Name: Deetron / Sam Geiser
Occupation: DJ, Producer
Current Release: DJ Kicks on k7!
Website / Contact: If you enjoyed this interview with Sam geiser aka Deetron, you can find out more about his work and music on his official website.
Even before you started out as an artist yourself, what was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it? When did you start DJing - and what made hip hop in particular so interesting to you in your early years?
I believe it mostly had to do with the fact that my father was a professional classical musician and passionate jazz player and lover with a big record collection so from when I was very little music would be around all the time. I was really fascinated by the whole culture and the elements and skills of Hip-Hop - MCing, Deejaying and Graffiti. I was very impressed by how Hip-Hop deejays would use the decks as an instrument and create something new with the help of existing beats and sounds.
Your DJ-Kicks mix is said to be based on your love for the sound of Detroit and Chicago. Tell me a bit about that love, please.
I was first introduced to Detroit Techno when I saw Jeff Mills deejay in Bern over twenty years ago. I was into Hip-Hop and some Hip-House at the time but when I saw him do his thing I was completely blown away and I started digging into the sounds of Detroit and Chicago from that point on. There is a certain thing to the music coming from there that is hard to describe. Its rough, real, soulful and futuristic approach to Techno and House had me fascinated from the start and I believe that magic is still there.
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 the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
I think it is a constant learning process over the years and I’m continuously trying to work on improving and taking new directions with my sound. As far as influences go I believe that I’m influenced by all the music I’m listening to from a very broad range of styles and it helps my inspiration a lot.
You've frequently mentioned that the technical aspects of DJing are important to you. What were some of the main challenges and goals when starting out as a DJ in this regard - and how have they changed over time? Are still technical frontiers for you personally when it comes to spinning records?
At the time my idols were the DMC champions and I strived to go into that direction even though I was never quite good enough technically to really get there. However I am trying to implement this approach and ideology to my sets. Beat matching as such is something that comes quite natural for me, even with three decks but the most challenging part is to find records that work together harmonically or in a way that creates a new interpretation of the original tracks.
CD- or online-DJ-mixes are a very peculiar type of art. How does a release like your “DJ Kicks” relate to the experience of your live sets, do you feel? How does it relate to one of your artist albums? And: How much did you work on turning this one into such a deep, mesmerising and moving journey?
I reckon the years of working as a DJ and trying to perfection the art of re-interpreting the songs I play on the fly has helped me a lot when constructing such a mix even though at the end of the day I would see this as much a listening experience as a dancefloor mix. I did approach the beginning of the mix much like a production where I edited tracks a lot and used additional percussion, effects and so forth. Then I changed over to mixing a section with 3 decks much in the way that I would play live and then switched back to digital for the last bit. I put a lot of work and effort into this mix in particular with the first selection being made over half a year ago and I have been continuously shaping the mix ever since. It’s a great treat to finally be able to share it with the world.
What is it about DJing, compared to, say, producing your own music, that makes it interesting for you?
It’s great to get instant feedback and get a feeling of the energy on a dancefloor. Furthermore I really enjoy the free space that is a rave or club event in the sense of tolerance or a "live and let live" mentality where it is essentially all about the music.
What was your first set-up as DJ like? How and, most importantly, why did you move from two to three decks and from there to a combination of digital and analog? How do these different set-ups influence the musical results?
I originally had a belt-drive turntable without pitch control and a CD player at home and I tried to use that to make my first steps in Deejaying as much as that was possible. The real revelation was my first 1200 and things just started evolving from there. I love to make edits of certain tracks and obviously all the promos are digital these days so the move to digital was inevitable and nowadays I actually enjoy the additional possibilities this has given me for my sets.
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?
My set of synths help me with my creativity a lot, I really like the hands on approach to real synths and the trial and error process when making sounds and jamming can be very inspiring and initiate the creation of a track or hook. Obviously machines can support the ideas humans have but at the end of the day they cannot replace creativity or ideas - as said they can be inspiring but it’s the human mind that needs to take these inputs and take them further.
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?
Well, I have a rather fixed schedule as I am a husband at home. I have now set-up my studio in our house so whenever I get the chance I sneak into the studio and get to work. So I would definitely say they blend seamlessly in my case.
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 never really plan a set too much. I know which tracks I’d like to play in the beginning but that often changes as soon as I get to the club or event and get a feeling of the place. Most of the time I still try and find some new bits to play on the day itself or sometimes even just very shortly before the gig at the hotel.
Can you describe your state of mind during a DJ set? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Is there a balance to strike between enjoying yourself and focusing on your job as a DJ?
The dream situation is when I can freely work on creating a DJ set and the crowd is happy to be taken into different directions, connects with the music and doesn’t pay so much attention to the DJ itself but moreso to what comes out of the speakers. I try to fully concentrate on the music and sensing where the crowd will allow me to go so there are not too many distractions apart from things like skipping needles or people trying to have lengthy conversations with the DJ.
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 guess that comes with experience and knowing your tracks very well so they will harmonically fit and also fit the dynamics of the set. As said before I don’t ever really plan a set but if a mix strikes a chord I will sometimes play the same records together at a few gigs.
From your boiler room set, it becomes apparent that you're working with the music a lot. Do you tend to prefer tracks that allow you to become creative with them rather than pieces that are in a sense 'fully composed'? How do you see the often made distinction between 'tools' and 'tracks‘?
The biggest challenge for me is to take "fully composed" tracks and try to make them sound differently and create my own sound with it. That often happens with the help of so called tools, which could be tracks that have a very strong rhythmical section or vocals or could be ambient or beatless records as well.
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?
It’s great when you can play a personal favorite track with a history attached to it as a closing tune and look back to the set being satisfied with the performance. I’d always rather end on a high note than keeping the thing going and going until it fades away.