Filed under: Interview
Tobi Neumann is one of the driving forces in the German electronic scene. Initially a producer for commercials and film soundtracks, he began producing his own work after being at the ’95 Love Parade. After different DJ residencies, his productions for Chicks On Speed, and Miss Kittin have brought him international recognition.
Interview by Laura Brown (Arctokyo)
HigherFrequency (HRFQ) : This is your first time playing at the Wire festival? How did you connect with Takkyu Ishino for this?
Tobi Neumann : Yes. I used to play on the Love Radio every year when Love Parade was happening, and my connection with Takkyu Ishino came when he was in Berlin and heard my set through this radio show. And then, he invited me to play for his own Berlin Techno night at WOMB in Tokyo. It was two years ago, and because we had a lot of fun there, he finally brought me to the WIRE this time. I played here for the first time and really enjoyed it.
HRFQ : Can you tell us a little about your musical background? What did you start out doing? What first attracted you to techno music and who were your main influences?
Tobi : When I was 18 year old schoolboy, I had already started DJing. But at that time, DJ was not a hero, but somebody who had to play the records, so after a while, I started working as a sound engineer for TV programs, that became my profession afterwards. So, 31 when I came to Love Parade for the first time, I was already 31 years old, which is very late. But, after spending 3 days and 3 nights at Love Parade, I decided to become a DJ. Then, I started buying records, and listening to other DJs, and one and a half years later, I got an opportunity to do a house night at Ultrashalf in Munich. So, I started doing a House night with my partner, and inviting some good DJs – some good House DJs, and I learned a lot from them. At the same time, I started producing the Chicks on Speed. Even before that, I had produced music, film soundtracks and TV commercial things, and also had an experience to produce some rock bands in my own studio. So I already had experiences on studio works, but had never done the electronic music before. So producing Chicks was my 1st time to produce electronic band, but it was pretty successful right from the beginning. And because of this success, I started getting a lot of possibilities to play as DJ, and then I met Sven Vath who finally invited me finally to Ibiza. This was really my coming-out, as many people heard my play and after that, I started playing at the clubs in Frankfurt. Frankfurt was very important for me, because I got so many influences from there – the Playhouse posse, Ata, Heiko, Robert from Alter Ego and then Sven and DJ T’s running the Groove Magazine. And then, I stopped doing this TV work and started focusing on my main profession. Honestly speaking, I never expected this would happen, but I think it happened because of my love to the music. And now, I’m playing at WIRE.
HRFQ : You’ve collaborated with Chicks on Speed as well as Miss Kitten. Are you doing production work for any projects currently? Or working on any collaborations at this time?
Tobi : I have done a lot of productions for other people and now I think it’s important for my career to do my own stuff. So I started working with my partner, Thies Mynther, for a project called Glove. He’s doing a lot of independent stuff, playing at several bands, and also has a northern soul band called Super Punk, as well as a project called Die Sterne, which plays really arty – electronic stuff. I met him a couple of years ago and we started working together since then, and just produced Miss Kitten’s album under this name: Glove. With Thies, I have already released one record through Playhouse and we are now working on a 4-tracker and then the album will follow. That’s the project I’m doing at the moment. And then of course, I’m doing a lot of DJing, sometimes three times a week, and also playing at many festivals. I was in Holland and now in Japan. Next week, I’m going to Ibiza with my girlfriend to play at the Cocoon party in Amnesia, so I’m pretty busy with those things.
HRFQ : You’ve recently moved to Berlin?
Tobi : Yes, three and a half years ago from Munich. Munich is my hometown and my family still lives there, but I had to go to Berlin. as I didn’t think you could find any soul-brothers there. I always saw many people saying to me, “you are crazy, because you are 36 or 37, and still DJing wihtout sleeping over the weekends”, and I thought I couldn’t find any people who could understand me anymore. So I had to move to Berlin because in Berlin, everyone is doing the things like that.
HRFQ : Coming from Western Germany to the east, how did that change your vision or perspective? Artistically was it a change for you?
