Live & Direct is a new series in which we explore the relationship between DJs, the clubs they play at and the crowds that become immersed in their sets. First up, Solomun and his new residency at Pacha Ibiza
Last season, Solomun and the artists on his Diynamic label took Ibiza by storm with their first residency on the island. Their sound – that lush, bouncy, melodic house honed on the basement dancefloors of Hamburg – clicked right into place at Sankeys, where Solomun and his team (as he likes to call them) spent the summer impressing wide-eyed British ravers and seasoned workers and locals alike. To use the verb that's crept into club vernacular lately: they smashed it.
So, as the winter drew in, the Bosnian-born DJ found himself in the midst of a bidding war; everyone from Richie Hawtin to the top dogs at Ushuaia wanted Solomun at their party in 2013. In the end, he plumped for Pacha and a brand new concept, Solomun+1. While he and the Diynamic gang (David August, HOSH, Stimming et al) would keep their group show at Sankeys, he'd strike out alone up the road in the venue nestled in Ibiza Town.
When Mixmag first heard of the new residency, we were chilling with Solomun and his manager, Daniel, upstairs at Ego (the club run by Solomun's sister) back in March. The pair were visibly excited about the prospect of taking on a new club with a fresh idea. Every week, Solomun would invite a guest to play, each playing separately before closing the night with a back-to-back session. With artists such as Tensnake, Âme and Miss Kittin swinging by to play, Solomun's party fit perfectly with Pacha's new, refreshed, 'underground' ethos.
So, how has this summer gone for Solomun? What's it been like moving up to a larger club with a different crowd? And will they be won over by him and his friends? Off the back of a Sunday spent playing Pacha with Heidi, we spoke to Solomun to find out.
Read our interview and exclusive live recording from that night below.
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This summer you spent your first season at Pacha. With it being a bigger club and a different crowd to Sankeys, did you have to change the way you play?
This year I rediscovered my techy side but that had nothing to do with the clubs I've been playing at. Of course, at Sankeys you play a little more bassy, because of the really bass-focused soundsystem, but in general I don’t have different concepts, no matter where I play.
I always play intuitively, reacting to the atmosphere in the club. Of course, I react also to the club itself and it is an advantage if you know the club already.
Pacha went for a more ‘underground’ approach this year and you seem to be a figurehead for that. Has the club benefitted from that and have you enjoyed having your own flagship party?
I can really say that I enjoyed every single Sunday at Pacha. We experienced really amazing parties with a great vibe and great guests, just great nights. So, from my side, it was a really good summer and I am sure the club is also happy.
My gut feeling was right and I made the right decision going to Pacha, you could call it a successful marriage!
The +1 idea is simple and effective. Why did you want to go that way? Does playing back-to-back with different DJs inspire you to try new things or experiment?
Solomun+1 is based around the back-to-back session at the end of the night but also the idea that my guest and I can build up the party and can play for longer and take the people on a musical journey. But yes, playing back-to-back with such different artists is always inspiring and leads you to new ideas.
You know, at Solomun+1, both of us play prime time and really share the night. This is why when we end up going back-to-back it’s not about outdoing each other, it’s much more a dialogue with call and response. I love sharing!
Who’s been you’re favourite DJ to play with? Sorry to make you choose…
Oh man, don’t give me that! No, honestly, I can’t tell, because every one of my guests just did so good and gave me and the people such a good feeling.
What I can say is that both dates with Miss Kittin were absolutely amazing, furthermore I don’t need to talk about the quality of my friend Âme who did 3 dates with me and, oh yes, DJ Koze did also rock and the fact that my set from the night with Heidi can be heard here on Mixmag speaks for itself. I could continue now if you want but I'll stop.
Let’s talk about that set. The first 25 minutes is very bass-lead and quite deep, which is something I haven’t heard you do for a while. Why did you choose to start like that? Does the Pacha crowd react well to that deepness?
Deepness is always a part of my set but it’s always a gut feeling how I start off. Most of the nights I loved to start deeper and build it up from there. And we don’t talk about a classic Pacha crowd, whatever that is, but on the Sundays the people come for Solomun+1. Until now I never had any problems with the reactions of the people toward the musical output.
You drop Midland’s ‘Realtime’, which has been a real Mixmag office favourite this summer. What’s your process of picking tunes for a weekly party like +1? Are you constantly sifting through promos or does someone help you out?
Ah OK, it seems that the Mixmag office and I have a quite similar taste in music! I love that tune.
Because of my really heavy touring this year and two residencies in Ibiza, I have to say that I never checked so many promos like during this summer, to stay fresh and always have new tracks on board. And yes, I have someone who helps me, does a pre-check and takes out all the tracks that would absolutely not work for me, like EDM or progressive house or trance. I guess most of the people would never imagine how many promos from all thinkable styles I constantly get.
After that your selection gets more focused and the tunes feel a little harder. What makes you decide to change the atmosphere like that?
Me, personally, I moved in a little harder, more techy direction this year. But I still like to show a wide range and I’ve been doing this for more than 10 years and, of course, I also feel genres other than house.
For example, old Kompakt records really influenced me and during last winter I rediscovered them and my feeling for that kind of sound.
Is it easy to read the crowd in a bigger venue like Pacha? Do you make choices based on what the dancefloor is doing?
This is one thing I do since I started DJing: trying to read the people. And the good thing about playing a club more often is that you understand it better every time you play it.
Does a size of a room change what you play?
It doesn’t necessarily influence the selection, but quite often the speed of the tracks. In a smaller club, for example, a more techy track can be too much at 125bpm, but pitched down to 120bpm it is perfect. But basically, it’s not necessarily the size of the room. Above all that, it’s the vibe, the atmosphere, on which I as a DJ react.
There’s a real tribal feeling to the songs you play in the second half of the set. Do you like putting people under a spell with such mesmerising, slightly acidy records? Does the darker stuff make people act or dance differently?
It always depends on how the night develops. I like the energy in a club when the music is more trippy. And yes, the people are dancing different then. When the musical highlights are placed differently, the bodies react in another way.
Toward the end you kick the bass-heavy stuff back in. Were you aiming for an impressive finish? It must be fun leading people into a thick, textural run of tunes like that…
I wanted to have a good finish, but you can only aim for a good finish when the whole night before was good. For me, it’s not necessarily about an impressive finish, I always have in mind that after me, my guest plays and that’s why I can not overdo my finish.
How was it playing with Heidi? Your styles seem suited, though she plays stuff that is a little more ghetto sounding.
She is Ms Jackathon and the name speaks for itself! And we've known each other for a few years, played back-to-back very often and I think that you hear and feel that. In short words: I love playing with her!
Playing back-to-back with someone is quite personal. It can easily go wrong if you don’t create a bond with the other person. Do you know your guests before you book them? Are they friends? And has a back-to-back set ever lead to a collaboration or further projects?
That’s right, it can go wrong. But all my guests are artists that I know and trust, so I don't take a risk on it. Some of them are friends and all of them are outstanding artists which I would always jump in the booth with.
The final Solomun+1 parties take place at Pacha Ibiza over the next two weekends. All info here