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Matthias Tanzmann: Not Enough Hours in the Day

Matthias on trying to make music and label management.

He runs two unarguably respected imprints, the oldest of which celebrates 12 years in 2012. He's also permanently on tour, and one of Ibiza's most cherished resident DJs. As such it's any wonder he has time to talk, let alone make records from his Germanic base.

The negative effects of this hectic schedule are clear. Matthias Tanzmann, though still a major face on the scene, has put his name to few releases in recent times, with output largely consisting of mixes, most recently last month's Fabric.65 compilation (well worth a listen if you haven't already).

In the background though the production picture is rather different, largely thanks to a new project alongside Martin Buttrich and Davide Squillace. Meanwhile, Moon Harbour and Cargo Edition, his labels, have a host of artists doing the business, confirming the bossman to be an astute A&R, capable of maintaining high standards without betraying stylistic direction. Eager to catch up we called his place of work to ask a few questions and disrupt his rare studio time.

Hi Matthias, how are you today?

I'm good, thanks, just working on a new EP actually.

So you're getting back to your own productions?

Yeah, it's a problem really- I'm touring too much. That's the downside of DJ success. But I'm not complaining, I just need to get more disciplined with time management.

When can we expect the record?

Well, it's just a track at the moment, with some other ideas. But the main focus for me right now is a project with Davide Squillace and Martin Buttrich, called Better Lost Than Stupid.

We have been meeting once a month in a Barcelona studio, for one week, and this is set to continue for the rest of the year. In between that time we are all working on the tracks individually too. So that's most of my studio time taken up. The idea is to release an album, then a live tour. Doing my own EP has to be organised around that.

Is there pressure on DJs do something live, given how popular production performances are right now?

For me it was all from an idea to have some fun and try something a bit different. We are playing a few gigs, for instance Electric Zoo festival in New York this weekend. That's a combination of live and DJ, with Davide and myself mixing whilst Martin plays live.

Nothing is prepared, so in that respect it's really a DJ set- we go with the flow. But now the next step is to get some original tracks together, matched with a concert or something. It's going to be pretty new for us all, and we're really interested to see where it will go.

Do you have a date or imprint in mind for the LP?

No, not yet. We're still finishing up the music at the moment. It won't be released on one of our own labels, though; we're going to offer it out.

Which role are you most comfortable with, label management or producing?

The A&R stuff is easier to do, that's for sure. You can listen to demos, and stay in touch with people whilst on the road, via email, from wherever you are. Then you just go into the office to catch up with things every now and then.

I'm not comfortable doing the same with production. I can't just use headphones and a laptop in a hotel room or on the flight. I really need to be in my studio to make music.

In terms of managing labels, obviously it's not easy, but what are the biggest challenges from your perspective?

Of course you still have the whole vinyl problem, whether to keep with it or not. We decided to continue pressing vinyl for Moon Harbour, but then have a digital edition, and Cargo Edition, for the last few releases, has been digital only. But that situation has been going on for years.

Then we have to work hard at keeping artists in the loop. We're trying to get showcases across the world, so people will fly out to join four, five or six other artists for a label night, which is important.

Moon Harbour is synonymous with a particular sound- how much of that has come from your residency at DC10?

That has been quite big influence on me for sure. I started playing there in 2007, and the music of that time had a really strong impact, there were some great people playing there.

These days I'm not following every trend, we didn't go in for the whole Visionquest, Hot Creations stuff. We're more organic, percussive sounding- if you're looking for influences the references would be Circo Loco and DC10 from a couple of years ago. That's still what I like, of course things change a bit, but the basic idea is the same. And it's not as if everyone is listening to nu-disco now, the sounds always co-exist.

Does the fickle nature of club music concern you?

Yeah, it's always trends and stuff, but electronic music always refers to itself too, and like we've seen in the last few years, it picks up on something that was there before. It's never totally new, it references itself, so if you don't want to turn your flag with the wind just keep doing what you're doing and, no matter how big or small you are, people will appreciate it.

Are there any positive effects from genres falling out of the limelight?

Yes, of course. I must also say that every development in art, not only music, is positive. It slips into the focus of more people and the stuff that has gone before becomes stronger amongst those that really love it.

Everything that has become big in the last few years I've enjoyed too - it's fresh, new, and has brought in different styles. It's just not something I want to do label-wise, I prefer to have more structure so far as where we are coming from, but it's totally necessary for music to develop in different directions.

Agreed. Finally then, when can we expect to see you in Ibiza next?

Monday, 10th September... (at DC10, Circoloco).

Circoloco listings - 2022

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