Podcast 558: DJ T. - XLR8R
Eclectic tribal rhythms from Thomas Koch.

Few artists can lay claim to a legacy like that of DJ T. Born in Dusseldorf, DJ T. (a.k.a Thomas Koch) relocated to Frankfurt with his family in the late '70s. During his formative years, he fell for the hypnotic grooves of disco, inspired by his parents’ record collection. At the age of nine, he was already completely enraptured by music; he soon began an obsessive quest to collect music, feeding his soul with everything from disco and Hi-NRG, through to early hip-hop and electro, soul, funk, and R&B. The groovy, infectious rhythms of all those genres continue to permeate into the music he makes and plays today, providing an intrinsic part of his sound ethic. 

He took up breakdancing before becoming a DJ, playing at private parties initially before landing his first professional gigs in the late '80s. This period proved to be a pivotal moment in his life as acid house swept through Europe, landing in Frankfurt and taking over with the launch of Sven Väth’s legendary Omen club in 1988. The first wave of house and techno took hold and T. was there at the forefront, absorbing all the fresh new sounds from Chicago, Detroit, and the UK. He picked up a residency at the infamous Music Hall and held residencies at countless clubs across the city during the next 10 years, from Plastik and Dorian Gray to The Box. By the end of the '90s, he was one of Frankfurt’s best-known DJs. 

In 1989, DJ T. tapped into another side of his creative energy to set up Groove Magazine. Identifying a gap in the market and fuelled by a need to satisfy his own desire for specialised music journalism. Under his leadership, the magazine was launched into the public’s consciousness and he's guided Groove to become one of Europe’s leading dance music publications. 

DJ T.’s progression continued at a pace, as he launched his own club, Monza, and invested his skills and knowledge into conceiving the Get Physical label, which he has since left, though he maintains a hand in the A&Ring. Production-wise, he has been consistent ever since his debut release, the Monsterbaze EP with Steve Bug, which was released on Poker Flat in 2000. Since then, T. has released several well-received EPs, a slew of remixes and three albums, Boogie Playground in 2005, The Inner Jukebox produced with Thomas Schumacher in 2009, and Pleasure Principle in 2011. Meanwhile, his various compilations—often featuring many of his own edits of classic tracks—and worldwide touring schedule have cemented his reputation as a highly-skilled DJ, producer, and A&R with an uncanny ability for discovering new talent. 

Later this year, T. will celebrate his 30 years in the DJ business, and he's offered to mark the occasion with an XLR8R podcast. His mix, 90 minutes in length, is anything but conventional; full of African and tribal rhythms, few of which you're likely to have heard before, it's a snapshot of T.'s tastes right now, themselves shaped by the discovery of an event concept called Ecstatic or Conscious Dance. "A door was opened to a broad range of new styles of music I had never played, partly not even heard before," he explains. "It's an endless universe of music that can be played in this context, at least as big as in our electronic nightlife world." Marking three decades in the game, T. now presents some of his latest findings. 

You told us that you are going through big changes in your life, also with your musical work, tell us a bit about that.

Yes, these are very exciting times for me, I am trying to make a lot of space so that new things can emerge. Through my beloved community in the Sacred Valley in the Peruvian Andes, two years ago I got in touch with an event concept called Ecstatic or Conscious Dance. After I attended a lot of dances there and in Berlin, I realised last summer that I wanted to start DJing in that context also. With this decision, a door was opened to a broad range of new styles of music I had never played, partly not even heard before. It's an endless universe of music that can be played in this context, at least as big as in our electronic nightlife world. World and roots music from all continents and areas of this world, more or less mixed up with contemporary electronic music, music with no beats, just voices, crazy percussions and rhythms, and the range of BPM goes from zero up to 150. These words can’t be enough to make clear what it's all about, I don’t have enough space here to list it all.

So the mix is reflecting this new passion of yours?

Yes and no. Only inasmuch as the interest for Conscious Dance and this music made me connect deeply to African flavored music for the first time in my life, too. Many of the tracks I used in this mix I could play during such a dance ceremony, but at the same time, I could also play them in a club—actually, I dropped a lot of them in recent sets. Something happened that I would have never expected: my "normal“ DJ sets got colored to the core by this new passion. And I just let it happen and go with that flow right now, it's a beautiful thing to be aware of and to surrender to.

How did you choose the records that you included?

When I make a DJ mix or a podcast that goes public and is made for home listeners, I always try to take them on a diverse journey with surprising moments. So the concept for this mix was to choose tracks from as many different styles as possible, with different rhythms, atmospheres, and energy and combine them in this journey without letting them sound like interruptions. Generic mixes with only one style are boring to me. 

What else have you got on the horizon?

I recently took the decision to winter in Mexico City for five months, from December 'till the end of April. During these five months, I wanna work on a book project and tour all over America. The tour will be dedicated to my 30 years of DJing anniversary. And, of course, I will play as many Ecstatic Dance sets as possible, too. In Mexico City I will collaborate with Sun Dance, for example, they are the leading event there in this scene. I couldn't be more excited about that plan.

Due to temporary issues regarding the GDPR, EU readers can download the mix here.