We hear a lot of things before the beat drops on "Track ID Anyone?," the ultra-smooth, Caribou-studded opening cut on DJ Koze's upcoming Amygdala record. First, there's some incomprehensible spoken rumblings, and then there's some wind chimes. Next, we dial in on some amorphous, meditative group chanting, and, finally, a vocoded female voice, spelling out a mission statement of sorts for the Hamburg DJ/producer's epic, genre-bending double LP: We need to eat, we need to sleep, and we neeeeeed music. As the founder of experimental electronic Hamburg imprint Pampa Records and one of dance music's most boundary-confounding explorers, Stefan Kozalla has built a career as much on his razor-sharp rhythmic sensibilities as his insatiable, library-like appetite for sounds of all kinds. Strangely, when he spoke to us over the phone from Caracas, the tiny Spanish village where he now resides for about half of the year, he said that the key to his most expansive and imaginative album to date was cutting out as much noise as possible. Download Koze's FADER Mix below; he recommends listening without a tracklist, and describes it, appropriately to his rural locale, as "no stress music."
Download: DJ Koze's FADER Mix
Let's talk about Amygdala. I was interested in why you're calling this record your Sgt. Pepper’s album. Of course, I like my name in between the heroes of pop history—to read it. And then I think the idea is more that this record combines many genres and styles. It’s a trip through tempi and mood, and it’s a little journey—if you can dive into it. Really colorful, and many things happening and guests showing up. There’s a smile linked to this description, which doesn’t come from me, but I didn’t change it.
Would you call this coming together of many influences a kind of psychedelia?
I don’t know, it’s a coming together from many influences of myself. I’m also making music under the moniker Adolf Noise, which is really experimental and psychedelic sometimes. I don’t know, I think that of all the music I made in the last 10-15 years, now somehow all the flavors are now involved in this record. I think it’s my best work so far, and now I’m falling down like an elevator. All [my] music will be worse. I feel it. I’m over the climax, I realize.
You’re trying to say that you don’t think you can surpass it? What? No, I already realize that it’s going down now. My time is over; I need too make space for the younger generation now.
Eight years have passed since your last proper album. What have you been busy with in that time? I made the second album with the group International Pony I was joining. I did many remixes, and then an Adolf Noise record. I built out Pampa, the record label, and stuff like that. I was producing all the time, but I didn’t see the slot for an album until last year. I was working [on it for] the last four years or so; I'd lay it down, and listen back in after two months. I'd arrange little bit, mix a little bit—it was a long, grassroots process.
About how long did it take all together? I don’t know. Time is just a word, it’s not interesting.
What was on your mind when you were making it? Fear.
Fear about what? Fear about the world—what the world is coming to. And my stomach.
What is the world coming to? Big problems.
How would you say that your musical interests have changed over the past eight years? They’re changing all the time, but some ingredients stay the same, which I’m always looking or searching for—like warmth, or depth, and an interesting new sound. These ingredients don’t change so much, but of course I’m always into changing my own formula or principles.
How much of a music listener are you when you're recording? Do you have to cut off outside sounds Yes. This is why I choose to be here in this small village, so that there aren't many cultural influence besides myself and nature, which is good. Of course, I like to listen to new music, but I don’t have many influences directly.
Do you think limiting your music intake can actually help you as a DJ? Yes of course! You’re not automatically a better DJ if you have everything on your radar, because everything that’s available isn’t always quality. You don’t have to play only new music; you have to find a good style and combine music in a fresh way even if they are old tracks, you know? It’s much more interesting than playing people in the Top 10 charts, or every new track. From time to time I find new stuff, but it’s not interesting. You’re not getting to be a better DJ if you play new music, in my opinion.
I was interested in the title of the opening track, “Track ID Anyone?” How'd you come up with that one? It’s a funny joke! Do you know where it comes from, or not? If you see on Soundcloud mixes or on YouTube, every second guy makes comments asking, “Great song, track ID anyone?” “Great song at 20:30, track ID anyone?” It was just a funny idea to call it that—to call it something that everybody is asking for... You can’t Google it because it has 6 million hits. Even now, they don’t know if people asking for the “Track ID anyone” or if it’s just the name. It’s like meta—a meta-dimensional joke.
What are your thoughts on the difference between being a producer and being a DJ? What the difference is for me? It’s a big difference—like to be a tennis player or a producer, you know? It’s totally different jobs.
But it seems like you’re kind of between them. Yes, of course. One thing is to write music, and arrange, and to mix, and to make music happen, and the other thing is to play records. It’s a good combination; it’s totally different of course. I combine it because one thing—it’s too boring for me, only one thing.