The Culture: 5 Mag interviews with DJs on DJing – the culture, the craft, the technique, style and importance of the art of DJing. Often with an exclusive mix.
There is an underlying honesty to music made and played by Manuel Tur. On his own productions it comes through as breathtaking simplicity, a clean and deeply compelling approach to making deep house music.
By aesthetic this sort of music belongs on Freerange, so we shouldn’t be too surprised that Manuel Tur would make something of a home for himself (and for his side project Clavis) on Jimpster’s acclaimed deep house imprint. His latest – Organic Reach EP – drops in early April and marks his first solo release on the label in five years.
It also shouldn’t surprise us to find his studio habits spilling over into his DJ style. A Manuel Tur set is about music selection over effects – as on his original productions, his style is characterized as “clear and straight-forward without tons of tricks. Both at the studio and the club, an EQ is still the most powerful tool we have.”
Listen: Manuel Tur – A 5 Mag Mix vol 76
Who inspired you when you were early in the game and learning how to DJ?
When I started to develop an interest in electronic music I was 13 years old and had never been to a club. I would watch the few off-beat shows on MTV dedicated to experimental music videos they’d hide from their main program, mostly attracted by the visuals, and listen to the British Forces’ radio station in Germany who’d air DJ sets late at night over the weekends. I then went down to the local record store to buy a few 12″ singles from my pocket money, primarily for their beautiful covers that often featured stills from the video clips I saw on TV (I didn’t even have a record player yet.)
A year later, I met two older guys from school who were into the same kind of house music, which in those days of hip hop predominance was about as uncool as it gets among teenagers in my town. They gave me a tape cassette of a recorded mix session by DJ Jef K from Paris so this was probably the first DJ mix I ever owned. My new friends and I soon started to meet regularly and together we formed a fierce DJ squad, sharing knowledge about the latest releases and developing our mixing skills.
Together with Milton Jackson, Square One, Shur-I-Kan and of course Jimpster himself, I believe we created a really exciting string of releases that helped put house music back on the map.
Another influence were the mix compilations I bought as a present for my older brother in Ibiza when I was staying with my Spanish family during the summer vacation every year. In particular the 2000 mix by Farley & Heller for Pacha really got me hooked and to this day it remains my favourite mix compilation and certainly was a major inspiration to me before I was even able to enter a club myself and see real DJs in action for the first time.
Is there anyone that inspires you today, strictly through what they do and how they DJ?
I’m not really following any particular DJs these days. With the explosion of DJ culture in general over the last decade I find it difficult to keep track. Nowadays, I’m more interested in the experience of a club night as a whole rather than caring about the details of a DJ’s performance. Having become a professional music producer, my brain now naturally gravitates to taking more interest in the production of the tracks played rather than the how the DJ puts them together.
What equipment did you first play on?
When I recorded my first mix tapes at home for my mates at school or at the football club, I would use a belt-driven Sony record player my mom had bought me for Christmas and hook it up with an ancient portable CD-player, connected via a super-simple line-mixer with no EQs or whatsoever, just a couple of volume faders. I would then try to match cuts from my small collection of vinyl records with tracks from the few CD compilations I owned. Since the CD player could not be pitched I would have to find tracks that would roughly have the same tempo and then subtly adjust the pitch of the record player before every mix.
What do you play on now? If you have a rider or a dream set up as far as turntables, mixer, controller – what is it?
At our recording studio, my partner Adrian (who I do my side-projects Clavis and Amberoom with) has set up his Technics 1210 turntables and an Allen & Heath X:One mixer. Apart from this, there’s no DJ equipment at our studio or at my house. While I love mixing with vinyl, I’m using CDJs for most of my gigs abroad, so ideally there should be three of them set up with a solid mixer. I don’t have any preferred model among the standard club mixers but I’m always happy to see an E&S DJR-400 in the booth which I find a wonderful mixer to play on, both sonically and for its simple and clear layout.
