Q&A with Dixon, Playing at the Electric Pickle on Friday

Categories: Concerts, Q&A
In the techno-centric dance capital of Berlin, DJ/producer/label owner Steffen Berkhahn a.k.a. Dixon has played no small part in bringing about a broader stylistic eclecticism to electronic dance music, while paving the way for the current deep house revival. A veteran of Berlin's early '90s scene with roots in drum 'n' bass and downtempo, he has a long-standing association with Jazzanova and the esteemed Sonar Kollektiv, while his own Innervisions imprint has emerged as a pivotal touchpoint for the deeper sounds of house coming out of Europe in the late 2000s.

A masterful tastemaker with a penchant for the more accessible melodic songcraft of house music, running against the prevailing current of German minimal techno, Dixon's singular musical ear is evidenced on original releases as Wahoo, with producer Georg Levin, and on such acclaimed compilation mixes as Get Physical's Body Language Vol. 4 from 2007. Dixon is currently touring North America in support of his upcoming Temporary Secretary compilation CD and Crossfade had a chance to catch up with the man on the heels of a highly-anticipated DJ set at the Electric Pickle. Read the full Q&A after the jump.

Dixon at Electric Pickle. Friday, October 2, 10 p.m.-5 a.m. 2826 N Miami Ave., Miami.    

New Times: How did you first get into music?

Dixon: I got into music in the very early '90s when I was 16. I was on the way to have a professional sport career but an injury stopped me. Right after that I was deeply falling into music and clubbing.

You started out your artistic career as a DJ playing the Berlin circuit in the early '90s. How was the scene then?

It was right after the wall came down and it felt like everything was possible in Berlin. All of a sudden there was an area in the town center that was totally destroyed and run-down and now a lot of artists, musician, galleries, clubs, studios took over these run-down houses. On top of this there was just all this new electronic music born that was so new and exciting that as a result it was represented everywhere in Berlin.

How did you get into the more business-sided work of doing A&R and running a label? What are the rewards of that compared to sticking strictly to the music?

We are a record label that is doing very well - in a small niche! It's all pretty simple and not many people work in the office. That means we can always react very fast if we have a new idea. To be honest, releasing just music is not very profitable anymore, but on the other hand it's also not science. You can feel very bored from this business very easily. That's why we always try to access different business fields. Right now we are publishing our first book and scoring our first movie.

Tell us about being a producer. What is your process in the studio and where do you find the inspiration for your own original production work?

I usually work in collaboration, e.g. with Henrik Schwarz and Âme, or as Wahoo with Georg Levin, and in these productions I'm usually the executive. I am not a great musician but I know when something is good, why it is good or when it is finished. I can shape things when it comes to music and inspiration usually comes from the places you don't expect. If you know what inspires you it would be very easy. But it's mostly the strange circumstances that bring new ideas

You've had a fruitful relationship with the Sonar Kollektiv, whose nu-jazz and deep house roster provides much respite from the predictable sounds of minimal techno coming out of Berlin. Where do you see yourself and your work amidst the landscape of contemporary electronic dance music?

I am the house soldier here in Berlin. I am fighting to play more than the usual functional tunes in clubs. But the good thing is that not everyone around me plays the same. That's great and that's inspiring. If I lived in a bubble with my cool dudes that all love the same stuff it would become boring very soon. I love the fact that I can go out to amazing places here in Berlin and can get inspiration. Sometimes I go out and listen to some new stuff from some amazing DJ but I don't like it at all - and then there is this one tune he drops that has something that hits me for some reason.

There is an intriguing approach to your new Temporary Secretary release in how it addresses the ongoing challenge of digital distribution and file-sharing of music online. What can you tell us about it?

This CD should capture the vibe of my summer 2009. It will be released in October 2009 but I finished it already at the end of July. That means there is a 5 month gap in between (that the label needs to get the product out there) where the music is maybe dated already, where all the online sites published the tracklisting already and therefore every fan could download the tunes of my CD already and do it at home. Therefore I asked most of the producers to give me the parts of the tracks so I could remix, edit, manipulate them while I did this mix. So the result is something that is not available anywhere else other than on my CD. If you don't know the tunes it is just good or bad music for you, but if you are a fan then you hear the difference.

We are very excited to hear you play at the Electric Pickle on October 2. What can Miami expect during this performance?

Simply a lot of great new tunes and since it is an anniversary party maybe some of the classics from of all of my sets in Miami over the last years.

What does the future have in store for Dixon?

I hope that I can keep on doing the things I feel like doing. It feels good to be able to do your thing.

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