Dr Strangelove: Resident Advisor's No 1 DJ jets into Blue Marlin
What’s On team up with Hype to bring you a profile on Innervisions label boss Dixon – Resident Advisor No 1 DJ – who plays Blue Marlin Ibiza UAE on Friday.
Here’s what we wrote about the Berliner back in January when he was forced to re-schedule his date with Blue Marlin Ibiza UAE…
Dixon has managed to do something not many people in electronic music have – he’s become a scene darling and deep house pin-up for both the true underground heads and more casual electronic fans alike. Key to it all have been his DJ sets, which always tread a fine line between in-the-know beats and more accessible tracks that bring the girls to the floor. Many DJs try to pull off such tricks but end up dropping lazy, obvious records that turn off the connoisseur, or stay too far under the radar for so long that anyone but the most ardent 4/4 beard is bored to tears.
What makes it all the more remarkable is that Dixon, real name Steffen Berkhahn and born in Berlin in 1975, is primarily a DJ. Where most producers nowadays shoot to fame off the back of one short shelf life smash hit, then continue to be pigeonholed as the producer of said tune for the rest of their inevitably short careers, Dixon is a mix specialist who works dancefloors like few others.
That said, he has been intrinsically linked with a crew of like-minded deep-smiths for most of his career. Those include Âme and Henrick Schwarz and together they are the creative core at the heart of Innervisions, one of the most considered and carefully nurtured house labels out there.
Formerly a sub-label of Sonar Kollektiv, Innervisions went fully independent in 2006 and has never looked back since: from a thriving web shop the label does a fine line in tote bags, T-shirts and sweaters, branded jewellery, boutique record bags, art prints and more besides. Of course, this is all secondary to the music, but proves just how far out of the underground the label has grown. Far more than simply releasing club music, it’s become a lifestyle brand and fashion choice for electronic devotees of all colours and creeds.
Musically, the label has had many highlights, from the seminal Rej EP by Âme back in 2005, to various offerings from Laurent Garnier, spiritual sounds from shamanistic spiritual healer Osunlade and plenty of standalone singles including last year’s The Howling, a collaboration between newcomer Ry X and one half of Âme in the form of Frank Wiedemann. It’s indicative of where Innervisions is at these days, combining as it does indie rock, ambient, elongated deep house and plenty of art school cool into one sensuously slow burning bit of dancefloor dynamite.
Of course, it featured heavily in Dixon sets all over the world last year and fits in perfectly with his DJing modus operandi. Having cut his teeth in Berlin for years thanks to residencies at clubs Tresor, E-Werk and WMF back in the late ’90s, it was in 2007 he really started to make people take note around the world and since then his style has remained easy to define but difficult to emulate – warmth, melodies and vocals all feature heavily but so too do some surprising contradictions and unpredictable selections.
“In my normal two-hour sets, I try to have two ‘memorable’ moments,” Dixon told UK magazine Crack recently. “And I don’t want to create them with big hits; I want to make that ‘strange’ record I love into a big track on the night. So I prepare my set on the night – not before – so that in 30 minutes, I can play this one ‘strange’ track I really love, and have the crowd react not just in a ‘Oh, this is abstract, let’s go to the bar’ way; I have to find a way to make it work so everyone’s like ‘Woah!’”
As restrictive as this ‘memorable moments’ approach sounds, it’s clearly working, because Dixon recently topped the influential online poll conducted by Resident Advisor for 2013’s best DJ.
Last year was also the year that Lost In A Moment started to appear. It’s a sporadic event series that is not announced, shouted about or heavily PRed like many events are, but instead is something the Innervisions crew have set up so they can chose exactly the right venues for exactly the sort of party they want to put on. It’s about controlling the whole vibe from start to finish so it fits with their aesthetic, and rumours are that we will see much more of it in 2014.
Despite being recently married and having become a father soon after, Dixon’s dedication to the cause is unwavering. Already in 2014 he has played a much talked about set on the beach under a moody sky at the annual BPM Festival in Mexico, and before coming to play at Blue Marlin on January 31 here in Dubai he will have played in Germany, France, Mexico and The Netherlands. It’s likely for that reason that his productions are few and far between. There have been some choice cuts over the years though, most notably some high-profile edits and remixes of people like Jimpster, The xx, Disclosure and Art Department, with each track transformed into something perfectly paced, suitably serene and devilishly dynamic. “I’m actually feeling much more comfortable in the studio now,” he said later in the same Crack interview. “There’s a couple of things to come: one with Guy Gerber, a remix for Mathew Jonson, I just released the remix for Mano Le Tough and I’m working on some inter-Innervisions things. I tend not to do too much though, which is based on one simple fact: I’m extremely slow when it comes to productions.”
One other project he has been involved with alongside Innervisions cohorts Frank Wiedemann, Henrik Schwarz and Kristian Beyer is A Critical Mass, aka Innervisions Orchestra. It’s a live collective that makes free jazz but with a techno approach. Back in 2010 the group played a number of gigs in unusual locations and released some of the live recordings from such sessions. It gave rise to music that was beautifully layered and ever shape-shifting, music that was undulating and expansive yet wholly controlled from start to finish, much like one of Dixon’s own transcendent DJ sets.
As if all this isn’t enough, Dixon is also the owner of a bakery in Berlin and the sometime vice president of FC Magnet Mitte, something that stems from the fact that in his early days he was an aspiring footballer before injury struck. Thankfully, the same is unlikely to happen to his music career, which seems still very much in the ascendancy despite the fact it began roughly two decades ago.
Ghantoot Al Jazira Island Hotel, Dubai. Tel: (05) 6113 3400. Taxi: To the hotel. Friday, 1pm to 11pm. Guestlist only. bluemarlinibiza-uae.com