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Svan Vath- Techno, Drugs & Life After 40: Time For a Change ::

Reported by Trackitdown TID on April 4, 2005

“I think it’s important that the whole dance scene should move on. I’m 40 years old now, I think it’s time to bring the whole thing onto a new level, a new step. I also want to get people my age out clubbing again.”

Chatting down the phone from his Frankfurt headquarters, Germany’s definitive superstar DJ Svan Vath admits he’s inspired by the state of clubland 25 years after he started.

“There’s a better musical cocktail right now, I still like the minimal tech house stuff, but now with the productions of producers like Tiefschwarz, Black Strobe or Anthony Rother it’s freshening up the scene a little and making it much more song driven again,” he continues. “I don’t know what I want to call it though– electro, electronic song orientated music, I also still like Italo-disco, there’s so many elements of italo-disco in the music right now.”

Though he’s enthused by the changes electro he remains firmly centred around the genre he helped create, techno, though he’s long past the restrictions that nowadays often accompany the genre.

“We had our times in the ‘90’s, especially with Harthouse and Eye Q, where we were focused just on one style for a very long time and after a while, I felt really bored by this style. Then people started calling it trance music,” he chuckles. “And today, there are so many different musical styles out there yet I still see lots of DJs playing the same style for ten years. I can’t imagine doing this myself,” he adds.

While’s he’s happy about the mix and match eclecticism that’s shaken up dancefloors in recent years, he’s less comfortable with the same trend in drug use, despite being one of clubland’s most legendary party animals.

“I’m really shocked about how much drugs people take and also how many different drugs they mix together just to get high these days; It’s shocking for me somehow,” says Sven.

“I know what it’s like to take ecstasy and being funny for the night, but today when I watch the young ones taking ketamine and speed and then rohypnol, then smoking and taking speed again – I don’t get it,” he admits.

“We still have to give people a chance, especially the young people – give them an education in this. This is the most important thing. For the older people, people my age who are still doing it that bad, maybe they haven’t learnt anything. It’s a question of discipline. I quit smoking three years ago and I stopped cocaine 16 years ago when my daughter was born,” he adds.

Learning discipline from practicing Ayurvedic meditation, he remains enormously enthusiastic about both DJing and building is Cocoon empire which includes a season of weekly parties and a brand new club in his beloved home town of Frankfurt. He’s also just released a new compilation CD Sven Vath: The Sound of the Fifth Season, tying in with his Balearic jaunts.

Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): Your new mix CD Cocoon is the fifth such compilation you’ve now done, do you now have a particular formula?

Sven Vath: “There are separate projects we do with Cocoon recordings, firstly my mix CD, which is dedicated to the particular Ibiza season, then the Cocoon compilation series, starting with A, B, C and D. The D compilation was last year and we are just getting the new tracks for the new E compilation for this year. For my mix cd, there’s not really a formula as such though the starting point for me with mix CDs is what’s the point in doing a mix CD when I’m usually playing usually 8 hour sets, or even longer?

Before I started doing the Ibiza Cocoon parties, I never released a mix CD, because I found it too difficult to ask myself which tracks to put on a one and a half hour mix CD but then when I started with the Ibiza club night suddenly I had a good reason for doing one. Basically it became about picking the tracks of the season, and bringing them together in a nice way to provide something very special for all the people who were there, to give them something for the memories. The CDs constantly change their style of the music year after year so the formula is actually about always playing new music. This new one is a mix of electro, tech house and techno.”

Skrufff: You’ve included tracks by !!!, Black Strobe, Tiefschwarz , how much do the see the club scene entering a new phase?

Sven Vath: “I think it’s entering a new phase with groups coming back into the scene with much more musical background, as you can hear on the CD, there’s much more song structures and vocals involved. I like that. It’s a better musical cocktail right now. I still like the minimal tech house stuff, but now with the productions of Tiefschwarz or  Black Strobe it’s freshening up the scene a little and makes it much more song driven again. I don’t know what I want to call it though– electro, electronic song orientated music, I also still like Italo-disco, there’s so many elements of italo-disco in the music right now.”

