Q&A: Wolfram On Christmas Presents, Old Photos, And Waking Up Haddaway
Wolfram recently released his debut album after years of putting out others' records on his Diskokaine label. The guest star roster for the self-titled disc is studded with dance music's heavy hitters, including Holy Ghost!, Hercules & Love Affair, Legowelt, and Haddaway of "What Is Love" fame (!!!). In addition to helping put disco chanteuse Sally Shapiro on the map, Wolfram surfed in right on the crest of the original disco revival a few years ago and he's been in demand since--he's so wanted, in fact, that the police paid a little visit to his record release party. We'll just let him explain.
What happened at your record release party? I heard it got shut down early.
It was very crazy! I didn't expect so many people. It was a small place, and it was so packed. People were drinking outside because the line was so slow and so the police showed up around 2 a.m. and closed us down. It was my second live set ever and I only got to play for ten minutes.
Your album is almost like a hip-hop record with big guests on nearly every track. Was it difficult to wrangle all those artists?
Yes, I'm like Jay-Z. No, it wasn't that hard because most of them are friends of mine. Except for Haddaway, who I had never met. I got a hold of his phone number and just called him from my parents' house in Austria at 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve and I woke him up! I thought I had fucked it up already. I had to explain who I was, but once I did he was very nice. He gave me his email and I sent him my instrumental. Fifteen minutes later he called me back and was like, "Wolfie? This is Haddy. What about something like this?" and he played my instrumental and started singing lyrics over it!
How did you start off DJing?
Everything happens at Christmastime for me. When I was 14 my dad put on a record of "Silent Night" as we were posing for a family picture. I had an older brother who I always wanted to impress and so I went over to the record player and started scratching it and he laughed. My dad told me to stop and I didn't and I was ruining the family picture but my brother was laughing, so it didn't matter. Finally my dad slapped me for the first time ever and walked off. He came back and felt so bad and apologized to me, but one year later he gave me my first turntables.
That could be the best DJ origin story ever. Did you know anything about running a record label?
No. I still don't. But six years ago there were none of these nu-disco guys around, so it was easier. There was DFA, but that was more punk & not so much Italo, so I was just releasing what I wanted to hear.
How did you stumble upon Sally Shapiro?
I feel like she's really well-known in the States and I'm happy that it went so well for her. It was really very simple. We just did everything by ourselves. I even made the artwork myself, which got voted the worst cover by Vice in 2005. Which is funny because now my new record just got voted Best Cover! (laughs)
It's a shot of your mother holding you as a baby, right?
Yes. And I was talking to Chris from Vampire Weekend and they got sued for the picture on their album cover recently, so I hope that she's not going to sue me if it gets successful.
Let's hope not. You played on WNYU's "Beats in Space" last night. How was it, and did Tim Sweeney wear one of his trademark Speedos?
(laughs) I didn't look, but last week I heard that he did. Tim actually asked me to record a mix for him about five years ago and I only had one turntable at home and didn't want to send him a bad one, so I never did. I thought he might be mad at me, but he wasn't.
What I like about the record is that it feels like an album. It's not overtly pop or just for DJ nerds. It's accessible and flows like an album.
I'm actually not a big fan of vocalists because as a DJ I always prefer to play the dub mix, so I tried to challenge myself and not just make a nerdy record for DJs to play. I'm a pop fan. Italo disco always tried to be pop but it never quite fit, but at least it tried!
If I'm ever in Austria, what should I not leave without seeing?
Me. I'll show you everything you need to see.