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Cracking The Coconut: Dj Koze

Stefan Kozalla is Germany’s most beloved DJ/practical joker. Born in the quiet town of Flensburg, the last point of call before the Danish border in the far north, he moved to Hamburg the moment he turned 18 in search of a faster pace of life. He first obtained commercial success in the nineties as a member of the alternative Hip Hop group, Fischmob whilst simultaneously  releasing independently under the moniker Adolf Noise. A tongue in cheek outfit, Fischmob were known for their mixture of dry-humour, political referencing and bizarre sampling.

More comfortable behind the decks, Kozalla began releasing experimental work as Dj Koze on Kompakt in the 2000’s. He put out three albums and a string of EP’s during that decade, before he decided to set up his own imprint ‘Pampa‘ with business partner and longtime pal Marcus Fink in 2010. In the past four years they’ve achieved greatness together by pumping out a strong catalog of 12 inches and remix packs from himself and friends like Christopher Rau, Lawrence and Axel Boman and his most recent body of work ‘Amygdala‘ (the part of the brain which processes emotion). The album took eight years to compile and was regarded by many as one of the best of last year.

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Kosi is a kind hearted soul and a seasoned traveller with a whole lot of love for the world around him. He holds the amiable quality of being able to shine just the right amount of humour and joy through his productions, an uncommon trait in the fundamentally serious and cold realms of electronic music. With a unique modus operandi, Koze melts down traditional styles to create wonderfully bizarre dancefloor-centric sound collages labelled with equally peculiar song titles (‘Track ID Anyone?’ and ‘Don’t Feed The Cat’ being two such examples). Hyponik’s Conor McTernan caught up with him and close friend DJ Jus-Ed last weekend after a knockout set at We Are FSTVL not too far outside of London to speak about the bordellos of Hamburg, learning the ins and outs of traditional medicine in India, maintaining an open relationship with a Spanish satellite cat and the fine art of cracking open a fresh young coconut…

What was it like growing up in Flensburg as an adolescent?

It was boring! It’s a small town next to the Danish border in the north of Germany, so it’s the last station of the country. The youth there are totally bored, which is good because it means you have to entertain yourself. If you’re hungry for some action, you have to do it on your own so that’s why I started DJ’ing and making music.

And then you moved to Hamburg…

Yes I moved there when I was 18, I moved to St. Georg which is a central district around the cities main train station “Hauptbahnhof”. It’s a drag district, like the red light district. I still live in St. Georg and have a bordello in my building today.

Would you say moving there shaped your personality?

I don’t know. It used to be a rough place but gentrification has taken over and now it’s a hip place to be.

Traveling the world influences your music heavily. You’ve been to India many times, what was the highlight of your last trip and what are your plans for your next?

I’m not a specialist on India or anything, I’ve done two Ayurveda (traditional Hindu system of medicine) courses there. I wasn’t travelling around so much but visiting special places with the hospital learning about health, detox and purification.

But you still had a chance to meet the people of India?

Of course, there’s no way you could ever avoid that! It’s the most crowded country on Earth. I really love that about India but it’s also super confusing and irritating in both a positive and a negative way. I’m not sure when I will return yet, maybe next year.

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Did you bring anything interesting home with you?

My clothes…(points to the smart blue robe that he is wearing) & him! (Points to Jus-Ed sitting across the table), I found him preaching on the street in India also…

You’re known as a practical joker for bringing a sense of humour & randomness to your music, where do you think that originates?

I’ve learnt everything I know from Jus Ed. I used to be super serious but since I met him I now realise that there is more to life than German seriousness. It’s more about letting go and seeing the positive things. Life is wonderful and Jus Ed showed me that. You could say he’s my mentor.

So where did you guys both meet then?

Jus-Ed: In Tokyo, we were both playing at the same club there in 2009. It was my first time to visit Japan and Koze was very kind in showing me around, teaching me the history of the city. We visited shrines, ate in some great spots and went and experienced the electronic music scene there…

You do a fair amount of field recording, could you describe your methods for hunting organic sounds?

K: There is never a day where I decide ‘now I am going to go field recording’ the truth is simply that if I think something interesting is about to happen I will just take out my telephone and record it.

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Film also seems to inspire your work, have you seen anything good recently?

The last film I saw was “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, It was overwhelming with imagery, I went out of the cinema feeling satisfied because the pictures were so rich but then that night I thought about the story and the next morning I wasn’t satisfied with it anymore. That never happens to me, normally I’m either satisfied or not, it doesn’t change. Maybe it was a magician putting powder in my eyes.

I know you love cats, do you have any yourself?

I don’t own a cat in Hamburg but I do have a satellite cat named Mowgli who lives in Spain. I always see him when I visit for maybe four months of the year. We have a relationship that is free love. When I’m there we are like a couple and he sleeps in my armpit. When I leave he becomes independent again and lives in the streets. I can’t tell you which city he lives in, it’s too personal.

A vegetarian friend asked me to find out what is your favourite fruit?

The coconut! Every morning I open a coconut, no joke. I am now a specialist at opening them. I use a machete to chop the top off in no more than three hits. I take a spoon and scoop out the flesh and put it all in a mixer it’s amazing. I always buy young fresh coconuts from my local Thai supermarket, there’s nearly half a litre of water in them.

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You’ve sampled traditional music in the past, what sorts of traditional music do you find interesting or inspiring the most?

Fatboy Slim, I grew up with his music. Good traditional British music… But seriously there is a thin line with traditional music, you have to feel it out, you can’t just rip it off. You have to use it in a way like it is in it’s own world You can take some of the ingredients and make something special and new. Often it is not good to combine two styles, you could end up with less energy and something that isn’t pure. Fusion is over-rated.

Your most recent album ‘Amygdala’ took eight years to put together, will the next one take as long?

Definitely not so long. Normally when you have some success with an album, you don’t have as much time to produce while on tour, and sadly you can earn more money touring over a few weekends than you can make from a whole album.

What sort of projects do you want to work on next?

I’ve already started making new music. Myself and Jus Ed here are doing something together for his label Underground Quality, and he’s going to sing on it. I gave him this record a few years ago but he needed to let it mature like wine in a cellar.

Dj Koze will throw a Pampa Records party at a monastery in Barcelona on July 14th. For more information see here.

Interview / Photography: Conor McTernan