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Live And Direct: Isolée



Isolée, hailing from Frankfurt residing in Hamburg, is by some credited as being instrumental to the resurgence of minimal in the early 2000’s. During his childhood Isolée, Rajko Müller, was bought an organ for Christmas and he and a friend took it upon themselves to try their hand at some synth-pop. Through a series of progressive steps Rajko found himself tiring of synth-pop and developing an affinity for house, hip-hop and techno. Through some good fortune, Müller’s early productions found themselves in the hands of Playhouse Records and since ’96 he has continued to release quality music from the heart. The mere fact that he has almost exclusively released music on Playhouse Records for around ten years of his career is testament itself to the calibre of productions we have grown to expect from Isolée. With a penchant for playing live he talks to DT about how he considers himself a record producer rather than a DJ. He will be playing live at Rhythmatic on 18 May in London alongside Julietta, founder of highly regarded Harry Klein Records. The forward thinking Rhythmatic line-ups continue to simmer away, each building progressively upon the previous, drawing in upcoming talents and combining this with an established figurehead from the scene. Isolée playing live certainly fits the description of established, having spent over a decade watering and pruning his live set to perfection. Here is what he had to share with us.

Thanks for taking time to speak with us ahead of your appearance at Rhythmatic this month. “Allowance” was our EP of the week back in February and we at DT absolutely loved it! For any of our readers who are not so familiar with your discography, can you tell us a little about the music that you produce and the music that you like to play when you DJ?

I’m not a DJ at all, I only produce music. But I don’t like to talk about it, especially to describe or explain it. I prefer the listener to have his own journey with the music. In my opinion there is too much emphasis on categorisations, especially in electronic music.

Can you explain the video to “Allowance”… where does the inspiration for the video come from?

I could give the same answer here concerning the video. I have chosen a person to make the video without giving her any instructions or a script, she was free to do what she wanted. I thought film is her media while music is mine. It was an experiment in the way that I had more or less no idea about what comes out. But of course, if I wouldn’t have liked it, I could have tried to take some influence or just not use it. But I liked it that way, and here again, I don’t think someone should explain it, because I prefer the idea that there is not just one explanation, everyone can have their own interpretation.

With IT being so advanced do you feel there is still a difference in the nature of the sound you can get from hardware compared to the synths you have on music production software? Or for you is it about having the physical kit that you can touch and manipulate rather than staring at a screen when producing music?

I try to get the best of both worlds with a little more passion for older pieces of hardware because of their history and the heavy engineering put into their development and the way you can handle them. But for producing music, most important to me is how fast and intuitively I can work with the equipment to reach a sound that I like. And some of the classic synths like a roland juno-106 is just perfect in that way, also it sometimes seems to be to limited or boring, but limitation is actually not bad to get creative. But I also think that the special idea of a soundscape that leads to a new track often doesn’t come from one synth but from some recorded sounds, parts or acoustical instruments etc, that have been worked on again and again. Then, when you want to add some bass or chords, a classic synth often is just perfect.

You’re playing a live set at Rhythmatic this month, do you tend to play many of your own tracks when playing live? I can understand that you don’t get so much pleasure from hearing your own music as you say it’s lost the element of surprise, I wonder if you feel the same about dropping your own tracks in your sets?

That’s the difficult thing in playing live sets. You always try to refresh music that you have already been working on so long and that you know in every detail. Still the different situations in the clubs, the crowd etc. makes it exciting every time, and then you need your personal tricks to get into it and to surprise yourself.

How long have you been playing live for now? And how has your live set changed and evolved since you started playing live? (Both in the way that you approach it and the kit that you use).

I have played live for more than 10 years now, but I have to say that I’m not playing all the time. I have times I am touring around and I had years where I played almost no gigs. My set developed in a way that I can more spontaneously choose the tracks I’m going to play in every situation, whilst in the beginning I had my set prepared from the beginning to the end in my studio. Then I also try to get the best sound possible in a live situation, because you have to consider that a live set is not mastered like the music that is played by the DJs before or after my set.

Does playing live, after doing it for long enough, ever become more relaxed or is it always something that requires the utmost concentration?

I have become more relaxed due to a better technical set up; that makes you feel more comfortable.

Have you ever considered taking a more DJ orientated route?

I sometimes thought that DJing would be a more comfortable option, because you can always go and buy new records. But I never tried hard enough to learn how to DJ, and I spend too much time with my own music than listening to new releases and filtering through for records I like, which is a big part of the job a DJ does.

What was it that originally made you want to go into teaching and at what point did it all change?

I let things happen. I never thought that making electronic dance music would be a profession. I just spent more and more time with it, started to earn money with it and therefore neglected my studies until I was thrown out of university…

You’ve not been touring quite so much lately, has this given you more time to do things outside of your career that interest you? Or have you been spending most of your time locked away in the studio?

There is always a point when I slow down touring because I need to create new music also work on my live setup. You can’t be touring all the time the way I make music, it would start to get annoying and frustrating because I would miss something new in it. I would then wish I could produce new music more quickly which is not a realistic option.

Are you currently working on anything production/remix wise?

I have been working on a remix for a French singer called “Dani” that I liked very much, because it wasn’t a dance-music thing. I will also be working on another remix in the near future that I don’t want to reveal now… Besides this I have a schedule of live dates that is not too busy, so I have time to spend on the next EP.

Thank you for taking the time out to answer these questions. We look forward to seeing you in London!


Catch Isolée live at Rhythmatic, alongside Julietta and Rhythmatic residents Archie Hamilton and Stathis Lazarides, on 18 May 2013.


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