For many, the context has gotten in the way of the music. Long forum threads have been devoted to his choice of artwork for releases on his label, Deep Vibes. Many ignore the music altogether, secure in the knowledge that they know what house in 2010 from Frankfurt sounds like. Dive, though, brings something far different to the table than many of his southern German compatriots.
Restless Nights, his new album, is a fully-formed affair that showcases a number of different shades to the producer's repertoire. "The Jam" sounds as bright as Scott Grooves' hopeful house music. "Summer Madness" brings tons of bongos to bear on a cool, dubby 4/4 rhythm. "African Monster," a tribute to Shaft, is a funky African-influenced number that grooves differently than anything he's ever put to tape. It sounds pretty cool. And, in talking to Dive, that's pretty much all he seems to care about.
How did you get into dance music? I've read in interviews that your brother brought back some tapes from the UK.
Yes, my stepbrother. I was traveling a lot for a small boy. My parents brought me there in the mid-'90s. We would visit family and stuff like that. We visited four or five times. Most of the time we went to the UK, we went by car. We would take the ferry over. So my stepbrother got me these tapes when I came there, and I'd be listening on the road to these tapes of early house music.
When you were first hearing these tapes did you immediately think: "Where can I buy some of this music?"
That was a few years later. Some friends and I would go out often to Robert-Johnson. A good friend of mine brought me in and showed me things like Sven Vath and Ricardo Villalobos. Ricardo's stuff was really the beginning...
Ricardo is one of the big DJs that really turned you on to this kind of thing.
Ricardo, then later on I heard Zip one night. Also, then my friend was bringing me to hear Dorian [Paic], Vera, Carsten [Schumann, AKA Meat] from Freebase.
Was it the way that they played? Or was it just the tracks that they played?
Most of it was the tracks, I would say.
Is there a certain DJ that has influenced the way that you DJ?
More than one. But for technique I would say it's Ricardo, definitely.
What does he do?
He showed me that you can play two records for ten minutes together, and it works. Dorian is also good with that, keeping the records going for a long, long time together. Vera, for me, is more like the musician. What she plays is really what I like. When we go record shopping, you see us sharing everything. "You have to buy that, and that, and that." We know each other very well. Musically, I would say her.
As a DJ, though, you prefer long blends.
Yeah, but it depends on the night. When I have the time, I do. Right at the moment, I don't have the time. When I have two hours to play... I feel like sometimes I've just started. When I was younger, and I would play at home, I played for ten hours. You get really into it. I would love to have a residency where I can play really long. That would be nice.
not in business, not in life. "
The Rhein-Main house that has come out of Frankfurt over the past few years seems to lend itself to very long DJ sets. It allows people to stretch out, because a lot of is basically DJ tools. To build to something bigger. It's not necessarily meant to be listened to at home.
That's what is behind that music. That's why we like these tools, everything. This is why we like it.
Do you think that people misunderstand that sometimes?
I think so, yeah. A lot of people think that when you put out a record, it must be like amazing, club thing with vocals and everything. But sometimes it's cool to have a loop for ten minutes. If the loop's good, then everything is fine. And, on the night, they all dance to it, so... But, in a way, I'm not playing only this kind of style. The next one on my label is like a vocal house record. Sean Dimitrie and Tim Fuller.
Where did you find Sean? I saw that he did a remix on Ray Okpara's most recent 12-inch for Deep Vibes. He's from Canada, right?
Ray knows him. He booked him for a night. They play this kind of West Coast house, Casa del Soul, DJ Ali, Doc Martin. I really like this also.
You always seem more of an East Coast person. You have DJ Qu, Brothers' Vibe on Deep Vibes.
[laughs] Yeah, I don't care which coast something is from, which city is it. Whether it's from Bangladesh or from Berlin or from Detroit, I don't care so much about that. When I like it, I play it. Sometimes I play K-Alexi Shelby. He did a new record which is really, like techno, techy stuff. But I like it, and it's true. It's a mixture, what I play, this tool house—which I don't play so much at the moment—to other new stuff to old stuff.
Do you feel like you played more tool house a couple of years ago? Do you find your tastes changing a little bit?
My tastes are always changing a little bit. It's not good to stay in one place... not in business, not in life.
Speaking of not staying in one place, you had a label before Deep Vibes that is no longer around. Dive Records, which started in 2004. You only had four or five releases.
Yeah, it was a quick idea. Just to do something, but not really think about it. In the end, it was not what I wanted to do. It didn't feel right.
So when you started Deep Vibes, you knew what you wanted to do at that point. What was that idea? What was worth starting a label over?
At that point, there wasn't a lot of good music coming out in my opinion. And we were always thinking that maybe we should do a more US house-inspired sound and bring it down here. Playhouse, at that time, was going in a different way. They didn't have so much contact with the US anymore. There were a few labels doing this, but not so many. Philpot, Mujaba.
