Daniel Bortz has way more to tell than he has time to produce tracks – acting cautiosly and farsighted on the one hand, being loyal and worldy-wise on the other and in-between balancing himself out and laying a focus on something that could catch his attention in the first place. For his new album Stay, which will be out on Benjamin Fröhlich’s and Tom Bioly’s Permanent Vacation, the Augsburg-based artist emphasized on the emotional side of music from his teenage years, namely the 90’s. Producing and putting together eleven tracks that are as diverse as Daniel is himself, Stay contains and plays with several (musical) influences from what the artist describes as a defining period of his life, as a person and as an artist. In his interview with Torture the Artist Bortz goes deep on this chapter of his life, his musical and technical approach to the album, perfumes and about not fitting in.
The 90’s nailed everything that the 80’s had introduced to us.
Torture the Artist: Hello Daniel, tell us something about your day.
Daniel Bortz: I’m in ‘autumn mood’ and it’s time for the harvest of the apples. I can’t wait to enjoy the juice to be honest.We used to have four apple trees in the garden – now it’s only two of them – but that is still something like 100 litres of juice. So we take the apples to a company and they make apple juice out of them and fill it into bigger juice boxes, which we store in our basement. Aside from that I’m struggling with the current situation, because I consider myself a DJ even though I do produce a lot of music. However, that source of income is not existing at the moment.
Stay looks back and reappraises my mind rather than my files.
Torture the Artist: Your album Stay is about to be released on Tom Bioly’s and Benjamin Fröhlich’s label Permanent Vacation. What does Stay refer to and we believe it is not a hint to East 17’s hit Stay Another Day?
Daniel Bortz: <laughs> It does not have a reference to the track. It means the music should stay with one or stay in one’s mind. And of course, it referes to the 90’s as the album covers this period of my being. My first album Patchwork Memories focused on things I had saved on my hard disk, I had been going though my archives for that one, while with Stay I focus on the emotional side of the 90’s. So Stay looks back and reappraises my mind rather than my files, which I already did with the alhum before.
The tracks sounded quite raw, like music sounded in the 90’s – at least in my imagination.
Torture the Artist: So what was your musical approach?
Daniel Bortz: For the album I worked with synths like the Roland Jupiter or the 808 and kind of made jam sessions, so the jams and later on the tracks sounded quite raw, like music sounded in the 90’s – at least in my imagination. I proceeded in a way one would proceed in the 90’s. So I used various samples and pre-set sounds to create the tracks.
Torture the Artist: Do you also come to terms with your own past?
Daniel Bortz: Yes, I did dig deeper into my feelings from that period of my life. I mean I am not done with that chapter or part yet at both levels, a personal and musical level. But that time was quite inspiring for me, it was my youth and music or albums at that time included (wild) tracks like a TripHop-tune. With Stay I personally opened a door to come to terms with that (musical) time and people who have listened to the album can hear a Boards of Canada, Detroit or Aphex Twin influence.
Torture the Artist: What does the album musically depict?
Daniel Bortz: The album musically portrays what once was. Nowadays we do not do anyhing new and Techno back in days was only created because we used sounds in a different surrounding and setting, because the devices to produce them were not meant to be used to produce Techno music in the first place.
Torture the Artist: We last spoke in March when nobody could’ve imagined the world we live in at the moment. However, you said that your album would be out in fall and here it is. Did you or Permanent Vacation have second thoughts about the timing of the release and why did you decide in the end to basically stick to the firstly scheduled release date?
Daniel Bortz: It’s mostly just label stuff. The boys, Benji and Tom, had already scheduled the releases on the label before I sent them my album demo, so I assume that there were just other releases before.
Torture the Artist: Musically you chose a rather deep yet diverse approach. What shall the album represent for you?
Daniel Bortz: In a broader sense the album represents mostly my inspiration from diverse styles and influences from the 90’s, which had a deep note.
Nostalgia has something romantic, like the feeling you have as a teen from age twelve to fourteen and you wish life could last as long as those feelings you had back then.
Torture the Artist: Can Stay be interpreted as a homage to the 90’s, musically as well as personally, during a time when you perceive this period of your life maybe as something more beautiful than the current world we live in?
Daniel Bortz: Of course it is. I’m a nostalgic person and, as I said before, my music and in this case my album shoud cover and represent most of my musical inspirations. Nostalgia has something romantic, like the feeling you have as a teen from age twelve to fourteen and you wish life could last as long as those feelings you had back then. Life was just special at that time: these general vibes and feelings. The 90’s were a bit trashy, the 90’s were a new era. And the 90’s were also a time when music was easy to understand and accessable. I can easily imagine how this music was made. There was a computer and you took the most out of it or simply put: drum-machine and mixer and there was your track.
