For pioneering the sound of stripped-down minimal techno, Daniel Bell has been called an innovator. For sharing his love of underground music around the globe for twenty years, he has been called an educator. When he works, he is meticulous and focused, performing with a quiet dignity not often seen in DJs of his caliber. Bell kindly took the time to answer a few questions about his recent achievements and what he has planned for the future.
You have been touring with longer DJ sets lately. How do you prepare for an eight-hour set?
After a while you, hopefully, learn what works and what doesn’t—it’s by trial and error for the most part. I look forward to these all-night sessions, because I prefer playing records that are more subtle, not so in-your-face. And so it’s a nice alternative to the high-pressure big room club scene. There’s that freedom to be more experimental and it allows you this time to go places you would never visit in a standard two-hour session.
How do you captivate a club for so many hours?
In the end, it comes down to the groove, as simplistic that may sound, and once people get locked into it… it becomes something else, something almost primal.
This summer, you hosted events called “Deeperstill” at Club der Visionaire. Describe these events for someone who has never been to one.
CDV is a little bungalow next to a canal in Berlin. It’s a great place to chill and meet with friends and listen to music. There is a tiny dance-floor next to the main bar area that can hold maybe thirty people…this part is indoors but the rest of the “club” (it’s more of a bar than a club) sprawls out next to the canal and on top of the canal; the many seating areas are more like rafts floating on the water. And so, with Deeperstill, Barbara [Preisinger] and I would invite a friend to share the night with us and we would play music starting in the early evening around 4pm on Thursday until around 8am the next day. And although the atmosphere of the club is relaxed, this little dance-floor can get crazy at times with people really going for it.
How will this night be impacted by moving it indoors?
Since CDV closes for the winter, Barbara and I thought it would be fun to see if we could create a similar atmosphere at another club until the summer arrives again. And so after much discussion, we chose Privatclub because it’s a small, cozy basement venue, located under a restaurant and it doesn’t have much history in the dance music scene—it’s mostly known as a indie-rock venue. So, it’s like starting from a clean slate. And with any new venue in Berlin, it takes a while to establish but it’s slowly getting more and more crowded each month.
Why is it important to you to organize your own events in the States?
I prefer throwing events in the U.S. because it’s less congested here, the techno and house scene is smaller but there is less hype and the people who show up to the events are generally very enthusiastic about the music. Because this type of music is so distant from any mainstream [music] in the States, the parties attract more hardcore music-lover types than in some other countries. So whatever headaches there are involved in throwing events here in the U.S., it’s still very much worth the effort because people seem to appreciate it so much. I hope to do many more events in the future in different U.S. cities…you start to have ideas of what you would you personally like to see tried as a concept for a club night. It’s great to finally be at a level where you make these things happen.
What producers are making music that you are enthusiastic about right now?
It’s a long list, and even when there is a dry spell for new releases I spend that time trying to find old records I may have missed in the past. And unearthing these old records can be just as exciting as hearing something new. I’m constantly buying records and getting excited about this producer or that producer. I’m a total vinyl junkie and I’m running out of space for all my records like all good vinyl junkies do. All that aside, the past few years, I really liked releases from Cassy, Jus-Ed, Thomas Melchior, and Audio Werner to name a few. And I’m a fan of the more recent Detroit releases, especially Patrice Scott and Delano Smith.
How do you manage to craft DJ sets that perfectly balance the austere machine-oriented sounds of techno with the warm and organic sounds of house music?
I don’t really think about genres too much. I like the gray area—the murkier the better. It’s those records that are so easily defined that don’t interest me as much. I prefer records where you are wondering, “Is this old or new? Is this a techno record or a house record?” The ones that keep you guessing—those are the great ones.
What do you have planned for 2009 so far?
I’m doing a “Daniel Bell and Friends” live show at Transmediale Festival in Berlin at the end of January…this is mostly new material played live with very little automated sequencing. I’ll be joined by Stefan Betke [(Pole)] who will play keyboards and Hanno Leichtmann from The Vulva String Quartett on various percussion.
November 28 at Sonotheque, 1444 W. Chicago, (312)226-7600, at 9pm. $10.
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