Love and Idealism: Digitalism
There are few more interesting outfits in electronic music than Hamburg natives Digitalism with the eccentric duo otherwise known as Jens “Jence” Moelle and İsmail “Isi” Tüfekçi capturing the worlds imagination for well over a decade now. Since forming over a mutual love of vinyl the pair have gone onto enjoy success around the globe remixing esteemed artists such as Depeche Mode, The Presets, and Cut Copy whilst releasing on some of the industry’s coolest labels such as Kitsuné, OWSLA and Toolroom Records, and even delivered their own edition of the acclaimed DJ Kicks mix series last year.
We recently caught up with the maverick pairing ahead of their London performance at XOYO on November 16th to discuss their roots in Hamburg and the revitalization of the scene within the city, their love of Japan and traveling, the inextricable links between fashion and electronic music, their new single ‘Lift’ and naturally their future plans.
You’ve said previously that Digitalism started as a reaction to bland records you were hearing in a Hamburg record store, which gives me the impression that Hamburg was something of a sleepy city. What were your experiences there?
Hamburg was really interesting actually. Not a lot of people know the story of Hamburg, but we had a great club called Front that was massive in the 80s. People like Depeche Mode and Madonna would all party there. It was a gay club that started playing amazing house records from the past, most of which came from America; they brought this ‘house’ sound to Hamburg actually. There are so many crazy stories that even I don’t want to know everything that happened there! What is really interesting is that the DJ played behind a wall, so you never saw them. The people didn’t care, they just danced.
Talking of clubbing, one of the first tracks I ever heard from you was ‘Homezone’, with the lyrics “I’ve got the biggest party ever..”. What’s the most memorable party you’ve played at?
We went to a small club in Osaka, Japan in 2006. The capacity was 150 but the club was so packed that there wasn’t any oxygen; Jence was trying to smoke and somebody had to go outside to light it because there was no oxygen to get a flame in the club. It’s a gig that will forever stay in my mind.
Coincidentally, I read one of your old interviews, and when they asked you the question ‘where are you happiest’, you said ‘Japan is where I’m happiest’…
Yeah, yeah. We have a really big fan-base in Japan. It’s always nice to play there; the people are so kind and not only that but the country is so nice, there’s so much to see, to do.
You’re touring in Australia right now, which is very different…
Australia is totally the opposite from Japan! Aussie’s you know – there’s no way to describe Aussies! They like to drink, they like to party. What is really interesting is that in the past when we played at events like Parklife or Future we found Australia to be really in front of the times – arriving in Australia refreshed our minds because people had already started listening to something else. It doesn’t seem to be like that anymore…its similar to everywhere now and that’s a bit sad, you know.
Spending so much time on the road, have you had to become very disciplined in the way you approach music as a profession, or do you still find time to indulge in the partying – in the ‘perks’, if you will?
It depends: there are some wild times where you go crazy, but I have to say that in the whole 9 years of Digitalism we have only missed two or three flights. Our tour manager, Piet, is one of the hardest workers in the world. He organizes everything 24/7: our flights, our hotels, our visa. There is always a period where you go wild and you come down, but you recognise that if you’re doing this for good you really need your energy. There are some people out there than can party 350 days a year and I’m like ‘wow, that’s totally wild’. But that’s their lifestyle, its up to them you know.
I’m 22 and when I started getting into electronic music it was through you guys, Justice, Boyz Noize – that whole sound which exploded between 2006-2008. Do you notice your fans now as being changed from then?
They’re totally different! If you look at the United States, for example, you realise that the audience totally changed. When we started in 2006 with Justice and everybody, it was generally the same people going to all the parties. After 2006 people began getting older, getting families, moving out, listening to something else…we really needed to create a new fan base. It’s been an interesting experience in that way, because we’ve had to improve and work harder than usual.