towards the outside of the Ring (S-bahn ring) and it is sad. Because Berlin had the chance to keep the underground scene in the middle of the city. I means when I moved to Berlin in 2001, I was living here in Prenzlauer Berg and we partied for 4 days a week and stayed in Prenzlauer Berg and Mitte. There were the most important clubs. It is unbelievable! Try to go to a club in Mitte now, there is none. House of Weekend was cool in the beginning, then Café Moscow was amazing. Icon, Rio club and scala club, all those half illegal clubs, it was massive and it was more about the party and the promoter than it was about the line-up.
I’m living in Berlin for like 17 years now and spend most of my life in Berlin. I think I saw the last part of the 90s. Some people organized illegal parties for example underneath Alexanderplatz. There were closed areas of underground stations like three floors underground. People just opened the door and crashed in with a sound-system, bar and some lights. That’s it. And then music was played till the police showed up and they moved on to another location. In Prenzlauer Berg there were also a lot of parties in basements people broke into. But now it has become impossible.
The university system also changed. When I was studying, the system was not as cruel as it is now. It was more free then and there was less pressure. We were just hanging out, we were lazy, we were f*cked up broke. But we always had a party. And it was a vibe of not being interested in the next day. But now when you meet a 19 years old person, he or she is so well organized, that it scares me. Because at that age I had no clue about anything. The best parties I ever had in Berlin started with going out for just one beer. And then 14 hours later you think: ‘what the fuck was that’. I had a great time.
I don’t say it is bad to be organized. It is even easier for me to work with them. But from the other hand: ‘Just let it go, just waste your time with some whatever’.
I also really like the phone policy of Berghain and Renate. Because I hate it, when people are texting on the dance floor. And when people hold up the phone in my face with a wish-list (request) I just grab the phone and put it in my pocket and say: ‘You can pick it up when the party is over or when you want to go home’.
BHM: Do you have any tips for upcoming DJ and producers?
Delfonic: Don’t do it! Get a real job.
Delfonic: Yup. You can give tips to people but the most successful DJs owe their success to their character. Because the rest you can learn and buy. The best DJs have a specific character. You can’t learn this.
Of course there are some more general tips like: go to the record store. Start from scratch. Talk to people. You can learn everything with the new online possibility. You can even download the music history in like an hour. But the experience is the time. There is no DJ who is a good DJ after two years. It is impossible. I think you can become a good DJ after 5 or 10 years, if you play every third night. And the best DJs started with residencies every second or third night in bars and clubs. They are the best DJs and most of them are unknown. Because it is a passion, not a business.
Nowadays, young kids have two over-hyped records releases and they are already doing a world tour. Bringing their USB stick and playing music. That is not DJing. That is a showcase, it is like modeling, like poster boy bullsh*t, it is not DJing.
The question is: what do you want to do? If you want big business, hire a PR company, have some ghost producers, do some famous edits and start your carrier. Get a proper booking agency and a smile on your face. But really successful is based on the character: smart, connected to people, talkative, humbled and not too nerdy.
But at the end do not do it, get a proper job. It is shitty paid. Even if you think you get a lot of money during the weekend, most of it you spend on pressing records, buying records and traveling. At the end it is bullsh*t, but you do it because it is like a drug. You can be dead tired, pissed and sad but when the music starts, it is like vacation. That is the reason why I never needed a vacation for like 10 years. I was working every day. Because when I am playing, my mind is totally free and that is my vacation.
BHM: What is your point of view on digitization, social media and online marketing?
Delfonic: It is necessary and it helped the record stores a lot because the communication became a lot easier. But you know some bigger businesses with a big online following on Facebook, do not reach their followers anymore. They need to pay for it. It is funny because we make the content for Facebook and we still need to pay for reaching our followers. We want to promote and sell records for sure. But it feels like you are in the same room with millions of people at the same time. Everyone is talking to you but you cannot really filter. Because you have the feeling that you might miss something.
The social media platforms are designed to develop an addiction for the platform. And I feel it myself, when I am sitting in the public transport, I’m checking Instagram and Facebook. Back in the day I was reading newspapers and books. And there is so much nonsense that is taking so much time and energy.
But then you have to do it, you have to promote your new DJ mix, you have to promote your new EP. And then the booker asks you to promote the event and I am thinking: ‘I’m the f*cking DJ and you are the promoter’. I do not get paid to promote but I get paid to DJ. But I try to help out with the promotion anyways, but basically I am just tired of the whole social media thing. But I try to switch off and ignore the noise from time to time.
BHM: Did the birth of your son have any influences on you musical wise?
Delfonic: The birth of my son did not have an effect on the music I listen to. But I do show him records to see how he reacts to music, he loves Classical music and Reggae. He doesn’t really like Techno. When you have a family or a child it changes everything. Your focus is changing and your priorities are based on your family. You feel this is more important then everything else. Even if you have a great weekend playing great music and getting a lot of positive feedback from the crowd, you come home and the next day your kid is sh*tting in his diaper and you have to change the diapers. This brings you back to earth and you realize, this is more important than everything.
BHM: Do you have any tips for upcoming labels?
Delfonic: Don’t do it! Because I am also doing distribution and I have some labels. Think not twice, but 5 times before releasing music on vinyl. Think about your musical education and background. You will always find some idiots who say: ‘it’s a great track!’. But is it really that great? And please do not release that much. Slow down!
Slow down, have a master plan in your mind. Pay attention to the design, logo and name. Ask yourself questions like: where do you want to be in 2 to 5 years? Do you just want to play the label boss and release music you get for free from fans and rip off other artists? Or do you really want to push artists because you think they deserve a nice platform?
But for House music: Do not do it! There are too many players! Just wait another year. A lot of labels are finally going to disappear with their shitty music. And when there is more space to breathe again, you can start with some fresh stuff.
Because it is not enough to just release music. I know artists who released like 4 EPs and they still have no DJ gigs. Because at the end the reason for DJ to start a label and produce music is to get more DJ gigs and better DJ fees, that is the only reason. So 80% is like a business card and not music. I mean I try to filter out most of the business cards. And that is sad but it is part of the game.
BHM: Any new releases planned?
Delfonic: There are two edits coming out, one of them is for a label in the UK. At the moment I do not have time to make original music. I am still making a lot of edits for my DJ sets but it is not that important for me to release them.
For OYE edits I have planned the next 4 releases. The next one is Marcel Vogel from Lumberjacks in Hell. I am really happy with it because he is an old and close friend of mine. I was doing a DJ night with him in Mitte back in the days. Then I have Charlie Smooth doing one release. I am always just asking friends for the OYE edits series. But I also received some unreleased tracks that were produced in 2008, kind of MPC House-sample based but really interesting. I am going to take a look if I can work with it.
With Money $ex Records, an album is coming out from Christopher Rau. The album is finished and the masters are done. I am waiting for the test pressing now. After that a nice 7inch with digital dub from Max Graef and FunkyCan. Followed by a 12 inch with another EP.
So it is a steady output but we slowed down with everything, because it does not make sense to overflow the market with releases. So when one project is done, we start with the next one. So this is our workflow.
BHM: Do you want to add anything or share something else?
Delfonic: No I think we have talked enough for now haha.