Jan Schulte is one of key musicians bringing back organic, tropical, exotic grooves into the modern dance music production. He’s a percussion monster, «Diskoking» creating his own musical world from anything he will get in his hands: empty Jack Daniel’s bottle, drum machines, pots with water and library records. Who else can make dancefloor bomb out of jaw harp? We had really fun chat with the man about everything.
The bass is maybe equally important part of your music as the drums. Are you playing it by yourself?
On a lot of my tracks the electric bass is played by friends of mine, for example Florian Van Volxem or Martin Sonnensberger. A live played bass can give a lot more life to a rhythm then a programmed electronic one.
Breakbeat is part of your background. Tell a bit about it, your fave records and artists. When I hear unshazammable dramatic piano breakbeat track from 90s, I always think fuck I don’t know much about this music, I should go and dig it right now
The first record that I bought in general was a breakbeat record, but one that was especially for B-Boys: Zeb-Roc-Ski & Stieber Twins — B-Boys Revenge. By that time I was 13-14 years old and I really thought those guys would play all those different drums on a drumkit. Soon after that I found out about sampling, and started to do my first breakbeats on a 4-Track Magix Music Maker programm that was from 1995. One of my big favourites from that time that I still play sometimes is DJ Junk — That’s Fresh. The more club orientated breakbeat records I discovered later when I was getting into Drum and Bass and Techno.
Had you a drumkit in childhood? Did you try to play real drums? Do you use it today? I tried once to play on professional drumkit and it was far far harder than I could imagine
Unfortunately my parents did not have the possibility to provide a drumkit, but I was building my own drumkits out of boxes and cans. Up to today I never had drum lessons or anything, I can play a simple beat on drums but nothing proper. Still I have a Hi-hat in my studio that I use once in a while, and of course a lot of percussion things.
Tell about craziest/strangest place/party you played
The craziest Parties that we celebrated in Düsseldorf were the Single-club Parties that my friend and artist Alexander Wissel initiated.
Have you favorite drummer? My friend musician told me John Bonham from Led Zeppelin was the best of all time
If I would have to state a favourite drummer it would be hard to choose between Klaus Weiss and Peter Giger. Klaus Weiss’ work with Niagara or Sunbirds, and of course his whole library catalogue is just crazy, but Peter Giger’s Nagara label and his Family Of Percussion records are also unbelievable and wonderfully spiritual.
But in general my search is not for specific drummers, but more the recorded sound (or sound-colour) of the drums, I really love the way drums were recorded in the late 70s and early 80s, the dry snare drums, very high hihats and warm kicks from that time along with this not recreatable tape compression.
What is your digging approach to find something really cool in a place full of unknown records?
After years of digging on fleamarkets or warehouse-sales you develop an experience about the criteria that leads to a good find, but still it is a trial and error approach and I honestly don’t want to know how many cheap shit records I have bought in my life in hope to find something nice on them!
In Germany for example private pressings all have a special inner label design that you can recognize easily after some time.
Checking the list of instruments on the back (if there is one…) can help, and music publishing companies with very weird names on the back cover can also give you hints.
Tell about your favorite crazy African tribal records (I heard some examples in your Boiler Room set, for example on 46:00). Do you ever feel scared by it or maybe getting in trance?
That one in my Boiler Room set is a big favourite of mine that lead to many crazy moments in the Salon as well. It is from Barney Wilen’s Moshi Too Album which contains a lot of field recordings he took part in on a journey through Africa in the late 60s. The whole album is really good, big recommendation!
I don’t get scared of any of this «tribal» folk music at all, as it is really pure and deep music, most of it was taught from ancestors for countless generations. It makes me happy in a very melancholical way, because it makes me think of the situation in Germany where all old folk songs where destroyed by the Nazi-Regime.
Tell about your last trip to Africa late 2015, The Nile project
The Nile Project gathers master musicians from the whole Nile area, from Burundi up to Egypt. They are meeting up to rehearsal for a collective concert tour through most of their countries. I was invited by David Tinning and his Santuri Safari Project alongside Emile Hoogenhout aka Behr to join in and record material with the artists in their free time in between. It was unbelievable to see and listen to the musicians on mostly handmade traditional instruments, and performing between improvisation and folk tunes.
How music is born? Can you describe the process? Do you hear music in your dreams?
Yes, I sometimes hear beautiful music in my dreams. Although I can not recreate anything that I dreamed or thought of, once in a while these distant memories in the back of your Head can give you Inspiration and guidance.
In general my musical process is about following a goal that I can not achieve, trying to produce something that I thought of but not being able to really produce it like that… But what comes out of it in the end is something different.
Dusseldorf is “red hot” now, so many great musicians and DJs are there. And all they say it’s about Salon. Is Detlef like a father figure or teacher for all of you? What was happening in your city for example 10 years ago? When did you join Salon’ family?
The Salon Des Amateurs was a blessing when it opened up in Düsseldorf. At that time I was more and more interested in electronic music and clubs, but almost every party here was about minimal techno, for one moment I even thought if this is electronic club music then I just don’t like it.
When I first attended the Salon with friends I could not believe the music that they played, and I think I went to the DJ of that night (Marc Matter of Durian Brother btw) about 3 times to ask about the tracks and show him my appreciation. That must have been about 10 years ago, and from that night I went there as often as I could. There was a time where I even preferred to attend the nights alone, so I could enjoy the music without someone annoying me, haha.
At that time Lena Willikens, Marc Matter, Vladimir Ivkovic, Gordon Pool and of course Detlef / Tolouse Low Trax would play there regularly all the time, Tako came to play a lot, and people like I-F, Beppe Loda. It was the place where I understood DJing and mixing the first time, and where I learned to do it.
Detlef was and still is one of my hugest inspirations, his approach to music and club music is responsible for so much amazing stuff to come from Düsseldorf. I am pretty sure that without him Themes For Great Cities would not exist, and I would not do the music that I do.
You should be collecting exotic instruments, tell about favorites
I have some kind of a bass-occarina made of clay that sounds just beautiful, and I have an Otamatone, an electronic instrument created by Maywa Denki, who is a genius creator of weird instruments which he presents in wonderfully dadaistic performances.
But my favourite instrument at the moment is a bottle of the cheapest whiskey you can buy in my local grocery store that I play as part of my live performances and on my upcoming album with ambient musician Cass.
Your current fave records
Suso Saiz — Odisea
Stalo & Kauras — Zeck Rythm
Jimmy Castor Bunch — Luther The Anthropoid
Have you dream of voyage to jungle?
A lot of my favourite music happened when artists tried to describe dreams of the jungle or the Galaxy without ever being there. This is the same for me.
What about Young Wolf project? Is an album finished?
The Young Wolf EP is almost finished and will be released on Themes For Great Cities. Hopefully soon!
We do love your sound but do you feel a bit limited already with its firm rules?
There are definitly no rules to my music! From my perspective I would say I’m following Afrika Bambaataa’s «Looking For The Perfect Beat», my whole musical process is like a never ending search for the perfect beat, the perfect rhythm. Further I would like to show people that every sound and every drum has a harmony in it, and that the colour of the sound is the most important ingredient for me.
Cover illustration & words Sasha Tessio