ART:CAST #78 & INTERVIEW Sascha Funke

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Sascha Funke, his genre-bending productions spanning intercontinental labels, from Kompakt to BPitch, Multi-Culti to Endless Flight, and his unpredictable, emotive and body binding sets, have withstood the impulsive currents of a volatile music scene across decades. Not many artists have the cultural richness, social chaos durability and complex artistic intellect the post-wall Berlin of the 1990’s etches into one’s DNA, but even fewer are those who are able to fully comprehend the ambiguous, perplex and equally enigmatic languages of techno, house, disco, wave, electro, cosmic, Krautrock and everything in between, and translate sounds into musical experiences that transcend time, space and dimension. But here is Sascha Funke in 2020, father foremost, post-Saschienne, post-Berlin Calling, making moves, seaming sounds, digital crate digging, still relevant. Shortly after the holidays, and in between projects, the Berlin born and raised DJ takes a break from fatherly duties and studio time to chat with Torture the Artist and curate a rare art:cast to set the mood.

Torture the Artist: Hello Sascha! Where can we find you right now? How did you start off your day and what do you have planned for the rest of the evening?

Sascha Funke: I am at home and listening to music. Later, I will pick up my boy from kindergarten and join him for his football training.

Torture the Artist: 2020 has just begun, and so has the new decade. Musically, you wrapped up 2019 releasing a few tracks on different labels. Does this prelude to a busy new year ahead, in the production front?

Sascha Funke: I am currently working on my Genex series on Permanent Vacation with the 2nd EP expected to come out in the spring. Later in the year a remix EP called Genex X will follow. Besides that project, Niklas Wandt and I are almost finished with our second EP for Multi Culti. There is also a new remix for Flug 8 coming out on Ransom Note in March.

Torture the Artist: Sounds like a busy past few months! Were you able to free up some time away from music to enjoy the holidays? How did you ring in the new year?

Sascha Funke: I spent the holidays with my family and had some free time for good food and drinks. Ever since I had a child, Christmas has become much more important. On January 1st, I was in Lithuania celebrating the new year together with Manfredas in Vilnius and later at a club in Kaunas.

Even though the period of Saschienne didn’t last very long, it was a big influence in my musical life.

Torture the Artist: Your first release came out on Kompakt in 2000, and as much as we try not to dwell on numbers, that is quite a substantial tenure in music. Looking back through your career, does it feel like 20 years? Has your career changed or shaped the way you perceive and live through time?

Sascha Funke: It feels a bit shorter than 20 years. <smiles> My career has definitely changed quite a bit since I started Saschienne – my project with my wife, Julienne Dessagne aka Fantastic Twins – in 2010. I began to produce with a different approach and in a more musical way. Julienne and I started collecting gear and it felt like we were building a small band. Even though the period of Saschienne didn’t last very long, it was a big influence in my musical life.

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Torture the Artist: First, let’s go back to the very beginning. When did you realize your passion and gift for music? Who were among your greatest influences? What inspired you to pursue a career in, or rather a lifelong commitment to, music?

Sascha Funke: As a kid I listened to a lot of radio shows. In East Berlin we had a great selection of radio stations from East and West, as well as from the British and American allies. I recorded everything on tapes and started mixing them together. I loved dance pop and since my very first experiences in school discos, I always dreamed of becoming a DJ.

Berlin in the early 90’s was like paradise.

Torture the Artist: Berlin has been a magnet for artists from far and wide, an electronic music capital. You happen to be born there, probably even raised by the city. How was it like growing up in Berlin? How much has the city impacted your artistic DNA?

Sascha Funke: Being in Berlin in the early 90’s was like paradise. Almost every week, a new club or party spot opened and the Love Parade was still small enough to enjoy it on the Ku’damm. We also had two great record shops, Hardwax and Delirium. It’s impressive that the period around 92/93 is still the most important and defining time for what I produce and play as a DJ even in 2020. If you went to a club night in that era (let’s say the Walfisch) every style was represented on one dancefloor, Trance, Breakbeats, Acid, Techno or House.

Torture the Artist: Is there a particular track from any era that best describes your relationship with your hometown?

Sascha Funke: Yes, it’ll be Der Klang Der Familie.

Torture the Artist: Mango made it into Berlin Calling soundtrack, how did this happen? Or maybe the more apt question, is why?

Sascha Funke: Very simple reason. Paul was my best friend at that time and he wanted to put it on his soundtrack.

They managed to survive in our rapidly changing scene for such a long time.

Torture the Artist: Since your release of Safety First, you’ve come back home time and time again, to Kompakt, most recently less than a year ago. How did your close relationship with the Cologne-based label emerge in the first place, and what keeps it tight through the years, despite the scene’s volatile nature?

Sascha Funke: I met the Kompakt crew in the late 90s. At the same time they started their label I began producing music. There was no doubt to whom I’ll send my first demo. A bit later I joined the artist agency as well, and with some breaks here and there, I am still on their roster. I like the fact that most of the staff have been working there since 10 or even 20 years ago. It’s a solid company and with some ups and downs, they managed to survive in our rapidly changing scene for such a long time.