For me personally, the 90’s were characterized by DJing, mixing, skateboarding, graffiti and all these subcultural aspects – I mean I did all of these things and enjoyed them. The 90’s nailed everything that the 80’s had introduced to us. And the 90’s and the subculture offered a place to people like me, who did not really fit in. I enjoyed the freedom of being who I was and that I belonged to something: Techno. And not only I fitted in, everybody did. There was this bar in Cologne called Liquid Sky and you would find a person wearing a suit next to a punk listening to a DJ playing electronic music. This diversity, this freedom – that for me were the 90’s and yes, that was quite a good period in my life and probably better than the pandemic at the moment.
Torture the Artist: What else do you connect with the 90’s?
Daniel Bortz: The 90’s were quite nerdy and Techno, at least the Techo music or scene I was part of did not belong to the mainstream. There were basically no pictures taken or published and you could barely find anything in the media about it.With nerdy I mean, you could not just say: I want to be a DJ and download a playlist from a music platform, but you had to invest years of musical research, build up a vinyl collection just to have the chance of playing music for a crowd. I was lucky enough that I was a pretty decent warm-up DJ and therefore clubs in Munich booked me at an early stage of my career.
I had known The Prodigy before they became mainstrean, which is quite a statement if you take into account that they became stars with their first single.
Torture the Artist: Where does your preference for the UK-sound as in You Can Stay Forever come from?
Daniel Bortz: I am simply a fan of that kind of sound and music. I was a raver back then and I loved The Prodigy and UK Rave. I mean I know it sounds odd but I had known The Prodigy before they became mainstrean, which is quite a statement if you take into account that they became stars with their first single. <laughs> Anyways, back in the days you had those mixtapes that people at clubs like Ulraschall would record – they recorded the sets of DJs and then sold those mixtapes for 10 German Marks, so this is how I was introduced to this music. You have to know that I grew up without my father and my mother did not have as much time for me as I would have loved. So I started making music at the age of twelve – to impress my mother – and went to raves at age 14, e.g. at Ultraschall. So that’s where I have my influences from and also the inspiration of highly pitched vocals in the You Can Stay Forever-track come from that musical period.
Torture the Artist: Some artists do livestreams of their music and you do live comments on videos, something that derives from the gaming/video-games-scene. How did you come up with the idea to live comment on electronic music content and who is your favorite commentator when it comes to this kind of content?
Daniel Bortz: As most people I know, I am also addicted to YouTube and I must admit that I basically watch everything. People like Justin, Montana Blacl and Mauli & Staiger inspired me to do podcasts or create own content. But I only did it for a short moment because I do not have solid wifi at home and additionally the content provided from the electronic music scene is not really too exciting to react to.
Torture the Artist: What would be your live comment for South Beach?
Daniel Bortz: Nice!
Torture the Artist: What’s your relationship to video games and could you imagine running a track-premiere of one of your tracks within a game like Fortnite or is this rather something for the pop-music industry?
Daniel Bortz: I’m not so much into computer games and have never played games like Fortnite, but I do believe that electronic music generally should fit computer games. I think it’s a good additional tool, maybe also or especially for upcoming artists rather than for me. I just grew up with other tools or an opinion on how to promote a track differentlyand to a certain kind of target group. I am not sure if Fortnite-players are the right people to enjoy the electronic music I make, but maybe there are a few who like it and then it is fine. I just won’t force it to make an appearance in Fortnite and probably prefer other things over it.
Maybe it’s not always about pushing things into a certain and newer direction, if you are not aware of your past?
Torture the Artist: Does the future of the electronic music scene lay within the digitalisation of it as more and more venues will have to close, new (digital) playgrounds could cushion that development and generate gigs for artists in a digital surrounding/ club?
Daniel Bortz: Streaming events or streams of (big) events already exist. We just witnessed the digital version of Burning Man and if I were invited to play a set for GTA, I would not say no. Fact is though, I play with vinyl. By that I mean I’m pretty oldschool and I do not search for new things (to do). Maybe other artists are more looking for a new next thing or the digitalisation of different aspects, but I am not actively supporting a change due to the aforementioned. I mean there are still so many things from the past to discover that people have no clue of how they work, maybe it’s not always about pushing things into a certain and newer direction, if you are not aware of your past? Also where will this lead and what is the purpose of it? Before the pandemic we already had live-streams from sites or companies like Boiler Room. And the latter’s purpose is to introduce artists to a wider audience, maybe a sponsorship comes with it and then it is lovely advertisement. In the end it’s about putting artists or groups in the foreground and make people discover new music. Boiler Room is for a newer generation while for older ones there is other media or ways to discover a new artist. Personally this streaming-thing is not really for me, but I do understand it’s necessitiy for some peope and especially the newer generations.
Torture the Artist: Was CK One the perfume of your choice in the 90’s and how do you react now to a person wearing that scent?
Daniel Bortz: Everybody used it back in the days and I connect some good memories with it – Smells Like Teens Spirit from Nirvana for example even though I do still own Clinique’s Happy.
Interview by Holger Breuer