After being influenced by mix-tapes of artists such as Richie Hawtin, Dustin began writing music purely for fun. Shortly after, Dustin met futurepartner Ian Lehman, who was established in the mid-west rave scene. Ian explained to him that music similar to his was played at parties called raves.
Ian invited him to one of his shows and Dustin took his offer to see what he was talking about. After being exposed to just one party, Dustin knew this was his future.
Hi Dustin ! To get it all started, it would be cool if you could introduce yourself to our readers.
My name is Dustin Zahn. I was born in a little country called the United States that is supposedly the land of the free, and the home of the American dream. They call it that because you have to be asleep to see it. I make deeper, hypnotic/psychedelic electronic music because I’m a fairly heady guy, but I also like a good party so sometimes I make something a little funky too. Some people seem to really love my music while others think it’s among the worst and most repetitive shit they have ever been subjected to.
Where does your name Zahn actually come from? Do you know that it means tooth in german?
The name comes from a very long family blood line of gentleman and scholars. And yes, I’m aware it means tooth. People always think it’s a stage name and say that it sounds cool. I say, “Yeah, it kind of has a ring to it, unless you can speak german.”
You’re coming straight from the midwest of USA, Minnesota. To be honest, i don’t know any other DJs or Producers from there. Is there a good Techno scene? How does it look like?
Well, historically, the Midwest is responsible for some of the very first and most legendary techno and house producers/DJs in the world. Since this is for a German site, I’ll go ahead and mention that the “Midwest” is the middle of the U.S.A. and it happens to include Detroit, Chicago, Wisconsin, and Minneapolis which were all fairly crucial in the early days of the current shit show we call the international techno scene!
To be honest, I don’t really keep up with what is going on in the region on a smaller scale at the moment because I don’t play in the Midwest enough that I can keep tabs. I know Detroit has some people like Omar S, Kyle Hall, Reference, etc. Um, I’m sure there are plenty of great DJs and producers making amazing things in the Midwest but if you’re looking for names I can tell you that I think people like Decimal, DVS1, Kyle Geiger, Bobby Dowell, and some others are Midwest people I keep in fairly regular contact with. I’m not sure how the Midwest scene is at the moment. Honestly, my guess is that it’s pretty bad compared to how amazing it used to be 11-15 years ago. Minneapolis still has good parties regularly.
Do you live a typical american life there as we imagine it? Livin‘ In some suburbs, a green hedge and a white mailbox in front of your house, and when you’re returning to your home your wife is waiting with some fresh handmade burgers ? 🙂
Not anymore, but yes. I did! I had it all! The huge house in the burbs, the fence, the dog, the beautiful girlfriend, bla bla bla. But I lost it all, except for my love of burgers. Since then, I’ve given up the American dream for a make-shift studio in Derek Plaslaiko’s kitchen.
You are now about to start another European-tour. You’re playing in Zurich, Stuttgart, Amsterdam and again in the infamous Berghain in Berlin. How was your European tour last year and what do expect from this year’s one?
Well, actually…I tour Europe fairly regularly so it’s not such an annual thing. But I can tell you the last time I was in Europe earlier this summer was easily some of the best gigs of the year. I had some bad gigs too and I hate to say it, but…I think you need you need those bad ones sometimes to keep you grounded and also to remind you just how really amazing the great gigs are.
Well, how did you come to DJing and producing?
I’ve actually answered this question in numerous interviews before and the answer isn’t that fun or interesting. Basically, I started producing first purely out of boredom when I was in school. Eventually, I started DJing at house parties and then raves because doing live PAs all the time was too much work. Plus, I was hearing a lot of great records that nobody else wanted to play so I thought it would be a good idea to try and play them myself.
What can the crowd expect from your DJ Sets? Are the tracks spontaneous chosen depending on the dance floor or do you prepare your set before your gig?
I think a good DJ uses a mixture of both methods. I always keep many factors in mind when I play a set. When I get booked to play at a club, I’m going to choose my tracks based on the programming of the night, the sound and the venue, the promoter, and other similar details. For example, if I am booked to play a proper techno set in Berlin, I pick out 10-20 tracks that I definitely must play during the set. I also pick out a few classics or bombs that I know I need to eventually build up to in my set so when I finally drop the track, the whole crowd loses its shit and takes things to another level.
