Microscope series is back again and this time we are having a very well known name – Andy Kolwes & A Special Mix.
Hi Andy, a pleasure to have you here! I couldn’t make it in time for your set due to my work but I had a blast at the Pressure Traxx’s 6th birthday at Hoppetosse, how was it for you?
Coming to Berlin is always a pleasure because I have so many friends & brothers in sound here. I entered the boat about ten at night and both decks were already fully packed. It was quite sweaty but had a great buzz about it. It felt amazing! I couldn’t t think of a better way to celebrate this birthday. I met so many friends from all over, including my friends from Cologne who came by as well.
I always prefer working with friends, because there is a deep level of understanding. Every problem can be solved with a quick phone call and you don t waste any time with chit chat. That means more time for the fun part!
So I realized I don’t know much about your background, what were your formative years like? Did you grow up in Cologne?
If I look back now, it seems like I have a special relationship with the night since the beginning. In my early youth I was a very busy graffiti writer. Very similar to the music scene with friends from all over across Europe. We were visiting each other, all sharing the same passion. A real underground feeling. It was natural for us to buy vinyl, even though we weren’t DJs at all. A good friend of mine was the first to have a DJ setup at home with 2 Mk2s and a mixer. The only problem was, that nobody knew what to do! There wasn’t any YouTube or Internet, you had to have somebody to show you how it works, not so easy like today. So I was more into graffiti at that time. It was in my early twenties, that I discovered the disco life for myself.
After that I was more & more going out and enjoying the party night life. Over the years I became a experienced clubber, first as a punter and later I started mixing, organizing parties & finally making my own music. The time between 20-30 was pretty tough because everything is unsure and finding your way in life is not so clear. Whilst studying economics, all the expectations were causing pressures and making me question what I was doing. Later on in my 30s things got much easier in a way, as you start to feel more comfortable with yourself. The path is more obvious and you realise you are doing the right thing.
Do you remember any experience that blew your mind and decided you to get into the scene, start mixing, etc?
My mate Nekes was playing in Cologne and we were at an after party we were doing, I decided right there and then to go for it & get into Djing as my new passion. From then on I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I started organizing my own parties. Then I made friends with Alex Multhaup who did the label Karmarouge back in the days. We were organizing monthly club nights and a big festival called “Cologne Summertunes”. In the following ten years I had the chance to develop my skills and grow as a DJ, playing with many of the guys that I’d looked up to previously. These were great times!
That’s how I met Thomas Melchior for the first time, as well as Dan Andrei who became a regular guest and long time friend. I think I was about 26, when I started making my own music. Our monthly event was a good opportunity to test out the stuff I had produced the weeks before. It was a very motivating environment for me growing as an artist. The music became more & more important.
Cologne’s a city our readers are maybe less familiar than Berlin or Frankfurt, how’s the scene like over there? Kompakt is a big reference point but that doesn’t seem to be your type of sound, was this an influence though?
Of course Kompakt was really important for many people back in the day but it frustrates me a little, that Cologne is still only known for the sound of Kompakt. We have some really talented people here who are worthy of getting mentioned as well. For example, Julian Bomm and the guys from Rheinrythmic crew. A highly motivated bunch of young guys organizing events. Three years ago, they came up with an illegal club for a short period of time in an old car wash. It was all built from wood inside with the help of their mates. For the weekend they rented a function one sound system & it was just one big rave!
Luckily my studio was 5 minutes away and so, every weekend I was making music and when I felt kind of stuck in the process, I walked over to “Waschstrasse“ to catch some vibes.
Mostly I came by in the morning. In the end they put the old couches on the dancefloor and we were all hanging out. Then slowly a few started dancing again & BOOM, it was going on! That brought a special feeling of to Cologne, which Berlin is usually known for. In this great environment I met many new friends, for example St. Joseph as well as Martin Mercer, a young and very good producer with a huge output who is surely one to watch.
Is it something special for you playing over there? Would you ever consider moving?
Of course it is a very attractive place: I mean, so many friends all living close by in the neighbourhood. That sounds very appealing to me. During the week I am making music mostly on my own, because everybody else is doing a job. That can be boring sometimes. I just started searching for the right place in Berlin around Kreuzberg, where i can live with my Studio All in one place. If anybody knows something, please just drop me a line!
