It’s been ten years since German duo Digitalism (Ismail Tuefekci and Jens Moelle) first broke through into the mainstream with their debut album Zdarlight. Its potent mixture of guitar-inflected rock with danceable, beat-heavy production found plenty of fans in both house-heads and indie kids alike, and their lauded electro remixes of bands like Bloc Party and The Klaxons consistently breathe new life into mid-00s house party classics and sing-along favourites. Now, coming full circle with their third record, Mirage, out next month, there’s no better time to catch Digitalism tonight at a special Boiler Room event in Berlin.
The night, in collaboration with Audi and called #untaggable, is a welcome celebration of those artists that refuse to be pigeonholed by genre categorisation; sounds perfect for a group whose sound exists between the worlds of dance and rock, no? They’ll be joined by other hyrbid noisemakers like Nicole Moudaber, ÂME and Breakbot – so be sure to tune in later. For now, get familiar with these cuts from the upcoming record and read ahead as we chat to the boys about the joys of Berlin, the art of a good remix, and the strange pleasures of onstage gear failure (nope, us neither…).
It’s been 10 years now since you broke through with Zdarlight. So, what’s been the best moment for you musically since then/the defining moment of that decade?
Any new album dropping is a big thing for us, and of course, especially when we released the first one and then heard our music on the radio for the first time. So much stuff happened in the last ten years, it’s really hard to pick some single moment that would be the best thing ever — we enjoy gear failure on stage during a live show as much as climbing up the charts or taking on the challenges that come with writing long players. Out there, a big shift happened when North America woke up to electronic music and its culture. No-one would have thought that, say, 12 years ago, but now you have electronic artists from the US flying around and playing gigs that, before then, was more a European thing, with some exceptions. It’s all gone very global.
In terms of live moments, which of the many venues you’ve played comes out on top and why?
Again, that’s hard to pick, but it was great to have played at the historic London Astoria before it’s got knocked down, or by the Gorge canyon in Washington, US… There’s a lot of beautiful venues out there. But sometimes you can’t beat a simple small basement sweatbox. It’s all about how much the owners care about their venue. If there’s love for it, you’ll feel it. You could have the nicest place but if you don’t care about it, the artists playing there will feel it immediately.
Your third album is coming out soon, what can we expect from the record and how has your sound evolved since I Love You, Dude.
It’s a “long player”, literally. Almost too long to be pressed on CD, we’ve been told. But then in contrast to that, we only started working on it last year, so although there’s a five year gap between the last album and this one, it didn’t take us that long to write and produce it. Until the beginning of last year we didn’t even know that we’d do that! That gave us a lot of freedom. Almost too much. After having released only one-off singles and EPs in the last few years, with various styles, when we decided to make a new album, we didn’t know how it should or would sound like. We came up with the idea of making one ourselves (no outside pressure) and there were no deadlines. So it was hard to really start working on something you don’t know what to expect of. We decided to just write away and then look at it afterwards. Turns out, after going through that process, now we know what Digitalism stand for in 2016. We had to do this to find our identity again. It’s quite song-based, but also going back to our roots of raw bunker-studio sound. Only a few feature performances are on it. Looks like we had a lot of things to say.
You say there’s a new found “light-heartedness” to this record; talk to us about that?
As mentioned above, we didn’t want to spend too much time getting certain ideas “right”, as we’ve done in the past. We would sit over a song for weeks or months, trying to crack it. This time we framed the process in a way that we both prepared creative ideas and then just rolled out the dough — with no expectations or direction. That’s why this album is so diverse. We decided to scrap the immediate editing (during a song writing process) and leave it to after the writing and production process. And then we discarded editing completely and put all the music on this record.
You’re as well known for your remix work of Indie tracks as you are for your own music: tell us about your remixing process. What do you look for and what do you try to bring out? Favourite artists and biggest musical influences?
We always treat a remix like our own music — that’s also how we started, kind of. We took 3rd party material and edited it, added to it and made it our own. From there we just started replacing other people’s material with our own, and we had our first songs and tracks done. So in a way, remixing another artist is like making a new Digitalism track. How that sounds in the end, no idea… We never plan before we get creative. We just look at it afterwards.
As for favourite artists and big influences, that list is probably long and changes daily… We’re not the types that could just pick just one book if we had to take with us to a desert island.
You’ll be prepping for the Audi Q2 x Boiler Room tonig. What can we expect from that set?
A great ride!
Which of the other artists playing will you be most excited to catch on Wednesday?
Not sure how much time we’ll have, but it’ll be great to see Breakbot and Âme..
Berlin or London and why?
Jence has moved to London, so for him probably “London”.
Berlin is another second home for us though — if you’re close to Tegel and Heathrow for example, you can do both cities at the same time.
Do you feel the worlds of Indie/guitar led music and dance/electronic are too polarised from one another? Or are we seeing that change?
It did change around when we started DJing and making music with Electroclash, Disco and Dance Punk music and acts like Soulwax or LCD Soundsystem. At the moment things out there sound a bit more “tidy” as compared to maybe 2009 or so, but also that’s a counter reaction to all that ear blasting “Nu Rave” and dubstep sound from the years before. It all goes in cycles and scenes sometimes join and then they part again…