Discoboxer is a Berlin based live techno duo, dismantling the frames of electronic music performance by adding an array of improvised elaborative melodies and beats to their signature hard sound. The contrasting approach they each bring to the production process and live sets, combined with a rare thrive to challenge themselves, surprise the audience and improve techniques continuously have earned them a certain recognition in the local techno scene as well as a debut EP on KEY Vinyl and a solid festival experience. Their club track In:ge – a particularly tenacious, heart racer with a delicate twist – just got released on Krill Musik’s visionary OKIAMI trilogy compilation. The two long term friends Joe and David, talk about their musical transitions, nonconformist stance in the scene and an unapologetic pursuit to play harder.
Hello guys, good to see you. I know you briefly so please let’s start with the formation of your friendship and musical bonds. When did you meet and how did you get to know each other?
D: Hey, thanks for coming by! Back in 2006 we were both playing guitar in hardcore bands. Joe’s band was looking for a new bass player and they asked me. We became friends straight away.
David, you were born in Armenia, when did you come to Berlin? Are you influenced musically by your roots somehow? You and Joe went on a trip to Armenia together, what was your experience there?
D: Yes, I am born in Armenia and moved to Berlin when I was 7 years old. I grew up with Jazz and Blues and never really listened to armenian music. We played the opening of the very first techno club in Armenia called Poligraf. I helped them with some bookings and the programming. The crowd received it very well – everyone was dancing really hard. It is different there – the club is closing in the morning, not like here where people hang out at a party for two days.
It does happen a lot here! So you contributed to the dawn of the rave culture there. And how did you guys decide to switch from metal and hardcore to producing techno?
D: I went travelling for 3 years and when I came back to Berlin I wanted to start making music again. I met Joe the first night out in Prince Charles where he was DJing.
I immediately started playing in a punk band called The Detained again but felt limited soundwise. To explore a wider range of sounds and rhythms I got together with Joe and we started experimenting.
You were also DJing? Was this your first intention to get into the electronic music scene?
J:After I stopped playing in bands I got a bit into DJing and collecting records.
I was mainly playing House and left field weirdo music for fun. That was the time I also got into producing.
Would you say the art of DJing is not stimulating enough for you then?
D: It is a completely different thing. We are improvising on the spot and creating a jam-like situation. We wanted to get to a level where we only play live, improve our technique and make it as challenging as possible. It was also very important for us to get away from any screens and laptops. I think the difference to other Live acts is that they recreate songs that they wrote. Which is also very difficult but that’s not what we do. We are more like two jazz musicians who jam together and evolve constantly.
What is your set up? How do you decide on what gear to add and which sound to include in the kit? Do you go strictly analog?
J: Our set up is a drum machine(Analog Rytm), a sampler (Octatrack) and effects and modular. It has stayed the same apart from adding some machines but in general we stick to the drum machine, the modular and the sampler. We realised from the beginning that we need a really good drum machine so we got an Analog Rytm by Electron, a pretty good one. Then modular got quite interesting for us so we got into it. We are not following the latest synthesisers news, well.. only to a certain extend of course, but it is not essential. We’ve got friends working at the Schneidersladen (Kreuzberg) to whom we talk to.
D: The best part about the set up is that you cannot fully control it. You permanently have the factor of variability and it’s always interesting – like an experiment in which you try to “tame the dragon”.
Your first EP came out in February as part of the Leather, Steel & Fist Trilogy on Freddy K’s label KEY. Hardwax describes it as fabulous, stealthy and banging. It does indeed sound like taming dragons, how did the release come about?
D: I am friends with Freddy and he asked me if we only play live or we also produce. I said we do but only just for us to have fun, and that it could get quite experimental or breaky. He was interested and opened up about the series he is releasing. I presented him 5-6 tracks, he picked three and the EP was done. It was special to have our first release on such an iconic vinyl label run by an absolute role model and techno genius. We got some good gigs and exposure through it.
Leather, Steel & Fist is eminently conceptual. Do you want to produce more contextual tracks or take part in series and sound narratives with other artists?
This is not something we specifically aim to do, although our second release is also within a compilation. It just got out on the Argentinian-Norwegian imprint Krill Music. They compiled a 27 VA track LP called Okiami which will be divided and distributed in three parts. We showed a few tracks to the label head and he picked one, so we just had to finalise it. The track is called in:ge and really fits to the label sound – it is just straight techno, unlike the Fist EP.
Exciting news, looking forward to hear this! They showcased techno luminaries like Stanislav Tolkachev and Szare. Do you associate with certain crews, venues and promoters? I know you’ve been playing several times at Griessmuehle, do you gather a niche audience there or it’s quite mixed?
We are not part of any collectives – we do our own thing. The guys behind the Synoid party are our friends so we play there sometimes. I feel their crowd is predominantly young, German raver kids rather than the same old techno snobs. They always stay from beginning to end and are much more open to dance to everything we introduce, including music they wouldn’t normally listen to. We can push our performance out of the expected frames. So yeah, they are quite appreciative – the younger you are, the longer you want to stay.
You’ve been playing at festivals like Her Damit, Lighthouse in Croatia, Feel Festival and 7001 in a bunker just outside Berlin. What are your impressions and was there a balance between the bookings of live acts and DJs?
D: I booked 7001 and with 6 live acts it was a lot for a festival. I totally understand that at a Festival it is hard to book Live acts as it way more work then just bringing a USB. It is already hard enough to get a great sound for DJs. However 7001 was in my eyes still the best Techno Festival ever with acts like Tensal, Freddy K, OKA, DVS1, Ansome, Ayarcana, UVB, Tham and Acierate from Synoid as well.
Do you tend to go more experimental in your live acts or prefer to deliver club music? How do you prepare for live sets?
No, I’d say we go for club music – that’s what we do. It’s not like we are creating some crazy, otherworldly atmosphere, we make purely dance music. There’s not much preparation.
We practice and jam together but if you do this for too long it becomes unbearable. We play for an hour, then sit down to produce and go jam again. Producing and writing together is quite fun.
Are you mostly driven to work with unpredictability and exploring new sounds when writing or you start with a specific structure in mind? What is your production flow and do you each have a different approach to it?
D: We start with jams to get ideas on what we’ve drafted and what melodies could be arranged together. In terms of the process we are completely different – Joe is more in his head, looking into the details and I am trying to break them. I make sure the details do not overtake and simplify the stream. It’s crucial to stick with the core idea and not overproduce it.
Since you come from a heavy metal and punk background would you consider producing EBM or delving into other genres?
D: I like to do everything as long as it’s hard and distorted.
J: I don’t know, we’ve never tried it but there are some influences.