Interview: Tony Rohr
Interview: Tony Rohr
Tony Rohr, un des leaders de la Minimal Techno new-yorkaise nous a accordé quelques minutes de son temps pour une interview. Ce DJ est déjà passé par I Love Techno en 2005 et plus récemment par les soirées Kozzmozz. Cette fois-ci, il investi un haut lieu de la culture francophone belge puisqu’il officiera dans quelques jours au Théâtre National de la Communauté Française sur l’invitation des organisateurs du collectif Rewind.
First of all, thank you very much for giving us a little bit of your time for this interview. Before starting, can you tell us a few words about you, your background and your career?
I grew up in USA in a place pretty much devoid of any good music. The only outlet we had for music was the radio. Honestly, it wasn’t until the 80’s when Hip-Hop came along that I was fascinated with « how » music was made. The beats, the synthesizers, it all just amazed me. As time went on I would collect music here and there on vinyl and hoped one day to DJ… somewhere. Also, at that time, when I say DJ I mean like… school dance DJ, or wedding DJ. I never dreamed of playing at a party! Haha. Fast forwarding a bit… I got pretty good and discovered House and Techno along the way. In the 90’s, a club in Charleston, Illinois (the city my university was in) needed a DJ. I got the job and played Top 40 crap along with the occasional Club, House and Techno record. It was pretty clubby stuff, but I didn’t have FULL control of what I was able to play. After speaking with the owners one night, they agreed to give me my own night on a Wednesday to see how a night designed by me would go. And you know what? After just a few weeks, Wednesdays were THE night to go to the club! One Halloween we broke the all-time attendance record for the club… the owners were more than pleased. However, there was a downside. For every $100-$150 a week I was spending on records, I was still only getting paid $50! And when you are in college, that’s a lot of money! So the next step was to organize my own parties that would go longer than the clubs anyway (they closed at 1am). Needless to say, those parties were classic and then the NEXT step was to start throwing raves. Again… fast-forwarding and many fun Midwest parties later… I decided to move to Philadelphia. Philadelphia was a great city, but a very dark time for me. I started losing interest in the music and didn’t see it doing anything I liked any more. I stopped DJing for a while and really just fell into a rut. Shortly thereafter in about 1997, I moved to New York (Brooklyn Baby!) and regained all of my former energy. I also had a new attitude, which was… « If you don’t like the music other people are making… make your own! » And that’s what I did. Turns out, I’m pretty good at it. HAHA! It was also around this time that I wanted only to play LIVE as well. I would lug out keyboards, and controllers and my laptop (one of the first people to start playing live with a laptop, mind you). After many shows on the road I slimmed down to just the laptop and drum machine as all my equipment was getting broken. Nowadays EVERYBODY plays with just a laptop, but back then, people would actually look at me funny for playing a live pa with just a laptop. As the years go by I find a little more success in playing shows for people in different countries and making music that they enjoy DJing. I got so good that I was able to make this a full time job in 2004! I know this is kind of lengthy and I jump around a bit, but I’ve been doing this a long time. I really enjoy every moment of it and am totally grateful to everyone out there who supports my music!
As many DJ’s, you started as setting up shop in the borough of Brooklyn, does it inspired your creativity and managed your sound as “Voodoo Techno” as you can be compare to?
Brooklyn and New York continue to inspire me. It really is a city of chaos and sounds and art. Everything here indirectly affects my music and my soul somehow. I think if I moved like a lot of the other US artists, I would feel my creativity and « soul » dry up towards the music. Or not… heheh… maybe that’s a little harsh and dark. As far as the « Voodoo » moniker, I don’t know who labeled it that, but it stuck with me and my style for a while. I’ve always been a fan of crushing brains on the dance floor with some mental shit. So I guess that’s why.
NYC is a crazy city and so multi-cultural, is it the reason of your open-minded and so diversify sound?
Absolutely. As I mentioned before it’s the surroundings. Not necessarily the parties or even music other people make here, but the city itself. It’s totally inspiring. Even after 12 years here!
You have several gigs, seems to be very closed to Germany. What is your relationship with this scene?
Germany was the first country to kind of « get » what I was going for artistically. I think it is still the case today. I think the German people look at everything artistically from a different angle and see a beauty in something that others may pass by or take for granted. Not to say other countries don’t do that as well on some level, but I seem to really be ‘locked in’ to what Germany is in to.
You are a prolific producer/remixer as releases on famous label as Drumcode, Plus 8, Music Man Records, International Deejay Gigolo Records, CLR, Datapunk,… and your tracks appeared on Cocoon, Terminal M, Warp Records, Fabric Records,… Don’t you ever have the wish to found your own label?
I had always considered it… but never had the time to implement it. And plus, I wouldn’t even know who to contact to run something like that so…. yeah, nothing yet. For now, I’m happy with making the music and letting other people make the decisions.
I don’t have to explain to you the music’s industry crises… What is your opinion about this situation, about piracy or files sharing?
It’s pretty out of control. I know a lot of people just download my music for free… and they love it, play it, etc. I just hope that when they get a few bucks in their pocket they spend the money to buy it. Especially now when you can get titles for like $1.50… come on, Karma people. Karma always gets you in the end.
As usual, do you have any playlist? Maybe your all-time classics?
I’m normally playing live… but I do have special « live » versions of my songs that always KILL. Lucky for the listeners, the originals are great too. Hehe. Anyway, they are in no particular order:
– dB Revenge (Tora Tora Tora)
– Kreuzberg Krunk (Clink Music)
– Baile Conmigo (Tora Tora Tora)
– Dead Chewy (Cocoon Recordings)
– Fem (Drumcode)
– Discoteca Butt (Frankie Rec) [co-produced with Alexi Delano]
– Dark Blend (Clink Music) [co-produced with Tim Xavier as Afternoon Coffee Boys]
– Dirka Dirka (Dipolter) [co-produced with Dave Shokh as Dirka Dirka]
To conclude, do you have any future tracks to be release? Any future project?
Just out now is an EP I did with John Selway on CSM called Less Scary. Also, Plus 8 just released a pack of remixes of classic tracks. Alexi Delano and I did a mental version of Pullover that people have been flipping out for. I’ve almost completed another Drumcode EP and I’m finishing up tracks for a special weird-Tech-House project I’ve called ODDMATIK. Should be good.
Thank you for taking the time to have answered and we will see you very soon on the dancefloor this 18th December @ Rewind Theatre Act2 in Brussels.