Deepchild - A Little Glimpse of Hope and a Reminder of Kindness

Words by: Sean-Michael Yoder
Posted: 9/10/12 7:45

Deepchild - A Little Glimpse of Hope and a Reminder of KindnessFew techno artists have been bothered enough to read the Sutras of Patanjali – the foundational texts of yoga – but few of those artists are Australian ex-patriot and current Berlin resident Deepchild. In his recent interview with I Voice, we quickly learned that the deep in his name doesn’t just refer to the tunes; this guy is also filled with the kind of deep thoughts that also congruently reflect the mind one of the most mature artists we have interviewed to date. His upcoming new album, Neukolln Burning on Thoughtless Music, actually did most of the talking with musical themes touching on the seven years he spent living in Saudi Arabia, the poor but vibrant spirit of his Berlin neighborhood, and his ongoing bouts with insomnia. What his own words reveal is the tenderness, passion, and vitality Deepchild has for life despite his limitations both mentally and physically and how these feelings extend into the so-called real world, far from the realm of techno.

Neukölln Burning is your first album in five years, what have you been up to in during that time period and how long did it take to construct the new album?
The last 5 years have marked a pretty significant period of change for me - a real awareness of the passage of time, and a solidifying of life-priorities – a reminder of the necessity to be tender, gentle, and aware of your own limitations. They have involved a LOT of travel, extended stays in Scotland, Sydney, Berlin, New York, Amsterdam, San Francisco, Detroit, Vancouver. God, so much is a blur. My body has changed significantly, my mind serving to remind me of how fragile and transient life is – and of how very, very little I know about much at all. At the moment, my life is involving a lot of German study, yoga practice, and reading the Sutras of Patanjali – I’ve been craving something of the academic again – ‘long tail’ – pursuits. Disciplines (I guess like music) which I know I’ll still be learning from in 10, 15, 20 years.

Strangely, ‘techno’ has found its curious place next to yoga for me – radical tools for exploring embodiment, surrender, and community. Despite performing regularly now, I feel (as always) a little like someone on the fringes of so many worlds. Techno is a ruthless mistress – she won’t be owned by anyone. I’m still never quite sure what it is I do, or how its value should be measured, if at all. I know that DJ’ing and techno offer moments of luminous surprise, connectedness, truth (with a capital ‘T’)…reminders that the simple things are of the deepest value – life changing value. Bodies moving. A sound so furious it descends into the deepest of silence. I guess the role of the artist is to just keep turning up, keep practicing. The rest is essentially bullshit to me now – more and more. I want to find the same joy in playing to ten people as to ten thousand. This is my challenge. Things are changing for me, but I feel forever thankful for so many experiences. All of a sudden, I’ve realized that I’m mostly playing ‘headline’ shows these days – and this is honestly stunning to me. How did this happen? When? Why? These things still surprise me. God, I’m not sure I even know how to DJ…

Techno is a ruthless mistress – she won’t be owned by anyone. I’m still never quite sure what it is I do, or how its value should be measured, if at all. I know that DJ’ing and techno offer moments of luminous surprise, connectedness, truth (with a capital ‘T’)…I couldn’t name a single track on the Beatport Top 100 chart, or any of them to be honest. – which, I suppose is indicative of a change I’ve been feeling (and I’d argue many of my peers also) – an urge to RESIST having music (free promo, charts, etc. thrust down our throats. An urge to burn to the ground the structures which frame music as the pursuit of the elite, the fashionistas, the smug, and the well groomed, to press the ‘Unsubscribe’ button more frequently, to reclaim something of the power of subversion which instrumental music offers.

So…the album - writing itself - something of a terrifying experience, but certainly not intentionally so! It was written over about six months, in a total blur of semi-compulsive practice, incoherence, single-takes, and renders. Also much written on trains in the USA, Amsterdam, and in my tiny flat in Neuk (cue your next question)….

Your press release mentions a battle with insomnia that last most of the winter and that was part of the inspiration of the new album. Did you find it easier to tap in to any sort of musical inspirations due to sleep deprivation or was it a hindrance that you had to learn to work around?
The deepest value that you could ascribe to insomnia is that it offers a sledgehammer to your ego – or, in the same terms, inflames it.

Lack of sleep and struggles with mental illness have, curiously, frequently defined my life, and I still find them terrifying, alienating. After three or four nights of sleeplessness, you feel like you are honestly going to lose your mind – I’ve found my body going into shock – having little ‘seizures’, uncontrollable waves of heat.

I’ve felt like smashing things, jumping out of windows. Insane suicidal fantasies, conversations with myself in multiple voices – this kind of primal reduction to a lot of the things which Karl Jung talked about. It’s certainly felt so difficult to listen to music, to ENJOY art – when you can’t rest your senses, everything starts to feel uncomfortably over-stimulating. I suppose that it’s reminded me that for ANYONE whose basic health and community needs aren’t met, you may as well be dead – life so quickly becomes unlivable, nihilistic. Houses, cars, large-families, upgrades, super-sized bla bla – all of these are so frequently distractions from the fact that what we NEED, what is truly valuable is a hand of kindness, a place to rest, freedom to find relief from our incessant minds.

In the light of this, the writing process was a product of small moments of respite, or snatched hours of lucidity. There’s a lot more I wrote for the album, which has been (to put it mildly) described as unlistenable, or cracked out to a degree. I guess that insomnia’s mental desperation has the effect of clearing out something of the middle ground of compositional timidity for me – I’m either plunged into soporific incoherence or pushed to belt things out, hammer and tongs. I suppose this was never going to be a nu disco album.

