Sunday, October 23, 2011


Germany has always had a knack for electronic based music - just listen to Kraftwerk, need I say more? But as various genres and sub-genres of electronic based music has formed in that country, it has been interpreted in many ways by various acts from other countries. Just listen to early Daft Punk, Justice, Japanese Popstars, Deadmau5 and you will hear a clear German influence on their electronic sound. Now as Europe and the rest of world have taken that sound and altered it to the "new European dance craze," electronic music is hitting Germany heavy again thanks in part to Digitalism. The duo of Jens "Jence" Moelle and İsmail "Isi" Tüfekçi have been making waves with their sound the world over for a few years now. Earlier this year they released their latest record, I Love You, Dude and the band have been on a non-stop blitzkrieg tour around the world hitting every major dancefloor and having the time of their lives. I had the opportunity to speak to the duo about their influences, sound, the fast moving electronic world and remix culture. Take a look at my interview with Digitalism below:

It has been four years since your last record, how have things changed as far as style and sound for the band go?

Jens: If you listen to the new album, you can tell that our typical “Digitalism” sound is still there, but it became more extreme. Compared to the first one, the melodies are more melodic, the hard stuff is even harder, and there are really fast and super slow songs now.

Isi: That’s a logical, natural step for us, because music wise we just started where we stopped last time, but of course took it much further. Four years is a long time, especially when you were young pretty back then and now you feel more “grown up”. We gained so much experience since the last album, it’s unreal.

In those four years, Digitalism has been the premiere electronic acts around the world. How do you feel about this?

Jens: That’s an honour of course. We were overwhelmed by the worldwide reception, because we didn’t have any expectations back then. For us we just made our favourite music and released it. Soon there were bootlegs and mash-ups of our music by other people, and there are probably lots of new acts out there that absorbed our melodic, rough and young musical approach. We can tell that in Hamburg where we’re from, our success encouraged many new artists to work harder and have ambitions, because they’d seen that this is possible.

Who came up with the title for your latest record, “I Love You, Dude?” It certainly displays the brotherhood between you both. Do you see this going on for a while?

Jens: Surely we’re kind of brothers, we see each other every day since more than ten years now. But the album title is not so much a reflection on that, we chose it for a couple of reasons. We came up with it while we were touring in Australia end of last year, and we were forced to having a break from the album production because we weren’t in the studio. We had a really god time in the sun down under, and things started to feel very easy. It kinda clicked and all of a sudden we knew what we had to do to finish the record. We had this phrase in our heads, and it got stuck in them. Then we thought why not name the album “I Love You, Dude”, because it reflects exactly that feeling of ease that we had by that time. We felt so relaxed and understood what we are doing and what we had to do. Also, we wanted to break completely with our first album. We see the new one not as a second album, more just like “an album”. We chose to create new artwork and all that. Finally, we love being cheeky and including twists here and there, and the title is another one of those: When you see the title, you REALLY don’t know what the music on it is gonna be like. It’s a complete disconnection that makes people laugh a lot. We love the irony.

What did you different on “I Love You, Dude” in comparison to your debut “Idealism?”

Jens: This time, instead of for 90% performance, we wanted to go for the 100% and enhance things. The songwriting for example is much more detailed because of all the experience we gained over the last years. We’ve watched so many bands playing concerts or at festivals, we saw how they handle things and all that. And also, our vocal production is better this time. We didn’t give a shit about it on the first record, but this time we thought, why not do it properly?

Isi: We also had the chance to buy lots of new gear that we could try out and get inspirations from, and we have more powerful production tools now and spent more time on mixing and soundshaping than before. We feel like we turned from producers into a band. That’s the feeling behind the new album: It was written by a band.

You claim that soundtracks and Daft Punk play a major influence on your work, outside of the music world, what else influences you?

