Radio Slave has become somewhat of a household name in the world of Techno over the past few years. Releases such as the No Sleep and Tankatan series, as well as his prominence in the Berlin club scene have consolidated him as modern-day figurehead in electronic music. We caught up with him to talk Rekids, relocating to Berlin, and his latest mix for Balance that spans all manner of house, soul, funk and rare oddities…
SL: I guess we should start with what you have been up to these last few months. The new Balance CD that you have mixed is out on the 27th – what was it like working on that?
R: Well it took some time to complete and the process started around the beginning of last year as my label partner and I had been planning some kind of compilation to celebrate my 20 years of Djing and in the end we decided to go with Balance. James Masters (Rekids) has known Tom Balance for some time as we’ve licensed tracks for previous editions and I was on his list of compilers so it kind f made sense and of course I’m a huge fan of the series. From there I went about compiling a track list and originally the release date was planned for March 2013. But with all these things, there are delays and I was super sick in January after a minor operation and this also pushed the compilation back to May. It’s been a tough year for me so far but getting this compilation done and now seeing the finished copies really brings a smile to my face.
SL: Your new CD sounds more similar to something we might hear in Panorama Bar, if only for its length. Do you prefer playing long sets? Is it a completely different approach?
R: I love to play for a long time if the environment is right and it’s great to play a wide variety of musical styles and this can really only happen when you have the time and freedom to express yourself and I guess with the Balance compilation, CD 1 is definitely a snap shot of the me DJ’ing at somewhere like the Panorama Bar.
SL: So is the selection on here representative of what you would normally play out? Any personal favorites on here?
R: For sure this is exactly what I’m playing out and I’m really happy that so many of the labels agreed to licensing the tracks as many are vinyl only and haven’t ever been used for a compilation. And I’m super happy to have been able to use the Melchoir Production’s track “Desendents” and also tracks like Vadim Sovoboda’s “Pattern 18” as this is unreleased and I’ve been playing it everywhere for months.
SL: The two CDs certainly have a different feel to them. Was this intentional?
R: Definitely and It might sound kind of cheesy but the whole concept was to take the listener on a journey to the club and back home and I really wanted to create a very personal vibe.
**SL: Who’s been your favourite person to play alongside? Who would you most like to play with in the future? **
R: I’m always happy to DJ with Marcel Dettmann. He’s a great friend and we’re playing back to back in Detroit this weekend. I’m also a big fan of my good friend Spencer Parker and of course I always have a lot of fun playing with Nina Kraviz.
SL: Do you play with both Vinyl and CD? Is there a preference? Do you play differently when using one versus the other?
R: I actually only buy the music I play in clubs on vinyl. I’m not a digital consumer and it just doesn’t appeal to me. I love to go record shopping and it’s great to have that social interaction with the people who work at record stores and also I’m always dropping hard drives or laptops so for me storing digital information is a nightmare.
SL: What are your thoughts on the recent resurgence of vinyl sales? Do you think it will be short-lived or this is the beginning of some kind of vinyl revolution?
R: Personally I think it’s a fad and like most things it will come and go. Most of the DJ’s I see outside of Europe are using Tracktor and it’s actually really hard to buy vinyl in a lot of countries. But saying this, I believe vinyl will survive as a format and I still love it.
SL: I understand that your background is in graphic design and art. How important is artwork to you for your releases? Is it auxiliary to the music or do you feel it’s an important aspect of the whole experience?
R: As a physical format enthusiast I’m all about creating a complete package and the artwork has always been a crucial part of releasing music. It gives the music an identity and can create an illusion or be very natural depending on the artist and type of music and we’ve always tried to give our artists an opportunity to express themselves through the artwork.
**SL: To what extent does the software you use alter the way you make music? **
R: Well i don’t really think it matters what software you use. You just need ideas! Anyone can replicate any musical genre these days with a computer or even a phone but being original and having fresh ideas is what you’ll need if you want to standout.
SL: You’re big on remixes. What attracts you to it? Do you think there are parallels to be drawn between the philosophy of remixing and sampling in hip-hop? What do you enjoy about remixing pop music in particular?
R: I guess one of the best parts about remixing is the fact that you get sent all the individual or separated tracks that make up the song and I find it fascinating to see how songs are stitched together. And I love listening to these songs broken down into their parts and I really learned so much from this when I was starting out making my own productions. These days you can find the stems or parts online for so many tracks and I think as a producer it’s a great way to really study what makes a song work.
SL: How do you think the culture of downloading music has affected DJing? How do you try and get round the problem of file sharing when you release things on CD?
R: The downloading of music has changed the whole industry upside down and the reality is that most labels are losing money with each release. Digital sales are falling as most kids will just grab the files for free and it’s made running a record label a real labour of love and it’s incredibly hard to stop people from sharing files. Most vinyl only releases sold at Hardwax seem to be uploaded and available for free the day the record is released which is crazy, and with Rekids we spend a lot of time and money trying to stop people sharing music illegally but it seems impossible these days.
SL: I read recently that you didn’t want Rekids to be thought of as just a House & Techno label. Are you planning to diversify the label into more experimental areas?
R: I’d love to release all kinds of music and I guess with Rekids we have a great roster already of artists who’s main focus is the dance floor. So because of this we recently launched the “Pyramids of Mars” label which is much more experimental and earlier this year we released an ambient LP from Vincent I. Watson and the Joe Claussell remixes of my “Machine” project.
SL: How does your setting affect what you do musically? Moving from Brighton to Berlin, how would you compare the two cities?
R: Nothing compares to Berlin and I feel incredibly luck and privileged to live in the city. I don’t feel like England is my home anymore and I’m very happy living in Kreuzberg. This area of Berlin is still really very culturally diverse and we have the best club in the world just across the river. It’s also a great place to buy music with stores like Hardwax and Space Hall and there’s always something going on 24-7. For this reason the only down side is getting things done and I don’t think many people actually go to work on a Monday.
SL: Can we expect to hear more music under the Rekid moniker in the future? What are the important differences between this name and Radio Slave?
R: I’m actually in the process of putting together ideas for the next Rekid LP. “Made in Menorca” was released 8 years ago on Soul Jazz and its taken me a long time to come back to this project which is basically a mix of Detroit influenced beatdown house and hip hop with a splash of new age electronica. It’s a space between the club and home.
SL: I read that you hope to bring out a Radio Slave LP in the future. Can you tell us something about your thinking behind this?
I’m planning to get this done over the summer and it’s gonna be based upon traveling around the world, and I can’t give away too much but I’m excited about the whole thing and feel really hungry to get this project off the ground.