Meeting Tony West <> 03

Meeting Tony West <> 03 1024 1024 Be Techno

Speaking to Tony, whom we basically met through our common love for Giegling, we’ve not only made a good friend, but we’ve also discovered a humble person, a soul open to share his experiences and connect with us through some of his musical preferences, which he put in a beautifully crafted mix for our podcast series.

His warm personality and his interest in traveling turned out to be a key factor in the flow of our discussion. Knowing that we could rely on someone who was able to explore different parts of the world and gather a certain maturity, a certain wisdom, gave us space to raise a rich diversity of topics.

How would you describe techno in a few words and what do you like most about it?

I prefer techno in a live format, at parties, rather than at home. I think for me techno is really effective as a tool for introspection and detachment, where I can mentally enter and release a part of my consciousness. That inevitably then extends to my physical self, so I find it more satisfying when I can move freely. I like it when the music hooks my body up to the point where I lose my breath, but then must keep moving. It becomes a bit like a meditative experience, in the sense that you are not so distracted by superfluous thoughts and more aware of your senses and emotions. A bit like when you go running and you push yourself beyond your comfort level. The kind of techno I enjoy keeps your attention but also provides space for you to roam freely inside of your head and explore yourself.

How does traveling influence you when it comes to mixing?

I think travelling affects me in two ways. On one hand there’s going to parties in these countries, and listening to what people are interested in, what they resonate with culturally – that is very inspiring and it gives a lot of ideas about how to tell different stories with the music you play, like say a Japanese crowd and a Spanish crowd, the stuff you’d play for them ideally should be entirely different I think, for them to connect with it on a deeper level.

On the other hand, there is the space that you find between parties and away from the music itself. The truth is that travelling you don’t come across that many underground electronic music parties and you are sort of detached from it all. You do however hear many other things in different contexts that ‘refresh’ your ears when you return to your library and make you explore other parts of it.

Can you tell us about the idea behind this mix? Did you try to capture certain sounds, certain emotions?

When you guys explained to me that with Be Techno you wanted to bring the genre to an environment where it was not so prevalent, I thought I should to include a few different things so that your listeners could explore a range of styles in it. Apart from using tracks from some of my favorite artists, I wanted to reflect what I was saying about what techno is to me, with tracks that have a lot of space to breathe, with peaceful and warm sounds but still with high energy and speed (most of the mix is 135 to 145bpm) in fact slowly transitioning from one thing to another throughout the mix and then blending them both together at the end. In that combination is where I find my most satisfying moments on the dance floor.

Talk us through how you personally feel and deal with this space of in-between being a passionate of techno and house and a professional DJ.

I think there are things about being a professional DJ that I’m not sure I would handle very well. I feel like if you become part of the industry, you’ll be subjected to a lot of situations that you can’t control and might not like, and you need to be adaptive and okay with it. I’m kind of introspective on some level so it’s a bit stressful being in that place where you feel a need to fulfill expectations, not just from others but also your own. Unlike some of my DJ friends, I can’t help being affected by those expectations. Of course, it’s great to play for people, and I will continue to do it when there is a chance, spontaneously, if the situation presents itself. Ultimately, I love this music and I want to be involved with it as much as possible, but I also value my mental peace and happiness and I wouldn’t want to jeopardize it letting things get out of hand. The important thing for me I think, is to listen to myself, remember why I like it, and go only as far as I can, without forcing things for the wrong reasons.

What would you tell others in the same stage, young talented passionate DJs who are trying to find their sound?

The best advice I can think of is simply to go out to parties and pay attention to what the DJ is trying to communicate, how they mix, the sequence of their track selections. Even try to go out alone from time to time if you can. It sounds obvious, but seeing what works on a dance floor or at least what you think works, really informs what you do later in your own mixing. Not to mention it’s the best place to hear fresh new tunes. I think also having the right friends who you can talk with about music and share, also helps drawing attention to certain aspects of a DJs performance you might have overlooked or disregarded. Additionally, to play well, really well, you need to honestly like what you play or else you’ll have a mechanical and bland style, so I’d say try to stick with what truly makes you vibe, and not necessarily what is popular and people want to hear.

Electronic music artists, including DJs, have a unique kind of power in the communities they are playing for, that is they have a voice that can be heard easier. Do you think they should be more involved in using this power to tackle different social issues from all over the globe, or do you think there’s already too much attention on what’s not relevant and this would only add more to that?

I come from a comparatively privileged background. I’m a white male, heterosexual and I was born in a developed country. Perhaps, I’m not the right person to say if DJs should say or do more about things like discrimination, homophobia and so on. For me, parties don’t need to have a specific agenda, but again, I’m not experiencing any of these issues personally. That said, there is no denying that club culture can be a source of support for people who feel isolated in one way or another, especially if it specifically brands itself as inclusive for that particular demographic.

However, international DJs might travel the world to different locations with social issues they may not be entirely familiar with, so I’d say it perhaps falls more in the hands of local communities, collectives, promoters or magazines such as your own, to really put in words what the problems are, and then seek DJ support to draw attention to the cause. I don’t think there is an intrinsic responsability that comes with an artist’s success; in most cases they are in the industry for entirely different reasons, but if a DJ wants to be more involved in any particular initiative, I don’t see why they shouldn’t. There is no such thing as too much awareness. They just need to understand well the nature of the issues they are talking about, and avoid aligning themselves with certain initiatives simply to gain visibility and extra support.

I have one more question if I may Tony, talk me through your musical influences, along the years, but especially now. I know you’re a big fan of Giegling and this is what brought us together basically, talk to me about you and Giegling.

I don’t know if I can pick a single genre that I am particularly influenced by. I like high energy, exciting rhythms and eclectic sounds, but deep and emotional melodies. I was a bit of video game and fantasy nerd as a kid. I find often that songs that I like speak to some of those memories from my childhood, like they could be the soundtrack on some star ship fighter game or something like that. With electronic music, I started out with hardstyle, or ‘gabber’ and jungle. Then I guess I slowly explored genres that felt a little more balanced, finding techno. At 18, I worked in a club in Madrid called Macumba, which is where I saw some big techno names for the first time like Jeff Mills, Chris Liebing or Spanish ones like Mulero and Exium. Over the next few years, my MP3 would have really strange playlists of all those genres, along with rock, reggae, ska, hip hop or classical. I literally had no idea what I was into!

Eventually I got to Berlin. Techno rules the scene there, and I think my tastes became more refined over time. Same with my ‘house side’. It get’s a bit repetitive when you only listen to techno all the time, but Berlin luckily has plenty of good options also for house. The big breakthrough I think was when I came across Giegling, and through it a bunch of other labels like Perlon or Kann. I hadn’t been exposed to anything like it before and it’s been under my skin ever since! Today I help managing a small Facebook fan group where we talk about that kind of music, which is where we also met, indeed. I’ve found lots of people through it actually, and even met them in my travels, or the other way around, met them first and invited them to the group. The social aspect of electronic music, or music in general, cannot be neglected. Life without music would be a mistake, but with no friends to share it with, it it would also be pointless!

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