Part 1

Name: Martin Gretschmann (AKA Acid Pauli)

Occupation: DJ / producer /musician / label co-owner

Nationality: German

Current Release: MOD out now on Ouïe Music
Recommendations: The Work by Katie Byron / Why White Folks Can't Call Me N*gg* by Tenesha The WordSmith/ The Social Dilemma by Jeff Orlowski

Website/Contact: Acid Pauli's website acidpauli.de/acidpauli is where you can listen, watch, buy and get in touch

When did you start DJing - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What is about music and/or sound that drew you to it? 

I started bus driving ähm, DJing as a teenager, but for some weird reason, bought a bass guitar at 16 and started to play in punk and hardcore bands, later on started a career as electronic music artist (Console etc.) to finally arrive back to the DJ world after 15 years of bands and live-acts.

For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?

As a producer, I tried to copy other artists or music, but as I didn’t have a real musical education, I was unable to copy what I heard. Luckily, I’d say, because this led to my own style.

As a DJ, when I went to clubs in my earlier life, I always got bored after half an hour because the DJs played the same stuff over and over again. So as soon as I started out, it was pretty much wild style to compensate my own boredom.

What were some of the main challenges and goals when starting out as a DJ and how have they changed over time?

A lot of regular club goers had problems understanding what I was doing, but as I kept on doing it, more and more people started appreciating my style.

What is it about DJing, compared to, say, producing your own music, that makes it interesting for you? 

DJing is something that you usually do in front of an audience. So it’s happening in the moment and there’s no „undo“. For me it’s per se interdependent. So, the reaction (or non-reaction) of people is feeding directly back into the system and that’s a very important part of it.

Maybe DJing is like driving a bus with a lot of funny people inside who tell you where to go, but you still have to drive and make all the turns. You see a bit more into the future as you sit in front, but it’s important because you have a certain responsibility to bring them safely from A to B.
Producing is rather like driving in your own car. You can stop whenever you want, with no one complaining or you can even return. It can be very meditative, but also boring. While driving a bus can be quite a challenge especially if you have a bunch of drunk people who cannot agree on a common destination and therefore start to talk to the driver all the time.

How would you define the job and describe the influence of the DJ?

The job is taking people on an interesting journey, maybe show them something they don’t know yet. Or show them something from a different perspective. I’d say the influence of a DJ is smaller than what most DJs think.

How are the experience and the music transformed through your work?

Well, if you have some experience it’s maybe easier to drive the bus with lesser accidents, because you know what is important.

What was your first set-up as DJ like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?

My very first DJ gigs I did with records and tapes, but it wasn’t even a club back then…My first real DJ-Set morphed over the course of 2-3 years from an Ableton Live-Set into a DJ-set also played with Ableton. I always used different controllers (back then it was a Monome and a cheap DJ controller I don’t remember) until A&H released the XoneK2 controller which I used till I switched to CDJs a year ago.

How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?

I love to get inspired by machines. Most machines have their own character, possibilities and limitations. This leads you to certain sounds or approaches of how to use them. I guess humans and machines excel at similar things as machines are also human made.
As a matter of fact, machines can do certain things a lot better and be way more accurate than humans, while the latter need to be using the machines, otherwise no such music.

Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do life and creativity feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?

I don’t think it’s possible to separate life from creativity. They always feed back into each other. My routine differs from being at home or on tour.
On tour, it’s breakfast, traveling, hotel, walking, club, hotel, walking, traveling.
At home, it’s breakfast, walking, studio (whilst this means 80% non-creative, office-style work), walking, sleeping.

Let's say you have a gig coming up tonight. What does your approach look like – from selecting the material and preparing for, opening and then building a set?

I always try to have something new to play, so I am always listening to music and importing stuff to my set, then I go and play. I don’t have a plan for the set. Sometimes (for special sets) I prepare a bit more and then it’s more of a performance and less improvisation, but usually I just play. It works best for me as you never know how the situation will be. If you don’t have a plan, you can adapt a lot easier to a situation.

Can you describe your state of mind during a DJ set? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?

See above. The less I plan, the easier I get to a state where thinking (and also wanting) dissolves, a very meditative state where I always find the right track for the next moment.

What are some of the considerations that go into deciding which track to play next? What makes two tracks a good fit? How far do you tend to plan ahead during a set?

I listen and if it feels right, I play it. From my experience I’d say it’s best to be 2 tracks ahead. But this is something that depends on a lot of things and a lot of times I am happy to know the next track to play. Sometimes it also happens that I cannot find a track on time, then there is a short break, which can be also good. A moment with no music.

Would you say you see DJing as improvisation? As composition in the moment? Or as something entirely different from these terms?

I’d fully agree.

How does playing music at home and presenting it in the club compare and relate? What can be achieved through them, respectively, and what do you personally draw from both?

Like driving a car alone or with 2 or three friends or on the other side driving a bus filled with people you don’t know.

How would you describe the relationship between your choices and goals as a DJ and the expectations, desires and feedback of the audience? How does this relationship manifest itself during a performance and how do you concretely tap into it?

I opine that a good DJ-set is a piece of art and not only a bunch of tracks played in a certain order. For creating art there is some creativity needed. Expectation is an enemy of creativity and therefore not really helpful, especially when it’s my own expectation.
What has always helped me a lot when DJing is the fact that my stomach starts to ache when I play music I don’t really like. So, I need to like the music and therefore my sets - whether others like them or not - seem to have some sort of authenticity that people appreciate.
And to get back to the bus driver comparison: My first aim is to go on a journey together and to arrive safely at a good place. We don’t know beforehand where the place is and we also don’t know whether it’s gonna be a pleasant or an exhausting journey, but hopefully it’s interesting and liberating or cathartic.

Especially thanks to the storage facilities of digital media, DJ sets could potentially go on forever. Other than closing time, what marks the end of a DJ performance for you? What are the most satisfying conclusions to a set?

When I am driving the bus, I usually feel when it’s a good moment to stop.
Driving too long can be very boring or even dangerous.

Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?

A lot of people comment, that what I do has some healing properties. It took me a lot of years to accept this and not wipe it off immediately. It also puts responsibility on what I do, but it’s a good challenge and a good guiding light. As a bus driver I try to find nice roads even if it means a detour sometimes. I try to avoid the big highways as my bus is not made for speeding not to talk about all the accidents on the highways.