In advance of their set together at Springfestival Graz tonight, we speak with the DJs, producers, and London neighbors about their collaborative, B2B session and DJ philosophies.
Plus grab their brand new track “Nine-Whoa-Nine” below.
Mark Ronson and Henry Smithson aka Riton are hardly novices of the music scene. Each of them has a prolific portfolio of collaborations and projects under their respective belts, ranging from the Grammy-awarded to underground clubs. Their musical worlds also encompass a wide spectrum, from hip hop to krautrock and electro. Both now based in London, they have embarked upon a new mutual back to back (or ‘B2B’) project BCK2BCK, a term borrowed from DJ culture, of which they have been an inseparable part of. In anticipation of their shared set at the Electronic Beats Opening Night at the Springfestival in Graz on Wednesday, May 29th, we caught up with the busy duo to take a sneak peak at their latest musical endeavor.
What are you going to do live at Springfestival?
Riton: It’s like DJing with a 909, the old house and techno drum machine. It’s from the ’80s and it’s quite tricky, because it’s all analogue. We do everything with vinyl and analogue machines. We wanted to do something more than DJ; we didn’t want to be those guys sat on the stage with laptops.
Is it going to be house/dance music?
Riton: No. It goes right across from hip hop to house.
Mark Ronson: I mainly come from playing hip hop and it probably is still the bulk of my set. Whereas I guess Henry comes from the opposite. We use the 909 drum machine and segue between our sets. If I’m playing a hip hop record, we go through an a cappela piece of music, and Henry is programming the 909 live, and also gradually speeding it up. You have to do it by the feel of it because there is no tempo dial and hope to end up in the right place. Basically, there is a lot of error in all these things that happen, but I think that makes it exciting.
Riton: This is a DJ show, firstly. Mark is pretty good with playing guitars and keyboards, I can mess about with the drum machine. But DJing is probably what we would consider our strongest instrument.
Has the notion of DJing changed over those years in your perception? What are the roles of DJs these days?
Riton: I think it’s probably more popular than it has ever been, which is good. Personally, I’m quite in a bubble. I often play with the same types of people, and only really see one side of it. It’ s always changing, but it is a slow, gradual change.
Mark: I’m so old, I feel like I’ve seen so many trends in clubs coming and going. DJing is probably the biggest it has ever been with people like the Swedish House Mafia filling two nights at an arena.
Riton: One thing that is missing now is that it’s hard for somebody in the middle who hasn’t got a hit record to fill a club now. They don’t trust a club or promoters of a regular night. You either have very small parties which are free for mates, or you have those mega dome events. That’s a shame.
Nowadays, DJ is a recontextualizer of an increasing amount of music, of past, present, and future. How do you choose it?
Riton: Just play your favorite things.
What are your favorite records right now?
Mark: I’m enjoying Young Jeezy’s R.I.P., or Rich Gang Tapout, for instance.
You have collaborated with other musicians and DJs, how did you decide to work together?
Mark: He just lives near my studio. I used my Google app, and he was the biggest DJ that lived close to my studio. So, we just figured it would be easier [laughs]. He likes to skateboard and luckily I live in the bottom of the hill, so it’s an easy ride for him to the studio. This is all actually true.
What was the best music-related experience that you’ve had recently?
Riton: I’ve just had a great time in the studio lately. I’ve got a lot of new material to put out, my own stuff and few other bits and pieces of production that I’ve been working on for other singers.
What about your krautrock project?
Riton: I’m definitely doing a new krautrock album, but it might not be for another five or six years. I think that it will be my retirement project. Once I’m in a place where I can do what Daft Punk did, and spend lot of money on producing an album, that not many people like.
Riton: Hey, I like it. That’s what I did last time, I had about 15 musicians on this, and that was a labor of love. When I was making it, the only thing I was talking about was krautrock. It will probably come when I’m sick of dance music, but I’m not sick of it right now. That is what happened to me last time—I thought, I just need a break from listening to electro.
How do your musical worlds interact? Mark you are familiar with hip-hop and also the more pop side of the music world, whereas Henry is more club-oriented?
Mark: I’ve always liked Henry’s music. For his mixtapes, he often includes things that I have a great affinity for. Even though Henry and I differ in tempo, genre-wise I enjoy everything that he plays.
These days there are no genre boundaries in music, it is all on one stage.
Riton: It’s good right now.
Do you get inspired by where you are, does it translate into your music?
Riton: When I have a really good gig somewhere, I feel quite inspired by that. As soon as I hear something, any piece of music that does inspires me, which is annoying because when I try to finish songs I keep hearing other songs and it keeps me sidetracked. I try to not listen to too much music, when I’m working on my own stuff.
It must be hard with DJing though, I guess it is quite difficult to combine DJing and production in this respect.
Riton: I play once or twice a week though, so I have five days for the other. I love being in London for working, though. The weather is just bad enough to not want to go out too much, I can stay indoors all the time, and not feel like I’m missing too much.
Are you interested in the new musical styles that are coming out of London now?
