Q&A: Adam X On Being Known As A Producer Instead Of A DJ, The Importance Of Mixing It Up, And Berlin's Energy
Younger DJ's are more likely to throw in anything, even something that is not really even related, as long as they can mix in and out of itand not always then, either. That's not altogether new, but it's more common now. It seems like younger kids are not as much like, "I have to define my style."
I think it's probably better, actually. I like versatile DJing. It's versatile like it was in the early 90's, like I described before: you'd play Detroit techno, [break]beats, stuff from Londonit was very mixed up. I guess I'm more of a purist these days. Sometimes when I go to Berghain, everybody's playing techno all night. That bores me. I want to hear maybe some good acid-house track or something. Break it up, slow it down, throw a breakbeat in it.
Totally, man. It's got to have peaks and valleys. It's one thing, because I grow up here in a culture where you have a one-hour DJ set. You go to a rave, it's like wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am, and you go home, right? But in Berlin, since I've been living there, now I'm used to playing three hours. I'm at the point where I'm telling people when they book me now, here, I want to playI just tell them the fee, and if they think it's too high, I'll tell you what, I'll play four hours. Don't book somebody else, and then you can pay me the little extra, because I would prefer to pay more.
Exactly. So, now that I get a chance to play these little DJ sets I have more of a chance to really build up and slow down and just move it all around, make it a little more unison, you know?
You went to Berlin in 2007. What prompted that?
Time for change: I had enough. I closed the store in October 2004. There wasn't enough [DJ work]. You had so many problems in the States with this music. Couldn't have a shop anymore, not enough gigs to play. How do you pay the bills in New York, when you own an apartment, when you own a car? I tried to work in real estate for a while. I never stopped doing what I was doing. I was taking gigs and I was pushing it just as hard, but I did part-time [work] being a real estate broker. I didn't really like the hustle. I felt like everybody was lying in that business. I'm not a liar; I'm very truthful with people. I'm honest. I was like, "I'm making some money here and I've been able to maintain for a minute but this is not what I want to do."
Then I happened to go to Europe to do a little bit of tour and when I was in Berlin I hadn't played there in many years and when I was leaving... I stayed there for a few days and when I left to go back to the airport something just said to me I don't want to go home. And I'd never had that feeling before. I always got homesick when I traveled. I always loved New York. I couldn't be without this place. After a week or two I'd go, "I've got to go home, get back." That was the first time I was like I don't want to leave. I said when I was leaving I was like, "I've got to come back here. This is the place. I need to be here."
I'm curious about the social energy of Berlin when you got there. Things had already been picking up for awhile. The great techno surge of everybody moving to Berlin had started happening by that point. Was that part of the attraction, just being a lot of creative people?
Yeah, of course: besides that, I just like the freedom of the city, the fact that I could go out every night of the week and I could go paint the graffiti. I could do whatever I want. I could drink on the street. All the stuff that I grew up [with], that I could do when I was young without having the police breathing down my neck on every little thing, the fact that it was so cheap there that you could [make] your music without stress, without compromise, without fucking worrying about anything. I could make enough money to live there comfortably without having the stress. It was just the constant stress to do my art, to do what I do. And I didn't want to have any restrictions on me anymore. That was one of the reasons I moved there. [Another is] the fact that it was a pretty international city with people that I knew people from everywhere: I knew the Hardwax guys for many years, different people I knew for years and years.
To be honest with you, when I went there it wasn't really a good time for what I was into because it was more minimal techno: There wasn't much real techno being made when I got out there. Actually, besides Berghain doing their stuffand they didn't very good techno every night there. It was on the weekends. Sometimes it was like André Galuzzi and these other guys that still played more tech house. [Marcel] Dettmann and Ben [Klock] were the only guys that were playing techno, and they didn't play there every week. So it wasn't like you heard proper hard techno every week when you went out in Berlin.
Did it become that way?
It did later. I was doing a lot of parties for a while. I did, like, 25 events in Berlin. I was bringing people like Surgeon to play in Berlin who hadn't played in Berlin in two years. Same thing with Damon Wild, [Joey] Beltram: I was booking people that hadn't been playing in Berlin for a year or two years and weren't getting any gigs because there's not much of scene there.
So it energized you?
Yeah. It was wide open for me to break in and get a residency and play my own party. I wanted to make moves.
Frankie Bones and Adam X play National Underground on Saturday, July 28 at 10 p.m.