‘That’s me!’ | Interview with DJ Abyss

When talking to DJ Abyss, asking him to share memories from the golden era of Techno is a no-brainer. Still active, still producing intriguing electronika that will set you free, discussing with him about the past, the present and the future of electronika, is a pleasure indeed. Check below!

Photo by Marie Staggat

Describe your sound in 3 words

That’s me!

Tell us a few things about Times of Free Life. What is the story behind it?

I have a small house on a lake in the middle of a nature reserve. I like to retreat there for a few days when I want to escape the stress in Berlin. And that’s where “Time Of Free Life” was written on a quiet autumn day. The song reflects what you feel when you step in front of the house in the morning and look into the untouched forest.

Founder of the first techno club in eastern Germany, residents in iconic clubs and the list goes on..For which moment in your career you are most proud of?

That is very difficult. There have been many important moments in the last 30 years, which have influenced the further path and which were important to me. Certainly it was very important for me when Karina got me as a resident DJ at Tresor in 1995. Or when I got my own night at the Berlin club Sage in 1998 including the booking of my guest DJs. My first release on the legendary Berlin label MFS in the 90s, where I released together with Ellen Allien, Cosmic Baby, Paul van Dyk, Dr. Motte and others, was an important milestone. And last but not least my magazine Ten Dance, which was published from 1992 to 2004 and was one of the most important and most circulated magazines for electronic music in Europe in the 90s and 2000s.

Being part of the golden age of electronic music, if you could name the single biggest difference between then and now, which one would it be?

At that time, the entire electronic music scene was honest and direct. And that in all areas, whether promoter, DJ, producer. In the first years the scene was reinvented every month. The speed of development was incredible. Every month new groundbreaking releases came out. Today there is more stagnation, but also more consistency. This has its disadvantages, but also advantages. In the 90s, styles hardly had a chance to evolve to reach a certain professional level. It’s different today. Techno has arrived in the upper league. In the first 10 years until the beginning of 2000, the rapid development meant that techno was permanently stuck in a semi-professional corner as far as production standards were concerned. The club scene was also very changeable at that time. In Berlin, hardly any club was open for more than 2-3 years. Even cult clubs like the Planet, Walfisch or the E-Werk were open for a relatively short time. Today’s Berghain has been open for 18 years.

Photo by Marie Staggat

Your favourite producer that did not get the credit they deserve?

There is no answer to that. I was editor-in-chief of the music magazine TenDance for 12 years and heard a lot of outstanding releases during that time. Of those, maybe 1-2% really made it to notoriety. The number of talented producers compared to the well-known ones is almost infinite. And the tragic thing is that the unknown outstanding productions are better than most of the known ones. But this is the eternal suffering of the music scene. Outstanding and successful music are rarely identical. But good music is always in the eye of the beholder. There is no such thing as good and bad music. There is only music that few people like and music that many people like. The basic problem is that there is music that many people would like, but no one or too few people listen to because the appropriate support is missing.
But to name representative only 3 brilliant albums that come to my mind spontaneously:
Makai – Millenium”
Audio Science – Random World
Paul M. – Easy Intensive

What made Berlin the world’s capital of techno?

This is one of the big questions that many ask and to which there are many answers. Certainly, the large number of clubs plays a big role. Berlin just never sleeps. In Berlin, entire districts revolve solely around the theme of nightlife. Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg are musician districts. This is where most of Germany’s producer and DJ scene lives. Until the end of the 90s, in addition to Berlin, there was also Frankfurt/Main, Munich, Hamburg and Cologne, from which many producers and DJs came. But then there was a real wave of moving to Berlin. Most of the well-known DJs and producers moved to Berlin. Also many famous international DJs and producers from all parts of the world live in Berlin. Why Berlin is so attractive? Berlin is rough, poor, dirty and honest. Berlin is rude and direct, but honest. We had in our Ten Dance reaction employees from England, who came to Berlin over the weekend to party at a party and then stayed but 5 years. And that is not an isolated case.

Can you share with us something happy that happened during one of your gigs?

I think my funniest and most exciting gig was in 1996 with Jens Mahlstedt at the Kassler Stammheim. On this evening we played almost the whole evening with each other’s vinyls just for fun. Since we didn’t know each other’s records, we tried to listen to every record to find something suitable, which was sometimes quite hairy, because the running record stops at some point and you always need a few seconds to get the right timing when playing vinyl. There it became partly temporally already quite scarce. But this made it a unique set with an unpredictable courseā€¦.

Photo by Marie Staggat

Are we on a slippery slope towards dystopia?

I don’t know. The question is: are we already in the middle of it? I try not to think much about the distant future in terms of social development. It only drives me crazy. Unfortunately, we have little influence on the general development in this day and age. I focus more on what I can influence. With my company Ten Dance Media/Grooves.Land, I have the opportunity to do good things. We have been sustainable and climate neutral for many years. We support many good projects for animal welfare, climate protection, projects in the 3rd world, etc.

Thank you!

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