What I don’t plan for and what is spontaneous is everything else in between. I hate to say it, but honestly I just show up, have a good time, and play tracks in between these special moments that slowly get us to our destination. It’s not laziness or the inability to do proper programming, but I feel it’s necessary to leave much of the night up to improvisation because it’s much more organic that way. I’d like to think it’s like playing music WITH people rather than AT them.
How does your DJ Setup look like?
My typical and preferred setup is 2-3 turntables, a decent mixer, and a controller for my laptop. I use Traktor with the time code so I can also play vinyl. The reality is, you never know what condition the equipment will be in when you get to the club. Sometimes they don’t even have turntables, so honestly, I can play on anything. CDJs, turntables, internally with Traktor, etc. I mutate to survive.
Oh, did I tell you that Club ToY has open till 12pm? You can play a long Set 🙂
That is the best news I have heard all day.
You had some releases on Chris Liebings CLR Label and Adam Beyers Drumcode Label, which are for a lot of techno producers THE labels to release on. How did that happen that you released on their labels?
Actually, both Chris and Adam just invited me. Adam has been supporting my music since my very first record so 4 years later when he asked me to do a record for Drumcode, it was one of the best days of my career…ever. Unfortunately, it took me almost a year to get around to doing something for him, and I also kept it a secret until the release was ready which was really hard for me. I didn’t tell my friends or family during the whole process in case I was to fail.
For CLR, I don’t know…I guess they like me as a DJ. I did a few CLR podcasts already and will continue to do more. After the podcasts, they asked me to do some remixes which obviously I was very excited to do. Chris wants some original tracks from me which I have been promising for nearly 2 years now. I’m definitely going to do it but I don’t make really hard stuff that much anymore so I am just waiting for the right things to send him. I know he is man that would appreciate waiting for something special rather than having me send him a bunch of “decent” tracks to satisfy the necessity for a release. I think it will happen by early next year.
Beside releasing on toplabels like Rekids, Truesoul, Mindshake or Drumcode and CLR which i just mentioned, you’re running your own Label Enemy Records. Recent releases there were from Minilogue, Truncate incl. Jerome Sydenham Remix or Jonas Kopp and yourself. How long are you running it now and what are your future aims with it?
I started the label in 2004. It was meant to be a sub-label of another label I co-owned called Abiotic Recordings. Enemy actually took off much faster so I stuck with it. I’m happy that it is doing fairly well so I’m going to keep going. I have no direct agenda for it at the moment. I’m just going to continue releasing late-night jams for daring DJs. When people stop buying the music, then I’ll shut it down.
Lets get back to some more personal stuff: What was your most weird/strangest experience since you are a DJ ?
Hmm, probably the fact that a lot of people thought “Electro-house” was a good idea.
A close-tie is the Even Furthur parties where the Massive Magazine boys would run around in their underwear and throw raw meat at each other, or beat juggle copies of Britney Spears’ new single in diapers while the video screens showed old WWF wrestling matches with Hulk Hogan and Sgt. Slaughter.
6 Questions 6 Answers: Favorite Club? Panorama Bar/Berghain. It’s an obvious answer but I’ve been influenced in the place since it opened 6 or 7 years ago. Favorite Country? United States!!! I realize it’s not cool to like the U.S., but I’m not in high school and I don’t care about popularity contests. It truly is amazing in many ways with a lot of potential for people. Admittedly, It’s very easy to get jaded when living there, but I also think allowing yourself to become jaded is a sign of weakness. Best current Techno Track? I don’t have a favorite or a best track, but one I really enjoy at the moment is “Peter van hoesen – rites de passage (naeba variant)” Favorite Food? Italian. Or French Fries. Vodka or Beer? Vodka, I don’t drink beer. Which track do you wish you had produced? I never really understood when people asked this question. Even the records that are total ‘dustin zahn’ records for DJing, are still things I’d never be good enough to write. I often wish I could write music as well as some of my favorite artists. I feel so inferior to them. Actually, Ice Cube’s “It was a Good Day” was written about me. So it’s kind of a reversal of this question. It’s mine, but he produced it.
Last Question: Where do we meet you in the year 2021? 🙂
Hopefully on a boat somewhere just off the coast of somewhere warm and sunny with a beautiful wife and some kids. I hope to Allah that you don’t find me in a club.
Thank you very much for your time and cu at your Euro Dates.
I’m looking forward to it too. Bring extra bass.
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