Skrufff: Danny Howells told us recently that he’s started wearing make up again, some ten years after he stopped being a Goth, do you wear much when you are out these days?

Sven Vath: “Sometimes I do, it depends. I always liked to dress up and style myself in the past, for me it was always a part of the nightlife, because it was always about performing as opposed to just going out and having fun. I remember the days of Duran Duran when we were suddenly new romantics and now I see people going out today again in a similar way, with boys starting wearing make-up and so on. I think that’s nice and also a little bit glamorous, it brings that glamour element back into clubs. I‘ve just started running a new club, my new Cocoon Club in Frankfurt, and a lot of people there like to dress up, because the whole design and the whole look of the club inspire them to do it to put some make-up on. We even have a styling corner set up in the club, where we have a professional make up artist sitting in a corner doing people’s make up and dressing up their hair a little. The thing is; now you get all the girls there, standing in a row queuing up to be done.”

Skrufff: What’s the club scene like in Germany right now?

Sven Vath: “There’s a lot of good sounds out there and people are getting inspired; they have a new vibe out there and I think especially right now, the music that’s comes out of Germany is wonderful in every different angle and genre. From Compact to Sender to Gigolo to Playhouse, from Jazzanova to Mouse On Mars,  from every angle on every different field of electronic music, there’s a lot of things going on in Germany now. It’s fun, people are enjoying it though a lot of artists moved to Berlin which I don’t like so much. There was a huge hype around Berlin but in the end they are just hanging out there and not being so productive, but it’s so cool to be there.”

Skrufff: Were you tempted to move there yourself?

Sven Vath: “No, Berlin’s not a city for me. It’s a city to visit, and a city to party in but not a city to live in. Frankfurt was always my city and we did everything from Frankfurt; Harthouse, IQ, the Omen Club, Cocoon, everything. Also people like Alter Ego, Roman Flugel and so many more producers all came from Frankfurt, and we created a huge scene there back in the 80s. These people are still around today and they’re all still very, very creative.”

Skrufff: When you were going into the New Romantic scene, were you all dressing up similar to the London style, like Boy George, for example?

Sven Vath: “Not like Boy George, more like Steve Strange or like Visage, Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet.”

Skrufff: Did you spend much time in London in those days?

Sven Vath: “No. I couldn’t afford it. I was a teenager. We had it in Frankfurt big time, because this was also the time when Kraftwerk were so big in Germany, so we were all doing the robot dance and the breakdance, and the incomprehensible time. That was also the time when I started DJing.”

Skrufff: When you started DJing in the 80s were you making a living as a DJ?

Sven Vath: “Yes I was, from 1981, I started in my parents’ club. My mum asked me if I wanted to become a DJ when I was 17 years old and I ended up playing there five days a week, so I could make good money – not that much money but good enough to live on.”

Skrufff: Was your mum a bohemian lady?

Sven Vath: “No. My mum and my daddy both escaped from East Germany, then by accident met each other in the city next to Frankfurt. They were really down to earth and they were very young when they met, my father was a painter and my mother was just a teenager. They fell in love, got married and then my mother gave birth to three boys, and my father was still painting, but they were always dancing and they always went out for dance shows. They were rock and rollers at the time, llistening to Elvis Presley but my father’s dream was always to build an English pub, entirely from scratch. Eventually he did it, and the pub had a small dance floor, where they started playing Diana Ross, Barry White, a lot of German songs, and disco – from Abba to Italian disco. Suddenly I found myself standing there behind the decks introducing Hot Chocolate and Diana Ross over the microphone. I came really from the beginning, yeah?”

Skrufff: What do your brothers do now?

Sven Vath: “One is an art director in an advertising company, but he’s really crazy, he is also doing digital art and he’s like a live artist, he knows how to survive. My other brother is into plants and flowers, he became a florist and has his own shop.”

Skrufff: A recent survey of British DJs revealed that just 13% of them are happy, have you gone through many moments when you have got fed up with it all?