Tobi : When I just came to Berlin, I found it was not so easy to please crowds there, nor find a good place to play. I was moving to Berlin, but I was still playing at somewhere in the West ike Switzerland everyweekend. So it took a while, but then I had some really good DJ experiences in the East, and I met really lovely people there. Since then, I’ve been like more settled or based in the East. I think Berlin is nice place. It says hello with open arms to you, but it just takes a while, as it’s so different. The people are very poor and when you come from an economically strong city like Munich, people might get a bit jealous. When you come to Berlin, you’ll sometimes see people who have almost nothing. But, I think this is what makes this city so free because commercial reasons or commercial terms are not the main thing here. In other cities, you need a lot of money to get a space to live at first of all, but Berlin is different. A lot of people come here with good ideas, but not a lot of money. So, I’m now enjoying it very much. Sometimes it’s a bit dirty, but you know how it is, it’s a big city.
HRFQ : New technology is one of the most important themes for artists from now on. For the future of the electronic artist, what kinds of new technology will be implemented?
Tobi : I think the future has already started because we have already played the tracks from the laptop and you can get them from your friend in Detroit via Internet, while you are sitting in Berlin. I think this is the strongest opportunity for all those who work for electronic connections and media When this Ableton Live program came in three years ago, it created a big sensation. With this software, you can do everything while the track is running. You can put new files into a program right away – the program recognizes the beats and you can mix all the stuff together, which I think has given a new opportunity for your live perforamnce. So I think the future has started already.
HRFQ : Do you have any DJ residencies currently? Are you playing anywhere regularly?
Tobi : I will soon have a residency at the new Cocoon club of Sven Vath in Frankfurt, which is a huge project, and it will be a great challenge for me to build up something from a zero. In addition, I now have a residency at my most favorite club – the Robert Johnson, where I’ve played like four times a year, and I play at Amnesia in Ibiza, as well as Tribe House and Noise in Dusseldorf, where I’m playing pretty often. But at the moment the really strong monthly residency is at the Cocoon club in Frankfurt – the new one. I’ll play there for the first time on the 7th of August.
HRFQ : Can you tell us a bit about the structure in your decks? Are you interested in new technologies, like Final Scratch or Traktor? You’re using Ableton?
Tobi : No. Because I came in very late, I have enough to express myself with two or three turntables. Sometimes, when I want to play something new and unreleased, I play from CD. But, for DJing at the moment, I’m mostly fine with free turntables.
HRFQ : What new artist have you been listening to recently who has inspired you or challenged you?
Tobi : For me, Robag Wruhme from E. Germany cult, which is a solo project of one genius called Gabor Schablitzki. He also has two labels; one is Freude-am-Tanzen, which means ‘fun to dance’ and other label called Muzik Krause, which is like a little family. And in addition to Robag Wruhme, Gabor is also doing other project called Wighnomy Brothers which is also a DJ team with Soren Bodner. For me, he’s the biggest talent in Germany at the moment. And of course there is Luciano. I met him through my friendship with Ricardo Villalobos. Matthew Jonson from Canada is another incredible artist for me, and there’s a new guy coming just around the corner in Berlin called Guido Schneider, who is releasing on Poker Flat. I like his beat a lot. And of course Dinky… She is really talented!
HRFQ : It’s extremely difficult to bring female DJs to Japan.
Tobi : That’s bad. I think people have to get use to the fact that women can rock parties exactly same as men and there’s no difference. I think it’s just the differences in someone’s head. Like in Germany where it’s getting more normal to see girls behind the decks, I’m sure this will happen here in Japan one day. I mean, of course the big names like Miss Kitten and Monika Kruse have already made it, but I think one day, they will invite other talented people like Dinky, Magda and Ada from Cologne.
HRFQ : What is the best way for people to do send you demos or get in touch with you?
Tobi : You can get in touch with Cocoon Agency.
HRFQ : Any messages to Japanese fans?
Tobi : Listen to more female DJs from Europe and keep on smiling!
End of the interview
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