Electro gods of remixing, sweating and commercial opportunism, Digitalism speak to Kate Rothwell before touching down in Dublin
Germany has always been a haven for electro artists, and the country that brought us the legendary Kraftwerk is also the birthplace of a notable addition to the twenty-first century scene. Jens Moelle and Ismail Tüfekçi make up the duo that is Digitalism, and are currently touring their second album, the curiously titled I Love You Dude. Moelle explains that the title encapsulates the band’s mood as they finished recording, and also adds a sense of mystery to the record. “It’s something that people shouldn’t take too seriously – you don’t know what to expect and that’s what it’s all about.”
Digitalism also aimed to change the current atmosphere of the club scene with their second offering. “There’s so much hard music in the clubs at the minute and we wanted to bring back a bit of romance and maybe bromance as well.” When Moelle mentions that they also wanted to “get the ladies back” Otwo has to ask exactly what he means. “There’s so much hard techno and scenes have split up since we started. All the scenes were kind of united and there was a big mix-up of styles and genres and now people have gone back to dubstep and there’s only boys going [to clubs] … It’s very separated again so we wanted to bring back some love.”
One place where Digitalism have long secured some love is their hometown of Hamburg, where they will soon be playing a sold-out gig. Hamburg is renowned as a cultural hotspot, but Moelle cites its “isolation” as an advantage for the band. “When we sit in our ‘bunker’ studio, we’re completely cut off from everything out there so we can just do whatever we want without getting involved in scenes, or influenced or biased or anything, so I think that’s why Hamburg is quite important for us.” This avoidance – or absence, according to Moelle – of scene culture has also been a source of inspiration for Digitalism. “It kind of has anti-influenced us because there wasn’t so much going on there so we just came up with something that’s going fill the void.”
The duo are not just known for creating their own infectious tracks, but for re-mixing the work of others, including that of artists as well-recognised as Daft Punk, the White Stripes and Depeche Mode. Even with the calibre of artists whose work they are invited to reinvent, Moelle doesn’t feel that there is extra pressure when they are adding the Digitalism touch to the music of other prominent artists. “We just want to make sure that we are happy with the result. I mean, they have to be happy as well because they have to approve the stuff but … I think most important is when you get really excited. When we start nodding our heads while we are working in the studio that’s a good sign.” He also explains that once they have remixed a track, it becomes their own. “We just use a bit of someone else’s material and we build something around it, so basically if we make a Digitalism remix we make a Digitalism track out of it … I think in order to make a good remix you have to think like that.”
Moelle also points out the mutual commercial benefits of remixed tracks. “If you do a remix for someone we also add our audience to the other band’s audience. For example if we remix the Futureheads then people who buy Digitalism stuff might buy Futureheads vinyl with our remix on it. It’s about mixing up fanbases.”
Remixing is not the only way that the band have proved themselves to be smart businessmen as well as inspired musicians. They have also made use of other commercial opportunities, agreeing to have tracks such as ‘Pogo’and ‘Idealistic’ featured on advertisements and video game soundtracks. Since their music isn’t always to mainstream radio DJs’ taste, Moelle believes that they need to make the most of opportunities to get their music into the public sphere. Luckily, the gaming industry is an area that they already have an interest in. “We’re big games fans anyway so if a nice video project ask us if they can put our music on the soundtrack that’s kind of an honour for us as well.”
Having played UCD twice, in 2008 and 2009, Moelle remembers both gigs fondly. While the band enjoy playing to student audiences, they are also happy to play to whoever will listen. “I don’t know who’s going to come next week. I don’t mind. We don’t mind if it’s big or small – for example last night we played in front of about 600 people in Stockholm and the stage was only twenty inches high … That’s the best usually – it’s very intimate and very intense, as opposed to when you play big stages at festivals and you’re twenty miles away from the people.”
Having gigged in Stockholm the day before talking to Otwo, the band have clearly gotten their European tour off to a good start. “The first gig yesterday was great – it was really sweaty, that’s how it should be.” No doubt their stopover in Dublin will be just as perspiration-inducing, intense and enjoyable. We love you, dudes.
Digitalism play the Academy on Sunday 30th October. Tickets are priced at twenty-nine euro.