Alright, the next installment of TechYes! is upon us with none other than Derek Plaslaiko! We’ve had a blast with this monthly so far and figured we’d amp things up a bit by bringing through one of our favorite DJs who, without question, knows a thing or two about moving a dance floor and raging til the sun comes up.
For those that have yet to hear of Derek Plaslaiko, here’s a compressed back story. He’s a product of the mid-90’s Detroit scene where he bore witness to, arguably, some of the best techno parties the world has ever seen. He cut his teeth as a DJ then and has since gone on to carry the techno torch far and wide. From Detroit he went to New York, further refining his sound and making a name for himself at the North American techno mecca known as The Bunker. After six years there he has now relocated to the epicenter of it all, Berlin, where we’re seeing Derek getting his production game going and playing gigs at household name clubs like Berghain, Tresor, and Club De Visionaire.
I conducted an interview with Derek in anticipation of this Friday’s event so you can hear it from the man himself about how Berlin’s treating him, projects he’s got in the works, and among other things, his thoughts on Seattle. So without further delay…..
You’ve got a reputation as a “last-man-standing” kind of guy, what keeps you going after all these years?
Heh, well…. it’s certainly gotten harder over the years. I think the key to it for me used to be just not thinking about it. Like, if I’m having fun, why even think about sleep. My Grandfather once told me a sort of joke involving 3 guys walking through the desert. 2 of them were talking about how thirsty they were, while the other one wasn’t. When they finally reached someplace that had water, the 3rd guy started drinking water like crazy. One of the other guys asked “hey, I thought you said you weren’t thirsty”. The 3rd guy just replied “was no use being thirsty back there. We didn’t have any water.” I guess I’ve sort of applied that story to certain aspects of my life.
How has the move to Berlin been treating you? Been playing a lot of shows? What are some of the regular clubs, parties, you’ve been hitting up?
The move has been great! Was totally the right thing for me. Been playing some shows, but not too much. Been focusing more on my own productions, plus a few trips back to N. America kinda got in the way of some booking requests here. I’ve got Tresor coming up in May, and then Berghain in July. Plus, I’m supposed to have a residency at Club Der Visionaere this summer. As for going out, I go out to the things I find interesting. Berghain/Panorama pretty often (definitely as many Get Perlonized nights as I can), Horst, Farbfernseher or Chez Jacki. I also really like Salon Zur Wilden Renate a lot! The summer is coming, so there will be a lot of outdoor places. The weather has been really good lately, so CDV has already opened. But, I haven’t quite made it there yet as I have just been swamped with work and obligations, but I will be hanging out there tons this summer, I’m sure!
Name the top three tracks you’ve been playing out lately.
1. David Durango – Mosaic
2. Inxec – Nightengale
3. Peter Van Hoesen – AxisMundi-01-R
You’re one of a handful of contemporary DJs that has built up an impressive resumé largely on DJing alone, what do you attribute that success to?
I honestly have no idea. I guess that’s one for you to interpret? :)
Do you still play a lot of vinyl? How much of your record collection did you take with you to Berlin?
I have been trying to make the switch back completely to vinyl (and CD), but it’s not easy. So much of my music from the past 3 years is in digital format and I’m too lazy to write the CD tracklists by hand. Plus, my handwriting is terrible, so it makes it a bit too hard to read when you’re trying to DJ. I just need to buy a printer already. As for my records, every time I go back to Detroit, I bring 1 or 2 empty flight cases with me and fill them up, which is helpful. I’ll most likely be going back home for Memorial Day weekend, so I’ll be able to pack 2 more! I may actually bring 3 and pay the extra fees. Much better than shipping them myself.
Everything I’ve heard of your productions has been rock solid yet it seems like a relatively new thing for you in terms of your overall career. How long have you been producing for? What kind of tools are you using to create your music? Any new tracks on the horizon?
Thanks for the kind words! I guess I’ve been dabbling since 1999, though never really seriously. The past couple years, I have been spending much more time working at it. But it’s a difficult process because I’m not always feeling so inspired to do so. It comes in waves, and when I’m feeling it, I act on it and lock myself inside the studio. I think it’s extremely important to not push it too hard and make music “just to make it”. I want to have something to say, and if I’m not in the mood then it’s just not worth it. Theres plenty of stuff I’ve worked on that might not ever be finished enough for me to release it. But, that’s OK because I just chalk that up to learning.
Right now, I’m mainly using Maschine, Ableton and a ton of plugins. I’d love to use more hardware, but I just don’t have the means to get at it right now. BMG (of Ectomorph) and I did a record together that was all analog gear, and it was a much more exciting and rewarding experience. That should be out around the time of the festival in Detroit. Heartthrob & I were collaborating a bit using a setup that was about 50/50 analog to digital, and hopefully we can continue that. Timing has been pretty bad between our schedules. Not sure if we will release any of it, but it’s certainly been fun. As for releases, I’m working on my next EP for Perc Trax, and a remix of Ludovic Vendi for a label called Anozer. That has been quite a bit of a challenge because it’s one of those rare instances where I hear the original and feel it was done exactly how I would have wanted it done in the first place. But, I’m still taking a stab at it regardless. Learning experiences, right?
We had Mike Huckaby in Seattle recently and I remember you citing him as a major influence on you in that RA Exchange podcast. Any other big influences in your early Detroit days as a DJ?
This might be a cop-out answer, but everyone and everything about Detroit has had a huge influence on me. The DJ’s and producers, the parties and the people who went and danced and even the city itself. There was just so much richness there amongst that scene back then. It’s still pretty good, but in the mid 90’s, it was just insane.
You’ve played Decibel numerous times now, what do you think of Seattle, the crowd, and the festival. Any memorable moments you care to share? Can we expect another appearance this year?
I don’t think it’s any secret how much I love it out there. There was discussion on a possible move there last spring, but I ended up coming to Berlin instead. You guys have a nice lil community out there chock full of great people. And I always love Decibel. I guess a memorable story to share (if I had to pick just one) would be of Decibel last year. After playing Decibel 3 years in a row, Sean and I decided to take a year off from playing it (partly because the flight costs from Berlin decided it for us) and possibly come back this year, if it works out. Well, my long time friend Brandon Ivers just wasn’t having that. So, he and his roommates decided to fly me out and do an after hours at their house with basically me playing from like 1:30 til I dropped, or the cops came. They boarded up their windows, decorated the place with a ridiculous (in an amazing way) “Cypress Hill Theme”, invited a ton of people and packed the house in. It was pretty incredible in there. The cops eventually came (twice, if I recall) so they had to shut it down, but that was around 5:30 or 6. There were still plenty of people to keep going (Seattle legend Donte Parks was still dancing, so that’s enough reason to keep ANY party going right there), but it was a decent time to end it.
But, I have never had a bad time coming to Seattle, so I do have a some crazy stories spawned from experiences there. Even the first time I visited there in 2002 when my girlfriend at the time and I broke up while driving up the coast from Los Angeles, I still found something fun to do!
I’ve made some really great friends out there that I consider family, which is why I decided to come in a couple days early to hang out. Maybe on Thursday, we should all go bowling or something to pre-party!
There you have it. Really looking forward to this Friday’s party at Rebar and hope you can join us. After hours will be at ETG. Check the links for more info about Derek and the party.
TechYes! event page: here.
Derek Plaslaiko DJ set:
Derek’s RA Exchange Podcast: here.