The German vet blends superstardom with underground integrity.
Mon Nov 22 2010
It's a clubland rule of thumb: Once someone has remixed Madonna, there's no turning back. The fame seduces; the money (at least when there used to be any in the record industry) corrupts; and any semblance of clubland cred goes out the window. There are exceptions, of course—Kruder & Dorfmeister and Victor Calderone are among those who have escaped the Curse of Madge. You can add German producer Timo Maas to that list. Within a few years of his first releases in the mid-'90s, the DJ was atop the remixers' A-list, working on tracks from not only Madonna, but also the likes of Kelis, Tori Amos and Fatboy Slim, with many of the new versions displaying a crowd-pleasing dance-rock bent.
But then a curious thing happened—rather than settle into a life of commercial superstardom, Maas, now 41, took a deep breath, retreated for a brief spell and came back as a champion of underground house and techno, a position he holds to this day. (Paradoxically, he's still one of the world's most popular jocks—there's a lesson in there, perhaps.) He's just released his first mix in years, the double-disc Balance 017, one that takes time out from its requisite pumpers for hazy downtempo material (Nicolas Jaar's "Time for Us"), super-deep house (DJ Koze's remix of Mathias Kaden's "Kawaba"), chugging minimalism (The Crystal Ark's "The City Never Sleeps") and similarly muted material. Maas is spinning at the newly opened District 36 on Friday 26; TONY caught up with the woozy DJ not long after he finished spinning the season-closing party at Ibiza's fabled DC10 club.
For those of us who haven't been to DC10, can you explain what the place is all about?
It's about living hedonism! Not many typical ravers, but a very cool international crowd of crazy people partying to some very cool music, from people like Ricardo Villalobos and Matthias Tanzmann. I would say that there was maybe six thousand people—and this was on a Monday at noon! And they kept going till 7:30 on Tuesday morning. And they did an after-party after that. That's professional partying—make sure you write that down for the New Yorkers, so perhaps they can learn.
Will do. You've been playing there for years, correct?
Since 2001, I think. There are not too many places like DC10, and I have had so many good sessions there. For me, it's the only club in the world where I can be myself and express myself. When you're a prominent person, it's not always so easy. You don't always have freedom to do what you want.
Speaking of freedom, it seems as though you felt free to turn your back on the big time. After doing all those major-league remixes, you kind of stepped back from the mainstream precipice.
I think I never left, really. I come out of the clubs—I've been deejaying over 28 years now. It wasn't until 12 or 13 years of collecting records and playing out on a regular basis before I even started producing.
But, at one point, it seemed like you were heading toward a Paul Oakenfold kind of career, remixing radio hits and spinning in Vegas.
Well, all I can really say is that it's important to me to be comfortable with the things that I do. And I am very comfortable doing what I'm doing now.
Balance 017 is your first mix-CD in years, and it seems to reflect your comfort with some pretty left-field music.
The Balance guys never said "You have to do it this way" to me. They said, "Do what you want, and you have two CDs to play with. Just give us a list of the tracks and we'll get them licensed." Of course, I very quickly said, "Okay!" I used to do mixes all the time, starting about 25 years ago, mainly for my friends; for some strange reason, I just love to compile. There just hadn't been the right situation to release them for a while.
It's not all club bangers, which is nice; there are lots of slower and deeper passages.
To do a mix of the Beatport Top 10 is one way of doing compilations, and they can be quite successful. But for me, it's all about the trip you take, and taking other people on the trip with you. That's what I love more than anything.
For a guy who's been deejaying since the early '80s, you seem pretty enthusiastic.
Well, I love my shit, man. I love what I do. I love all the experiences, I love the opportunities I've had, and I'm a happy man. It's that simple.
Timo Maas playsFri 26; Balance 017 (Balance) is out now.