Welcome to DJ Debriefing, a new series of LWE features where we ask DJs about the music they’re actually playing, both old and new. Our second subject is the producer best known to the world as Edward. His name and face have long been associated with White, the Berlin-based label which has been home for more than half his seven year long discography. In kind, Edward own productions have helped to define White alongside those of label owner Oskar Offermann, his longtime friend and regular DJing partner. In fact, the pair are making their way through North America right now, with an LWE presented show this Saturday, October 5th at Smart Bar (you can even win tickets here if you act fast). In anticipation, we spoke with Edward about the records which make his sets special for himself and his audiences.
Let’s pretend we’re starting at the beginning of a DJ set. What would you say is one of your favorite opening tracks, something you’re able to start with no matter when you’re playing in the evening?
Edward: Yeah, I always like to start with a track without any bass drum and stuff like these. Something which is a little bit more calm, because when I start my set, I always feel a little bit like everyone is obviously a little bit tense. People have got this — they always are a little bit stressed to get to the peak very fast. So I try to get this feeling out and to calm myself and to calm people. I mean, if I have a set with just one hour slot, I try to get to the peak also pretty fast; but mostly I start without the bass drum, and this would be like an ambience. Often I have ambient stuff from old German krautrock stuff, which I use a lot in my sets. I don’t play that many tracks of my own, but in the beginning, I mostly start out with the tracks of mine which don’t have bass drum.
I was actually going to ask if you play very many of your tracks during your actual set, and if so, which ones?
Yeah, yeah. I made a remix for Conny Plank. You don’t have the bass drum, it goes, like, 10 minutes, you can mix it really long. It creates atmosphere and then you can go in whenever you think it’s the right moment. In the past I played often my own tracks, but right now I don’t use so many of my own tracks which were released. But I play a lot of edits and loops from, like I said, old kraut, the krautrock groups. And yeah, to try something out, experimental stuff of mine. I use it to get more ambience in the room. But I don’t play that often a released track of mine.
So do you ever play out tracks that you’ve been working on but are not finished and you want to just test them out in a room?
Yeah, always. This I think is really, really important, too. Before I go to mastering, I always play it in a room to, hear it and what does it with the crowd, how does it feel.
Do you find that you make changes based on how the crowd reacts?
Speaking of producing — I mean if the crowd reacts very well, I’m really, really happy with the track, and I’m maybe a little bit more encouraged to give it out as a demo or something like this. But if the crowd doesn’t seem to be satisfied, I wouldn’t put the bass drum bigger or something like this. If the room’s really full and you hear the track really loud, it’s a great opportunity; you will never have the chance to hear the track in this situation. And this is the most important situation, so this is a great opportunity to check out your track and how it feels for you, not so much for the crowd.
So when you were playing out this summer, was there something that you would call this year’s summer jam?
It’s really obvious, but really, really good for me was MMM’s “Que Barbaro.” It was a real hit for me and for many other people, I guess. But this is, for me, like a really summer jam. You want to hear it in the sun, you want to party — it’s really great. It’s perfect. It’s a little bit Balearic, but yeah, I like it a lot. The dub side’s also really good, but the summer jam, really, is the A-side.
Is there a particular record you use if the crowd starts not going your way, if you’re kind of in a jam, that will help put things back on the right path?
You mean like a sure shot?
Yeah, I guess you could say that.
Yeah, I mean it’s always the question of the context. If I play in a small room, I would more go into the house-y way, but as it gets bigger, I would go more in a harder way. If the crowd is splitting and it’s a small room, I always think maybe I’m too hard, but if the room is big and people don’t seem to be satisfied, I think most people want to get harder. But yeah, it’s not easy to just name one track. It’s hard because both questions are, like, shameless self-promotion. [laughs]
A really good way to get the people going in any situation are mostly all of the tracks of my DJ partner, Oskar Offermann. I don’t know why — maybe it’s because it fits so good in our tracks, but I don’t know. They are always working. And they are not cheap or something like this, so this is something I always have in my backpack. Maybe another track from Johannes Volk. “Unlocked,” it’s called. You know it? This is, like, really bomb. Whenever played it, it was, like — big, small, it was really, people were really feeling it. And I didn’t expect it when I played it the first time, but it’s a really big tune for me. So yeah, this is maybe something I always pull out.
Are there any other tracks that when you first heard them you didn’t think that they would work in a club context, but then you actually tried it, it worked better than you expected?