People are coming to Berlin from all over the world and I see it as a gift, that all this is happening right in front of my door. The fact that there is almost no language barriers makes everything so easy.
You’ve been DJing for more than 10 years now but only started releasing records around 2013, so what got you into producing?
At first my primary goal was to produce in order to get more bookings. Over time producing the music was so important to me that if I would have to choose now between Djing & Producing, I would just Produce. It feels like a great gift, being able to make the soundtrack to my own life.
Making music is like therapy. Even though you are escaping from reality, but you are still doing something for yourself. I find it really cathartic.
If I look back now, starting my own label was a great move because it made me totally independent. I never had to get in touch with labels for getting my music released. Many artists out there have a few great tracks and usually they want them to be released on a labels where they think they’ll get the most coverage. But then it’s gets so political if you know what I mean..I feel so lucky that I never had to hustle like that.
Of course it all takes its time, for example getting new equipment and updating your studio. But it’s a means to an end to evolve your vision of your sound.
Your sound is particularly trippy and hypnotic, even for minimal. What’s your process like when you’re in the studio?
My musical journey usually starts on Wednesdays and ends on Sunday. In these long boot camp sessions at home I develop my vision of a modern, trippy house sound. My sound is mostly analogue, coming from synthesizers and classic drum machines like TR808, TR909, Emu SP 1200 and some modular stuff. I use analogue sequencers or my hands to feed my synthesisers. Sometimes I really know what I want to do or try. But I also love starting completely free with no expectations and just catching the vibe of the day. If there is something special showing up which is worthwhile and appeals to me, then I try to capture this feeling and concentrate on the parts which seem essential to support the essence of the vibe. Often its like writing a book and I might try 3 different endings. In the end it often is a pity, because you have to decide which version is the best to release. Unfortunately time is limited on vinyl and these decisions must be made, although you see something special in each version.
On Monday & Tuesday I usually let my ears recover. During these days I just play some Piano. I just love to explore all kinds of melodies and harmonies on the keys. It brings you closer to the essence of a track, its certain feeling. I mean the rhythm & groove is one big component of a track, but also is the tone. It doesn’t necessarily have to follow the rules of standard music theory. Even a disharmonic combination of tones can feel right and be a beautiful thing.
And what about mixing, do you have a routine to prepare gigs?
Before a gig, I always go through my whole stock, just digging for stuff I’m into right now. In the end it its is mostly a combination of old tracks from the 90’s, some all time favourites and some new stuff. I usually play 90-95% Vinyl because it sounds better, is more fun and a better buzz to perform. Especially if you look at it from the entertainment factor. You are working, you are in the mix, it is part of your performance. In my opinion, there is no time for stupid DJ moves in the eye of the storm. It looks so boring looking at a DJ, staring frozen with eyes wide open, scrolling through a 100 Gb USB Drive. I made up the rule to just pick a track when I tend to get lost browsing.
To me being a DJ means developing a constantly growing reference to rely on, especially while making my own music. It keeps me fascinated, curious and up to date as well. I buy records all the time for all kind of situations, not only focused on the dance floor. I love playing on a gut level, focused on the actual moment, hunting for that special vibe that lives inside all of us in the rave.
Can you tell us a bit about your involvement with tINI and the Gang?
In 2013 we first met because my friends Nekes was playing with her at the beach spot. I had just released my first record on my label “Anyway”. tINI was telling me that she loved this record and to my surprise the next season, I was already hooked at the beachspot for the first time. If you are a newcomer, it is very important and gives you a legitimacy. Playing the closing set last year at Ibiza Underground felt like I finally arrived on the island. I was going to Ibiza almost every year since the late 90s, but back then more with the purpose of recovering from our monthly party business in Cologne.
I highly appreciate tINI, not only because of her support in my early days, but also for all those fantastic nights we shared over the last couple of years. She is the living proof to me, that it’s possible to stay true to yourself and even gain a bigger audience at the same time.