Riton: Yes, all the stuff that is popular right now is quite house-y, it’s quite melodic, and quite good quality. You have to be pretty careful with that type of music though. You don’t want to get bored. I like the deep stuff when it is soulful, but I don’t like it when it’s deep just for the sake of it.
Where do you see yourselves in future?
Mark: I think in five years I will probably be doing the same shit but hopefully I’m a little better at it, a little wiser.
Riton: I wouldn’t want to think, “If I do this, then I can stop, and I have loads of money.” I know that I will always be making music. Hopefully making krautrock or something when I’m 70.~
BCK2BCK perform tonight at Electronic Beats’ event for Springfestival’s opening night. You can listen to and download their new track “Nine-Whoa-Nine” below.
After experiencing the ISAM live show for the first time at Springfestival, Amon Tobin‘s stated influences (which include Italian horror director Dario Argento) might not necessarily to come to mind. It’s hard to tell, though, since it was impossible to ask anyone at the end of the show. The crowd was completely blown away, staring at the now-dark boxes on stage, speechless at first, knowing they had just witnessed something unforgettable. Then the cheering started. But that’s how an incredible evening found its climax, so let’s backtrack to four hours earlier.
What had originally been an abandoned factory hall is now home to the Electronic Beats Springfestival opening night. It’s not totally dark yet as the first music lovers begin to trickle into the huge building. Wolfram started spinning at the DJ Booth at 9 pm; half an hour later he is the first person onstage. Some people even start dancing to his eclectic selection of obscure disco tunes, late ’70s synths and weirdo krautrock. Others gather in small groups, drinking beer and discussing the insane visual extravaganza the night may bring. Nobody knows exactly what to expect, but you can clearly feel the excitement in the crowd growing by the minute. Wolfram himself manages to be much more than a mere bit player. He cleverly directs the audience’s tension, a skill he may have learned from one of his idols, composer and experimenter of sounds Ennio Morricone. He’s missing only one thing: an audience. 9:30 pm seems to be way too early to enter the main hall. The situation has changed by the time the other Austrian musician of the night enters the stage. Zvonko organizes parties and stands behind the turntables all around the country with his colleagues at the Graz collective Disko404. Tonight he plays a solid, heavy bass set that gets people into the right mood.
It’s exactly 11:11 pm when Amon Tobin takes the stage to present his eighth studio album, ISAM, for the first time live in Austria. The crowd starts cheering, but before long the stunned audience has seemingly lost their ability to even put their hands together. With production designer and creative director Alex Lazarus from blasthouse, Tobin has created an audio-visual live show that will change the way we experience live music forever. It seems each song gives birth to its own world of shapes from another universe. The tour de force lasts a little bit over an hour and afterwards we’re all sure of one thing: we’ve just seen a glimpse of the future. Fortunately, minutes later, the crowd had regained enough of its senses to be able to show their appreciation and turn the venue into a madhouse. That enthusiasm gets rewarded with two encores, one consisting of heavy breakcore tracks, the other letting the visual cubes go down.
Are we sad that the end is in sight? More than words can describe. But we will make sure to keep you posted, especially with the next series of Electronic Beats festivals waiting just around the corner!
Check out some photos from the event in the image gallery to the right, and head over to our Facebook page to see more!
Today the Electronic Beats Festival finally stops at Graz. The Springfestival is legendary, and we’ve already heard quite a few stories. What really let’s us drop a bit of pee into our pants though, is the lineup. But take a look for yourself.
Amon Tobin‘s 2011 album ISAM is a rich blend of complex soundscapes and dance music elements, and he necessarily needs a mindtwisting live show to accompany it – or is it the other way around? Whoever visited Tobin’s ISAM live tour last year was blown away by the moving stage design, 3D projections and stunning visual effects. During our opening night of the festival, Amon Tobin will be bringing his futuristic and ultra-cubic shaped stage show to Graz. The documentary below will give you more insight.
Wolfram Eckert aka Wolfram just turned 30 this week, and we’re sure he’ll be playing one of his very special sets at Graz. You may want to read what his friend Moby has to say about this (not so) young man from Austria. His self-titled debut is packed with all kinds of sleazy superstars such as Hercules & Love Affair, Haddaway and Holy Ghost, and is still on heavy rotation at the office.
Last but not least is Graz’s local heros Zvonko of Disko 404. These guys are responsible for some of Austria’s most fantastic bookings. If an artist is invited to play at one of their parties, you can be sure they’ll be all over music blogs and magazines the year after.
The full hour of the Amon Tobin performance will be broadcast on goTV on June 2nd from 10pm, so if you see any cameras be sure to jump up and down and wave your arms; you could find yourself on TV. Imagine it! Tickets are
on sale now SOLD OUT now, rsvp to our Facebook event in the meantime, and follow us on Twitter or Facebook for updates. Be sure to join us May 19th for a spring to remember!
Springfestival is arguably the best festival for electronic music in Austria, and you’ve already heard some of the stories of which legends are made – Felix the Houserat recounted some of the best memories of ten years of Springfestival and even told you about Graz’s best culinary treat: vanilla ice cream with pumpkin seed oil. Now it’s time for his partner in crime Wolfram(formerly Marflow / Diskokaine and long time member of the Electronic Beats family) to tell us some of his adventures and long-kept secret stories.