The new album is on Thoughtless Music, how did this connection come about?
I’ve known Noah Pred, who runs the label, for a couple of years, and he remains the principle reason why I’ve released on Thoughtless Music this time, and for my previous EP. These days, I feel like an ideal label for me is an experiment in working with like-minded souls toward a common goal, or a common conversation about what we can offer as a collective. Thoughtless Music isn’t the biggest or most popular-label, but they have proven one with remarkable longevity, professionalism, and an incredibly dynamic team and vision. I met Noah in person when he booked me to play a live-set in Toronto a year or so ago. We got on immediately, and I was treated so kindly and respectfully. In his own right, he’s a brilliant producer and remarkable man in the context of the scene. I resisted quite strongly the request to make another album, but Noah persisted. Eventually I yielded, and I’m glad that I did.

I love Neukölln because it’s a testament to re-building – it’s also representative to me of a cultural-harbor in the tempest of Western monoculturalism. Arabic culture has always felt so deeply compelling to me - I adore the language, the music, the intellectual tradition, art, and the sense of deep hospitality I’ve encountered...Tell us about your neighborhood – Neukölln – and what inspired you to title your album after it?
I find Neukölln a particularly compelling place – at once alien and very familiar to me. I’m currently living near Bodinenstrasse U-Bahn, very much deep Neukölln. I’m surrounded by Turkish shisha bars, gambling dens, sports-betting establishments, corner-shops, and doner joints. Berlin is a poor stage and Neukölln has traditionally been the poorest neighbourhood – although with increasing gentrification, this is changing. There’s a bunch of fruit and vegetable shops, an awful Eighties mall where old folk sit and smoke indoors, and the majority of the population are Turkish and African immigrants who have been here for generations. It reminds me a little of a more high-density version of the Mission area in San Francisco.

I love Neukölln because it’s a testament to re-building – it’s also representative to me of a cultural-harbor in the tempest of Western monoculturalism. Arabic culture has always felt so deeply compelling to me – I adore the language, the music, the intellectual tradition, art, and the sense of deep hospitality I’ve encountered. I grew up in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for over seven years – and Neukölln speaks these memories very strongly for me. I might never be able to visit Saudi again, but Neukölln’s arms feel open to me. There’s as much that is familiar to me in Neukölln as there is which is foreign.

Moreover, with its relative poverty comes a sense of the pragmatic, communal, and non-pretentious - which I adore. No one on the street in NK gives a shit who I am, or where I come from, and it’s a blessed relief. Neukölln serves to remind me that my life’s opportunities aren’t to be squandered – there are families here who came as workers and refugees and helped populate and rebuild Berlin, whose lives are a daily grind and struggle to survive. THESE are the people who make Berlin glorious and livable, as much as artists like myself with the luxury of travel and choice. I hope I never lose sight of this mundane grace. 

There are certainly problems with crime and drugs, which NK is known for (and frequently warned ‘against’ visiting in travel blogs) but through a series of unlikely events I’ve ended up living here, and I’m grateful. I only wish that in addition to my paltry German, I could understand Turkish.

Deepchild Neukolln BurningAre there any plans to tour in support of the album, if so, where are you looking forward to playing?
There are already a bunch of dates booked in Germany and I’m trusting my booking duties to the capable hands of my team at PullProxy. I was looking forward to more shows (as per usual) in Canada and the USA, but Canadian immigration recently saw fit to deport and ban me from the country for a year and my relationship with US authorities has been a complex one politically. I miss both these places deeply though – I have so many wonderful friends in Detroit, San Francisco, and Seattle – and this album is as much for them as anyone else. The album launch is, of course, in Berlin.

What are some of your favorite tracks on the album, why?
Riyadh’ – the title is in reference to where I grew up, and the single (with a stunning series of remixes from Deadbeat, Derek Marin and Rennie Foster) out on September 11th. It’s a significant title, significant release date, and significant track for me. Something of a relentless Chicago acid-house template with a lot of samples of Arabic/Sufi music remixed by a bunch of Canadians and mastered by an American (Tim Xavier at Manmade Mastering). If that’s not a testament to cross-border collaboration, I’m not sure what is. It’s a fairly insistent track, certainly heavy on the boom-bap. It’s been a consistent favorite to play in live-sets, and the music video (by Australian Auto64) is brilliantly dark. For me, it is the definitive track from the album.

Chicago Train’ – one of several tracks I’d say are dedications to my friends on the US East Coast, and one of several downbeat cuts on the album. My on-going love affair with R&B and soul is evident again on the album and this track feels like a nice synergy of the two for me – it’s also the track that marks a turning point in the context of the album. A little breath of fresh-air amid the claustrophobia. A little glimpse of hope and a reminder of kindness.

The One I Used To Call Home’ - a bleaker, more insistent cut from the album and a reminder to me, when I hear it, of the fringes of psychosis, dislocation, longing for release. It’s very much in the vein of much of the dub-techno I was raised on, which drew me deep into the bosom of BerlinBasic Channel, Monolake, Rhythm and Sound, Pole, etc. Organic, rumbling, bass-pressure.

Will we have to wait five years for the next album?
I leave this decision to the Gods of Techno and the accounting team. Somehow I feel that the next album will come out rather sooner than this. It may well be the unlistenable crack-ho album I’ve been threatening - B-sides and unlistenable jams.

After the album comes out, what else can we expect from you in the near future?
Several remixes are already slated for other artists, so you’ll see these trickle out in the next months. I really want to explore a couple of ideas as post-scripts to the album, if Thoughtless Music is interested in publishing them. I’m looking forward to overhauling my live set a little, buying some new hardware, and allowing things to flower organically. I will say that my obsession with Turkish pop-music is only deepening.

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