With Camp Bisco 12 right around the corner, I was lucky enough to speak with one of this years headlining acts, Wolfgang Gartner. He had a lot to say, and we got his unfiltered opinion in our exclusive interview. Throughout this article Gartner talks about his label, Kindergarten Recordings, the EDM sound of 2013, ‘Wolfgangs 5th Symphony’, and much more. I now have an even greater respect for him as a person and an artist and I believe after reading our conversation you will as well.
1. A lot of new electronic dance music fans don’t know that you use to produce Deep House under the name Mario Fabriani. I’m curious as to why you decided to step away from that aspect of dance music. Why don’t you produce different styles under monikers like Eric Prydz does with Pryda and Cirez D?
Well there’s a few things that are sorta inaccurate about that question. I used to produce underground house, but most of it wasn’t deep house. It was mostly disco house and chicago house, and I released a majority of it under my real name, Joey Youngman, along with 7 other aliases, one of them being Mario Fabriani. What Eric Prydz does with Pryda and Cirez D is nothing like going from electro house to underground house. He’s still making music in a vein that he can play in his DJ sets, that still meshes with his output under his own name, and isn’t a major departure from it. There are a ton of reasons I don’t make underground house anymore. First and foremost, it’s underground. I got tired of living beneath the surface. I wanted my music to get more exposure and reach more people, I felt it deserved it, and there was no way to do that without changing the music. I still love all that stuff. I did a “90′s house mix” recently and gave it out to the blogs for people to download and I’ll probably do another one again soon. I would probably enjoy making it still, but the bottom line is I just don’t have time. Underground house is still underground, it doesn’t generate the type of exposure or music sales these days to base a career on. So what that equates to is that it would be a hobby – something I would be doing strictly for fun. And at the moment I’m so overwhelmed with everything in the world of Wolfgang Gartner – touring, keeping up with my release schedule, myriad daily issues and tasks of coordinating with my team to make sure things run smoothly and we make the right decisions, everything that my career has become over the past 5 years, that I don’t have time for a hobby. I guess that’s what it really comes down to. I still love it, but underground house is a hobby, and I’m too busy for a hobby right now. Maybe one day I’ll take a step back and start playing around with it again.
2. Throughout your career you’ve produced many genres of dance music. When you’re producing a track, what’s your mindset like? Do you go into it thinking about the genre or sound that you want? Or do you just explore and let the pieces fall together?
It’s different every time. Sometimes I get inspired by something I hear. It could be a song another DJ plays, it could be some Led Zeppelin song I’m listening to in my car, it could be the sound of the elevator going up the shaft at a hotel, but whatever it is it will trigger some kind of idea in my head, and I just go in and play off that idea, with no real genre or subgenre concept in mind. Sometimes I go in and say “I want to make something kinda Rock & Roll like Undertaker or Love & War with lots of distorted stuff and sort of like the musical incarnate of an American muscle car.” Sometimes I come back from playing a giant festival and get inspired by playing in front of 20,000 people and am just thinking “let’s make something that would be the ultimate track to play in front of that crowd, during that set, at that festival” and that’s usually when I make the big room stuff like Redline or my progressive sound.
3. I remember when ‘Wolfgang’s 5th Symphony’ was named one of Beatport’s top selling track in 2009, did you ever think that would happen? The track is massively popular with fans, especially readers of our website, but we don’t often hear it included in festival sets? Why is that?
It was the single highest grossing track of 2009 on Beatport, yes. Did I ever think that would happen? Not until I made that song. But to be honest at about the half way point of making 5th Symphony I knew it was going to be big, I had no doubt it would be a #1, and its success was extremely exciting but didn’t necessarily surprise me. It was just a timing thing. You take one of the most well known musical riffs in history, remake it into the most popular genre of dance music at the time, execute it flawlessly and do a really good job of it, and you’ve got a bomb. I’d pay Beethoven some royalties off that one if he were around, I owe most of that song’s success to the fact that Beethoven’s 5th Symphony is so globally recognizable. The reason I don’t play it anymore is because it’s not representative of who I am as an artist anymore, or of the music that I make and play now. I made it in 2008. That’s 5 years ago. It came out in 2009. To me it sounds extremely cheesy, cliche, and dated now. I know that it would probably get a great response if I played it, and I’m there to play for the crowd, but that song is just one bullet I can’t bite anymore.
4. I read that you called your ‘Love & War’ EP, some of the best music you’ve ever created. What separates that EP from everything else in your discography?
What makes good music good? It just hits you in the right places at the right times and floods your dopamine more than the next song. That’s what that one did for me and for a majority of the crowds I play it for.
5. In 2008 you founded Kindergarten Recordings and released a lot of really successful tunes, but after a few years the label went on a hiatus before coming back strong in 2012. Were there any particular things that caused the break in continuity? What have you learned about the label side of this business compared to being an artist?