So I was thinking I'll do my own stuff, I have some friends doing music and I want to bring this US house sound. Many German labels have their own artists. They have their friends, but nothing else—"nobody else can release on my label." That's it! They have like this, like, cocoon. [laughs]
Who were the first people that you contacted when you knew you wanted to take this direction?
Scott Ferguson and Brothers' Vibe. And I'm also still in contact with them but I'm also focused on bringing new people, new releases, new faces every time.
You spoke in an interview with fabric about movies being a big influence.
I'm a big '80s movies fan! All of the '80s!
All of the '80s? That's quite a big...
It's how they look. They have this special color. There's a German word for it, but I'm not sure what it is in English.
Are there films that have this look that you were thinking of? Any particular genre?
Black Rain with Michael Douglas. Richard Gere, I like. Action movies. I also like comedy films. Eddie Murphy is a big hero.
But it's the look of the films? That's interesting.
I don't know why it hits me. Maybe the end of the '70s also a little bit. But not the early '70s, they use different colors. Maybe it was the technique they used at that time that makes this difference. I don't like new movies so much. Most of them are shit. Well, all of them are. [laughs]
Do you think that extends to music in a way?
Yeah, of course.
The feel of US house in the '80s is different...
Maybe it's because it's a little bit older, yeah. Maybe when it gets older something changes on the vinyl.
Is that something you tried to do on your new album, Restless Nights, and your other tracks?
Get this feeling, yeah, a little bit. I'm trying to get this feeling, this old feeling a little bit.
Do you feel like you succeeded?
I'm happy with what I've done with the album now. But don't ask me in a few years! [laughs] I think everybody is like that, though. But with Deep Vibes I still like every release.
Do you feel like the label's going to continue for a long time? Or do you have an idea to end it at some point?
I don't know how long, really. As long as there is vinyl maybe. I will never do a digital-only label.
Why is that?
I will do vinyl and digital. But not only digital. At the end, maybe we will stop doing digital and only do vinyl! [laughs] Make like 200 copies for friends. When I see just a digital file on the internet, it doesn't feel finished. [It's like] I didn't make anything in the end. When I have it in my hands, something was manufactured. I've done something here!
Let's talk about the Black Panther thing.
You want to? [laughs]
Some people were offended. Did you think—before you put it out—that might happen?
I think a little bit. Yeah.
You thought that before you put it out that maybe people were going to be offended?
I think a little bit. Err, not what happened right now with that, but I think maybe it's a German... wagnis. You know what it is? I feel a little bit like that. But I wanted to put it out, because I'm really interested in this dramatic thing. This music reminds me of what I saw on television, the dramatizations of that.
It has nothing to do with samples. There are no Black Panther Party samples in my tracks on there anyway. I didn't have the idea, when I started the music, to do an EP about The Black Panthers. That was never the idea. After I finished the music, I saw a lot of reports and documentaries about them. [I thought] "Oh, it sounds like really dark." It sounds like that. That's why I chose the cover.
Where did you get the cover from?
I made it own my own actually. [laughs] But not the photos. The photos are from The Black Panthers, they made those as propaganda. But it looks nice at the end...
So you didn't really worry about how people would receive it?
No, I was not worried about it because for me it fits together: The music, the dark music, the idea of it. Why should there be rules in music? They're not Marilyn Manson records or something like that. [laughs]
Sure. Did you receive any feedback from artists on the label or other American artists about it?
Yeah. It was good feedback actually, only. I have a promotional list for a lot of American artists: Rick Wilhite, Rick Wade, Keith Worthy, all the gang. I sent it to all those guys. I didn't get an answer from all of them because, in the end, they get so much stuff they don't answer about everything. But most of it was good. All my friends liked it. Carsten [from Freebase] really liked the artwork.
Do you worry that sometimes this whole controversy sometimes overshadows the music?
Yeah. When I saw this thread, it was three or four pages long. [It seemed like] most of the people didn't actually listen to the music, didn't have any idea why I did that, so they just saw that and said, "Oh, he's a racist." It was not a good thing at the end for this EP—and for the music.
On the new album you have a couple of track titles that I feel like people may take the wrong way as well. "Underground Railroad," "African Monster."
"African Monster" is inspired by Shaft. And "Underground Railroad" is because of the Underground Railroad in the USA when white people were helping black people.
Did you think when you were naming the tracks that maybe you should shy away from that because of what happened with the other release?
No, I still do it my way. I don't care much [about] what other people say. If my family or friends would say, "Hey, what you are doing there is not right." Then I would think about it. But not people that don't know about me or don't know me. I'm not listening to those people.