CHAT Bjorn Wilke, who began his career as a bartender, presents tracks that are a mix of deep and tech house
When asked to narrate a few wild tales from his life as a DJ, Bjorn Wilke is not too thrilled. “Here we go again, people ask me this every single time,” he says.
Wilke, who started his career behind the deck at Ibiza’s famous nightclub, Space, is a bit more forthcoming about his big break. “I started as a bartender at Space in the late 1990s. After a while, I gave the owners a mix-tape, and they liked it. It was great, because I was young then - around 21 or 22... And well, I was enjoying myself,” he says, with a sheepish grin.
The German was in the city recently, and manned the console at Sanctum, a private club at the Chancery Pavilion here. His tracks are a mix of deep and tech house, and Wilke is quick to add that he tries “not to be too commercial”.
A typical house party will consist of laidback beats (120 to 130 bpm), much unlike the frenetic pace of dance.
“Commercial dance music and the EDM (Electronic Dance Music) scene is really noisy, and focuses on effects to produce powerful parties. House music has always been slower. I think it’s sexy to play house,” he explains.
The business of house, and almost every form of music, has undergone a sea change over the years. Deadmau5, a Grammy Award winner from the same genre, is quite honest about the fact that he is more comfortable with technology, rather than the musical aspects of composing. A laptop can give life to the “bedroom composer”, who can now go on to rake in the big bucks by being spotted on the internet. Wilke, however, belongs to a different time. A different time, but certainly not a simpler time. “Our studios were just much bigger. Now, all your plugins are available on your laptop. Well, just imagine all these plugins as hardware in your studio. You had to physically plug in and unplug everything on a huge mixing console. That’s how we did it earlier.” Times have changed, and Wilke quickly realised that he has to get with it. “It’s great to have a studio with you at all times. I like what technology has done in the last few years.”
The artiste from Cologne now has his own record label, Kaato Music, which he started in 2007. While Wilke has well and truly integrated with the current scene, he is convinced that technology alone cannot guarantee a smooth track. “You still need ideas and creativity. You cannot get that in any plugin. The right samples, the right sounds — these things take effort. Everyone is now producing stuff in their bedrooms. I get about 20 demos a month, and most of them really bad. This is because they are young producers who work for about two or three weeks, and then send their demos to the labels. But they are not even near a good production.”
Listening to bad demos does sound like a strain, but let’s head right back to the perks of being a DJ. What is it like to be the centre of attention at a huge party? “I’ve been DJ-ing for 15 or 16 years, but I’m still nervous before the gig. This tells me that it’s still fun, still exciting,” he says, with a straight face.
But when he takes the stage at Sanctum, things are bound to get a little wild. Some stereotypes should not be glossed over.