Acquainted With The Night
“The Viennese are consumers,” a good thing for DJs, one would think. But according to four turn-table wizards who call Vienna home, the DJ scene needs a more involved, and more discriminating audience. Co-producers Stereotype and Al Haca, Joyce Muniz and Philipp Van Het Veld met with the Vienna Review to discuss the Vienna music scene. How does one classify electronic music. What’s the new Austro-Pop? What makes a wicked party? And how does partying in Vienna compare to other cities? Here were get the ‘down and dirty’ on what Vienna has to offer, the hopes and fears of electronic music from Kruder & Dorfmeister to summer 2007 and beyond.
Vienna Review: Can genres in electronic music be clearly defined? For instance could you categorize what type of music you play?
Stereotyp: No, I can’t. Everyone should just have a Stereotype or Al Haca section in his record store! It may not be economically wise, but I’d never sacrifice artistic freedom just to fit into some category. When I play, I guess you could classify…, I’d say it’s Pash, Dancehall more like, well more like…Dub-step actually ….yeah (thinks) yeah.
Al Haca: What we produce – for instance the last Al Haca album— combines a lot of music styles, which can’t be said to fit any certain genre. I guess it would be "bass music," or "bass heavy music." But it has a lot of British influence, Dub-Step stuff, like what we did at the Donauinselfest.
Joyce: I play all kinds of music (laughs). I guess I’m the classic consumer DJ, I don’t produce, but I play music and am a promoter for producers. I am definitely a freestyle DJ, whether it’s Techno, Minimal or Dub-Step or Hip-Hop. What I play is always party music, less for chill-out floor.
Philipp Van Het Veld: What I play I’d call "Tech-Pop." I play House, Break-Beats, Electro – 100,000 things, with Techno beats, but with Pop elements, hence Tech-Pop. I don’t care if I’m playing underground stuff or well-known records. I just use the tunes I like, but primarily the ones that make people go crazy! (chuckles)
VR: So Stereo and Al Haca cherish autonomy, while Joyce and Philipp cater their sets to the parties. What was the last party in Vienna that really rocked?
Stereotyp: Well, the one in the Ottakringer Brewery…
Al Haca: Yeah that was pretty hot, but what really rocked was the first Crunch Time party in the Camera.
Stereotyp: that was great…with Juice Aleem (see photo to right)…
Al Haca: Luftbad!
Stereotype: (smiles) Oh yeah.
Al Haca: …well, you can a have a great party with a few thousand people…
Stereotyp: …and then get the same feeling in places like the Luftbad, which is about as big as our studio. One of the smallest clubs I’ve ever seen.
PVHV: The best party was "Heaven" in February at Camera Club. The mood was like the Love Parade. 600 people, 80% gay and the rest pro-gay. It was one of the most excessive nights I’ve ever experienced! But parties can be small too. I’d rather play for 500 than 5000. When it’s smaller you party with the people.
Joyce: In Camera Club, the "Baile Funk" party, this is one of the styles that few people in Vienna play. Stereo does a little of it. The party was brilliant. We had a Brazilian producer, and it was tight. We had hip hop and dub step and techno, house, (shrugs) everything…
VR: Is it difficult to cater to the Viennese Party goers?
Stereotyp: Not really ‘cause the people who book us know what their getting. We’re not the kind of DJs where you can make requests. We use the music from our circle of friends and our own stuff, which doesn’t leave any room for "hey, do you have any Prodigy?"
Al Haca: For a while, we would get booked for the wrong events, in the dancehall direction, or like, we don’t really fit in at a reggae party. On our Stereotype Meets Al Haca album we did a few songs with Dancehall vocalists, but it’s still wrong to stick us in that category.
PVHV: I’m not an instructor: You can’t re-educate people in three hours. If you want to do that, you need your own club. I’m more of an entertainer and when the crowd goes crazy, I’ve done my job.
VR: When you play in Berlin or in Barcelona, or elsewhere, do you get a better reaction in other cities?
Stereotyp: In foreign countries, they go with the flow more.
Joyce: But in Spain, that’s not the case, for instance Dub-Step is really small in Spain. It depends where: in Germany, the Netherlands or England there are smaller Dub-Step scenes.
Stereoyp: The masses are channeled by America.
Joyce: By House and Hip Hop, the classics.
PVHV: In NYC or Barcelona the people are more together at a party. They’re more open for new things.
Stereotyp: (nods) In America they are more receptive to stuff that comes from Vienna, than in Vienna itself. The Viennese are consumers, which means they have no musical identity. Viennese people don’t identify with music from Vienna.
VR: Can that really be said? What about Kruder & Dorfmeister?
Stereotyp: Yeah, and that’s the thing. You have two pioneers that did it and made it and waved our flag all over the musical globe. And nothing developed except that people kept trying to imitate them. The label that Kruder & Dorfmeister started, G-Stone, doesn’t encourage innovation: "We only want what sounds like us," they say. It’s like the new Austro-pop. (laugh) They’re getting a radio station, and what’ll they play? Definitely not Dub-step, definitely not future music. Just Sunshine Records and G-Stone stuff.
VR: Do you feel at home in Vienna?
PVHV: I play a lot in Vienna, and as far as I can tell, the Viennese are pretty easy to please, just don’t get too innovative on them. They won’t get it. Sadly. Also, they really respond to big acts, and a party at the same club with a lesser known DJ won’t be full.