Yeah, I mean I have the complete opposite. I have this one track, a disco tune from Sylvester, “Over and Over.” It’s a big hit, and when I was very young — I think it was kind of my first DJ lesson I got — I got this big opportunity because a really great DJ got sick and he asked me, “Hey, come pick up your records and you can play here. I can’t do it anymore.” And it was a great party in Frankfurt. So I got there, really, really nervous, and I just pulled out the records I thought, “Yeah, this will work out really great. I don’t think that I ever killed a floor like this again. There was really no one staying on the dance floor, and this was one track I played, was Sylvester “Over and Over.” It was so humiliating, that experience, I was kind of traumatized.
For 10 years I didn’t touch this record. Still, I really I love it. But then once I played it again, and was nervous because I had this big experience with it. It was one of the greatest DJ moments I ever had because this track. It’s so perfect in the way it raises from chorus to chorus. And the crowd is always waiting for the next chorus and screaming. So yeah, it’s always, like the harder a track is play, the bigger the reaction you get out of it when used at a certain moment.
Something quite the opposite: what would you say are some of your favorite or go-to tool tracks?
Yeah. Somehow I have a little problem with this word “tool,” because I’ve got different definitions of “tool.” Many DJs talking about tools, it’s just a perfectly produced track that doesn’t have so much, you could say, character in it. It’s just bass drum, hi-hat, theme, break, and then it goes on. For me and for many other DJs, too, maybe — the characteristic of a tool is dry and monotone and mostly really, really spiritual. Some DJs maybe need tools to get somewhere; I always try to get to the tool somehow. And where I can start working with them. For me, the biggest club tracks are great tools.
A great tool, I would say, is this DJ Qu that just came out; I think “Liquid Beats” is the name. But I’m a little bit frightened to say, “Oh, it’s a great tool,” and for other people “tool” is not a great word for that track. But for me, I would love to produce a great tool, but I think I never did. Another tool I always get out of my record bag is the Pole “Silberfisch” Mike Huckaby remix. It’s on Slices of Life. Great label. Yeah, Cabinet [Records] — Horseshoe, Honey Drop, Cab Drivers, there are billions of great tools in it.
You were saying some people think of tool as a bad thing. I think that when DJs are actually playing, though, these tracks are very important because we can’t always necessarily make everything work between the other tracks we like playing. It’s a powerful thing, and it’s something that if it’s done well, there’s a good reason why those records actually sell many copies.
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. But still, sometimes the tool is the big track of the set, you know? Sometimes this is the one where all the character and stuff can be in it. I always try to get there, try to get off the big tracks which are obvious and stuff like this. And then I can start to build the– I get a lot of small ambiences from the 70s or 80s, of post-punk or wave records. And you can put it over, and you can start to play around a little bit. These moments are the moments where it starts to get really interesting and joyful for me as a DJ.
Sure. What would you say is the oldest record that’s still in your DJ bag?
I mean the oldest record still would be something from the 80s, I guess. I’ve always got in my records some Holger Czukay and Jah Wobble and Jaki Liebezeit, “How Much Are They?” It’s classic. I don’t know how would you describe this kind of music. It’s just great. If you play it, it’s like the time stands still. But you would have to put it in the right moment. Sometimes I got this Brian Eno stuff to just put it over — when I play some techno, I sometimes just let Brian Eno’s Thursday Afternoon, it goes one hour or something like this. Just chords and pads and you can really put it over, not the whole set, but it can come back again and it gives the whole picture a really great, moody ambience.
That’s interesting to think about, having a track that’s that long that you could literally bring in and out as long as you wanted to.
Yeah, yeah. I’ve got many of these ambient [tracks] and you can bring it in and out, so the more tool-y your set gets, the more you can bring these kinds of things in. It gets more creative.
Sure. So let’s go to the opposite of that. What’s the most recent record that you’ve put in your bag?
Sure, stuff from friends, which will be released soon that was, like, the hot shit you always have that people don’t know. This one track from Ateq, who’s also from the Giegling camp. Like, the name’s “Tet For Drums” I’ve played it a lot, and it’s really great, but it’s going to be released in two weeks or something like this, so it won’t be a secret weapon anymore. Stuff from Traffic Records This is a kind of new label, something in between electro and techno. The second release will come out really soon. This is really fresh stuff I really like. It’s not only that it’s new and just produced, it also sounds very fresh for me. The new Vid Vai on White is really great. It just came out. I played it a lot, me and Oskar.
You and Oskar did the record together on Thema. Is there going to be more collaborative stuff between you two?
Yeah, hopefully, hopefully. The Thema thing was a great thing — a great friend of ours in New York, Lenny [Posso]. This was a great opportunity, and definitely we will work together in the future, I hope so. We are playing so many gigs together. Most of the gigs we are playing together. We had so many great nights in the last year, and yeah, this will continue on record, to.
