In Conversation with…Detlef
Detlef is without a doubt one of the most exciting names currently working in the underground scene.
In a very short time he has released and remixed with well respected labels including Hot Creations, Relief, Knee Deep In Sound, Moon Harbour and this includes our Number 2 track from last year ‘SwagOn’ – which he released on Lee Foss’ Repopulate Mars, and Defected earning support from the likes of Marco Carola, Matthias Tanzmann, Yousef, Hot Since 82, and Jamie Jones to name a few.
Equally at home in the booth as he is in the studio, the unique party vibe that he brings to his DJ sets has quickly made him one of clubbers’ favourite names. Often billed on the same line-up with industry giants, Detlef is definitely one to follow.
We sat down with him recently to discuss 2017 and his plans for 2018 including his upcoming back to back tour with Latmun (this included playing for Habitat in Maidstone) and coming up he plays at fabric for Forms on Friday 16th February.
Hey Alex, just wanted to start off by saying what a pleasure it is to sit down and have a chat with you today.
Hey, no worries man, I’ve been running around today like mad but it’s a pleasure to be interviewed!
What a year this has been for you, you’ve officially become one of the top 5 biggest selling tech house artists on Beatport, you’ve been an official resident at Jamie Jones’ Paradise nights at DC-10 and you grabbed yourself 3 dates at ADE. How do you feel this year has been for you?
Yeah man I mean it really was an unbelievable year for me, it was amazing, to be honest. I never expected to get to a point where most of my dreams would come true within a year! So, it really has been a fantastic year for me. I feel very blessed and very happy that you know, after all of these years of trying and making music things are starting to happen. I am from Greece so I didn’t really know anyone, I had to meet and make people know me because of my music. It was kind of a difficult task for me but eventually this year I had a number one on Beatport and as you’ve said I was charted in the top 5 of the best-selling tech house artists of 2017. It was more than I would have ever expected to do in a year, 2017 was the best year of my life!
Absolutely because as you said coming from Greece, I can’t imagine there is much of an appeal out there for tech house. Which leads me on to ask, where did your inspiration come from, when was it that your musical background started to develop?
Well you know because I’ve been making music for a while, over the years I used to release different styles. In the beginning, I was more Chicago house. The sound was really analog and I didn’t have the technology back then to do anything so I had to use synths and stuff which I was really into. I then went on to some soulful house using live instruments and then onto more tribal house. But I was lucky enough because during my early stages, in Greece there was a big scene where lots of parties were going on and all of the big names in the industry would come and play. But since 2009, when the economy started to be problematic, not a lot of parties would happen as the promoters would need to be sure that they will make their money back. This meant that they were only booking DJs from the past that had a more progressive sound and they didn’t really want to experiment with new names. So, for me, the latest years have been quite difficult to follow the tech house sound as it wasn’t very popular in Greece and it still isn’t very popular. This meant I was looking at parties outside of Greece, I was listening to sets from DJs that were playing in places in the UK and then I started working with Steve Lawler and I started playing a lot in the UK. This was when I started to get more into the tech house sound, I was able to hear new tech house productions coming out and even release some myself. The last five years was like school for me, it was really good.
Do you ever play in Greece anymore?
Rarely I would say, In Greece ‘SwagOn’ was a big hit and still is, it’s still played everywhere. But people know ‘SwagOn’ but they don’t know ‘Kinky Tail’, they don’t know ‘K15’ and they just don’t know any music that I did before. So, people only really know me for one song and if I’m honest there aren’t a lot of clubs to play in out in Greece, it’s more bars. It’s a bit of a weird situation, I would love to play in Greece but it’s just kind of weird at the moment.
Linking on from living in Greece, you enjoyed quite a relentless touring schedule in 2017. How do you manage to keep up with it all, travelling all over the place must really start to take its toll?
Sometimes I feel a bit tired with all the travelling but if you think about it it’s not actually that bad. Yeah, I do need to take two or three flights to get to my destination or some days I do ten hours of travelling but you know at the end of the day, as DJs, we do something that is really amazing. We do something that is fun, even if you’re tired when you get to the club you are in a good mood and ready for a party! It doesn’t actually feel so bad during the weekend, it starts to kick in when I get back home and it’s Monday. You then start to realise all of the travelling you have done but during the weekend you don’t really feel it because you know the adrenaline is so high in the club. Haha, you go out have some tequilas, see your friends and the last thing that you have in your mind is how tired you are!
Going back to early 2017, as you mentioned before, you’re ‘SwagOn’ EP was released and went on to become a crowd favourite in raves up and down the country. Did you expect it to get the good response it did and from that how would you describe your sound?