Torture the Artist: Can you think of a particular moment in time when you developed the most as an artist?

Sascha Funke: As I mentioned, the Saschienne era is really important in the development of my sound.

Torture the Artist: You’ve had your fair share of successes, and plenty to be proud about. Do you have any regrets? What were some of the biggest setbacks or obstacles in your career and how did you manage to pummel through?

Sascha Funke: After Julienne and I had our baby we took a break from Saschienne and enjoyed our first months as a family. Following that hiatus, I was a little bit lost and searched for new musical inspiration as a producer and DJ and it took me a while to get back on track.

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Torture the Artist: What would be a ‘sound’ that most resonates with your current artistic vision/drive? Is there a certain Sascha Funke of the past you sort of miss and wish to be more connected with?

Sascha Funke: It’s not easy to answer that question. I get bored if I stay in the same ‘box’ or genre for too long. I’ve been trying to always start from scratch. During my first ten years producing, I worked with samples most of the time and did not experiment with many other gear. In the second decade till now I focused on working with synths and less samples. That is the main difference. Although sometimes I play around with samples and it’s still fun. Then, the ‘sample’ becomes the ‘sound’ and of course, a sample can be everything.

Torture the Artist: Did you ever have a back up plan if you didn’t make it in music? Not that you’d ever have to resort back to that now, of course.

Sascha Funke: To be honest no. I don’t have a back up plan.

Torture the Artist: Besides making music as Sascha Funke, you’ve also collaborated with Fantastic Twins’ Julienne. How did this collaboration come about? Can we expect to hear more from Saschienne in the future, now that your dynamics might have, let’s just say shifted quite a bit?

Sascha Funke: Julienne and I started our project in late 2010, without having any serious masterplan in mind. We recorded a lot and completed our first album within 6 months. When I look back, I am surprised by how quick we managed to finish it and create our own sound. After a long period of touring as a live act we decided in 2015 to concentrate on our solo projects. So far we haven’t planned a comeback as Saschienne.

Our scene is very diverse and fresh at the moment.

Torture the Artist: How do you feel about the music circumventing current airwaves? Do you feel inspired by recent productions by today’s artists? Is there a musical movement or era of the past that still moves you to this day?

Sascha Funke: I think that our scene is very diverse and fresh at the moment. With the internet the younger generation of DJs and producers have better access to the music from the past. The way they combine some old styles into their own new way is great. And it inspires me as well. I also play a lot of tracks from the past, mainly breakbeats or trance but at 20/30 BPM lower than what they were meant to be.

Maybe the work in the studio is more challenging.

Torture the Artist: Apart from producing, you’ve also made a name for yourself in the realm of DJing, do you enjoy handling the decks as much as you enjoy your time in the studio? How do you balance both DJing and producing? Would you say one part is essential to the other, and vice versa?

Sascha Funke: Both parts are special. Maybe the work in the studio is more challenging. During my DJ break a couple of years ago I had the most productive time in the studio. Now I play more DJ gigs again and spend a bit less time in the studio.

Torture the Artist: How much time do you really spend in the studio, we’re curious. What was the longest break you’ve taken away from making music and what did you fill your time with instead?

Sascha Funke: Usually I work during the daytime while my son is at school. In the evening I like to listen to music rather than produce. The longest break I took was during our baby pause.

Torture the Artist: You’ve played in many venues, across different cities, made thousands of dancers move. Can you share one experience, the crowd, the venue, the music – which particularly moved you?

Sascha Funke: One of my favourite clubs is the Topaz Deluxe in Monterrey, run by two of my friends, Champis and Kawas. When Julienne and I had our first gig there as Saschienne we felt very jetlagged and tired, but the vibe from the crowd was beyond all expectations. The Club is relatively small and our live set was installed very close to the crowd, we felt like we were actually on the dance floor. Every piece of energy in that room was touchable. I always enjoy playing in Mexico and especially at Topaz.

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Torture the Artist: What motivates your effective musical curation? Are you an avid digger? How do you manage to stay relevant and connected with your audience?

Sascha Funke: I check out a lot of stuff on soundcloud and bandcamp as well as discogs. Sometimes I spend half a day checking every release of a specific record label from the 90s. Surprisingly often I recognize tracks I loved in the past but never knew the track ID of back then. It’s like treasure hunting.

I rather play what’s good in the specific moment rather than trying to play every new promo.

Torture the Artist: What’s your approach and method into prepping a set? To what extent do you plan out a night, do you sometimes just let the flow take you and your listeners?

Sascha Funke: Exactly, I let the flow take me. Of course I do have a couple of new tracks I find every week which I want to play. But often I rather play what’s good in the specific moment rather than trying to play every new promo I received the week before.

Torture the Artist: Opening vs. closing track, in which do you invest the most emotions?

Sascha Funke: It depends. If I play the last set of the night, the closing track is very special. But the first track is often the more important one. The reaction from the crowd leads me to the path they want to go to.

Interview by Marie J Floro