How did you two end up deciding to start DJing together since both of you have your own separate DJ careers?
We are close friends since 12 years or something like this. Oskar started as a live act, not with a laptop, but with an MPC and drum machines and much equipment. His live act was kind of special, and so he always tried to help me, doing the warm up or playing behind him. Sometimes we’d play together. At Bar25, when it still existed, we went back to back with his live act. It was really weird because we couldn’t beatmatch that good because the MPC was not that straight. He decided to start DJing, too, because carrying all the stuff around and the cables, it was fun for two years, but then not so much. It was clear to us we spoke the same language, music-wise, and yeah, it just was the logical next step that we start DJing together. Since then people like it and we like it, and so we go on. It’s also so much nicer to have to have a friend around when you travel.
When you guys are playing your Chicago show at Smart Bar, are you guys going to be playing back to back, or are you going to be playing separate sets?
I wouldn’t call it separate sets. I don’t know. Sometimes we play back to back for hours, but sometimes I say, “Hey, I want to do this and that,” and then — yeah, half an hour, half an hour and then back to back. But we really never planned it before, and it just happens. We are not forced to play back to back the whole evening, but most of the time we play back to back.
And Discogs suggests you have another project from last year called Desert Sky. Is that actually you?
Yes, that is me.
How would you say this project, for you, is different than what you would put out under Edward?
This project is based on edits I made, and I didn’t want to put my name under edits of krautrock bands. This is the first time I started my own label. So I’m really free to do whatever I like to do. And yeah, I played out these edits more for me in the DJ sets, but people were reacting so special, and so I was encouraged to put it out. I have so many tracks in this area — edits I just play — and why not share it? And so this was the idea of the label, but then somehow there are so much elements that are not mine because they are edits. And so I thought it’s a little bit rude to put my name on it, you know?
Right. Are there going to be more Desert Sky records coming out?
Yeah, next one is in a month or something.
To sort of start bringing things to a close, I wondered if you would tell me what kind of headphones you use, what kind of needles you use, and what your favorite record bag is.
Sorry, there’s nothing special about this one.
I think most people just like to know what their favorite DJs use because we’re all in this and we all like to know what’s good gear.
For the headphones, I like the Sennheiser, which is everyone uses because they are the most loudest headphones. But for the ear, it feels much more comfortable to have these Technics headphones, but they’re a little bit lower in the volume. So yeah, you have to decide. I took the Sennheiser.
For the needles, it’s really annoying because I always talk to the guys at the mastering studio. They are always discussing these Ortofon needles, which are in every club and are really shitty. But when they master a record — as every club has these Ortofon needles — or many clubs, they master a record, they do the cut for these needles, even though they know that they are pretty shitty. They would always use the Shure systems, but I think records are more done for the Ortofon. Some DJs carry these Shure systems around and put them on, I don’t. Maybe I will do it in the future, but until now, I just take what is there. And the DJ bag question, you need a trolley. The 50/50 thing is really great, but I still use the UDG. Yeah, it’s stable. It’s OK.
What your plans are for the next 12 months or so?
Release-wise, or DJ-wise?
Either way. Whatever your plans are for the next period of time.
I’ve got some releases coming up, like the new Desert Sky. I did a remix on Rue de Plaisance which will come in a month or something like this. A new release coming on the sub-label of Giegling; they made a new sub-label. And yeah, I’m working on my album, but I can’t tell you when it’s going to be finished, but this is the big project.
Another album already?
I mean the last one was last year.
Yeah, but I always marvel at people who are able to move fast and do an album every other year or something like that because it just seems like it takes a lot of effort to get it right.
Yeah, it’s the big project, but I’ve got this vision in my mind, and once I have this idea, I don’t stop working until I have it. I can’t say how much time this will take, but I got this thing in my mind, and it has to come out now, otherwise it won’t. Yes, and club-wise, me and Oskar, we had a really great time. So we will do this next year more often, as we heard. And I just started to make a live act. I’m really looking forward to this, to play some live sets wherever. Aw shit, I always forget something, but yeah. Maybe some more festivals — I would love to have some more festivals because, yeah, it was a little bit rarely last year. But let’s see what comes next year.
It’s interesting; it seems like some DJs really like festival sets, and others really don’t. What do you like about them so much?
I just want to have this experience. I mean, I had really, really, great small festivals, and what I like about them is it’s really a whole completely different situation to play in the air. People can move to a much bigger space, you see many people dancing alone, and the sun gets down and it can be really magical. With the big festivals, I just want to make this experience, you know? In every different location you can play different music, and I’m always looking forward to these new experiences.