Watergate has long been an integral institution located deep in the heard of the world’s electronic dance music capital, Berlin. An honour to be booked to play at such an institution hailed for it’s innovation, all the while devoid of pretentiousness. Tiefschwarz, brothers Ali and Basti (Sebastian) Schwarz, themselves have been held in similarly high esteem for well over a decade now. The Watergate agency being the perfect fit for these two musical masterminds, both adoptees of the beautiful city of Berlin having originally grown up in their hometown of Stuttgart.
Nowadays Ali and Basti spend little time in their native Germany, with considerable demand globally for their diverse array of sounds ever underpinned by a sense of fun and groove. Constantly reinventing themselves, their style of music has continued to evolve, never getting stuck in a rut or sounding generic. The thing that has always struck me about these DJs is their humility, their ability to remain grounded and not come across as superstar DJs. Similarly impressive an attribute is the way in which they go about their business; not wanting to be different or buck trends for attention but simply doing what they do with their heart and soul.
On the brink of a new album and some exciting parties lined up for the run into 2015 we spent some time with Ali to get some insight into how they continue to maintain passion and excitement for a job they have been doing for almost 20 years now.
Hi Ali, we’re very excited about the upcoming album. How is that all going?
Well it’s been pretty busy. Constantly going from the studio to travelling and vice versa. We need a break!!
How long have you been working on it for?
It’s hard to say as it wasn’t a single process. It’s been a bit stop start over the last year I would say. Although the last three months have been pretty full on with work on the album. We started collecting content for it about a year ago though.
What can we expect with regard to the sound of the album?
It will be a hybrid between house and techno with a lot of vocals too. We have a main singer whose name is Khan, a guy that we worked with back in the day on a project called “Captain Comatose” on Playhouse. He’s a great guy; an amazing singer and an amazing character. We’ve known each other for a long time but two years ago we bumped into him in Mexico City and we were telling him about our idea to release a new album and so on that night we decided to work together. It was amazing from the very first moment when we gave him the layouts as he would go away and write the melodies for the vocals. It was just the perfect match. So for this album he is like the third part of Tiefschwarz almost. It’s very much electronic dance music but with a sleazy and fun side to it. It’s not too serious and has a nice edgy vibe to it.
Reminds me of Trust with Seth’s vocals over the top…
Yeah, it’s kind of like that. That vocal where the singer has a twinkle in their eye and it’s a bit raunchy! Not just super serious all of the time. We want to take it on stage and he’s just a great performer so we can transport that vibe to the live project.
Does playing live give you a chance to reinvent the album?
Yes. It will also be a reinterpretation of the album. One of the good things is that Khan has a lot of experience in playing live and that will help to reinterpret the album. Taking it from a hard drive or a CD to a live moment brings back the organic part of the process of making it. Especially his presence on stage gives it another aspect, it becomes not only about his voice but also the way that he interacts with people visually. What I really love about him is that despite being a really smart person he doesn’t take himself too seriously.
It’s interesting you say that you’re going to be playing live as a live set feels closer to the studio and I have always felt that on the back of your many successful releases that your affinity for the studio supersedes that for the DJ booth. What do you think?
I think we enjoy both just as much. It has changed a lot over the years too though. Maybe for the next ten years it will be more about the production side of things. The DJ side you have to ride the wave, enjoy it when you’re in demand around the world. I think it’s the combination of both though honestly. On this occasion Basti has dug into his record box and gone back some years. We made this album all by ourselves and so I guess the production side may at times carry more weight too.
An interesting thought for consideration with regard to your productions is the way that they have evolved over time genre-wise. How does it work over the years when there are two lots of creative input? Do your tastes in music evolve in the same direction at the same rate?
I don’t know the word in English but it’s like having two circles overlapping in the middle and the middle part is the two of us. It’s like an eclipse. Basically the bubble that encapsulates our similarities in tastes is quite big. Funny enough, in the studio it is very easy for us to find the right moment, even compared to when we are playing. It’s kind of a blind trust thing. It’s also because there is so much music out there and so much information that it can be hard to filter. It’s just an organic process you know?
Changing the topic to touring schedules. Are you guys touring much over the rest of the year?
We are touring constantly. We’ve just got back from the States and then we’re in London on Saturday at Studio 338. We have not been touring quite as much as usual recently with the album though.
Constantly on the move must make it difficult to have a family life… do you both have your own families in Berlin?
My brother has been with his girlfriend for almost ten years now. Me on the other hand I have been married and divorced already too (laughs). He is kind of married I guess. I was too and I do miss it at times to be honest.
With constant touring around the world it must be almost impossible to have a family life and spend time at home.
You have to spin it around. Look at it that the rest of the time you are super flexible. I mean I can make time whenever I want to, I can go on holiday whenever I want to. None of this 9 to 5 steady job. Other people are in a steady job all the week through but I’m not. It’s my decision though, I can be if I want to. In Berlin a lot of my DJ friends have kids and family and it works. I think it’s something that you have to do in a relationship anyway; you have to make agreements and compromises and of course your partner has to understand your life and your world and what comes with being a DJ. I think though that if you fall in love with somebody that there’s quite a bit of tolerance. There are rules in any relationship though; I know couples who are going out and there are trust issues, these are problems in any relationship. Of course from the cliché side of things a DJ is always surrounded by groupies etc but I see that in other jobs too.
So on Saturday you will be DJing together but occasionally you play separately too.
Yeah, it can depend on the show, the occasion. The size of the venue and it’s also a question of money of course. Both of us is the full version but single gigs can be good too because of that eclipsing I was talking about. Even if you book just the one of us you get at least 80% of what we stand for, you don’t get a completely different musical background showing up with one of us playing EDM and the other playing deep house!
Out of interest, do you play back to back together?
Lately we have started playing back to back actually where we may play one or two records each. It does depend though on the party. If you play all night long for example it can be nice if one of us plays for half an hour and the other can go to the toilet or go and smoke a cigarette.
Cool. So when does the album drop?
At the beginning of next year. In Europe it will be out on Watergate records who are also our agency. We are still looking for an overseas partner to cover the States though.
And you’ll be doing an international tour for the album?
Of course. We haven’t started working on any of the live performance yet though so it’s all very much in the early stages of being organised yet. The tour is a work in progress and will most likely be a mix of live and DJ sets.
Tiefschwarz’s album will be released early in 2015 but you can catch them on Saturday 27 September in London at Studio 338 for the Watergate takeover.