Name: Arno Völker
Occupation: DJ, Producer
Recommendations: I recommend the letters of Sigmund Freud and I recommend to check Charlotte Thorstvedt
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When did you start DJing - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What what is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I´m a bass guy. So I was always intrigued by the bass … and the drums, of course. I started when I was 15, playing hip hop. I got hooked by drum´n´bass pretty fast though and spent quite some time with that. When I saw a DJ mixing live for the first time when I was 13 or so I knew that this is what I want to do. Mixing music and sounds, be it with records or in the studio, is what has driven me ever since.
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 am still learning a lot and I still grow when it comes to the kind of music I want to make. I never really tried to copy anyone else. But of course I get inspired by many artists. Sometimes I hear a track and I think I want to make something like this, but this means in terms of how the producer did the arrangement or how he kept things interesting, not like I would try to do something that really sounds similar. I couldn´t even if I tried. When I want to make a party track chances are high that it will end up being ambient. I really live in the moment and capture whatever comes in this very moment. I’m not trying to make music thinking about whether it’s something you could play, release or whatever. I love making music with other people as well. It won´t work with many but if it works then it´s magic. You push yourself combining ideas and emotions … it´s powerful.
What were some of the main challenges and goals when starting out as a DJ and how have they changed over time? What is it about DJing, compared to, say, producing your own music, that makes it interesting for you?
The main challenge in the beginning was to get both records in sync. In the beginning I had no idea and then a friend stopped by my house and I was doing these funny cut mixes. He was like, what the hell are you doing, and showed me how to beat match. After two weeks he came back and said: “ Damn, you are better then me already.“ I was obsessed back then really. I would spend 8 hours a day mixing records even though I only had 15 in the beginning I didn´t care. I would mix them, then the b sides then in a different order. These days I enjoy being in the studio more and more then spending hours on discogs looking for records. So I might be playing mostly my own stuff in the future, as this is my way to separate myself from the other 25.000 DJ´s around. Let´s see …
How would you define the job and describe the influence of the DJ? How are the experience and the music transformed through your work?
The job of the DJ is to play good music in an interesting way. I also think that mixing is really important. I hear more and more that people say mixing was not that good – it was the crazy selection that counted. I don´t agree. Djing is an art form and the mixing and blending of sounds and frequencies is a major part of it in my opinion. The experience and the music didn´t really transform that much. If you mean how music changed for me as in terms of that it became a tool that I work with that is not the case at all. I am still as euphoric about music as I was 20 years ago. If I hear a bad ass baseline I will get up and dance and do the funky robot. Music makes me laugh or cry. It is the most amazing thing in the world apart from love of course. If you mean if the music changed within the last years, yes, it changed it evolved. I started making and playing house and techno quite late so of course when I started I liked or played more easy accessible stuff maybe. But now my music doesn´t really change much. I got quite a big range of stuff that I like but I think everything has a certain groove. The experience also didn't change much I am still really excited every time I go somewhere to play.
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?
I started playing hip hop but I didn´t have enough money to buy Technics so I got these fake ones at Konkurs Waren Knox (for those who know) in Frankfurt and was really disappointed when I tried my first scratch - the motor was very weak so it didn´t really work. I was so happy when I got my first Technics and after a while the second one. My first mixer was a really funky Vestax Mixer that had transform buttons for scratching. I got an Allen& Heath mixer a few years later and last year I got my dream mixer: The Rane XP2160A. It sounds so good and the EQ´s are from another world.
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?
Well the machines don´t make the music. So you can have the most amazing gear but if you don´t have the funk you will sit there with all your great machines but nothing comes out. When I started in the 90´s there was no software except for basic midi sequencing. So if you wanted to make music you would have to buy hardware. I only had a small mixer and a sampler so I was really limited. Shortly after that, Reason got released and it was amazing because of all the possibilities. A few years ago, I started working more and more with hardware and this is the way to go for me. It´s just so much more fun. I only use Ableton to record and Audio editing. I do use some plugins, but just to sculpt the sounds.
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?
After I get up I try to do my 10 minute workout with some push ups and stuff (yes, that body is the result of hard work) then I check my mails and do some Internet shizzle. After that I think I should do my tax and open some letters. Instead of doing that I go to the studio and / or spend time with my wonderful girlfriend. I have no schedule and I never stop working‘. I get up in the morning thinking about basslines, samples, remixes and ramen and when I go to bed it is still the same. I am happy that I found something to do with my life that never bores me or never feels like work. Well except for that tax thing.