Rapping with DJ T.
- Words: Jennifer Marston
We know DJ T. for many things: his no-nonsense mixing skills, albums like 2005's Boogie Playground, and his long-standing affiliation with Berlin's Get Physical imprint among them. His influences, however, don't stop with minimal, 4/4 beats, and according to some recent press, there was a time when the man born Thomas Koch's musical tastes revolved more around rap, electro-funk, and hip-hop than they did around techno. After commissioning him to make a mix of the jams that kept him going in the early '80s, XLR8R sat down with him to talk influences, Grandmaster Flash, and the most important tracks of his life.
XLR8R: According to a recent interview, you were an avid fan of early rap and artists like Grandmaster Flash. How did you go about choosing the songs for this mix?
DJ T.: Everything started with Grandmaster Flash in 1982. A year and a half before I even became a break dancer, I had already begun to strongly identify with black music, broken beats, and rap. I spent some time thinking about whether I should blend hip-hop and electro for this mix, but then decided to focus only on the classic electro-funk pieces I had already danced to during the years '83 through '85. I’ve never recorded a mix with this kind of music, but I was extremely tempted to do so. I’ll probably spend the rest of my life listening to it.
Any favorite tracks on the podcast? Any you take out to the club on a regular basis?
This mix contains some of the most important tracks of my life. Like "Play At Your Own Risk," by Planet Patrol, whose album is still one of the greatest dance albums of all time to me. Or take "The Wildstyle," by Time Zone. [That] is a very special track which stood out from the rest even in those days. In a certain way, those tracks from back then evoke stronger emotions in me than electronic dance music does. I spent hours every day listening to that stuff and dancing to it, either at home or with other dancers in Frankfurt. Those tracks are very hard to fit into modern sets, but I do play some of them from time to time, at special occasions. Say, "Pack Jam" by the Jonzun Crew, which still has enough drive to not fail completely in a contemporary set. Or, of course, "Supersonic" by J.J. Fad. You’ll always find occasions when you’ve even pushed a four-to-the-floor crowd far enough for them to go crazy about it. And "No UFO's" by Model 500—in some ways, this is also a classic electronic music piece, because it came out on Juan Atkins' Metroplex label.
Would you ever consider integrating rap elements into the more tech-house, 4/4-influenced music we’re used to hearing from you?
I have a deep admiration for all the great tracks from the hip-house days, for classics like "I'll House You" by the Jungle Brothers or "Turn Up the Bass" by Tyree Cooper, but I don’t think that I’ll ever try this combination in any of my own tracks. If anything, I’d rather work with vocals, which I’m really tempted to do.
What else has influenced you musically?
Disco and Hi N-R-G from 1977 until 1983. Hip-hop, soul, and funk all through the '90s, electro, Miami bass, and Latin hip-hop from 1983 to 1986. Chicago, Italo, and acid house from 1985 to 1988, and from then onwards, all the different styles and flavors of electronic dance music, especially classic deep house and techno, and above [all] else, Detroit techno.
You have a new album, The Inner Jukebox, coming out. Where do you find yourself musically these days, in comparison to where you were as an artist in 2005, when Boogie Playground was released?
I’ve passed the stage where I’ve dealt with my '70s and '80s influences. Now it’s more about the here and now, and I only cite some very scarce classic house and techno influences from the '90s, which may slip in occasionally, but it’s not about creating that classic retro sound any more.
To begin with, there’s going to be the release of the album, including its three associated singles. Those singles will feature b-side tracks and remixes not found on the album. I’m going on my first world tour at the beginning of July, which will take six months altogether. I’ll be spending the first three months of it in Europe and the remaining three traveling [through] the other four continents, without making stops back in Berlin. I’m very excited about this! You can refer to the internet to read about my experiences: I’ll be writing it all down in a DJ blog, where every day of the tour will be posted once a week on Beatportal.
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