The three records you put out on your own label ‘Anyway’ are truly something special, and I hear there’s an album on the way now. How was it crafting an LP compared to EPs?
I’ve been thinking about this for some time. My biggest struggle is to find the right combination of tracks. The decision itself is the biggest problem, because if you are juggling too long without coming to a decision, it starts to do your head in! That feels more like work than in the end. I have had that last September. In the end I was so fed up thinking about the album, that I just stopped the thinking process. I just wanted to make music again.
You’re fresh off a tour in South America and Japan. That sounds exciting, tell us about it!
Oh yes, it was. I always wanted to go there. It was already planned for last year but did not work out in the end. This year, it was time and I had a blast! I left every place with the feeling of “I don’t want to go now because I’ve made some amazing friends” Manglus from Urugay was already a good friend of mine, because we shared some great nights in Club der Visionäre over the past few years. As well as Yoske from Japan. It’s an unforgettable experience when they show you the best places in their world.
In the beginning I was a little frightened by the thought of being away from studio for 6 weeks. Although it was very important for me to go out & enjoy life after a very long winter studio period.
You’re featuring on the upcoming raum…musik compilation, for the label’s 20th year, and there’s also an EP coming. How did the connection with Dorian happen?
That is a cool story because he was eventually a key player in success. The story begins about 20 years ago. At that time I remember dancing to Dorians sets in Space Ibiza. Since then he has been steadily releasing timeless & contemporary dance music.
In September 2013, I eventually went to Ibiza with a handful of copies of my first release. I was very lucky to give one of those copies to Dorian as he was playing. In the following weeks there was a huge demand for my record, so Dorian passed me over to Freebase Records. I drove down to Frankfurt with my first 20 copies. Three days later, they were all gone and Freebase was asking for more. As I am self-distributing my records, it was a brilliant start and got my record straight into the shops.
Being part of the 20 years anniversary of Raum Musik makes me very proud, as I have been following Dorian & Raum Musik since the beginning. He is not only one hell of a nice guy, he’s such a sensitive DJ who has been consistently blowing my mind for two decades!
When I do a sound check in a club, I often put on Raum Musik first because it shows you very clearly what you can expect from the sound system and where the limits are for the night. Always a very good reference to rely on.
And what else is coming up for you? Any exclusive bits for our readers?
There will be coming an additional artist Ep on Raum Musik around in the late summer.
And of course hopefully my first LP (2×12)on my label Anyway.
I usually try to not look too far forward and take life step by step.
Thanks for the mix! Did you have a specific idea or mood you wanted to convey when recording it
s recorded in Nagoy
in Japan which is the hometown of my friend Yoske. It was the last gig of my Japanese tour and a mental night. I always prefer to take a mix from a night than making a podcast at home. At home its more clinical and somehow an feels like an audition, although nobody is there. Then I end up recording two or three mixes & have to decide which one I prefer. From my experience that’s a waste of time and I’d rather capture the spirit of the rave on the night.
It is believed that booking agent plays a vital role for a DJ throughout the career, particularly in the early stages. Tell us a bit about Zero Logistics and how your life changed since you signed with Z.L.?
I first met Roberto as I was playing for tINI & the gang in Underground. That night I told him that one day I would like to have my own Roberto. I was very pleased and did not have to think long as he asked me if I would like to join his agency, Zero Logistics, three years later.
I am really thankful especially for my first South America tour. It was a great start this year and I really feel like there’s some wind in my sails now.. It is great for me to have him in the back taking care of all the booking stuff. People often forget that it costs precious time & a lot of work until a date is confirmed.
Despite that I am very grateful for him helping me with improving all my social media stuff. Something that I couldn’t be assed to spend too much time on in the past.
Of course it is the responsibility of the artist to deliver great content and new releases, so your agent has some material to work with. I see it also as a great opportunity to show the people what you stand for musically and what they can expect by booking you. You are step by step creating your own image and defining yourself as an artist. If you accomplish that while staying true to yourself and enjoying the process, it is all you can achieve I think. My work is a great experience to me and a very spiritual thing.
Thank you for your time and the mix & All the best for the future. We hope to see you in London.
Thank you MEOKO.
Words by Pierre-Alexis Chauvin