Hanging the DJ: The Dynamic Duo of Digitalism

“Hanging the DJ: The Dynamic Duo of Digitalism”

As published in Skinnie Magazine, November 2010.

digitalism

They met in a record store, mere teenagers still in school, jaded by the music scene. Jens worked the register, assisting customers with the lowly album choices they made. Ismail “Isi” Tüfekçi worked in vinyl distribution, and was one of those frequent customers, only he agreed – music those days was feeble and weak. They were tired of it; there was nothing good to listen to anymore.

After awhile, the store owner asked the two of them to DJ one of the many parties he held; they ended up on the same floor and thus, DJed together for the first time of many – it would be the start of something fresh, organic, and very balanced.

“You can think of it as me, the cameraman, coming up with lots of crazy things, and then Isi steps in and directs the whole thing. It’s quite complementary. It’s like yin and yang,” Jens “Jence” Moelle explained.

The band’s success seems to be a fairytale. They began to make music together from scratch simply to have something they would enjoy listening to. The Digitalism fever caught on, and suddenly they toured worldwide and sold out venues in countries other than their own Germany.

“I always thought I’d have to do something creative, but it was hard to think about how to be someone who could become rich from being creative. I signed up for university, but there were never any plans. I could have ended up in an office as well, but I’d never like it,” Jence said.

Needing a studio, the two purchased an old, defunct WWII bunker and tricked it out with their gear, which wasn’t much at the time. They were still young; they were drop-outs; how could they afford nice recording equipment on a part-time record store job and vinyl salesman training position? The rough sound worked for them, however, as they produced Idealism, their debut. Despite the six years since they began working on it there, the band refuses to graduate to another studio.

“We’re still in the bunker but we upgraded the equipment. It was pretty rough in here. It looked like one of those hobby cellars. We were touring a lot so we didn’t have to hang out here loads, but once we stopped playing concerts last year and reduced touring to a couple of DJ gigs a year now, to go back to the studio we thought we should refurbish it a bit. So, we have new carpet in here, lots of new gear that we’ve bought over the years and collected. It’s still pretty DIY, but we’ve got lots of new equipment.”

As many music fans have witnessed in horror, upgrades in equipment often leads to a change in style: a more mainstream, pop feel without the qualities so cherished before. However, Jence firmly states that the only real difference between the first album and the upcoming is that the second is going to have stronger live aspects, instead of just existing as a studio album.

Otherwise, many qualities remain the same. Idealism formed as a storybook piece, with an entire concept from start to finish, drifting through Egypt in “Digitalism in Cairo” or floating through space in “Jupiter Room” and “Zdarlight.” The next album, dropping early next year, will be conceptual as well. The two find inspiration in film soundtracks and think in images. “It’s all these moments, and then if you try to put it to music, that’s when you get Digitalism music, I’d say.”

Digitalism’s rise to fame is reminiscent of the film Josie and the Pussycats. In a few years, they went from sorting vinyl in a small record store to playing huge festivals such as Lollapalooza and Coachella. Their favorite part, other than creating and performing their music, remains the collecting of experiences, memories, anecdotes, and different stories from here and there. The two keep humble; they still create their music for themselves as something they would listen to, although now they have a fan base to appeal to, and a mood to set on stage.

“I think, in the end, of course live shows are the best thing in the world for us because you get to play nice, you get to sing, you get all this gear on stage, and you can play your songs, or different versions of it,” Jence explained. “DJ sets are really good fun as well, but they are just easier. You don’t need ten people of crew with you, you don’t need much equipment, and you can play while having a drink. But the most exciting thing would be playing live; it’s pretty much like an orgasm.”

If performing on stage is like an orgasm, and music is the air Digitalism gasps in at climax, what else is there? The two grew up on music. When they were younger, they recorded radio shows onto cassette tape, watched films with interesting soundtracks, and played computer games on the brick-like laptops Jens’ father brought home from work. Everything from the past helped inspire where they are today.

Agreeing, Jens said, “Whatever you do, whatever you come up with, I think you should just stick to it. We don’t really think time or fate branches out, you just stick to decisions and whatever happens happens. I think it was just the right thing.”

Nothing else matters much to them aside from their music. They enjoy spending time with friends and family, but in the end, songs and sounds always play a part. To take a break from it, mild hobbies begin to emerge. “I discovered cooking in the last year,” Jens admitted with a laugh. “We like testing restaurants a lot and cooking, trying out new things in the kitchen, but that stuff you can only do when you have more time at home, of course.”

Digitalism, as an electronic rock group, steers away from genres and expectations to do their own thing, producing and creating it all on their own in a WWII bunker, then reaping the benefits with world touring. In the end, though, the group only wishes to be known for their music, and less as people. In the future, that’s the only image they want when all is said and done. “Probably as a CD somewhere in a music store. But I don’t know if they’ll even have any CDs left in a couple of decades. But that’d be nice, our vinyl. That’s it. A vinyl so kids could still buy it.”

Original link: https://issuu.com/skinnie_magazine/docs/skinnie_november_2010 – pages 48–49.