Interview: DJ Tennis
Founder of Life and Death and one of the more versatile artists you will come across is DJ Tennis. His ability to experiment with a vast range of styles combined with an impeccable taste for selection, has made him one of the country’s most favoured international acts of recent years.
I saw you at Pitch earlier this year, what makes you enjoy coming back to Australia?
Well, I think the festivals that I’ve had luck to play like Let Them Eat Cake, Pitch and Days Like This, they are beautiful festivals, especially the ones in the countryside. It’s far away, so for me it’s a sort of combination of a work trip and a holiday and through the years I’ve made a lot of friends here, so there are a few reasons why I like to play in Australia. I think the crowd is always very curious, there is a big difference between a Sydney crowd and a Melbourne crowd. I like Perth a lot as well.
Your base often moves around between Miami and Amsterdam, could you ever see somewhere in Australia becoming that base?
Miami is more similar to some Australian places, especially in certain months. The warmer months (however), I find it very different. It’s the beauty of Australia and it’s the beauty of Amsterdam as well. Amsterdam is quite unique, it’s a really beautiful place to live; the quality of life, the music culture, the attitude, it’s small and very centric. Australia is absolutely not centric, but beautifully unique.
What sort of set are you planning to play tonight?
I never plan in my life. Never planned. I just have a track list that I keep feeding every week with new music. I have a bunch of very close friends that I really trust, who monitor for me what is going up and down in the market. Not what is cool, but what is coming up. Since I play pretty much every kind of music I have no real limits – from disco to techno, from trance to breakbeat or electro, recently I have gone through my old electric tracks and I pulled them out again. I have a non-specific approach, I think it doesn’t make sense to plan anything because I see the moment, I see the vibe, I see the people, I see the energy of the people. Of course, it takes me 20-30 minutes to find my path and then once I find it, I keep it.
Your label Life and Death, I understand was called that because you wanted to bring certain styles back that may have been dying?
Life and Death was born because at the end of the past decade there was this super functional minimal invasion, which I liked only in the beginning. I think at the end of every decade there is a changing moment. If you think about the end of the 90s, there was a big change in music; the end of the 80s, there was a big change of music from disco to more progressive and a techno/psychedelic sound. Every end of decade has big change and every end of decade for me has been a tiring moment for musical output. So, at the end of the past decade (2009), I said ‘while there is so much music I’m listening to from young producers, it just doesn’t find a place out there’, and I decided just to put it out and that was a success. It was not planned – it came from, I think, a bit of intuition, luck, being in the right place at the right moment and help from people. The evolution of this is to try to keep evolving and to keep a little bit ahead of the times. It’s not related to the market out there – whatever is really good and fits the mood of the label, which is of course a dance label, is worth releasing – it’s not specific to style. And of course, there’s always indie components because of my background. I come from punk rock, and there’s always a psychedelic component because I grew up on psychedelic music. Also, when I was little, my father – when he was not listening to jazz - would listen to a lot of American psychedelic music.
You were a chef a while ago?
I used to cook for a living yeah, when I was studying at University. I was not the best student, I always had a million things to do so I was not the fastest student either. But this, I have to say this is actually what saved my life – to be interested in different things rather than focus on only one topic in my life. So, at some point my father and my mother said ‘okay it’s time to provide for yourself’. One of the things I learned in my youth is to cook, beside playing records and learning about music, cooking was a really good part of my youth.
What’s your favourite album to cook to?
I really like funk, blues, whatever kind of Afro-American, that’s what I listen to. They give me a positive energy and it doesn’t make me sleep.