Marcel Dettmann is one of, if not the most recognisable names in modern Techno. Known for a hard, singular sound, the presence of his long haired profile silhouetted behind the decks has a special impact on a room. One of his marathon sets is an experience that one must bear witness to before fully understanding the mesmerising effects he can instill upon a crowd.
A glance at Marcel’s tour schedule on any given week is a sight to behold. Traversing the planet on a day to day basis he could be scheduled to headline somewhere in the tropics of Latin America on Monday, a boat in the Mediterranean for mid-week and back in the concrete fortitude of his hometown Berlin’s Berghain by the weekend before going and doing it all over again. These stamina and commitment levels are nothing short of inspiring and all the more, he’s doing this while rearing a young family.
Having just released his Fabric 77 compilation, we caught up with the man amidst his jam-packed diary to talk about the power of social media, touring the world and maintaining a balanced family life amongst all the chaos…
Starting a young family doesn’t seem to have slowed down your career. How do you manage the hectic tour schedule, maintain a balanced family live and also summon the immense energy required to do what you do every week?
On the one hand I love my job and on the other hand I love my family. I’m very lucky to have a wife who fully supports what I am doing. This is essential for this balance you mention. Touring takes a lot of energy, but it is also very rewarding to be able to share your music with people all over the world. On a professional level I am doing exactly what I always wanted to do, and when I come home there are two persons who I love waiting for me, which gives me a lot of energy as well. It is not always easy to maintain a balanced family life, but there is also something about this imbalance, as we especially enjoy the time we have together and always make the most out of it.
Do you still find time to party and go clubbing with friends yourself outside of your own touring like you used to a couple of years back?
I am playing so much myself lately, that I hardly go to clubs in my free time. When I am in Berlin I try to spend most of my time with my family and I try to work on music and on my label. Very occasionally I do go out to a club, for example to see another friend play.
You obvious love what you do, regularly posting photographs of the good times on Facebook. Social media has really opened up a world for musicians to communicate with their audiences directly. It also removes the mystique between the fans and the artist. Would you care to comment on this?
I think social media platforms are a nice way to communicate with people who care about what you are doing and what is happening in your professional life. I like to be in touch with people who follow my efforts as a DJ, producer and label owner. As long as it´s not an over-documentation of every little move you make, I believe that Facebook and other social media platforms are useful and entertaining tools.
What advice would you give your daughter if she wanted to follow in your footsteps? Is that something you would encourage?
If she gets into music as much as I am and develops a similar enthusiasm as I have for what I am doing, I would definitely not hold her back from trying to fulfil her dreams. As someone who knows the advantages and the disadvantages of this lifestyle, I would simply tell her about my experiences and my feelings about this walk of life and would leave it up to her if she finds this encouraging or not.
You also post photos of yourself record shopping often, is it just whenever you get a chance to stop by a shop while on tour, do you spend looking at record stores online or do you have an assistant?
To me record shopping is an essential part of my work. I love to play vinyl so I have to go to record shops frequently to find new music for my sets. I don´t have an assistant to help me with this task, as I could never explain to anyone the exact criteria why I would buy a vinyl or not. I think that music is massively about personal feelings, that´s why record shopping is something I have to do on my own. I also use online stores, primarily they are great if you already know what you are looking for, but I also really enjoy the process of digging through piles of vinyls in physical shops.
How often do you restock your record bag?
All the time. I receive promos and recently finished productions from friends almost on a daily basis, and I update my record bag whenever I find something interesting. I am testing new music almost every time I go out to play.
In terms of Djing you’ve always had your own, definitive sound within Techno. Would you ever perform an ambient set, or something completely uncharacteristic of the intensity you’re known for bringing?
Why not, but probably not in a professional setup. When people book me, they want me to play what I am known for, so that´s what they will get. Playing a completely different sound could be fun in a more private environment.
To follow up on this, you performed on a boat at Dimensions festival in Croatia this year. Obviously that’s not the same industrial environment that resonates with Techno. Would you approach a performance like this any differently to a peak hour set at Berghain?
Of course. I always try to feel the vibe of the place where I play and the energy of the crowd I play for. Playing an open air gig on a boat is obviously a different thing than playing at Berghain, so it will most probably also sound differently. Then again, you never know the exact circumstances before you get to a venue and what people might be into, that´s why I never plan my sets very much. I think a DJ has to be able to feel and react to different situations. You can´t just play the same set wherever you goes.
You featured Dario Zenker in your forthcoming Fabriclive mix. Are you a fan of left field Techno imprints such as his own Ilian Tape, Will Bankhead’s The Trilogy Tapes and Ron Morelli’s L.I.E.S?
Yes, I really respect the work of those people.
Are you working on any interesting side-projects outside of music at the moment?
I did some really interesting collaborations lately and I’m always working on new ideas, but recently I have been very busy with my touring, my productions and my label MDR, so currently the time for further side-projects is quite limited…
Fabric 77 mixed by Marcel Dettmann is available to buy now. Click here for more information.
Words: Conor McTernan