I never expect things from my records, I always make music and when I listen to it I don’t feel very comfortable about it, I always have second thoughts. When ‘SwagOn’ was released I was already worried that it wouldn’t do very well because for some reason it had been leaked and everyone already had it! I was seeing people post online asking for emails so that they could send ‘SwagOn’ out. I was really afraid that the record wasn’t going to be well at all. When it came out it started slow, for a couple of days it stuck at 5th – 2nd in the chart and I thought it would stay there because everyone already had it. But, when it got to number 1 I was really happy because when you work really hard and you’re trying the best you can and finally get recognised by people and reach number 1 it means so much. I can’t really put into words how it feels. I was the happiest person on earth when it reached number 1, it was almost like justice for me after all these years of making music and trying so hard. It really was amazing.
In terms of the sound, ‘SwagOn’ was the only one sounding different. It had its own kind of sound, I can’t really say commercial because the song became commercial but it didn’t at the same time, it was in between. That’s what made me extremely happy because it never became one of those cheesy commercial records that was played for only a month and then everyone went off. It’s got to the point where it’s still being played now, I checked yesterday and it was still on the Beatport top 100 tech house chart. That for me was still such a big reward because I made a record that everyone loved and it never became cheesy or overplayed. Marco Carola has been playing it lately after a year of its release and it’s really good to see. SwagOn didn’t define my sound but you know it was something that everyone loved and for an artist that is the dream, everyone playing and loving your records.
It must’ve been good to know that ‘SwagOn’ was getting you the recognition that you had been waiting for but it didn’t define your sound, it built the platform for you to move on even more.
Yeah, there are people who love me for ‘Kinky Tail’ and hate me for ‘SwagOn’ but love me for ‘SwagOn’ and hate me for ‘Kinky Tail’. You can’t please everyone but if you get people to like you for something you know you’re doing well. I was really lucky because most people loved ‘SwagOn’.
Moving on, thanks to a number of releases with Green Velvet, Repopulate Mars, Moon Harbour and who could forget your release on Hot Creations. It’s safe to say that you’ve really established yourself as a firm favourite in the tech house scene. How did your collaboration “Groove Nation” with Green Velvet come about?
Green Velvet sent me a message at the end of 2016 asking for ‘SwagOn’ and then we just started talking to each other and I said I would love to make a collaboration with him and he was well up for it. We did the first EP which was ‘Alright’, ‘Issues’ and ‘Jack Da Beat’. It was a really nice EP and a lot of people played it. The sound was something between me and Green Velvet which was a very good combination. For me it was a really strong EP, I still play the songs. After a few months, we carried on talking, you know he is such a great character and fun guy, and we said let’s make another one. We decided to do something that was different and we landed on ‘Groove Nation’. I can’t really explain what the sound was but it wasn’t like our individual typical sounds, it was more like the older house music. We were influenced by music from the past and then Green Velvet did the vocals. You know I really loved the song, it didn’t do extremely well but I loved the sound and I was happy about it.
Are there any other collaborations on the cards for future tracks?
I have a few collaborations, four, coming out this year, however, unfortunately, I can’t really reveal who they are with yet. We are working on four and if I’m honest all four are super collaborations with artists that I love and it’s really amazing.
I recently saw you play down in Southampton at SWITCH for the Do Not Sleep takeover with Darius Syrossian and it was unbelievable, the energy was electric in there. What would you say your favourite club to play at is?
There are so many clubs that I have played in recently and have been really surprised by them. I can easily say that my favourite country to play in is the UK. People in the UK are super educated on house music which makes it really easy to play. Maybe, the best club I have played in was ‘La Tribu’ in Peru. The atmosphere in there was electric. I always love to play in Birmingham as well because I really started to grow my name in Birmingham, they always throw amazing parties there!
You’ve already mentioned the future collaborations but what else can we expect from you in 2018?
First off i’m going on tour with Latmun, we have announced a very special B2B World Tour, across the USA and Europe this Spring/Summer, kicking things off in March at Source in Maidstone for Habitat. It also includes Three parties in Miami, Amsterdam, Nottingham, Leeds, North London club, Egg, on 27th April, with further stops at elrow in Barcelona and Hideout Festival in mid-July. Then it rounds off in North America for 3 dates between 9th and 12th August. I love the UK festivals, especially if the weather is great, people get really wild in the UK it’s always such a good crowd.
Finally, they don’t have to be your own productions but can you name three tracks that sum up your 2017?
Ok right, three tracks for 2017. Firstly I would have to say Eats Everything’s edit of ‘Down With Tha’ for Waze & Odyssey. The second would have to be ‘SwagOn’ haha, I’ve got to say that. Finally, it’s gotta be Patrick Topping’s, ‘Be Sharp, Say Nowt’. That’s been going off in my sets recently.