Al Haca: I mean, it can be a tiny club in Romania, and they’ll know exactly what we do. They roll out the red carpet for us. But in Vienna I can’t say that anyone has come up to me and said, "What you do is so unique." (leans back and sighs) We don’t get that kind of respect here. Even though we have people here who really love coming to our events.
Stereotyp: I only play in Vienna when I know I’ll have fun, when I’m with people I know. But I don’t like to play here, because they can’t pay anything, they have no money.
When I play abroad, I get 10 times the money that I get in Vienna.
Joyce: The Viennese organizers never do as much promotion for local DJs as they do for foreign acts. Even if you’ve recorded and sold lots of records and played all over the world, you’ll never be perceived that way.
Al Haca: You saw this on the three wonderful Dub-Step days during the Wiener Festwochen.
VR: What’s the difference between the crowds in Eastern Europe and the West where party music is more established?
PVHV: In Eastern Europe they have the Rave movement that we had in the 90s. In Vienna, at some clubs you get the feeling they would dance more if they weren’t always worried about their hair getting messed up.
Stereotyp: Down in Hungary, they’re not so saturated with parties. They are still enthusiastic. And if you go to Paris or Berlin, it ‘s more multi-cultural and there’s more of an urban culture. That’s what Vienna doesn’t have. I can count the street artists in Vienna on one hand. Mari, Busk, ichiban…that’s what I mean. They just check to see what’s playing on MTV, and think "Ok, now I can listen to this and now I can wear that," It’s all imitation, at the moment.
Al Haca: And in Paris, you open a magazine and see that Ed Banger records rock, and new rave is back in, and you’ll never read that some cool thing is coming from Vienna. All over the world, electronic music is in the media, but Vienna doesn’t dare be as present as Paris or England is with Grime. Even in Germany it’s more visible.
PVHV: I think the Vienna Scene constricts itself. In Vienna the scene began ten years ago with Kruder & Dorfmeister, and now too many people want in. They all get in each other’s way. In other cities rather than seeing someone new as competition, you try to work together, do a song together. The networking that works all over the world is much too absent in Vienna. The genres of electro don’t work together. There are too few people who know who they are and are willing to work hard. Stereotyp for instance or Defex are innovative and diligent and that’s just too seldom.
Stereotyp: That’s what we do!
Al Haca: What Stephan said may sound drastic but there is so much talent here. Artists have to work on themselves as part of a scene, just like the listeners and consumers have to say, Ok, this is what I want our city to be.
VR: Who has the power to change this attitude?
Stereotyp: In France they have a law that the radio stations have to play at least 40% French music. [See "Avant la Musique," The Vienna Review, Oct. 2006] In Austria, no Austrians get played, except on FM4 between the rock stuff. Maybe Ambros or Christina Stürmer. But if it’s not encouraged, we’ll stay consumers and not supporters of Austrian music.
VR: Now you get to use your imagination. The dream party: what would that look like for you?
Stereotyp: Naked women, swimming pools…yeah.
VR: Ok, wait let me rephrase that. Pick a club in Vienna and what would your dream party be there? Who would be playing with you?
Joyce: That’s a hard question.
PVHV: That’s a really hard question, my god…
Al Haca: Well, I guess it would be a combination of all the cool parties. Like a cool painting session. A six-meter high wall behind the turntables with painters, and on stage I guess…the whole family. The Berlin crew, tape, the England crew… all the vocalists and artists we know, and really good cultural sponsoring. So the audience doesn’t have to spend too much money, but enough to honor the cause. But if you have no entrance, like the O2 party in Cologne, the people come like "ok, a free party, whatever."
Joyce: You have be able to provide the people with something…
Al Haca: Free drinks…
Joyce: … good sound system. Good decorations, good food (all laugh). No, it has to make people want to stick around for after-hours.
PVHV: A really great location, decorated all Mediterranean, so that everyone forgets what’s going on outside, where you forget who you are, where you are, everything.
VR: If money were not the issue, where would that be possible in Vienna?
Al Haca: Just rebuild the Donauinsel, I guess.
VR: A club?
Stereotyp: FLEX, if it were renovated on the inside. It just has the best sound system. I have always seen the production aspect as more important, and if you asked me how I imagine the perfect studio, I could give you a list. (laugh)
PVHV: Definitely the late Sophiensäle. It has old Viennese flair, and it’s pompous but still stylish. That was the best location. The other thing that was comparable was the Meyerei.
VR: What are your hopes for Vienna in the future.
Stereotyp: I hope the bottleneck syndrome stops. Lots of good artists exist with only a few outlets where people sit and pass judgment. There has to be a stronger flow outwards. This is all going to change with the digital age. The vinyl market is on its knees. They’re more like collector items. (all nod in agreement)
VR: Vinyl is dead?
Stereotyp: Not only Vinyl but CDs are dying too. Nobody buys CDs anymore they just download.
Al Haca: And while we’re on outlets: We’ve just provided that with our label, Crunch Time, where artists can dock and find an outlet.
Joyce: I’ve never lost hope in Vienna and will keep partying here and supporting our philosophy. We’re important for Vienna and even though there may not be that much recognition, we have a lot of support. I’m optimistic.
Al Haca: There was just a meeting of future-ologists in Berlin and they say that everything will be great by 2017... (chuckles)
PVHV: The problem is if you provide a new outlet no one will accept it. There needs to be more togetherness for it to succeed.
Stereotyp: I have no worries for Vienna. You just have to keep, you know, doing your thing.