I formed Kindergarten as an outlet for my own music. So from like 2008 to 2010, I was releasing all my own songs on there. Then I signed a multiple album deal with Ultra Records. I hadn’t been releasing any other artists’ music on Kindergarten, so the label just went on the back burner. Then early in 2012 I hired an A&R and label manager to restart Kindergarten and turn it into an outlet for other artists, and we’ve been releasing a ton of stuff on there from up-and-coming producers and unknown artists who were just begging to get discovered. I haven’t actually released any music of my own on there since we’ve re-launched, at this point it’s strictly a platform for new talent, and it’s really uncovered some amazing music and turned out to be an exciting new project.
6. Ever since you brought Kindergarten back, you’ve signed fantastic artists like Popeska – who will also be playing Camp Bisco this year. I know you’ve toured with him and even released his ‘Karmameter’ EP, which featured your edit of his record ‘Now Or Never’. How did you come across his talent? What do you look for when you signing an artist to your imprint?
Actually my A&R for Kindergarten discovered Popeska. That’s why he has that title and why I brought him on to run the label – he has a great ear and an incredible knack for finding talent in places nobody else has looked. I am simply the last word in the signing process of Kindergarten. Nick, the A&R, finds the music, filters through it, and when he has something he really believes in and thinks is worth putting work into and spending time and money on, he brings it to me and we decide together if it’s the right fit. All I listen for is quality. I’m not trying to stick to a certain sound or style with the label, it’s just about good music, and of course my thing is the house music umbrella and all the genres underneath it, so that’s what we go for. It’s especially a plus if it’s something that works in my DJ sets because then I have a nice arsenal of unreleased music to play out.
7. Do you have any pre-show rituals? Also, I’ve seen you perform quite a few times now and I can’t help but notice your hand motions. Do you practice those in the mirror?
My pre-show ritual depends on when I got into town, but usually I get in a few hours before the show, so it involves room service, and a really cold washcloth over my eyes to wake me up a bit and ease that travel fatigue. Also energy drinks. The hand motions just sort of evolved into what they are now I guess. They were never practiced or even premeditated, I don’t know when I started doing them, it’s sort of progressed over the past few years, from just a bit of fistpumping to my full on air piano and all these other ones. Some of them I’ve named. Some of them I’ve ditched over the years and developed new ones. But they all just happen on-the-spot and are a reaction to the music and an impulse to try and get the crowd to react the way I want, or to try and engage the crowd the way I want. I’m sure they’ll continue to change and evolve, some will fade out and new ones will take their place.
8. In your opinion, which artists should we keep an eye out for in 2013?
To be perfectly honest, and I hate to sound negative, cynical or condescending in any way but that’s probably how this will come off, I’ve been really bummed with most of the new music that’s been making waves in 2013. I feel like the “big” sound in dance music right now is just this mashup of every single subgenre possible, to try and appeal to the most people possible, with these cheesy played-out trance pads and vocal hooks, it all sounds exactly the same and it’s really bad for the most part, and the scariest thing is that people are reacting to this stuff, crowds at festivals and clubs are wanting more of it. A few of us have deemed it the EDM Apocolypse. Dance music is in a really weird place right now. I don’t know where it’s going to go. In some way I’m hoping Daft Punk single-handedly destroys this phenomenon we’re experiencing and un-brainwashes everybody into realizing that real music should have some soul and authenticity to it, and not just be a big kick drum and a trance breakdown with a cheesy one-liner and a “big drop.” But to answer the question, I’m really feeling The M Machine. They are one of the only new-ish artists out there I feel are consistently doing something fresh. Tony Romera is another artist I’ve been playing quite a bit of, it’s more festival / DJ oriented but he’s come up really quick and he’s one of the front runners of the new generation I think.
9. My editor would kill me if I didn’t ask you this, but when are you going to release your ‘Proper Education’ Bootleg?! He offered to buy you 1,000,000 Facebook fans.
Ha. Please don’t buy me Facebook fans. I’m never going to “release” it. It’s not mine to release. It’s 3 other peoples’ songs that I spent a lot of time combining into one monster bootleg and effectively remixing by adding my own drums, effects, breakdowns, and other elements. Maybe when I hit like a million Facebook fans I’ll give it away, with the blessing of the artists whose music I used. I’ve always thought giving away mashups or bootlegs was a bit questionable though the way most people do it. I mean, in many cases all these guys did was spend 20 minutes to throw 2 songs together, and they’re putting their name on it as the remixer or whatever, giving themselves credit. I think a lot of them are just doing it for exposure, which is so lame in my opinion. But hey, I’m just a guy. And you know what they say about opinions.
Many thanks to Wolfgang Gartner, his management, PR team, and Camp Bisco for making this interview possible. Make sure to catch Wolf’s set at CB12.