Personality Clash: Marcel Dettmann vs. DJ Stingray
Marcel Dettmann and DJ Stingray lead by example.
As DJs, their sets walk a solitary path, retaining individuality by remaining at the forefront of club culture.
True individuals, they have quite distinct backgrounds - one is a Berghain legend, while the other is steeped in Detroit counter-culture.
Going back to back at a forthcoming Hydra Presents... event in London, Marcel Dettmann and DJ Stingray will light up Printworks this weekend.
Clash introduced the pair for a remarkable back and forth...
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DJ Stingray: What up man! I've been to many of your Berghain sets which go four plus hours. After maybe two or three gigs on a weekend how do you stay motivated for a Sunday night set there?
Marcel: This place is my home, where i can do what i want, surrounded by "friends & family“. My residency there always gives me energy and reminds what’s the core of a good party. It might be hard in the beginning after a couple of shows but in the end it always feels like a relief – in a positive way of course.
So staying motivated playing Berghain especially is because playing Berghain is so familiar, so normal to me: after 20-something years of residency at Berghain – and before then: OstGut – I know how to work this floor, the system, what the respective parts of 30+ hours night there need. By this I don’t mean routine – but confidence.
DJ Stingray: Have you ever been in a situation where let's say you have a crowd, Your mixes are tight, the sound system is nice, no tech issues, but after about 30 minutes you notice the people are lethargic. Do you power through with your normal set, try to make adjustments, maybe drop some bangers, try to adjust track by track...?
Marcel: I have the privilege to play music by other producers in front of now small, then larger crowds, and having being able to doing this over several decades has always encouraged me that I’m on the right path not only as a person, but as an artist who connects all these musical dots with the crowd.
Having said that, a lethargic crowd is sometimes hard to convince, sometimes not: you and I and everyone has their proven, safe tracks that simply work. But I will not compromise to cater to a crowd, to please them. I’m not a jukebox, and the music that I’m playing isn’t just some percussive tool, but a producer made this track so that I can do my thing also.
As DJs we are part of a broader culture, and the people on the floor are part of that culture also. And: I’m not a musical snob with attitude, but I’m not a gimmick for a party either. So to answer your question: it really depends.
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DJ Stingray: Do you have a goal in mind when you play? When a person reflects back on a Marcel Dettmann set is there anything that you hope resonates with them?
Marcel: I always try to understand the crowd first and then hit their nerve! I try to do all within in my musical possibilities to get them motivate to interact / dance! Doing this for more than a couple of years only helps a lot: your musical horizon is way broader, and by this the range of music you can use and add to each other seamlessly gets easier also.
I don’t want to educate the floor, but I see a lot of young people out there who – even if we have the internet and apps and so on – simply can’t know every niche track from the past 20, 30 years or so. I don’t know all either, but I may know some more. And happy to share this knowledge.
DJ Stingray: When on holiday how soon do you begin to get a strong urge to play if at all?
Marcel: I’m always enjoy my holidays, spend as much time as possible with my family, go to the studio and simply just have time to relax. But DJing is my passion and I luckily still have a busy schedule, so I’m always happy to be back on the road.
DJ Stingray: Do you think Artificial Intelligence can or will replace DJs ?
Marcel: To a certain technical point yes and maybe even selecting-wise but to create an artificial feeling for groove i’m not sure about. Reflecting on the technological progress over the past decades should be a reminder and lesson that things eventually just happen – maybe later than futurists would’ve thought, but things happen. Maybe the two of us will be retired by then.
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Marcel: Which aspect of Berlin life has affected you the most since moving here?
DJ Stingray: Getting things done like paperwork, repairs etc because of the cultural and language gaps but it's not a negative thing just different and one is forced to learn almost everyday - which we should all be doing anyway. Being able to walk to so many places or take efficient public transport, reasonable taxi fares... really increased my mobility.
The little shops, cafes...
Marcel: You’re from Detroit. Who or what shaped you the most to become what you are now?
DJ Stingray: Among an exponential set of experiences and influences the ones that helped to shape the artist and person I am now came from family, friends, jobs that I have held, the values and ethics of the working class community in Detroit, industrial, jazz, funk, pop... personal setbacks..
Marcel: I’m a big fan of yours because you always sound futuristic. How do you do it?
DJ Stingray: Thanks man I'm a fan of yours as well. I try to carry on the aesthetic of Juan Atkins and Kraftwerk who I view as titans that laid the foundation and provided a vision for us to follow. I try to stay aware of changes in production, sound design, arrangement, conceptual basis, visual presentation...
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Marcel: Your music productions and DJ sets keeps it really fresh to me… what’s your point of view & what makes it always exciting for you after all this years...?
DJ Stingray: I honestly still feel like I have much more to give and this move to Berlin and touring parts of the world has provided inspiration and energy. I feel like the electro / techno paradigm and electronic music in general has an infinite potential for growth. The sound design possibilities are endless and I have an opportunity to let my imagination grow and develop. I feel like I will always need to improve as a DJ.
There is always a better transition, choice of tracks to mix, order of the tracks, This keeps me inspired. But also there are the people who take the time to listen to your music and DJ sets and I appreciate that and want to give the best I can to them.
Marcel: Your thoughts on the ever changing technical aspect of DJing? What do you think about the switch from vinyl to CDJ?
DJ Stingray: I can see AI being a central component of DJing in the future and the definition of a DJ could simply be one who assembles a group of algorithms that provide the same effect as a manual selector.
Vinyl is fun to play but as time moves on you see fewer setups that are optimal for turntables. The music has to be the focus going forward because the technology is changing so fast.
Marcel: Now that you’re in Berlin full time, what do you miss about your hometown the most?
DJ Stingray: I think family and friends are what I miss the most. The Detroit I grew up in vanished a long time ago. But such is the world we live in where social paradigms, technology, infrastructure can change in five to 10 year spurts or less.
I have found new friends and associates here as well so when and if I leave there will be things I miss about Berlin for sure.
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Catch DJ Stingray and Marcel Dettmann at Hydra Presents... in Printworks, London on December 21st // TICKETS.
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