Sven Vath: “Never. I was never bored and never fed up, maybe there were times when I pushed my limit too much, and there were some times I had to have my rest and think about the direction, but I always love what I’m doing. In the end, I think that’s what people feel. I came from the dance floor and I still like to dance and ever since I started I’ve always tried to play the hottest, the newest and the most advanced electronic music. I’ve always had so much fun with DJing because I always had the freedom to play whatever I want, so I was never pushed to play one particular style. I’d hate to be in a box, whether it’s house, drum and bass, techno or cheese; My mission was always to play good music on the dance floor but music that was 99% electronic. Then we started calling it house, techno, electro, whatever, but if you listen to my mix DC you’ll hear that I’m all over the place. This is for me very important.”

Skrufff: Do you find yourself, being 40, taking stock; having moments thinking ‘what am I doing with my life’?

Sven Vath: “Sure I’ve had those moments, I’ve always had always business partners with different interests, especially during the period when I was running the Eye Q and Harthouse labels and at the beginning everything was fine for the first 5 years, then suddenly we had a conflict of interests. I saw the whole thing moving in a different direction towards my partner’s ideas and then I had to quit. I also had to take the decision to close the Omen club after ten years and that was not so easy for me because I thought of the club as was my living rooms it was very hard to say now is the time to finish. I have a good inner voice and I’m always listening to my inner voice telling me when things have to stop, because if you push something too much then it will eventually run out, like a burnout. There are so many different musical styles out there today, yet I still see lots of DJs playing the same style for ten years. I can’t imagine doing this myself.”

Skrufff: How easy for you was it to stop?

Sven Vath: “It’s a question of discipline. I quit smoking three years ago. I stopped cocaine 16 years ago when my daughter was born. Now I have a 16 year old daughter and she’s trouble (laughing) I remember the days of the Love Parade in the 90s when we were all crazy like hell – it was fun, it was very enjoyable, I think drugs helped the whole dance scene grow, but there were too many people who saw the money in that and then the whole bad thing started. People started selling more and more drugs and more and more shit, making people sick and so on. There’s still a lot of drugs on the table, and people can choose what they take, but for me I think I have learnt my lesson. I still choose my parties where I’m going to have fun big time and when not. I know how it is these days. We have a saying in Germany – I can’t translate – there is no point to waste yourself. There’s maybe some good parties in a year where you say you want to go there and you want to party for two days maybe, but then you choose the party, then you party, then it’s fine after that. For people who are having a blast every weekend, the time will come for the big payback.

What’s really helped me has been Ayurveda, I’ve been following it for ten years now. Every year between October and January, for four months I don’t have sugar, alcohol, meat or coffee and this is always a good period for me.. The first two week period it’s like a therapy where you sweat yourself out and you shit yourself out, which is very healthy. Since I’m doing Ayurveda, I’m not getting infections or catching colds anymore, I’m much fitter and I’ve trained my discipline to be able to say no. And saying ‘no’ has helped me a lot because you carry everything in you. All the happiness you have in yourself. I’m such a lucky person that I’ve found in my life what I like to do. I like to do music and I like to entertain people and make people happy. What else do I want to have? I’m really satisfied with this.”

Sven Vath: The Sound of the Fifth Season is out now on Cocoon Recordings

Sven Vath DJ Dates:

08.04.2005 Industrial Copera,  Granada / Spain
09.04.2005 Tribe House, Neuss/ Germany
16.04.2005 Florida 135, Fraga/ Spain
22.04.2005 Sound Architecture,  Amsterdam/  Netherlands
23.04.2005 4Rest @ Gorod , Moscow/ Russia
30.04.2005 Qbase, Athens/  Greece
01.05.2005 Qbase, Thessaloniki/ Greece
04.05.2005 Tavastia Klubi, Helsinki/ Finland
07.05.2005 Fuse, Brussels/  Belgium
13.05.2005 Perfection @ Boogaloo Club, Zagreb/  Croatia
14.05.2005 Dekadance @ Reitschule, Bern/ Switzerland
21.05.2005 Badeanstalt , Munich/ Germany

Jonty Skrufff (