DJs are the foundation of every good party. Like a puppet master, they control the crowd with their music and determine how the floor and people move. To understand this fascination, Monument will take a peek on the work behind the decks.
“In Greek mythology, Thanatos was the daemon personification of death. In classical Freudian psychoanalytic theory, Thanatos represents the death drive (German: Todestrieb); the drive towards death, self-destruction and the return to the inorganic: “the hypothesis of a death instinct, the task of which is to lead organic life back into the inanimate state”. The death drive opposes Eros, the tendency toward survival, propagation, sex, and other creative, life-producing drives.”
After Joachim Spieth, Ness and Hydrangea, we are delighted to present to you our next artist: THNTS. For years, he has been regular active in the Berlin techno scene and already has played at leading venues such as Arena Club, Griessmühle and the infamous ://about blank, where he also works as a booker. Blazej Malinowski, Pris and Lindsey Herbert are just a few of the artists he has played alongside. He is also hosting ESCH and Elements, two series of events that have made a name for themselves with their high quality bookings. We got the chance to talk with him about his work in the booths.
Hello Sebastian, when and how did you learn DJing?
Hello Vy! I started practising at home in the summer of 2013 and had my first gig in the spring of 2014. Back then, I was hanging out with some friends and we all had a similar taste for techno and pretty much taught each other at home in countless-hours-long sessions.
Listening to your mixes, your style of techno is very deep, dark and atmospheric. How did you discover your passion for this direction and where do you get your inspiration from?
My musical background is in atmospheric black metal, so my passion for dark music has always been there. What I just recently discovered is that there is also electronic music with a similar approach, similar mood and atmosphere. Many of my favorite black metal albums are concept albums that tell a story, which is also what is most important for me in a mix. Not just to play great tracks or hits, but also to connect them so they result in one story. It’s an intimate process and sometimes I’m surprised and of course happy that others can follow that. Black metal and other similar genres still continue to be a big inspiration for me, as well as classical music, both of which I listen to mostly at home or on the road.
What is your setup at home?
Pretty standard: Two turntables, two XDJ’s and an old mixer I’m looking to replace with a Xone mixer hopefully soon.
How do you dig for new tracks?
Mostly online. Following artists and labels, checking Discogs, also other podcasts by DJs that I like. I don’t spend a lot of time in record shops, because what I look for is quite specific and it’s hard to find the sound that I’m looking for in a box of used records of the 90s.
You released a ton of mixes and podcasts on Soundcloud. How do you keep the variety?
Haha, good question. I get bored pretty quickly so I’m definitely trying to have a different approach and create something unique somehow. Mostly I start with some tracks that I really like or some transitions and go from there. Sometimes I have a good opening or last track for a mix and the rest develops around that. I think the storytelling makes it also easier to keep variety than just mixing together the latest techno promos without a clear common thread.
You have techno and ambient mixes. What are the differences and similarities between playing techno and ambient?
Well, I approach them in the same way, ambient sets even more focused on the story telling, but it took me much longer to put together ambient mixes. It’s harder to make interesting transitions, because ambient tracks are not made for mixing typically. I also think it is very hard to create a compelling ambient mix as you don’t have a steady kick drum to keep people interested.
Since you are in the scene for quite a while now, you have played alongside many artists. Which artists inspired you the most with their sets?
There were many great artists who I was lucky to hear, it is really hard to name someone particular, because it would be unfair to those I’d forget.
How do you organize your music collection?
I sort my records by label, but the pile of unsorted records keeps getting bigger. I think as long as you know where to look for a specific record you’re doing ok, plus sometimes the beauty lies in the records you find while you are looking another one. Track files I organise by categorising them in different moods, which is usually what I’m looking for when I want to play them.
How do you prepare for a gig? Do you know exactly what you are going to be playing or do you mix spontaneously ?
That really depends on the gig and the slot I play. Usually I prepare the opening of my set, maybe 2-3 tracks that open up the set with a nice atmosphere and I pack some records with the style I want to go to. Besides that I prefer to mix spontaneously, also to be able to react to the crowd and see what they are going for. Opening sets I definitely plan a bit more, depending on who is playing after me. I think it is important to open up with the right vibe, get people on the dancefloor without playing too many peaktime bangers already.
Do you play a lot of vinyl in your performances?
It has gotten less unfortunately. Partly because of my laziness and partly because of some bad experiences with broken or jumping needles, weak motors or uncalibrated pitches. Also most promos that I receive are digital and there is in general so much great music from small labels that is only released digitally.
With how many decks do you play? Do you use external effects?
I rarely play with more than two decks, unless I play some really functional stuff, I prefer to leave the tracks as intended, use their atmospheric drive and pick that up with the next transition. I also don’t use any external effects.
Which slot do you prefer to play? Warm-up, peak time or closing?
Every slot has a different charm and also different challenges. My preference also change every now and then. I like to mix it up every now and then, it can become boring when you only play the same slot every time.
You are also playing occasional b2b-sets. What makes a good b2b set?
I really like to play b2bs, it always gives you a different challenge, to adept maybe to a style that is not particularly my favorite, but still make it work. It is important to have a similar understand of music, to be empathic and make a step towards the person you are playing with and not only play what you want. If both are capable of doing that it can result in something special.
Marcel Dettmann once said in an article, that a residency in a club is important for learning and improving the DJ craft. Since you are also a host of two event series, you are a resident DJ of your own parties. Do you agree with Dettmann, and what have you learned from your residencies?
I agree as personally I did learn a lot from it. I learned to be flexible, to play in front of empty dancefloors, to be more relaxed, to play a completely different slot spontaneously without preparation and much more. As a resident,your job is mostly to open or close the night and always before/after acts with different sound. I always liked that challenge, because you need to put some thought into it on how you create that trip, either to set the mood for the night or how to send people home with a good feeling.
You played in a lot of venues. What are the most important things for you to make the performance enjoyable for you?
Most importantly for me is that the technical equipment is in a good condition and that the monitor speakers are decent, if you have to overcome difficulties there every time you make a transition it is hard to get in a good groove and focus on other things like how to build up the set and what to play next. For the atmosphere and experience of the crowd on the dancefloor of course the sound system is very important and something that is still somehow underrated is the lighting on the dancefloor. As a DJ you can play a great set, but if the lighting on the dancefloor is too bright or just too boring it is hard to get people to lose themselves in the music.
Is there a place where you would like to play for the first time? Country, event, festival or club?
I would love to play more in the nature actually and when it comes to clubs of course: Berghain.
Final question, Could you share 5 of your go-to DJ tools?
Jay Quentin – THNDR
Hironori Takahashi – Jazert (Deepbass Remix)
Rrose – The Surgeon General (No Child Left Behind)
Blazej Malinowski – III
Exium – Nucleoid (Jonas Kopp Remix)