Filed under: Interview
DJ Koze is the latest artist from record label Kompakt to be catapulted into the spotlight. But after just one listen of his new indie riddled techno delight Kosi Comes Around and with fellow DJ/Producers like James Holden and Michael Mayer screaming his praise at the top of their lungs even the most novice Nostradamus could’ve seen this one coming. Despite this rise to fame coming quite recently with the release of the dancefloor filling The Gekloppel Continues on Kompakt in 2003 and the equally driving Brutalga Square in 2004, Koze has been producing music as far back as 1996 with experimental techno releases under the moniker of Adolf Noise.
Koze’s efforts are not solely confined to the world of techno however. Mr Kozalla has all ten fingers firmly implanted in every musical pie that numerous record labels seem more than happy to cook up for him. Many may recognize Koze as one third of the Sony managed hip hop outfit International Pony or even as the voice of the more underground pioneering hip hop outfit Fisch Mobilization. So we were excited to catch up with this eclectic man to find out where he finds the time and if there is indeed any rhyme or reason behind this musical schizophrenia.
Interview & Introducion by Nick Lawrence
HigherFrequency (HRFQ) : First of all welcome to Japan. How are you finding it?
DJ KOZE : I’m not the first time here. This is my third time. Yeah I love it. The food, the architecture it’s great.
HRFQ : We’ve just been listening to Kosi Comes Around and absolutely love it. Can you explain a little bit about the concept of the album?
DJ KOZE : I wanted to make an album for Kompakt and my try was to make an album which is good for DJs. So maybe four or five tracks to play in the night. But at the same time that you can listen to in the daytime too. Because most of the techno stuff is only for the club. So I tried to get a mixture of this night and day.
HRFQ : How do you manage to link the night and day so well together?
DJ KOZE : I was making music all the time and finishing the songs. Then in the last week of production I made the compilation. The order of the tracks and the last week was the whole picture. With every track I try to give my best but I didn’t know what would come out in the end. So then there were twelve or eleven or nine songs and then I tried to compile them in a way that makes sense.
HRFQ : This year you released an album under Adolf Noise. How do you manage to fit two albums into one year?
DJ KOZE : I don’t know. It’s not very clever. I realize that the press was not so much for the second (DJ Koze- Kosi Comes Around) as it was for the first (Adolf Noise- Wo Die Rammelwolle Fliegt). The first is very absurd and experimental. The much straighter album didn’t get as much press as my absurd album. Maybe it should be like this. I don’t know. I finished both ideas and albums. I thought it was good to come out with this and not to wait. I think every music needs it’s time to go through the different scenes, and people and people talk to each other. So maybe one album takes one year or two years. Maybe it’s ok. I don’t know. It’s better than not bringing out music. Maybe for the next five years I won’t bring out anymore. It’s an unusual release tactic.
HRFQ : At the same time you release under more names and with groups like International Pony. How do you decide which music gets which producer name?
DJ KOZE : With DJ Koze it’s more functional techno or music to dance to. Adolf Noise is more playground with abstract ideas that happen. With International pony we are always working with three people as a band. It is more pop appeal. It’s more the soul and funk side of us. More melody, more for the pop. I have different halves in my, different ideas. I make music everyday. At the end of the week maybe there is one very pop thing, one very abstract and one very dark techno idea.
HRFQ : Is that why you invent so many names, so you can release separately?
DJ KOZE : Yeah. I think it is always good. It’s very clever too. The most successful bands are always doing the same music. They are doing the same songs their whole life and then after five years they are successful. But I can’t do it. Every time I want to entertain myself and it’s boring if I do the same thing twice. But with the different names I have a very wide concentration. If I would do it under one name nobody can understand. So I had to fit it into some different names.
HRFQ : We’ve interviewed a lot of DJs and they have mentioned you as their favourite producer. People like James Holden and Michael Mayer. How does that make you feel?
DJ KOZE : What?! What?! What?! What?!
HRFQ : James Holden has said you’re his favourite producer.
DJ KOZE : Me?! Yeah?! I like James Holden so much.
HRFQ : He actually said you are his favourite.
DJ KOZE : This is super! For me he did the most relevant track last year with the Sky Was Pink remix. It blows me away. Because it was so funky and well produced. It was this journey. For me James Holden is the man of the hour so I am very happy. It’s good to hear.
HRFQ : So you didn’t know?
DJ KOZE : No way! I’m a fan of his.
HRFQ : You’ve never spoken to James?
DJ KOZE : I met him twice in Barcelona this year and in Cologne. But I was so shy to say hello because I didn’t know what to say. So we only said hello.
HRFQ : So here is you loving him and him loving you…
DJ KOZE : Yeah and nobody knows. He is great.
HRFQ : Just going back to Kosi Comes Around. A track like My Grandmotha, it’s a very retro sound. What sort of equipment do you use to make a sound like that?
DJ KOZE : Um, a singer. First it was a female singer which is very retro equipment. It’s not retro equipment. I don’t like so much the new digital equipment. I like the mixture. If it’s not only retro and it’s not only… I think digital is very cold. If you only make music on a laptop it’s not the deepness. It’s not more dimensions. So I tried to work with samples which are from the beginning more organic. Because it’s jazz and very slow but then only a millisecond. The jazz brushes and so you have a warmer feel. But it’s not only old equipment. With this song I tried to make it very beautiful. I like very much the High Llamas, Stereolab or Belle and Sebastian which is so cute and beautiful but it’s not cheesy because they find melodies which are a little bit away from the middle. If you listen you will never find this melody. I tried a little bit at this.