Jens: The biggest influence is probably our bunker studio. It’s really isolated and timeless in there. There are no windows and you can never tell whether it’s day or night, or it’s a storm outside or it’s sunny and hot. This really maximizes your creativity because there are no distractions whatsoever, and the only way to ‘experience’ something is via your imagination. That way we’re not influenced by certain ‘scenes’ or collectives, and we can concentrate on our very own Digitalism sound. This bunker is in Hamburg, which is a really green city with lots of water, lake, river and canals in it, so it’s a very recreational feel there. Probably better for us than getting sucked into a certain corner somewhere else.

You have remixed tracks for Tom Vek, The Futureheads, Daft Punk, Tiga, Klaxons, White Stripes, Depeche Mode, Cut Copy. How and who do you choose to remix for? What is the thought process like when reimaging a band or artist?

Jens: Remixes come up in different ways. Sometimes we are asked to do a remix for someone, like it was the case with Cut Copy or Daft Punk, and sometimes we ask another band if we can remix them because we love their stuff. That was how The Presets or Test Icicles got remixed by us. It’s always different, and it’s always something special for us, it’s not just a job. It has to bring the original into a next dimension ideally. No electronic DJ would have played the original Futureheads “Skip To The End”, but they could play our remix, so that introduces this amazing band to the dance scene!

Isi: When we work on a remix the formula is really simple: We take very little parts of the original and turn the whole thing into a Digitalism song.

You headline major festivals and play club shows, which are your favorite or do you prefer to do?

Jens: Both things are very appealing to us. There’s probably nothing better than playing a huge stage outside in summer at a festival, with a massive soundsystem, and the weather is great and people are having a great time for a few days there, camping and going crazy. It’s like a huge school class trip, like a short vacation. The thing is though that you’re not so much connected to the audience because its further away from you than in small venues. That’s why we love club shows: You’re right in front of the people and you can interact with everyone. Ideally there’s sweat dripping off the ceiling and you become one with the audience. It’s not as anonymous as the big festival gigs where you have 20.000 people in front of you. It’s more personal.

Isi: We’re looking forward to this summer’s festivals, but we’ve also planned a club tour so we can play smaller venues, because that’s where we’re coming from.

Given that your music is electronic and the ever-changing landscape of technology we are in, do you, as a musician even find it difficult to keep up with how fast technology changes? Do you still use some gear from back when you started?

Jens: Absolutely! We a pretty oldschool regarding technology. There is lots of new gear in our studio, but many synthesizers or samplers are probably as old as us, and our techniques on production haven’t really changed that much since our first album. When things are obviously too easy to be true, we don’t trust it, and we prefer to learn the basics instead of trusting something that is all automated. We want to be in control over the machine.

You started off in Germany and were signed to a French label, because France has really become the epicenter of electronic based music over the last decade or so, was it easy to get noticed?

Jens: When we started, it wasn’t so easy for us in Germany. Although we had already been playing all over Europe, somehow our own country took a bit longer to warm up. We tried to balance that by playing there a lot, and eventually now Germany is one of the best countries for us. Back then, we had to deal with “The French Stamp”: Anywhere we played people thought we were French because of our reference (Kitsuné/Paris) and probably because of our not-so-German sound too. By that time, it was probably a good thing for us though, because the world electronic focus was on France in 2006. Maybe we brought it there a bit more, too.

You seem to cross genre in your music, do you do this to make yourself appeal to a larger fan base?

Jens: No this is not planned, it just reflects our two sides. We love electronic music and we love garage rock sound. Making an album of just techno would be too boring for us, so we combine it with rock elements! We’re pretty bipolar but trying to keep it together and balance it all well. And this doesn’t necessarily mean that the fanbase is larger, because somehow you’re lost in the void that is in the middle. It’s all about finding the right combination to define yourself.

Since being around the world and performing in front of so many faces, where is your favorite place in the world to play?

Jens: Anywhere that’s not a festival drowning in 5 ft of mud is good for us.

How much fun are you having doing this?

Jens: As much fun as having an orgasm.