David Moufang’s musical career, having begun in the early 1990s, has been long and therefore, quite predictably, cyclical in its relevance and reach. Currently, however, the apropos of his work can be felt more than ever, at a time when the pulse of the rest of the world has re-aligned with his own tempo and ethos. His solo debut album as Move D, Kunststoff, is often given the accolade 17 years later as one of the most timeless techno albums ever. Still, it is perhaps his many collaborative projects – from Deep Space Network in the early 90s, to Reagenz (first in 1994 and then recently revived) and his Magic Mountain High live project, through which he has expressed his most experimental and adventurous side. Having grown up discovering music via his stepdad’s record collection and grandmothers’ classical training, Moufang’s work is constantly stretching the boundaries between house music, ambient, jazz, and classical whilst still honouring the essential canon of all things techno. After the release of his Secrets of The Beehive album in 2008, Move D’s legendary status (although he wouldn’t like to call it that) within the scene has been rapidly accelerating and so MEOKO was truly excited to get him on the phone and find out first hand his perspectives on the balance between commercial success and authenticity, the joy of live improvisation and the timelessness of music.
Your first interactions with music, rifling through your stepdad’s record collection at a young age, has been spoken of a lot, but was there a point at which you decided you definitely wanted to have a career in music, and who were the biggest inspirations for you at the time?
Yes, my love for music started very early on when I was just choosing records based on interesting artwork but I didn’t actually start picking up instruments until I was 10. At first I had weird fantasies of playing at City Hall and by the time I finished school I definitely knew there was nothing else I wanted to do. When I was in my early teens, I think I was just taking the turn from ACDC to The Police and maybe Grandmaster Flash – but that’s just a quick sum up. The big moment for me in my relationship with music was really when I was younger, as you said, and discovering The Beatles. They are still a huge reference and inspiration for me.
And how did your relationship with the techno side of things come about?
It wasn’t until the late 80s, early 90s that a friend of mine started putting on acid house parties and I got sucked into the scene. It was huge. One of the really appealing things about techno was that it was so underground. People would just do records, press them up and sell them as white labels with no extra help – that was really intriguing.
From this early involvement and fascination for the techno scene, how has it changed from your perspective and how have you navigated these changes within the industry?
Well it always keeps changing. In the beginning it was an underground thing; big clubs hadn’t heard about it and it mainly happened in warehouses. It wasn’t a money thing – more of a do it yourself thing, all about the decoration and the people. But then it got super commercialized with all the sponsorship of huge events with expensive tickets. Because of this it was easy for me to drift away from the mainstream scene. From ‘93 on, every year in the German press they kept announcing the death of techno and I was pretty disillusioned with it all.
But then new trends kicked in all over again – it always goes in a cycle. England especially was a big inspiration; going out in London where the DJs were playing breakbeat, which you normally wouldn’t hear in Germany. After another dip when the UK was listening to the same boring shit as everyone else, now 10 years later there is so much happening there again. I really think it’s where all the interesting imports come from. In fact it’s always been about London and the UK.
You said earlier you were intrigued about the underground aspect of techno, but now there is so much hype around it, even the mainstream media is fascinated with ‘deep house’. How has this affected the scene?
I think when techno’s popularity dipped dramatically it actually made the scene healthy again. Parties started getting smaller and it didn’t have to be DJs like Ricardo or Sven Vath for a party to take off. Now, I think it’s grown in a healthier way and all the attention it’s receiving in the press is well deserved. It’s still the type of music that evolves most quickly and has the most impact, not in comparison to the superstardom of Madonna maybe, but it is cutting edge and avant-garde.
I read you feel uncomfortable when DJing, is this true?
No, that’s not true I enjoy DJing alot! But, it’s true I don’t feel comfortable with the stardom of DJs. I think the idolization you see at big raves is ridiculous – everything we thought we overcame with techno, like the rock stage, is coming back. I don’t really dig it too much, I prefer being on the same level as people. Sometimes I might not feel comfortable playing too big a venue, which puts an anonymous mask on everything and you cant relate to the people, and visa versa.
