We caught up with Danish DJ Kölsch, a household name in the techno scene, ahead of his 1989 Halloween Tour date in Montreal. Half Irish, half German and brought up in Denmark, he has used his multicultural upbringing as inspiration off which to base his music. His sound is both unique and influential for contemporary techno, tying in classical composition with modern techno undertones to create wholesome melodic voyages. Emotional and mesmerizing, Kölsch has certainly made his mark on musical history by changing norms and conceptions of what techno “should” be.
His first album, 1977, (the year of his birth) portrays his early childhood through sound and in 1983, his second album of his ‘year’ trilogy, he depicts his first experiences of travel as a young child. These preliminary works take the listener on an intimate journey through his life, and with the release of his newest album, 1989, he concludes the adventure with a final look into his formative years.
1989 takes us on a melodic and personal journey through this snippet of his life, and marks the final album of his year trilogy – a landmark moment in his musical career. From orchestral overtones atop soft spatial beats to ethereal, trance-like vocals, this album is captivating. 1989 is a call to all elements of our youth – tumultuous, emotional and thrilling. The fusion of classical and techno work harmoniously in cooperation to paint a soundscape that captures the rollercoaster of adolescence. Emotional yet soothing, you find yourself getting lost in in this album as your senses are carried elsewhere, transporting you to a nostalgic time.
For more insight into Kölsch’s inspiration and journey, we asked him a couple of questions:
- What is your approach/what do you try to bring to the table that’s different from others in your genre? In other words, what aspects of your music do you consider to be unique to you?
- K: It’s a daunting question. I guess every artist considers themselves different and unique, otherwise their presence would be obsolete. I strive towards bringing something new to the table, and I believe I succeed sometimes. I guess in my case it’s the melodies and the melancholy that stick out. I spend a lot of time re-recording my original demos with musicians, so as to add the “human touch”. Music has to be an emotional transcript of oneself. It must have a message, otherwise it has no worth in my opinion.
- What was your internal dialogue on your path to becoming a musician, and what was the turning point for you that solidified your career path?
- K: I’d say the usual self-doubt. My father wanted me to become a Buddhist monk, or go to university. I briefly considered studying Business and innovation, but always ended up making music all night anyway. In the end, it was a case of doing what I just couldn’t stop doing.
- Critics define you work as melodic and emotional. Who were your musical inspirations/influences? And how has that shaped the emotional undertones of your music?
- K: My album trilogy is all about my childhood, and defines different areas off my life. 1977 is about my early years, 1983 is about traveling with music, and the path from childhood to early teens. 1989 is about my teen years where I struggled with dealing with my parents’ divorce. All albums are a reflection of those times, and in retrospect the mind has a funny way of remembering the good before the bad. It has been a very strong inspiration for me.
- An important aspect for Graphite is to showcase and foster young DJs and musicians around Montreal. How did you get onto the scene? What was your break through?
- K: It’s impossible to define a breakthrough moment. Getting in to the music business is a long stream of experiences, both good and bad. I guess the first thing is to realize that there is only room for you if you are different. Why would anyone buy your music, or listen to you dj, if you are a carbon clone of someone else who is already established? Inspiration is of course an entirely different matter, but I’ve heard so many people copying the sound de jour, and it gets them nowhere.
- Tell us about your new album: 1989. You’re known for using dates as album titles. This date is significant on many different fronts if you take it to symbolize the end of the Cold War. Why did you choose such a symbolic date? What does the number mean to you?
- K: As mentioned earlier all my albums revolve around a personal journey. It’s been a constant search for early influences in my life. 1989 is the end of the album trilogy depicting my childhood. I started producing music in 1993, and 1989 was the last year I was merely a music “consumer”. It is all about discovering music as a shelter. A way of escaping every day struggles. I would escape my life on my skateboard, and roam the city with music in my ears.
- How have you seen the music industry change in your time as a DJ and how do you see it developing/changing in the future?
- K: I really have no clue. I would have to consult the Kölsch psychic department, and they are on their yearly shamanic leave right now.
- This isn’t your first time playing in the small, yet vibrant techno hub we call Montreal; you played at Igloofest about two and a half years ago. How did you find that experience? Cold, I’m guessing?
- K: Igloofest was very cold. I seem to remember -16 c. Either way it was still a great experience. It seemed like no one really cared about the weather and had a blast anyway – I really like the Montreal spirit.
- Having experienced both, how does the reception of your music and general house/techno music culture differ between North America and Europe- do you notice a clear difference?
- K: There is a clear difference. But I should add that there is a difference between Canada and America when it comes to techno music. It seems you guys have a very strong scene, closer to what is going on in Europe. I give full credit to Tiga for this. :-)
- Let’s get a little more personal: where have you had your best audience? What has been your best night or favorite performance?
- K: There is no such thing as a best audience. Every show is different and crowds become a living organism with ever changing needs. That’s the beauty of performing around the world. It’s a constantly changing experience. A never exhaustible melting pot of influences. For me every crowd with an open mind (for whom I can play a long set) is the best.
- If you weren’t doing music, what would you be doing?
- K: I would love to say that I would be a chef, but I’ve come to realize that I simply don’t have the discipline for that. It’s a tough business.
Kölsch is playing in Montreal on Saturday, the 28th of October, for a special Halloween party. For more information on the event, click here.