The problem with Springfestival is that it’s almost too good. As a result, my own memories from – six times four days – from 24 days of excitement in Graz are very cloudy. On the one hand, this can be seen as a bad thing. How would you feel if you realized that after going to a festival five years in a row only a handful of memories can be brought back? On the other hand, it makes those surviving memories – which were apparently awesome enough to make it through the merciless onslaught of alcohol and partying they were subjected to – all the sweeter to share with you now.
One night (after all that sentimental talk about the memories that survived, I feel like I must add that this is actually story my friend Patrick Pulsinger told me afterward) I lost my iPhone at least six consecutive times, in a very short period of time. I was wearing these huge African pants and the mobile kept falling out of my pockets as soon as I would sit down. Backstage, in the cabs, basically everywhere I chose to plant myself for more than a minute, Patrick had to be following close to be sure to scoop up my iPhone. For me it was a fun night, though I’m afraid I couldn’t say the same for Patrick.
A rather sad story was meeting DJ Mehdi backstage last year. We talked for quite some time because we had previously had the chance to hang out on a couple of occasions in New York. A few weeks later he fell through a glass veranda and broke his neck, so that Springfestival was the last time I saw him.
One of the best moments ever happened during Springfestival 2008. I was DJing at Dom im Berg, which was back then the main location, and everybody went nuts when I dropped ‘Hyper Hyper’ by Scooter. Afterward, the festival’s man in charge, Stefan Auer, told me that some guy wanted his money back since he didn’t pay for an après ski party. Funny thing: Later I also happened to meet the legendary H.P. Baxxter himself in Graz (ok, actually my friend Felix did, but I saw them together, haha).
Also great and quite absurd was the year where they had some kind of synthesizer museum. Synths are fantastic and every musician I know (including myself) is obsessed with these marvelous little machines. So it didn’t come as a surprise that every second afterhour ended with a trip to the museum and, as a result, every time I went there, I’d encounter at least one musician who hadn’t slept a minute the night before.
For this year I’d recommend you to go to the opening night party at Helmut List Halle, (since I’ll be DJing there) and don’t miss the lecture from Stefan Sagmeister. He was born in Bregenz but moved to NY in the 90’s and designed some iconographic covers for The Rolling Stones, Brian Eno and David Byrne. He even won a Grammy.
With the advent of spring slowly creeping across Europe, it’s time once again for EB’s festival season to commence! The parties kick off on April 28th in Gda?sk, Poland with James Blake, Digitalism, Squarepusher, Jazzanova, and Dillon! Blake recently revealed details of a second album entitled Beyond Belief. Though it’s not due to drop until September, there’s a chance you just might hear some new tracks, so be sure not to miss out! Fortunately we won’t have to wait so long for the new Squarepusher LP Ufabulum; that one drops May 14th. If you need a taste a bit sooner, check out new track ‘Dark Steering’ below.
May 5th is a good time to live in Prague, as we’ll be bringing you The Whitest Boy Alive, Grimes, Woodkid, and a sick DJ set from Mike Skinner! Speaking of Grimes, Claire recently released a limited-edition cassette tape on the ever-evolving 4AD. The kicker? Ya gotta win it! We’ve already sent our emails in and lit a candle for luck; if not, we’re hoping some kind fan decides that sharing is caring (hint hint). Meanwhile, Woodkid’s Yoann Lemoine recently tweeted that he was ‘enjoying animals in forests and paper animated commercials’ with noted director Matt Lambert. Do we have a new video to look forward to? Here’s hoping.
Bratislava won’t miss any of the woody action, because on May 12th Woodkid will be rolling up along with Unkle Sounds, The Asteroids Galaxy Tour, and Friendly Fires, who have been working on new material for their third album. The band recently stated, however, that they’ll be keeping the new LP under wraps until they feel it’s distinct enough from their previous work to merit release. Before that, however, they’ll be releasing a new track with Primal Scream producer Andrew Weatherall, which is due for a release this summer. Finally, May 24th will find us (and hopefully you!) in Cologne, with live sets from The Kills, Miike Snow, The Hundred In The Hands – just about to release their new album Red Night via Warp – who are giving their single ‘Keep it low’ for free here, plus the always incredible Austra, plus a DJ set from Citizens! and Coma. Brooklyn-based duo The Hundred In The Hands recently released the new track ‘Faded’ off their upcoming EP Red Night, and it’s one we can’t wait to see them perform live. Dreampoppy goodness, perfect for spring. Check it:
EB Festivals aren’t the only place you’ll find us reppin’, though: on May 26th, we’re capping things off by opening the first night of Springfestival! Joining us will be the legendary Amon Tobin, performing his awe-inspiring audio/visual ‘ISAM’ show, as well as support from Wolfram and Zvonko. If you’ve never seen Tobin live, we can tell you with no trace of hyperbole that it’s an experience you will never forget.
We hope to see you at one of these killer events. Spring has sprung, but not as hard as we have in anticipation!