A Sit Down With DJ Wolfgang Gartner
American deep house DJ and producer Wolfgang Gartner, aka Joseph Youngman, is known for a record number of songs to land at Beatports No. 1 spot over the past 5 years, and also for his hit collaborations with Skrillex, Will.i.am, Tiesto and deadmau5.
Hard to believe its been almost six years since Gartner released his landmark debut album Weekend in America. Coming to fame during the same time that deadmau5 and Skrillex were starting to bring EDM to the masses during the late aughts and early teens, Wolfgang helped usher in a new era of dance music. Wolfgang, real name, Joseph Youngman, made his debut at Los Angeless top club, Exchange.
How would you describe your sound?
I do have a distinctive sound that people associated with . I have certain songs that I have written along those lines, Shrunken Heads is one of those that really has written Wolfgang all over it. Even when I branch out from that on progressive house, there is still a really distinctive sound that I do. Little tricks that I like to do in my tracks that hopefully people can still tell it is a Wolfgang Gartner track and identify my tracks along the way.
How important do you think visuals are for your live shows?
Theyre an added bonus. I dont have them at all the shows, only bus tours and really big shows sporadically throughout the year. They certainly add a whole new dimension and people love them, but its not logistically or fiscally possible to use them constantly.
When someone would go to a show, what can they expect to hear?
I cant be defined by one particular sub genre, I go through too many styles to be an electro artist or just a progressive house artist. Its all just forms of house music. If you come to my show and listen to my music that is what you will get. You do not get one very specific sub genre of music, it is going to be all across the board.
How did you have to prepare to make the transition from producing dance to producing R&B?
I had to find and learn quite a bit of new software and learn some new mixing and sound design techniques. The sound couldnt be more different from what I usually make. Which was so refreshing. I learned how to recreate a lot of real instrument sounds with samplers and computer programs and a lot of editing and processing, since the only instrument I can play is keyboards. I needed guitars, live bass, vintage pianos, etc to achieve the sound we wanted and I figured out how to replicate a lot of that stuff to a certain extent myself, which took quite a bit of time to really nail the authenticity of the instruments.
"...all about finding the right balance doing what I really love doing which is spending time in the studio".
How do you feel thats benefitted your music style and production recently?
Well, recently, is interesting, because nobodys heard what Ive been doing recently. All people have heard is what Ive released. I kind of got back into my roots, which is not electro house, but more like disco, funk, straight up house stuff. I started getting back into that last year with the John Oates collaboration Baby Be Real and Devotion, those were all kind of housey tracks. And I guess I just went back to a little bit more of my roots because I felt a little bit freer to do that. And lately Im honestly experimenting with some completely different type of stuff, thats not at all like anything Ive ever released before, I dont know how much I should say about it besides that I cant really play it in this type of a set. I would say its basically a little bit more radio friendly than the stuff Ive done in the past, people will hear that eventually.
What do you like to do outside of dance music?
The only other thing I do besides produce music is cook. I don't really do anything else. I have a studio separate from my house so like I go to the studio, I come home, I work a little more at my home studio, then I like to cook. I get a bug for a few days where I wanna go to the store, make all these extravagant recipes. That`s my other thing, i'd really like to create the menu for restaurants. I wouldn't want to own a restaurant or operate it, but i'd want to create the menu. Cooking is very creative for me, the way that everything compiles together, almost similar to music for me, so when i'm not at work, I kinda go crazy and cook all this extravagant shit.
What was the best and the worst gig you ever played?
Best: Sasquatch Festival, in Washington State. Worst: If I said where it was, I'd probably never play in that city again, so I won't.
Looking back at all of your previous collabs which are you most proud of?
"We Own The Night." To me, that is the best of all of them.
Who do you admire as a DJ?
Mark Farina, Derrick Carter and DJ SneakI couldnt list just one. Why? Because they are my personal godfathers of house music, who I grew up listening to and studying. Those three taught me more than anybody else about the art of mixing.
What artists are you listening to in your personal playlists?
This guy Joyryde is on a very similar clips like when I'm doing. So I discovered him after I started like working on the sound of like they're doing the same thing I'm doing. I still listen to a lot of whole 90s disco house stuff.
How complicated is one of your sets?
It's an equal balance between doing a lot of complicated technical stuff and also putting on a show physically and stage presence-wise for the crowd. I jump around and do the hand movements and stuff, but I don't leave the turntable and go crowd surf or spray champagne. I don't have time to step away from the turntables for more than 20 seconds. It's very technically involved. It's hard to find that balance between doing something technical and challenging yourself and also engaging the crowd and not just standing there, staring at turntables.
You've said in the past that you feel it's your responsibility to advance the genre you're in - do you feel like you've accomplished that?
Well, advancing the genre, I don't know. Advancing the genre is more of a goal and something I try and push myself to do when I'm making music. I think I can make a quantifiable effect on dance music where I can say "yes, I have improved dance music overall." It's kind of like a mantra for me when I'm making music, like, I have to do better, but I do know that I have definitely influenced a lot of other producers and younger producers who were learning and growing up when I was putting out a lot of music. All you can do is put out your music and be unique and if people start copying you or imitating you and taking that to another level, then you've made your mark and made an impact.
How would you describe your evolution as an artist?
I started when I was 14 and Im 34 right now so that's fucking crazy I didn't even realize that. My evolution as an artist is a continuous circle that is going because 20 years ago or even before that because I started producing music 23 years ago. I got into everything. I'm a hardcore, I made drum and bass, I made trance, I made deep house, I made hard house, I made every single genre under the EDM umbrella, and that's when I was just getting into it, and I was kind of like cause I loved everything. And then my taste towards the late 90s started to kind of narrow into like the house and deep house sound, and that's mostly what I wanted to produce and pretty much all I wanted to play at the beach and from like the mid-90s and the early 2000s mid-2000.
What is the most valuable piece of advice you can give?
Make hits and make a name for yourself as a producer and you will have a career no matter how good of a DJ you are. Thats what the scene has come to, sad but true and I am not a big supporter or this but that just what it is. Make hits and people will start booking you before they have even heard you play.
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