Truancy Volume 211: Steffi

An artist in the purest sense, Berlin-based Steffi has previously said she wants to be remembered for her work and nothing else. Monitoring her career closely herself, it’s easy to see how her consistent growth as a producer and DJ is motivated by keeping her integrity as an artist. With three albums on Ostgut Ton now, her recent World Of The Waking State LP saw her deliver an album more experimental than previous efforts, yet one produced at a time feeling settled more comfortably in her own skin. Seeking new and exciting outlets to express her projects, her own labels Klakson and Dolly have been a continual source of new music. She’s released a culmination of 70 records from an abundance of friends and new producers, as well as her own, over four different labels and sub-labels. We caught up with Steffi to discuss Klakson and Dolly, her productions with fellow Ostgut Ton artist Virginia, as well as finding the balance between studio and tour time. With not a single four-by-four kick drum in sight, her Truancy Volume is an arc back to her long-time affinity with early Warp and IDM records. Steffi has mentioned in the past how much of an influence the first Autechre album had on her, so it’s no surprise their music finds a home in this mix, alongside some other disarmingly gorgeous machinations.

Hey Steffie, just want to say thank you for taking out time to do this mix, no doubt you have a busy schedule so we all really appreciate your time over here at Truants. Going back a bit I just want to start with asking about Mazzo and Elechicks. For those who may not be acquainted what do those two names mean to you? “Elechicks is the name of my first official residency at club Maze together with Awanto 3. We ran this night for three years and the main ingredients were IDM, electro, booty and Miami bass on a Wednesday for freaks only.”

With Klakson seeing a new breath of releases, I always wanted to ask you this but what can you tell us about the time that I Don’t Care came out. Must have been such a buzz for you two to see that blow up like it did and gain international recognition in an instance. Dave Clarke put one of the tracks on his World Service CDs too, which was very big for the label right? “We started the label as a gimmick to kind of take the piss out of the electro genre as the west coast was always very serious about puristic electro. We hated themes like cyber war and spaceships so we came up with a silly name and hideous artwork. We actually had really good tracks that weren’t quite the standard dark doom electro tracks that were popular at the time. For some reason with the first two Dexter releases we hit the right spot and as you said, Dave Clarke picked them up and the ball started rolling. It certainly put Dexter’s career in the lift back then and the label had a great kick off to develop.”

With Klakson up and running again after a dormant period am I correct in saying there was a particular track from your Power of Anonymity album that got things going again? Can you tell us about that? “On Power Of Anonymity I decided to include a collaboration with Dexter and Virginia. There was one track on the album that I could not quite get to the next level, so I had sent it to Dexter to have a listen and he played around with it and before I knew we had the perfect blend between my sound and his funky handwriting and we instantly said, this needs a vocal and there is nothing better then having the luxury of a singer like Virginia in the family. So we grew it in her lab and she wrapped it up properly!”

I ask this question to a lot of label owners but with Klakson and now Dolly and its sub labels do you feel you’ve achieved what you set out to do since starting these label? Is there any direction or goal you’re still looking to achieve? “I’ve done around 70 releases so far and I am proud of every single record I have A&R-ed as they call it in professional terms hahahaha, the sky is the limit and I always want expand my horizon and come up with new ideas and the sky is really the limit when it come to artistic freedom.”

Can you tell us about anything that’s coming next with Klakson and Dolly? “A few surprises I like to keep a secret but I am happy to welcome 214 on Klakson! We have put a wonderful 12″ together, our goal was to focus on a whole 12 inch after his contribution on my fabric mix CD. Voiski also appeared on that same mix CD and delivered a four tracker which will be released on Dolly. Basic Soul Unit will return for his 4th release and new in the family is ES-Q!”

Bouncing off a couple questions back, what can you tell us about your professional relationship with Virginia? How did you two first meet, what led to you inviting her on your debut album, and your experiences touring with her for her live performance? “I can tell you that she kicks ass and that story I seriously have told about a million times haha copy paste copy paste copy paste ;-) I met her at a dinner party and we shared mutual interest in music and decided to do a studio session and wrote ‘Reasons’ on my EP on Underground Quality. Ostgut offered me to release an LP and I instantly asked Virginia to be a part of that and sing two titles. By accident we found a tiny loop with the initial chords of ‘Zours’ and within half a day magic happened. A few years later we wrote her solo LP on Ostgut alongside Dexter and Martyn and took that record on tour in 2016. It was a great experience for me to be performing more as a tiny band and step away from DJ-ing for a while.”

How did working with Martyn and Dexter on her debut album work? Was there a driving concept set by Virginia which all three of you had to adhere to? “We all had different roles in this process but basically we made a mood board of what we wanted to create and threw lots of sketches on a big pile and worked our asses of to shape it and find the right harmony and balance between the tracks.”

You seem fond of collaborations. Does working with someone else in the studio, having someone else to bounce ideas off of, does this make the music creating process easier for you? “It’s not about making things easier, it’s about the fun of making music and enjoying other people’s energy, and the learning experience of it all.”

There’s a really great quote from an old interview that I want to bring up where you discuss your DJ career as a constant flow of phases that have co-mingled in order to create a signature sound. How would you describe where it’s ended up today? “It’s a matter of constantly finding new input and taking that job seriously, putting all my energy to my DJ sets when I am on the road and in the end I am always on the lookout for new records that inspire me to open a new door and renew myself in any possible way.”

The usual line for artists working within techno is that they don’t necessarily need to make albums or EPs for the dance floor, but surely it’s difficult to remove that aspect completely from the equation. Did you spend much time considering yourself as a DJ while making music or does it all depend? “I don’t think about DJ-ing when I write music and I don’t think about writing music when I DJ. For me those are two different things.”

Where are you at with productions yourself this year? From past interviews I know you’re very selective with your gigs. Do you feel you’ve balanced out time in the studio and playing gigs in that case? “It’s about personal choices, if you want to produce and you feel you don’t have the time, you take time off and plan a phase were you don’t travel so you can be in the studio. It’s as simple as that. I have been doing it ever since I started releasing and it works very well. It’s such a simple matter really. Just focus on what you want to do in which part of the year. You are the creator of your own destiny. There is really nothing more to it. And it’s ok to say no to requests every once in a while, the world does not end when you are playing ten gigs less so you can finally focus on writing a nice album or 12 inch.”

What are some of the most important things you’ve learnt from being both a DJ and a producer? “Stay true to myself and what I believe in and stand for.”

What can you tell us about the mix you’ve recorded for us today? Any particular tracks you want to shine an extra bit of light on? Any theme you’ve chosen? “I’ll leave that up to the listener.”

What can we look forward from you for the rest of the year? “I will play a few new live shows beginning in May and perform songs from my latest album World Of The Waking State. I am currently back in the studio with Virginia. Martyn and I were invited to curate a double CD for the ‘Air Texture’ series too. I just completed a couple of interesting remixes and, of course, new solo material and last but not least, DJing!”

Steffi: Facebook, Soundcloud, Resident Advisor, Discogs


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