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Behind the scenes with Ibiza and Berlin resident DJ Matthias Meyer

The wizard sound master and producer takes us backstage at Labyrinth and shares some of the wild moments of his DJ career.

When someone's mother wins the lottery twice, you already know something extraordinary is going on. Out of the spotlight until recently, Matthias Meyer is revered by anyone who comes across his sets, particularly his deep night and after-hours sessions. We went behind the scenes with him before, during and after one of his Labyrinth dates at Pacha last month to experience first-hand the life of a DJ and hear about some the wildest moments of his career.

When we caught up with Matthias on a Friday afternoon in September, he had come directly from Watergate where he holds a residency on Thursdays. Right after his set, he was off to the airport, fortunately Tegel Airport in Berlin, the small airport which he tells us is known to be DJs' favourite as it is easy to get to and so small that one can “go straight from the car, cigarette in hand, practically to the gate.”

Flying out directly after a party to do it all over again in another part of the world the next day is pretty much standard procedure for DJs. He had arrived at dawn for the fifth date of his first Ibiza residency. On little sleep, he welcomed us in his friends' finca, with his manager and Watergate co-owner Uli Wombacher and Watrgate booking agent Dennis Kuhl.

It was actually Uli who brought Matthias into the Watergate family five years ago, after hearing him play having done a remix with Lee Jones. Anyone listening to Matthias play easily understands why. Rarely does one come one come across such well-rounded talent. Matthias knows and plays with sound like few others. What is just as remarkable is the most utter unpretentiousness of a musical master of his calibre.

This passion for his art was evident from my first experience of Matthias at the closing party of OpenLab night at HEART Ibiza last year. In the morning, the party carried on at a villa where Matthias, after a reluctant start, was on fire. A few hours into his mindblowing set, when he should have been heading back to his hotel to then catch the flight to his next gig, he said he did not want to stop. That day, he ended up playing six hours straight. He then stayed one more night at the hotel and rescheduled his flight for the following morning at 7:00 to make it directly to his next gig, at his own expense. In my 20+ years of raving, that set goes down as one of the best of my life.

That was not the only time Matthias rescheduled a flight to his next gig out of his own pocket happened. Later at dinner at the Pacha Sushi Lounge, after a glass of wine or two, he told us how apparently this had also happened in Morocco, one of his favourite countries in the world. Matthias was playing in Casablanca and was booked to play in Strasbourg the next day. In his words, “It happens that I play at an after-party and sometimes it is really hard to leave. People are so passionate there.” He played on and booked a new flight to Paris without checking his connection to Strasbourg, "which of course there was not. I ended up having to take a train from Paris to Metz, which is 150 km away from Strasbourg but the closest I could get, and then a taxi for €400! Damn, but I made it.”

Nevertheless, Matthias has never missed a gig in his life, always making it at whatever cost, knowing “that promoter and people are waiting for you. I lost a little money but still had something left, so all good!” Money is welcome but clearly not among the primary driving forces behind his passion.

This passion started back in 1994 when he was introduced to the rave culture as a 13-year-old watching Josh Wink play Mayday on TV. From the small village near Hamburg where he grew up, Matthias then started going by train to Hamburg to buy vinyl. The first one he purchased was Josh Wink's Higher State of Consciousness.

From then on, he together with DJ Koze and Patlac, his best friend, created their own self-contained scene playing at house parties and bars, “We'd never been to a club until we were 20-something. Since we grew up in a small village, there were no clubs so we just played at home. For the first years, we just had one turntable each so we would have to get together to spin.” Through hip-hop, indie dance music and electronic, he had the logo of Mayday on his turntable with all the names of his favourite DJs.

Although he knew right away that he wanted to be a DJ, he did have a Plan B and DJing remained a hobby while he trained to become a sales manager of cranes and street machinery. After three years, he chose social work over the military service, DJing part-time until his first release in 2005 and assisted in part by the German government. As he accumulated record releases, even the work coach following his case stood behind him, “I always brought her my vinyl and mixed CDs, and she believed in me,” a testament to the depth of his dedication and talent.

