Name: Timo Maas
Occupation: DJ, Producer
Current Release: "We Were Riding High" with Basti Grub and Eric Volta on Mobilee
Recommendations: I recently read this one: “Drugs” by Johann Hari (to open your eyes!) and you should definitely listen to Keith Jarrett`s “Cologne concert” ... Masterpiece in spontaneous composing!
Website / Contact: If this interview with Timo Maas made you curious about his work, visit his facebook profile for news and tour dates.
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 was a very shy person as a kid. Somehow I discovered in my early years that my love for music, even the music itself, became my best language to communicate with people. This has continued until the present day.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you?
I was always trying to set the goals pretty high and never really copy anything or even myself … With the different partners I have worked with throughout my career so far it, sometimes that has worked out great, sometimes it was at least good. Making music is a continuous progression and the learning never really stops - as long you love what you do.
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?
I started as a DJ at the age of 13 (I'm 48 now …), so really learned it from scratch under all kinds of possible and impossible circumstances. I started producing only years later, which was honestly a natural process … to be able to play your own vinyl at some point and not just the music of the other guys …
How would you define the job and describe the influence of the DJ? How are the experience and the music transformed through your work?
A DJ actually has a lot of power and can control the emotions of the crowd very much! When you have an open minded crowd that ideally trusts you, you can create some incredible moments, that will stick to people's memory.
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?
Two 1210 turntables and a mixer … there's nothing more that you need.
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 am using technology in DJ sets only to a certain degree, as I think that the selection of music and the use of tracks and songs in the right moment – creating the right trip as it were - is much more essential than impressing the audience with “technical skills” …
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 have a fixed day routine. I am father of 2 kids. They control my routine possibly a bit more ;) Things are never really seamless, but it DOES work. Our business is also not 9-5 style, it's 24/7. I work when time allows it – be it day or night or at home or on tour. It all becomes one, when you do this for long.
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 usually listen to music a few times per week to prepare myself and to select the music I travel with. My sets are all spontaneous, as I cannot predict the vibe of any night in advance. I arrive at the club at some point and then first of all “read the crowd” … only then will I start. Everything else is a “creation on the flow”.
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?
Well … a good atmo is the best way. A jazz cigarette helps, too. But over all the years I kind of settled myself into this without too much thinking about the “how” … I trust my intuition.
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?
It may sound funny, but in the right state of mind, the tracks / songs “pop up” in my mind, usually a few tracks in advance. Not too many, really, because the vibes and situations can change over the course of three to four tracks. Or something will pop up, that carries my set into different territory … I see it as my “gift” to be over-sensitive.
How do 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?
I can very well imagine how a track could function in a set, when I prepare my music … that’s because of my long years of experience really. I still get euphoric when I hear great music! ☺
How would you describe the relationship between your choices and goals as a DJ and the expectations, desires and feedback of the audience?
I like the interaction especially when I have that kind of trusting crowd I spoke of before. My interaction really happens exclusively on a musical level … I`m not celebrating myself, really. I'm fully concentrated on delivering the “touching moments” without playing any cheesy shit or “safe shots” or “arms in the air bullshit”. I like to confront, even disturb my crowd from time to time. The idea is to make them aware that a proper musical trip is not only about playing a particular sound they may have expected.
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?
You can feel it. And if you can't … the DJ that comes after you, will let you know for sure! Hahahaha
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?
To be an artist allows you to see the world (especially as a frequent traveller). But that doesn`t make you a politician at all. That said … In a way, I think, we are politicians after all: We bring people together no matter what race, religion, sex or anything … all for doing something together: dancing!
A friend told me many years ago: Timo, it is a clear sign that you are an artist when you doubt yourself, the world and your work every day - and improve from there … I agree!