DJ equipment has gone through two or three upheavals just in the last 10 to 15 years. Do you pay close attention to shifts in DJ technology? How much has your preferred gear or style changed in that time?
I don’t keep track of every new product that hits the market these days and compared to studio equipment my interest in DJ gear is relatively low, to be honest. After all, what has changed primarily is the medium that contains the music played. Of course there are a million ways to use all kinds of effects and loops and manipulate the music these days but I’m not really into that. My focus is still on the music selection and since I like my own productions to be clear and straight-forward without tons of tricks I have no use for most of these new gadgets in my DJ sets either. In my opinion, both at the studio and the club, an EQ is still the most powerful tool we have.
Streaming is about to be offered for DJing – both Beatport and SoundCloud are making a big push this year. If this were to become suitably stable, could you see yourself ever adopting this manner of DJing?
Of course, it is only logical that streaming is going to be the next step. Interestingly, about five years ago, I played at a small venue in Switzerland and the two promoters were warming up for me back-to-back. One of them playing vinyl from a Technics 1210 and the other using a device I had never seen before, streaming music straight from his Spotify account (which at the time was new to me as well). It worked very smoothly. In fact, I thought it was absolutely brilliant to see these two formats going hand-in-hand and felt a bit out of place with my USB stick.
I notice you ask (very politely) for people to please not add you to their promo lists. Why is that? And do they actually comply with your request?
To be precise, I ask to please not add the contact email address I give for studio enquiries to any DJ promo lists in order to keep my email inboxes as tidy as possible. Of course, some people and even DJ promo platforms ignore this and add it anyway so I’ll usually block these straight away. As for DJ promos in general, there is just too much stuff around for me to check out so I try not to give out my promo email address (which I have) too openly.
Freerange has a history that is tightly bound with the “vinyl revival” of the last 10 years. It’s pretty hard for me to imagine Freerange as a strictly digital label, for instance. Does it matter to you to have your productions on vinyl?
Actually, the last two EPs I did with my project Clavis on Freerange were released digitally only. It’s very difficult for record labels to keep the vinyl business going these days. While the total amount of vinyl sales might have increased in recent years these numbers are split between a much larger amount of record releases, resulting in lower individual sales figures per release. As for my own productions, I’m always happy to see a record come out on vinyl but as a professional I have to accept that it’s not always going to be financially viable with every release.
You have a connection with Freerange that very few artists in the electronic music scene have with a label these days. What keeps you engaged and excited to release so much music with the label?
When I joined Freerange for my first two EPs in 2007 this finally broke me onto the scene and allowed me to start making music for a living. The label was exceptionally hot at the time and together with other great releases by label regulars like Milton Jackson, Square One, Shur-I-Kan and of course Jimpster himself, I believe we created a really exciting string of releases that helped put house music back on the map along with other great labels, primarily from the UK and Germany.
Since then, I’ve put out three full-length albums with them and even though the label’s and my own sound have continuously been shifting and evolving and there are times when my tracks might not fit the label’s release policy (and vice versa), we seem to always match again sooner or later. For example I absolutely love some of the recent releases by Simbad, Whitesquare or Bruce Loko and use them as inspiration for my own productions, so it feels very natural to return to Freerange with a new EP.
You have a new record coming out shortly, it’s the first solo and non-remix in awhile, right? What can you tell us about it?
That’s right, the “Organic Reach EP” is my first solo release since my album “Es Cub” five years ago. Since then I’ve primarily been cooperating in projects with my studio partner Adrian or helped co-produce and/or mix music by other talented DJs and producers such as Andre Hommen, Larse, Shit Robot, Tensnake, Tale Of Us, Marcus Worgull, Sascha Braemer and others. This allowed me to work on my own music without any pressure and quite a lot of material has piled up on my hard drive over time. I’m really happy that Freerange have picked up these particular three tracks. I think they represent my sound from earlier works in an updated, more contemporary fashion and I hope old fans as well as new listeners and dancers alike will enjoy the EP as much as I did making it. /////
Manuel Tur’s Organic Reach EP is out now on Freerange.