Name: Mike Dehnert
Occupation: Producer, DJ
Current Release: Mike Dehnert has contributed a track to the Oceans EP on Anemone Recordings. All money raised will go to The Oceanic Preservation Society (OPS).
Recommendations: Music: Rage Hard Remix 12" edit Franky goes to Hollywood. Listen here.
Music: LFO Leeds Warehouse. Listen here.
Book: Richard David Precht: Jäger, Hirten, Kritiker, a book about the new digital world. Find out more here.
If you enjoyed this interview with Mike Dehnert, visit his Facebook account or Soundcloud profile.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What what is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started as a teenager. Generally as a child, I always had music playing with everything – anything I could get my hands on. For my first 12" release, my parents had to sign the contract because I was 17 years old! So that’s now 20 years ago.
I think my dad and his vinyl collection inspired me, as did Holly Johnson (Franky goes to Hollywood). There was a 12" remix edit from Franky goes to Hollywood's "Rage Hard", which I listened to a lot as kid. So maybe that did something to my brain.
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 at first you have to collect and discover a lot. After that, and I think this is one of the most important facts, you need to keep music in your mind, to save it in your mind as it were as real experience. This is what constitutes "learning" for me, but not in the sense of learning in school. More like more leaning through curiosity and passion.
Creativity is for me to gather experiences, and then to remember them as you move into a new relationship, into a new connection between everything. Ha! This sounds very easy but it’s a very hard and sometimes a painful process on the inside.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
To limit yourself and your possibilities and then to be creative with the limits.
What was your first studio 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?
Hmm for me there are no important pieces. Every piece has its own limit, like power, possibilities and so on. So for me it's only important how I can play with the limits.
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?
For me technology is a tool. So I'm neither a type who celebrates technology as a religion nor regards it as a part of natural evolution like the Silicon Valley philosophy. As a human, you have to always be careful and check it all the time: Are you free to use the machine in your way or is it like "you are free to do what I tell you as a machine"?
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
Hmm complex software does not automatically lead to creativity, so for me there is no co-authorship. The only thing that matters to me is the limit imposed by the software or machine.
If the software does not impose any limits on me, then I'll get lost in these possibilities: "you are free to do what I (software) tell you"
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
I prefer to produce alone. When it comes to producing I'm completely busy with my own input. But I very like to do remixes.
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 music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
There is a normal life, which has a regular 'family with kids' schedule. With regards to my music, however, I can't put it into a fixed schedule. My production world looks like an extreme mix. On the one hand, I'm spending solitary time in the studio like a monk. On the other hand, I'm travelling extensively, playing gigs around the world.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album that's particularly dear to you, please? Where did the ideas come from, how were they transformed in your mind, what did you start with and how do you refine these beginnings into the finished work of art?
It's very hard to describe. But mainly there are the typical creative processes like starting, fixing an idea, finishing the idea, evaluation ...
By the way, I forgot who said this but there is a very nice idiom, which goes something like this: "If you're ready to resist bad critics for your album, then the album is finished and ready for release."
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
Additional to my second question answer I would say that it's very important for creativity that you have the right surroundings for falling in a boring mode at first. For being creative your brain needs to be in a state which is free of outside influences – i.e. boring (laughs).
It is particularly hard to be creative in these times of being slaves to our smartphones. There are just so many aggressive influences from the outside. There is a German word for that: "Aufmerksamkeitsraub", which translates to something like "attention theft".
All of this is especially dangerous for kids. This is why, here in Germany as well as in France, smartphones are now forbidden at school and in Kindergarten and so on ... Social media are now limited to a certain age here as well. The reason is that kids are no longer creative, getting ill with sleeping problems and remaining in a bubble filtered by smartphones. It is as though these devices are saying to you: "You are free to do what we (the media on your smartphone) are telling you."
So generally it's very hard to get into boring time, and yet it's the most important thing to start being creative. Your brain has to be in that boring, rested, quiet mode. This doesn't mean that your brain is in a stand by mode. It can be very painful and feeling extremely bad because in that boring mode your all memories are flooding in. All the good and bad things, positive and negative experiences. Your brain is in a very powerfully free mode, which is why a lot of people hate boring time and prefer using their smartphone to be in a state of distraction instead.
This means that in that boring mode, you can work with your all sources, such as your experience, and put them into new relationships or create creative connections.
How is playing live and writing music in the studio connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally? How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?
I think improvisation is a mode to be creative and the composition is the fixing and finishing mode for your creativity. The latter requires you to be more focused, disciplined and hardworking. If you're not, you will never finish or fix an idea.
The ideas takes maybe five minutes. But the finishing takes sometimes weeks (laughs).
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work? What happens to sound at its outermost borders?
No plan (laughs). I think music is free from having to make sense. Music is more connected to our feelings. So if you take emotions like erotic, aggressive, soft, hard, relaxed, then these can be transported through music without having to provide any sense. We are, in a way, able to experience these without the usual detour of meaning. Ha, I hope this answer makes a bit sense (laughs).
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?
No I don't think so. Just like music, all art is detached from sense , so it would be wrong to take this kind of art into a context where it has a social and political role or influence.
It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21st century with the basic concept of music still intact. Do you have a vision of music, an idea of what music could be beyond its current form?
For me, music is a universal language, so it doesn’t matter which century we are in. Hmm … my vision ? Maybe louder and more parties (laughs).