Drift into space with the rising French DJ.
These days, a budding selector can stuff their DJ sets with obscure bombs more easily than ever. But only the best have the special knack for putting them together coherently. In other words, some people play tracks; others DJ. Etienne, a Berlin-based DJ with ties to Onur Özer, TC80 and the London crews Undersound and Art Of Dark, does this each time he steps up to the decks. He draws records from the same pool as many of the DJs associated with the new minimal scene, specialising in forgotten techno, electro and tech house. But like the top DJs from his scene and beyond, Etienne's sets are considered, classy and smooth, moving between styles and sounds with well-timed transitions and a keen ear for melody. His sound as a producer reflects this restrained approach. He's put out three records so far, including this year's Prologue, a split EP with TC80.
We get Etienne at his best on this week's RA podcast. A ride through the spacey sounds he's been collecting for the past few years, plus a few unreleased gems, RA.602 is the kind of trip served up by DJs with total control over their craft.
What have you been up to recently?
Thanks for having me on this podcast series—I'm glad to be part of it. I have been travelling around Europe playing some nice gigs. Apart from that I'm always busy working, whether it's recording tracks or finding new records to play. I'm a really hard-working person. Discipline and patience are key to success, in my opinion.
How and where was the mix recorded?
This podcast was recorded in one take in Berlin using two 1210s.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
My intention was to create a slow-starting yet energetic mix, while being as harmonic as possible in each transition. It is one of, if not the most, crucial things that seems to be totally overlooked and unknown to most nowadays. I am spending countless hours at home practicing and combining records that perfectly respond to each other. It not only sounds right but it also respects the key and the music—the only way to create the third track out of two. Sometimes I even reproduce a particular combination of records I found interesting at home in the club. It's part of my preparation for a gig. Regarding the selection, I really don't believe that a podcast should consist of quiet records that are only listenable at home. It's more rewarding to create and sustain different intensity levels throughout a mix. The message and the meaning is stronger that way—if done right, of course.
It seems like lots of people who used to play minimal spin techno and electro now. Where do you see this sound progressing?
I don't think I've been playing long enough during that period to have an objective view on this. I guess trends come and go, and eventually come back to a point where everything is oversaturated. To me it's a reflection of our society and consumerism in general. All you need is a key figure that dictates the way to go and everybody follows. The omnipresence of social media in our daily lives is sadly playing a huge part in that. I personally find it really hard to tell where this is all going, to be honest. We'll see what comes next.
A lot of DJs complain about technical issues that prevent them from playing vinyl in clubs. How do you find it?
I think a good start would be to not complain. Being able to do this frequently is a fortunate position to be in. However, there are, of course, ways to get around standard issues one might encounter in a club. You can easily fix skipping problems by bringing your own set of needles, which is what I do. A well-placed jacket under a turntable can reduce vibrations and feedback. If the arm of the turntable is broken, which is by far the worst technical problem I've experienced, mix out quicker before it reaches the looping position.
These are just a few examples of things a DJ can handle himself before blaming it on the promoter, and it makes a difference between having a regular night versus a long and lonely experience. While it can be extremely annoying at times, another important factor is to not show any sign of frustration to the audience—keep cool, and win. Being a vinyl purist is challenging in many ways, and this is one of the reasons why I do it and I will keep doing it.
What are you up to next?
I have a couple of releases that are due to come out at the beginning of 2018. My next solo EP will be out soon on my own imprint, Sequalog, which I run with TC80. The snippets will be online soon. I am also glad to announce a new UK-based label run by my friends Andrew James Gustav and Colin Chiddle. I will share the first release with Evan Baggs. They will organise a series of showcases around Europe that I'll be part of. Apart from that I will be playing in new countries I haven't been yet, which is always exciting. My first extended South America tour is also in the making. I'm looking forward to next year already!