Miami Music Week & Beyond: How Kölsch continues his global domination [Interview]
Kölsch didn’t prepare anything for his nine-hour residency sets at the Gewölbe Club in Cologne, Germany. “But that’s the beauty of it,” he reveals.
Known for his rousing, deeply emotive tracks, the Danish producer believes in both the freedom of music, and of his surroundings dictating his sounds. The aforementioned can certainly be said for the artist’s unparalleled open-air performance last fall atop the Eiffel Tower. His oeuvre has only continued to rewrite the rulebook of modern production, with each and every performance serving as a further testament to his craft and rinsing in the global circuit.
Kölsch’s music implements an articulate understanding of his surroundings, the solace of the times, whatever and whenever he may be drawing from — one he earned in part by growing up in the hippie community of Christiania. Though he’s revered for his countless remixes, each original work comes complete with clear sentimentality. The journey is always vibrant and picturesque, with the electronic composer offering his listeners a window into his soul or his past with each carefully crafted piece.
His most recent LP, 1989, was the final installment in an autobiographical series which embeds his finely-tuned craftsmanship with a newfound emotive elevation of his artistic output. Its sonic landscape is an intensified deployment of real-life orchestral sounds, marking a true ascension for the artist.
Unexpectedly, Radio 1 DJ Annie Mac has shown her undying support for Kölsch’s work, noting, “that man is sort of King when it comes to pianos and house music. He’s got a way of wrenching your emotions.” Of course, she’s right. From his last full-length’s gut-wrenching tearing through the bleak, loneliness that at times plagues adolescence, it may seem that there’s only one side to Kölsch; though a deeper dive into his discography proves the artist, like many, contains multitudes.
With a string of high profile festival shows and a stellar BBC Radio 1 show under his belt, his iconic status has showed no signs of stopping. He an Ibiza residency dubbed “In The Dark” at Hï Ibiza last season, played the iconic DC 10, Berghain‘s Panorama bar, and made his infamous Eiffel Tower live stream for five million people.
Dancing Astronaut had a chance to catch up with Kölsch amidst his global domination as he’s about to touch down in the states for Miami Music Week and will return in April for major performances at Coachella. During the discussion, he touched on his thoughts on the US dance scene, the extinction of EDM, how he remedies his sets worldwide, and more.
Congratulations on your absolutely incredible year! On top of your BBC Radio 1 domination and playing the main stage at Tomorrowland 2018 you’re approaching your first performance at Coachella. What can attendees expect?
I’m really looking forward to experiencing the whole festival. I’ve never been, but many friends say it is an incredible festival. I can’t wait to play a killer set. What you can expect is more of my charming self. That plus good techno records and my intensive competitive miming act is sure to be special. On another note, I don’t think the US is ready for my techno miming act, so I’ll just do the techno.
How do you feel about playing Coachella as opposed to Glastonbury in the UK or Tomorrowland?
Coachella is definitely on the bucket list I always wanted to play. I’ve been lucky over the years to play most of the festivals I dreamt of (Sonar, Melt, Dour, Tomorrowland, Timewarp, Awakenings, Glastonbury, and so on) I actually think that Coachella is the last major festival on my dream list I haven’t played yet, so I’m really excited.
More underground electronic artists seem to be playing at Coachella this year. Why do you think that is?
The downfall of EDM beckons for a new sound to rise. In Europe, EDM is completely dead, and all big festivals have techno acts as headliners next to the headliner bands. Radio has also lost a lot of the power it used to have, and therefore, kids are finding their own new heroes online and through friends. I love the fact that there is finally room for new music at festivals. Be it techno, fresh Indie bands or hip hop it’s about time all festivals start realizing that mass SoMe Followers, doesn’t always result in guaranteed ticket sales. There have been way too many lazy bookings over the years, and I’m very happy to see that change.
You’ve recently had a successful residency at Gewölbe Club in Cologne, Germany. ISPO. Tell us about how that came to be and how it is playing that club?
IPSO stems from Ipso Facto. It ruffly stems from “by the factor off,” and is the name of my label. I’ve got a bunch of releases planned on the label, so I decided to expand the concept into a traveling residency. Its been going at Gewölbe in Cologne for 2 years now, and I usually end up playing very longs sets. Up to 9 hours. It’s such special club, as it has the only bespoke built Martion Horn Speaker system in the world. The sound is out of this world.