Do you get this same feeling when you play at events such as festivals?
Festivals can be great, but I would prefer a smaller one to a huge one and if I played at a large festival, I would enjoy myself more on a smaller stage at least. But I’m in good faith that Gottwood will be exactly the type of festival I’m looking forward to; where I can get a feel for the festival and meet some people. It should be lovely…
All of this is wrapped up in the relationship between commercial success and being creatively genuine. How do you think you’ve kept a balance between your musical purity and your vitality in the industry?
That’s a good question. I really look it as two different things. With DJing, of course I love bringing music to people that they might not have heard or aren’t in to yet but ultimately I’m there to make them have a good time and I don’t want to preach to them too much. But when producing your own material, for me it feels super wrong to look at it in the same way. I shouldn’t worry about the purpose of the song. Sometimes I might leave a track for 10 or 12 years. Good music is timeless but a track could be better if it was brought out later, at other times people might not take notice of it. I think its wrong if you try and stay with the trends too much – it seems to work best if I just do my own thing, and be grateful if it aligns with the rest of the world, like right now. I was lucky to always have some faithful followers but at the moment it is pretty crazy!
In your career you have been pretty prolific and now have a remarkable back catalogue of productions. How much time do you normally spend in the studio working on your own music?
Not enough! Right now, I am playing SO much and as well I have other obligations with a 15-year-old son, taxes to pay and cleaning to do like everyone else. Usually when I do make spend time, there is normally something I can use and so a lot of wasted isn’t time. That’s probably because I’ve never really over-spent my time at the studio – you can’t treat it like a 9 to 5 job and expect things to happen. So there’s not a lot of time, but that’s the way the industry works at the moment and I can imagine my colleagues, so to speak, are in the same position. They have to keep playing to keep the money going so the studio is kind of left alone. Also working now it will be mainly for 12 inches or single tracks – the whole culture of albums seems to be quite lost at the moment but I’m really hoping it will re-emerge, because albums can grow on you and allow you to find new music rather than just waiting for the charts and the same old.
You’ve done a lot of collaborative albums, how different is that process in comparison to producing solo work?
That’s also about the time factor because with collaborations you normally only have maximum 2 or 3 days with someone and after you split, you don’t want to work it over too much, as that would be unfair to the collaboration. So naturally a result comes a lot quicker. Whereas, if I’m working on my own, I might stop to do something else and then the next week I don’t have time so stuff gets left and not worked on for weeks, months, even for years – and by then it might be a different flow. I like doing things in one flow.
Your collaborative albums have sometimes been your most experimental, for instance the Playtime album you did under the Reagenz moniker. Is experimentation the driving factor behind teaming up with another musician?
Yeh, that’s why I thought Playtime was such a fitting title because we really had fun playing with instruments that aren’t just machines; things like guitar, bass, percussion, conga, symbols, our voices and even my wife and son’s voices are in there. We had a direction and a vibe but we just allowed ourselves to play and experiment.
Jonah is especially talented at using hardware, but he’s also solid on most other instruments. On the other hand, I’ve worked with a lot of musicians who maybe don’t have that same background and they just have an idea about music, so they are more directing in the studio, which ends up with great results too. It’s different to when you are more an educated musician, when you are thinking of the boundaries of what you ‘can’ and ‘cannot’ do.
How do you think your own musical background and education has influenced your music?
Well I had my family’s influences around me, and my grandma was a classical pianist but myself I never had classical training, apart from on the drums and the xylophone maybe. But at least I had the patience to listen to an instrumental piece of music which influenced a lot of the ambient electronics, I guess. As well, it crosses over with the work of Pink Floyd and Kraftwerk, who referenced classical music with concept albums and songs lasting half an hour with no lyrics.
Many producers might solely listen to electronic music, or even a specific genre within that, like house and techno. Do you actively try and source other styles and genres?