His ardour certainly paid off. For the past five years, has been a resident DJ at Watergate in Berlin, where he is famed for his marathon sets that stretch through to closing time, as well as touring worldwide, including Europe, Asia, South Africa, North and South America. This season has seen his first Ibiza residency, with seven dates at Labyrinth and a nomination for the Deep House category of the DJ Awards. This past July he also recorded his first Boiler Room set.

As our night continued, Matthias played his one and a half hour opening set at Pacha then enjoyed the rest of the party backstage. In the morning, we headed back to the finca, freshened up and headed to the afterparty in a villa, courtesy of Omnia Producciones, one of the biggest agencies of electronic music events in Argentina. With stunning views of Cala Tarida from the heights of San Josep on Ibiza, the atmosphere shifted the minute Matthias took over the turntables, as he played for four hours.

Eventually, however, even Matthias collapses, sometimes to the point of waking up in a completely different city. This actually happened to him a couple of years back during an intense tour in Asia and Australia: "After a heavy weekend with gigs in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, with the usual few hours of sleep, I was happy to go to Bali where one of my best friends was waiting in a nice villa we had rented together. Of course, I fell asleep on the plane. When I woke up the captain said ‘Welcome to Jakarta'!" Confused as to what was going on, he looked outside the window indeed to see Jakarta International in big shiny letters. End of the story, because of a volcano eruption, the plane had changed destination while an unconscious Matthias finally got some much-needed rest.

All this chaos, of course, can create comical situations. From socks forgotten on smoking detectors in hotel rooms to other things we cannot relate here, sometimes he gets those “weekends of chaos, and sometimes those with more chaos than usual, obviously right before having to go to the airport and face security."

One particular weekend in October, after an already crazy Friday playing twice in one night at both Leipzig and Watergate, Matthias was flying to Amsterdam for ADE. Going through security, as usual, he was asked if he had any liquids inside my bag, "No, I don't think so", he replied, completely forgetting that the night before he had bought three mini bottles of Prosecco, three beers and some soda for the car journey. "As they started to pull them out one by one from my bag, the security staff started to crack up laughing, even the police officer was laughing. Cringe! That was only just the beginning of a crazy weekend in Amsterdam…

Playing all over the globe, he sometimes ends up in some interesting situations. At the start of his international career, around 2008, he played in a city really far east in Russia, seven hours flight from Moscow. Landing in the snow with -15 degrees Celsius, with a questionable taxi ride waiting at one of the smallest airports ever, he ended up "playing at a weird place with half-naked go-go girls dancing next to me and a half million dollar disco ball. Anyways, it was actually a nice gig." The next day, the promoter drove him to the airport and was also departing. Going through security they both put their phones into the containers, went through and headed to their respective gates. Stepping onto the stairs to the plane door, he "recognised one of the air flight attendants: she was one of the go-go girls. I said hello and we had a quick cigarette on the stairs of the plane! After landing again in Moscow I turned on my phone and it was in Russian!"

When he is not travelling, Matthias is busy producing music. His releases started on liebe*detail, followed by Cécille Records and Watergate Records. One of his latest productions has already been hailed by veteran tastemaker Pete Tong. Matthias' remix of Butch's Shahrzad, which is part of Watergate Remixes 01, was the big track at Burning Man and a favourite of Lee Burridge. Released earlier this summer, it has been huge.

And here's a taste of his upcoming production with Ryan Davis: Hope. Part of Watergate's 15 Year compilation, Watergate XV, the tune is inspired by their shared love of movie soundtracks and is set for release on 6 November.

Make sure you catch Matthias Meyer this Friday 6 October at Labyrinth with Hot Since 82, Eats Everything and Cassy b2b Heidi for the closing party.

If you cannot make it, you're in luck as an extra date has just been added. On Friday 13 October Matthias returns to Pacha with Hot Since 82, Erick Morillo, BUTCH (DJ/Producer).

Prepare to stand amazed.


PHOTOGRAPHY | Michael Tomlinson and Pacha

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