When David Koch’s debut album arrived in late spring its impact on our office was immediate. A varied experiment in electronic, dancefloor leaning sounds it’s less a clichéd journey, and more of a jam session, filled with unexpected twists and technical curveballs.
Not that the arrangements aren’t immersive and coherent too, despite straddling house, electro, and even hip-hop. After all, DeWalta, as the chap in question prefers to be known, cut his 12” teeth releasing on the techno institution that is Vakant, proof, if any were needed, that he knows a thing or too about 4/4 flow, structure and form.
Still though, there’s more than a hint of live instrumentation inherent in the producer’s fare. Sharing sonic ground with the likes of The Mole, it’s unsurprising Wander, this year’s inaugural LP, dropped via Mike Shannon’s exceptionally good Haunt Music- where sounds that touch on everything from jazz to Detroit have been known to converge.
Needless to say, it’s a perfect platform for DeWalta’s work, what with his background studying brass at one of the finest music schools in Germany, and after playing clubs he shouldn’t have been allowed in as a young teenager, alongside all manner of groove-focused aficionados. A pedigree producer no less, and certainly one to watch in the coming years, we couldn’t wait to call him to find out why it’s good to be dumb, and whether or not classical training is really worth the effort.
For those who don’t know then, where would you place the DeWalta sound?
Well, it’s always difficult to talk about yourself, right? I’ll try though… er, I guess I need to go back in time a little bit for this.
I’m originally not an electronic artist, my background is growing up in a very musical family, and deciding to become a musician when I was very young. I then received music education at school, and attended the Hanns Eisler Conservatory of Music here in Berlin- my main instrument is the saxophone.
Then at some point I started getting a little bored, and began thinking ‘this can’t be it’- always looking back at music from the 40s and 50s, which I love and collect. But I had a real urge to write my own music. That started with analogue equipment at home, and I got more sucked into the electronic scene.
You began playing brass in clubs very early on, is that right?
Yeah, the very first session, where I learnt most instrumental skills, was when I worked in a place known as The Oldest Student Jazz Club In Germany. I think it was founded pretty soon after the war, in the 50s.
There’s also a jazz cave, called The Cave, where all the local jazz cats would play. They had blues on a Tuesday, rock ‘n’ roll on a Wednesday. It’s a pub type thing, a very nice place I still go to when I’m visiting home.
My parents let me go there when I was way too young, because my teacher at the time was involved in a Sunday B-bop session, and he invited me to join. It was a real session too- all the horn players would line up backstage, whilst the band played, go on and do a solo before returning backstage.
How similar do you see jazz and electronic club music?
I thought a lot about that, and there are so many similarities. One of the reasons I was drawn in to the nightlife- of course there was my education side too- but I read books of the 40s and 50s that said the best way to learn music is to meet other musicians and play with them.
Miles Davis’ biography is very interesting because of that - it explains where he learned what and who from. I can definitely relate to that, I’m still learning every time from playing with great DJs, and there are a lot more parallels than that too.
You’re debut album, Wander, is a difficult beast to describe. Are you happy with the results now the dust has settled?
I’m happy with how people have approached me afterwards, and approached the album. I’m happy to be speaking to people like you guys, and a few other interviews - it has afforded me some good opportunities. For example we’re currently working on a Japan tour.
But at the same time I now have a hunger for more. There’s this force that wants to continue. The album is out and the storm over, now I want to do it again. I’ve also been happy with how people have given me feedback, which hasn’t really happened like that before in my career.
It has been really nice to see, and it hasn’t always been positive. The album goes in a few directions. I don’t know if the next will be like that, as diverse. But I enjoyed making this one like that, and being able to learn from making it in this way.
Where you concerned it was perhaps too varied, considering electronic music is so heavily categorised?
Yes, that was a serious concern. I had a few sleepless nights when I couldn’t stop questioning whether or not you could do something like this, with this combination of music.
Some of the tracks were sketches that I had for years. I released a bunch of singles, and people kind of knew DeWalta as techno or whatever, so in that way some people might be kinda pissed off. In a way that was my intention.
The next day, after worrying, I woke up and just thought ‘whatever’. Not enough people are challenged by music, but I personally don’t think it’s enough to simply feed the cat what it wants. My main concern was that it could feel without focus- a little too all over the place. It’s possible to go in different directions and still sound like you have focus; a sound, but in various corners, rather than having just one type of music.
Finally then, how important do you think musical training is?
I can’t generalise like that. Everyone is different, and every musician is different. If someone has an interest in going off to learn about major and minor chords or whatever, then they should go and check it out for themselves. It depends on the person.
It’s like asking if you should read the news. Some don’t, I like to educate myself and show myself I’m still dumb- there’s so much to learn. And we only learn from what we don’t know. It’s a conscious choice though, and everyone has to make it for themselves- I know plenty of amazing producers and DJs that have no formal training, and their music is out of this world. You don’t need an education to make your own rules.