I listen to anything: jazz, rock, world music…I’ve just been through a serious Serge Gainsbourg phase. I’ve followed him for several years but a real turning point was when I discovered his History of Melody Nelson, a concept album from the early 70s. I could hear so much in there, even Nirvana sounding stuff, and I just wanted to know more about this man. I discovered he’s worked for such a long time and his body of work is amazing, having worked with The Wailers on reggae or his early album Percussions, which has tribal rhythms that sound so timeless Ricardo villalobos could easily play it in a set, I’m not shitting you.
I think house and techno wouldn’t get anywhere if everybody were only listening to house and techno. Artists like Space Dimension Controller, Floating Points, anything that’s good from the UK – you can’t look at them without referencing things from outside of the genre like funk, boogie, hip hop and even classical. And it ends up in this weird, great combination.
In a culture that so rapidly consumes music, how does one work towards making your own material more long lasting and timeless?
Well I think that’s everyone’s aim, but I wonder how to get there. I’m sure its certainly not following the trends, because then what you are doing is always within a context and people will always be able to tell that. If you try to neglect everything and follow your own direction and instinct, you might end up with something unique – and that is timeless. Hopefully that’s something I do quite well with. I look back at stuff I’ve done years ago and it doesn’t seem dated to me. My release on Warp, I think would have done better now than it did in 1996 because back then there was sharp divisions; you either played four-to-the-floor or broken beat, never both. Whereas now, there is such a crossover especially with all the dubstep guys playing house, which I think is great.
Your own music tends to defy and blend genres in a similar way, but is there a continuity overall or anything you like to play with everytime?
Well no, I’ve done experimental stuff and I want to do slow stuff again. But through everything, I think there is some sort of permanent aesthetic value and I guess you could describe that as my ‘style’. It’s important to have this, but you just have to listen to your own beliefs and then your stuff will have a signature of sorts.
There is often a sharp distinction between your tracks that are slower, more experimental and those that a dancefloor-centric. Is this something you start off with knowing is going to be the end result?
Well in some respects there is normally a mood that you want to go into. But in collaborations it varies wildly; there are situations when you just start jamming without talking and other times when you discuss doing something ambient or something more playable. But I love it most when it’s open and unplanned. That’s why I really like the Magic Mountain High project and the stuff we do live, which is fully improvised and unrehearsed. I really never know what to expect, just that the other two guys are great, accomplished musicians so no need to worry.
What equipment are you relying on in these live shows?
It’s all analog. Our aim was to get rid of the laptop altogether. So basically we use a couple of old drum machines and synthesizers, mainly Roland ones. Either we take them to the gig or we try and ask promoters to get them for us, whether it is a Juno 60, SH101, 909. But either way if something isn’t available we can improvise with something else. There’s no staring at screens and the sequencing is all done on the spot, maybe while the others are jamming and so its organic, there’s no need to stop or pause.
It’s improvised, so things must go ‘wrong’?
No of course things go wrong, terribly wrong. Sometimes I have to lie down for a minute and let the others struggle with it, until the storm calms down and I can rejoin! But that’s part of the deal, how it works with people – the audien
e can feel the dynamics too, the whole room can feel it. It’s much different from having pre-programmed material and hopefully makes it a lot more interesting for people…even if they have to suffer for a while, but when it comes together everyone feels the same relief.
Lastly, you’ve been closing a lot of your sets with St Germain classic ‘Thank U Mama (For Everything You Did)’. It’s an astonishing record. When did you first discover it and why bring it back now?
I knew the track when it was released, as I was following him at the time. Ludovic Navarre is his real name and St Germain turned out to be his most successful project but he had many others at the same time. He’s in the same league as Derrick May but I don’t think he gets enough credit – he’s made some really, really great records. But now its kind of forgotten and I like bringing back old stuff that doesn’t sound old, that in fact sounds better than ever. It’s strange for me to think people don’t know it because it’s such a classic, but why should they? I like playing old tracks that matter to me personally – I remember what great times I was having around the time the record was released and then I can see what great times people are having now and so it doubles the fun in a way. I get to be like, “OK I’m going to show you this and I already know it’s fucking great”…maybe that’s one of the benefits of being a bit older.
Thank you so much David for your time, it was great chatting with you! See you at Gottwood 🙂
Words by Becky Young
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