In the near two-decades that Tobi Neumann has been spinning house and techno, he could rightly claim to have ticked off pretty much every DJ aspiration in the book.
From his residency at the highly-regarded Ultraschall in Munich in the late ‘90s, to producing epoch-defining electro acts such as Chicks On Speed and Miss Kittin, to playing a central role in the minimal vanguard that defined much of the ‘00s, Tobi’s status as one of the key players in Germany’s dance-music renaissance is unquestionable.
What is more, the last few years haven’t seen the DJ take a backseat. His tour schedule is as busy as ever and when I Voice phones him up on a sunny Thursday afternoon, he has just left his new studio in Berlin where he has been working with his old cohort Thies Mynther on resurrecting their until recently dormant ‘Glove’ act.
We’re halfway through 2013, how has the year been for you so far?
Very good actually. I’ve just finished building a new studio, which was a major project with a lot of planning, a lot of effort and a lot of investment. It’s in the Kreuzberg area of Berlin in a nice building that is shared with a couple of other producers. I’m there almost every day that I’m in Berlin and I’m very happy about it. Also, I’ve re-launched the Glove studio project and we are currently working on a new album.
That’s exciting! When can we expect to hear the Glove album and what sort of sound will it have?
Well, [Thies] is a composer and piano player, so the album will be a mixture of real piano with modular synthesizers. That is the concept for the album. But first we will release a 12” this autumn on a label which I can’t reveal yet, and the album will probably come out in early 2014.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen any new studio productions or remixes from yourself.
I have been a lazy boy! [laughs] I was focusing on DJing, but I’m back in the studio now.
I now feel like I don’t have anything left to prove with my DJing career. At the moment [I’m getting] more satisfaction from being in the studio...Were you feeling burnt out from producing and remixing, or just wanted a break for a while?
No, I think it was actually re-building the studio that helped me find my way back into producing again. Also, I now feel like I don’t have anything left to prove with my DJing career. At the moment [I’m getting] more satisfaction from being in the studio.
So will we see less of you on the road in the near future?
Yes, I think so.
I’m not surprised, your DJ schedule for the last six months has been pretty much non-stop.
And it is impossible to be creative in the studio when you have a schedule like that.
With so much time on the road how do you keep from burning out or losing interest, especially as you’ve been doing it now for close to two decades?
Really using the weekdays to recover, eating good food, and making sure I’m prepared for the next weekend. Also drinking a lot of water and not partying too hard [when I’m playing out]. That is the only way I could stand my schedule. You also have to stay hungry musically and want to try new music, not playing the same tracks all the time.
You’ve been associated with Cocoon for over a decade now. Does it still feel like home for you?
Yes, of course. I’m part of the artist agency, so I’m not connected to all of its parts, but the agency take care of everyone really well. And the Cocoon events, such as the Cocoon Heroes parties, where I get to play alongside my colleagues are always great fun. And to be able to listen to Papa Sven from time to time is nice. It’s like a family.
One thing that surprised me is that you’re not scheduled to play at any of the Cocoon nights at Amnesia this season.
Yes, I am! I am playing at the closing party, it’s just not announced on their line-up yet.
Talking of Ibiza closing for the season, you played Sankeys Ibiza on New Year’s Eve last year. It must have been strange spinning in Ibiza in the middle of winter.
It was strange indeed. The sun was shining, but the energy of the summer was not there. Instead, there was a more relaxed, more local atmosphere. The party was nice, not super full but there were quite a lot of people. They didn’t need the air conditioning, but instead some heaters! It was an experiment, I’d never played on NYE in Ibiza before and I really enjoyed it.
All the DJs who think that they are really big now & that they can run their own night, don’t calculate that not everybody is on the guest list or behind the DJ booth having drinks for free. It has become a marketplace of egotism...
You’ve been playing Ibiza for years and years now. How has the island changed for you over the years?
To be honest I am quite critical of how it has changed. Today, every DJ thinks that just because they have experienced a little bit of success that they are big enough to launch their own night and so it has become about personalities rather than the music. There are a lot of DJs who are being told “you are the biggest, you have to do your own night” and they don’t calculate in the crowd [demand].
There are even some parties, run by people who I don’t want to name, that were nearly completely empty on their opening evenings. They don’t factor in [how much a night out in Ibiza costs]. If you are taking a girl out and want to go to a daytime party before the club, a night can cost 200€ or 300€, and why should an audience want to pay that?
All the DJs who think that they are really big now and that they can run their own night, don’t calculate that not everybody is on the guest list or behind the DJ booth having drinks for free. It has become a marketplace of egotism.
I miss the family feeling. This is what has changed in Ibiza for me. It’s all about who is bigger, rather than the music itself. Everything has become far more commercial.
What is it that draws you back to Ibiza every year then?
To see my friends and hear the DJs still. I like to go to DC10, or to go to Cocoon and see what my colleagues are playing. And of course, it’s my job as well.
Will you be spending much of the summer living in Ibiza, or will you just be flying in for your bookings?
You know, I’ve been in the business for such a long time that every day at home is a good day. I don’t need to prove anything anymore. If I was there, I would probably be partying all the time, so for me [being at home] is really nice. But I am looking forward to having a week of holiday there.
In terms of your bookings, you play at a wide range of clubs across the island. Where are your favourite spots?
The terrace at Amnesia will always be a legendary place for me, because it made me a DJ. Sven booked me to play there in 2000 when I was nobody, and I experienced the golden years when everything in our style of music was very small but growing.
And to be part of the years where everything was slowly becoming bigger and I was playing on the terrace with people like Ricardo Villalobos, is something that I will never forget. So coming back to the terrace is always something special.
I also really like Sankeys, because it is different. It charges half the price of the other clubs and they are more resistant to the problem I was talking about before. They serve the underground and I like that.
Next Ibiza Show
03rd August - Carnival Cities - Sankeys Ibiza
22nd August - Used & Abused - Ushuaia Ibiza
21st September - Carnival Cities - Sankeys Ibiza
30th September - Cocoon Closing Party - Amnesia Ibiza
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