How does it compare to playing a venue like Ushuaia in Ibiza, for instance, in terms of planning, energy, set length?
It’s a completely different beast. Playing in front of 12,000 people for 90 min demands a completely different level of discipline than a smaller club. There is not the same room for experimentation. Playing nine hours on a good sound system with the right crowd is any DJ’s dream gig. It feels like therapy to me.
Do you do anything to prepare for the up to nine-hour sets for IPSO in Cologne?
I don’t prepare anything, that’s the beauty of it. With the sound system at Gewölbe one thing I’ve been practicing other than slower tempo and energy, is starting my sets with tracks with a more open sound. Maybe tracks that haven’t been squashed in mastering, so there is more room, to intensify the energy later in the set. Its very interesting to experiment with building a set that way.
How do you see the current scene of electronic music in the US from your point of view?
After the extinction of EDM, the scene is fantastic. There is an amazing form of optimism in clubs all over the US. Suddenly there is room to move more freely and it seems a lot of the freaks are coming out again. People are exploring a new sound, and I just get so much great music these days from the states. I love that the scene has escaped the pigeonholing of style, sound, and attitude that was defined by EDM festivals. For a while there it felt like I was playing in 1997 at Mayday in Germany. It was depressingly hilarious to witness that the scene was so far behind. Thank god for the progress.
How does playing clubs where you can create a new chapter for the club compare to playing the Eiffel Tower like you did back in the fall? That seems to be a true once in a lifetime experience…Maybe the best open-air venue in the world…?
It was definitely a life-altering moment. I’ve had a long-lasting love affair with Paris. From early Laurent Garnier records, through Ludovic Navarre to the French Disco house era hailed by Daft Punk, it’s been a defining place for dance music. The last 10 years have ushered a different, and tougher time for the French. Terrorist attacks have sadly been all too frequent and I felt that I needed to illustrate how much we all love and support them. Just to play Acid Eiffel by Laurent Garnier, a record that influenced me so much in 1993, on the Eiffel Tower was extremely emotional. Dance music may not be political, but on an emotional level we can all show support.
Was there ever a point in your career where you’d said, ok, I know I’ve made it if I’m playing here?
Well playing there was never even a thing I could have ever considered possible. I could have never event dreamt of that, as I got into this scene, so it was a very big deal for me. My French grandmother who is 93 watched the whole set on her laptop…that made me extra proud.
What tracks do you have in mind that you will definitely play at Miami Music Week?
I’ve got so many new demos in want to test out…currently working on a new IPSO collab with Joris Voorn that I will definitely play.
Also testing out stuff for my next Speicher 12”, so demo galore.
Which track do you have in mind for the anticipated b2b with Tiga at All Gone Pete Tong Pool Party?
It’s going to have to be our new tracks from our upcoming IPSO collab. It was such a pleasure working together. We had a great time in the studio.
Which track for the Kompakt at Space Party?
Maybe a Kompakt classic. I’ve been hammering Donnerkuppel by Robag Wrühme again lately, so maybe that one.
Do you have a track in mind for Get Lost Miami?
I’ll see how underground I can get away with playing there. I really want to take it far out, so I’ll be digging into my rarer records for that one…
And finally, where can we expect the Kölsch sound to move to in the new year? One of our all-time favorite quotes of yours is, “I was trying to make a Balearic version of Jeff Mills..” and it’s in reference to the making of “Calabria.” Obviously, a lot of time has passed since then and your music is consistently evolving, but considering your latest exclusive release other than the WhoMadeWho remix and now “Left Eye Left,” was 1989 — the significantly more emotive, final installment in the album trilogy — we wonder whether the grey shall clear and we’ll see a new side of Kölsch…
The Grey is well and over… I’m working on a lot of new material. Experimenting a lot right now with new demos, so let’s see what comes out of that…
Kölsch US Tour Dates:
March 22: All Gone Pete Tong Pool Party Surfcomber, Miami, FL
March 24 – Kompakt Club Space, Miami, FL
March 24-25 – Crosstown Rebels present Get Lost Miami, FL
April 15 – Coachella, Indio, CA
April 22 – Coachella, Indio, CA