FAZEmag interview with TIEFSCHWARZ
Spektrum — Kinda New (TIEFSCHWARZ dub)
(Plahouse/Nonstop, 2003) This electroid remix of live band Spektrum by German brothers Tiefschwarz slotted perfectly into the electroclash continuum, and set Ali and Basti off on a career of ever-evolving house and techno sounds...
In the early 2000s, dance music was in a rut. The superclub phenomenon had imploded, the hubris of the biggest DJs matched their oversized wallets, and the scene was starting to look bereft of ideas. The period even inspired music critic Alexis Petridis to pen a 2004 feature for The Guardian on why dance music was dead.
It wasn‘t all over, though. The underground provided a solution, in an unexpected form. Post-punk began to filter into house, from such sources as Trevor Jackson‘s Output label, James Murphy and Tim Goldsworthy‘s DFA and others. Jagged guitar, doomy bass and raw-throated vocals became the new hip. Frankfurt‘s Playhouse label was listening, and amidst chic micro-house releases from Villalobos and Isolée, they put out the debut album from London band Spektrum, ‘Freakbox’.
Spektrum‘s natural composite of electronic beats and live instrumentation was among the best of the era, though it‘s the Tiefschwarz dub mix of their ‚Kinda New‘ cut that‘s become their most memorable tune. Powered by pinging slap bass, electro synth, bleeping riffs and snippets of Lola Olafisoye‘s cool voice, sparkling psychedelic chords create a counterpoint between melodic drama and the 4/4 beat‘s propulsive forward momentum. A huge underground hit, ‘Kinda New’ found favour with house and techno DJs, as well as post-punkinspired electroclash kids. The ‚Kinda New‘ remix eventually went mainstream, picked up by commercial dance labels Data, Cr2 and Ultra. But when Tiefschwarz first delivered the mix, they had no idea they had such a big track on their hands. Stuttgart brothers Ali and Basti Schwarz had been tasked with creating a full vocal mix of the song, which they made, but decided to make a dub too. It was the dub that the label, and later DJs, went wild for.
“We are close friends with the whole Playhouse and Robert Johnson posse, [former label boss] Ata, Roman Flugel,” Ali says. “We‘ve been playing there for more than 15 years. At that time, we received a phone call from Ata to see if we were interested in remixing Spektrum. They sent us the material, and we were like, ‘Wow, amazing, of course we want to do a remix’. We put a Lot of time and effort into the vocal remix, and the dub version, which became a huge hit, was the stripped-down, less vocal version. We said, ‘OK, here‘s our remix, and here‘s a dub version on top of it’. Ata said, ‘We love your remix but the dub version is amazing’. We were not sure about it. They took both versions and at the end of the day, the second version was the big hit. It was really funny.”
The remix of Spektrum represented something of a departure for Tiefschwarz at the time. Their deep, disco-inflected house had appeared on Classic Recordings( tunes such as the crisp funk of ‘On Up’), and Four Music. But Tiefschwarz‘s tastes are broad, and they found the darker-edged sounds coming through exciting. The ‘Kinda New’ remix offered a perfect opportunity to flex their skills in this new direction.
“At that time we did a Lot of crossover mixes,” Ali remembers. “That punk-funk, disco clash, techno mixture. It was a really amazing time for dance music‘ cause it was like a whirlwind. It shook up the whole scene. Techno was in a dead-end street. It felt like a fresh breeze going through dance music. We were lucky tobe apart ofthat.”
That the remix was adopted as something of an anthem for the electro/punk revival placed Tiefschwarz firmly within that scene. Several of their subsequent tracks bore that grittier influence, though since, they‘ve returned to classic house and techno tropes.
Ali says that their influences have always been diverse, and that reinvention is their credo. “It happens quickly that people put you in a draw,” he says. “We always redefined our sound, we developed. We did this deep vocal house, then more punky edgy stuff, then pure techno. For us, electronic dance music is such a wide field and the music is so rich, we would feel very limited if we only fitted in one genre. Why do you want to limit yourself? Especially nowadays. A Lot of people do that on purpose to sharpen their profile. But then they‘re also stuck in one corner.”
The track was remixed at engineer Jochen Schmalbach‘s Studio Stehende Welle, and while the vocal version took days, the more famous dub came together very quickly. “The dub mix was a no-brainer,” Ali says. “That happened in one afternoon, bam bam bam bam. That‘s why we were so unsure. Most of the time, when you‘re in the moment you don‘t need much. That‘s how they received it, they were like, ‘The original is very cool, thoughtful programming, you can feel the effort. But the dub mix!’ It was this arse-shaking, not thinking moment. How we made the track was also why it was successful. lt was spontaneous, and there was also a good energy.”
‘Kinda New’ provided a huge boost to the profiles of Tiefschwarz and Spektrum. Ali likens its effect on the band to what happened with two other massive remixes of the ‘90s.
“It happens quite a Lot that a remix really pushes the band, or pushes the career of the original people. Like Boris Dlugosch with Moloko [‘Sing It Back’], Todd Terry with Everything But the Girl [‘Missing’]. We were in an insane position because the remix, we would have done it for free - it was not about money. Then it became such a huge success for the band. They played our remix version live. We had a party once in Berlin and they were performing live, and they were just standing there playing the remix version. It was also their biggest hit.”
Ali is grateful for the opportunities it‘s afforded Tiefschwarz and says meeting Spektrum themselves and hanging out was one of the best things about the collaboration. “lt helped us immensely in our career. And to meet the people from Spektrum was really cool, we had a few amazing moments together. It was not only the success, it was the surrounding, what we got out of it. It was a lucky moment.”
Tiefschwarz celebrate their 20th year DJing and producing in 2017. It‘s destined to be a year-long party, with releases upcoming on their Souvenir Labels, showcases and global live dates. “We decided OK, it‘s happening, let‘s make the whole year the campaign,” Ali says. Part of the reason for their success has been an ability to sidestep categorisation, and ‘Kinda New’ was the point at which they realised they didn‘t have to compromise. “Music is about creativity and life and being open, so for us it was always the way to go forward: reinvent yourself.”
words: Ben Murphy