HRFQ : We think you definitely succeeded with the indie angle on the album. It definitely has a more indie feel.
DJ KOZE : Yeah. I’m very bored from techno. It is my favourite music at the night when I go to clubs. Because it is dry and a little bit distanced and it’s very minimal and not so much sound. So it improves your fantasy. But at the same time techno can be the most boring and hateable music all the time because it is so stupid and it is always the same. So I get depression very often when I come to the club. I’m supposed to play and the DJ before, my girlfriend doesn’t like it. It can be the greatest music and it can be the worst music. Hip Hop is different. It’s always cool. With Hip Hop you can’t get depression. Maybe you don’t like it but it’s always a good quality I think because the tempo is not so stupid. But techno it’s very hard to find. I like most techno that is not so formula. If people like James Holden come from indie or Ricardo Villalobos who is very psychedelic. I don’t know why, maybe there are reasons. Isolee who is not a DJ but he is more from indie too like the Smiths and the Cure and that. If the other side comes through, everybody will use a straight bass drum but if you put in something else it is good for me.
HRFQ : So your DJ set tonight then, what can we expect?
DJ KOZE : Not the good things, only the dumb. I don’t know, I try to make it warm and deep. I don’t know, I think it’s a little bit difficult here. I played here last year and it was very dark. I think the people are too shy, too shy to dance. I asked last year to put on some red light. Some warm… But they said “No. If it’s too bright the people don’t dance”. And I know it for myself if it’s dark I dance. But it was a little bit difficult to connect. I don’t know if that’s typical for Tokyo.
HRFQ : This club is especially dark.
DJ KOZE : Yeah? Yesterday I was in a club called La Fabrique and it was colder than this. It was cold. This is my main problem with techno clubs. It is cold. I will try to make it a bit warm.
HRFQ : Do you have the same problem in Germany as well?
DJ KOZE : Of course yeah. Some clubs are totally on drugs, even more than here I think. They are naked. They are coming in and I am thinking “Oh god I can’t!”. Then it is seven in the morning and I say “I have to go I am tired”. And they say, “What?! It’s seven are you ill? Do you need a doctor?”. Because they are making party long until twelve or two. In the Ricardo Villalobos scene they make party until four the next day, on Monday. It’s normal. The new style in Berlin is from Friday until Tuesday without sleep. For me I am too old. I can only last six hours or eight hours but not twenty two hours. It’s the new style in techno. After after after hours. The people are morphing into monsters. It’s not good for me. I think a good party is maybe five hours or three hours or six hours but not three days.
HRFQ : All the DJs at the moment are playing German music. Do you think that has helped your career?
DJ KOZE : I thought about this and I’m a little bit thankful that I am doing what I am doing at the moment in this moment. So I think it’s good. I think it’s the time before the big wave. Germany’s labels, distributors and producers were working very straight with a big vision for years. Like ATA and playhouse, like Kompakt. They’ve been doing it for years and nobody cares. Only a small crowd, and now more people are watching and they can’t believe the quality because it isn’t new. There are one hundred releases from Kompakt and eighty releases from ATA so I think in five years we will have a totally different situation. Now the big names are still American like Roger Sanchez and Armand van Helden and Ibiza and the British style or Sasha and Tiesto. I think in five years or so other people will be. A little bit Alter Ego, last year they crossed the mainstream a little bit. So I think many acts will follow. So it’s good. It’s more in the grass roots grown.
HRFQ : Do you think your music can cross into the mainstream like Rocker from Alter Ego?
DJ KOZE : No this is very outstanding. Rocker and Geht’s Noch or James Holden remixes. I think it only happens once a year, once every three or five years. Maybe sometimes I don’t try for this. What I like in this music, most music is done very quickly. Maybe only one week or two nights. And this is it. Then eight weeks later you’ve got the vinyl and this is very short. It’s not video, no MTV, no radio promotion. They don’t have to be a hit. If they sell three thousand everybody is happy. If it sells 500,000 the money is in and you spend it. This is a good thing to see. It’s not about money it’s about bringing the movement further. Then if sometimes, like Rocker, it sells 40,000 everybody is happy. Without MTV, without industry and Crazy Frog, and O2. “You can buy it now!”. This is the wrong world.
HRFQ : Is this something you worry about, your music becoming like that?
DJ KOZE : A little bit with International Pony. With that we are on Sony Columbia and this is a different speech. They sign us because maybe they think there could be sales. I don’t know. We have to get the pressure away. It’s normal, the major records are only about money. It’s not about music.
HRFQ : Are there any International Pony releases coming up?
DJ KOZE : In March we will release the next album. It sounds like Crazy Frog, on acid.
HRFQ : Are you still releasing from Sony?
DJ KOZE : Yeah. I’m a little bit in both worlds. The very independent world and the major world. I like more the independent world but I get more money in the major world. But I don’t see it. Maybe it’s good for Pony because it’s more pop.
HRFQ : What about any releases coming up for Adolf Noise or Fischmob?
DJ KOZE : Now it’s coming down. This was my climax. Now James Holden likes me and from now it goes down hill. Now, I’m supposed to remix for Josh Wink. He had this track Don’t Laugh from I think 1998 or so. He will re-release it and he asked me to do a remix and also International Pony. No more.
End of the interview
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