DJ and producer Len Faki talks about his passion for music and his personal journey into being one of the greatest DJs of all time. He reveals his experience of being a resident at the most iconic techno club, Berghain and unpacks the concept beyond his second release of this year ‘Fusion EP 02/03’ in the middle of March, an EP introducing his extended debut album, due later this year on his label imprint “Figure’”.
Listen to Soundscapes vol.127, curated by Len Faki
Tell us about your background. When did you start djing and what was the triggering experience that brought you into the world of techno?
I guess it starts with music being a passion of mine since I can remember. Since my earliest days, even though I have no music or artistic background in my family. I was an immigrant child and often excluded in my early years. To me music became a friend I could always rely on, that was always there and never judging. When I was a teen and discovered acid house and techno it was love at first sight. I will never forget being on this dancefloor for the first time and being just a part of it. It didn´t matter where I came from or what I was wearing or even less what social class I was belonging to. We were all one on this dancefloor. I instantly wanted to be a part of this world and soon thought about how cool it would be to do this for a living. I was fascinated by how a DJ could direct the crowd. How it was influencing me physically but also mentally. This attracted me like a magnet. I wanted to be a part of this and make people happy with my biggest joy until today – music.
You work both as a DJ and producer. What are the different approaches that you as a person have towards these different but linked roles?
I agree that both are linked but not necessarily and I would say today less than ever. For me both parts are indispensable. I want to be part of this world and want to share my love and joy for music, which is the DJ/ the entertainer and I want to create this world and develop it as an artist which is the producer.
There were a few years when I was touring so much and the longer it went on the more, I was unhappy with my life. It took me a while until I realised that I was craving studio time badly. I got totally off balance by focusing mostly on DJing. The Pandemic was a nightmare on many levels, except one – I spent most of my time in the studio which felt like a big relief. I love it to dig into software, plug-ins and technology. They develop fast and its time consuming to dive into this world and stay up to date, but its time spent in the best possible way. I learned from this and made the decision to not play so many shows anymore from now on. I just need both parts to be happy.
Your tracks have reached high popularity during your career. For that, I assume you pay particular attention to what the audience requires in a specific time frame (or maybe not?). Has commerciality of the music industry affected your work in the past years?
I try to follow my own path no matter what. For example, the hype in 2022 of techno-pop edits. Everyone is free to play or like them but I dont feel them. Trends are important as an expression of a certain time but I personally prefer my own and a more timeless style. I think my upcoming album is proof of that. It contains what I want to express as a producer, my story that’s influenced by the techno and electronic music from my beginnings till today. A sum of all my experiences. Some tracks or styles might be unexpected to some but it reflects my universe of electronic music in a very honest and open way and it will find the ones who like and appreciate it and who are on the same page with me. For me, it´s about myself and about them. Thats it.
What are your influences as a DJ? How does your creative process work?
In one word I would say my biggest influence is – diversity. It was a wild time when I started going out and DJing. Lots of different styles came into being and were played wildly mixed in the course of a night. It felt like having it all – having the best of the electronic music world in one night. I loved that and still do. I guess this shaped me till today and is a characteristic element of my sets. The energy in my tracks is another one and very important for me. This is the reason why I edit everything I play. I have a very specific vision of energy. A set is a journey but not one to splash along. I want to feel this energy which – very important – is not reached with tempo or hardness! That would be too simple. There is way more than that. I want to feel it physically and mentally. Especially the mental part is a very unique and personal journey you only share with yourself. Different for every one of us. That goes far beyond any physical movement a body can fulfil. This combination is so interesting and it’s the interplay between the two. The body is a vehicle and is limited, the spirit, and the mind is endless and free in their abilities. Those two I want to touch and inspire.
As a resident DJ at Berghain, what has been your greatest or funniest experience there? It’s still the techno heaven for ravers and clubbers; what makes it special for you?
True. In almost 19 years there were many funny, wired, and unforgettable moments but I keep it like with the no photo policy. Everything that happens in there stays in there. Its a safe space and I want to respect it for what it is. I think that there are many reasons why this place is so special and unique.
So many years ago, creating a space of belonging, of freedom to be and express yourself, celebrating music in such an ecstatic way with the long opening hours. It is not a party night; it is an almost open-end experience forgetting about time and the outside world. This was and is a big difference compared to other clubs. It was also the base for these special experiences between the DJs and the crowd. The energy that results out of that… in the end its many factors coming together. There is no formula. Also, the reason why there is no second place like that.
The ‘Fusion’ title seems essential to understand the chore of it: a smoothly blended mix of your DNA. Could you talk about that?
The name “Fusion” connects and unites all those different tracks and styles. They are like pieces of a big colourful puzzle that create a total work of art in the end. My DNA, like you well said. 100% To give you an insight. When we, within the team, listened to those 24 tracks from the album for the first time it was in one go. And it took so long. It is so many tracks, that we knew we have to think about a different way to introduce all those tracks to the listeners. All at once is overwhelming. So therefore those 3 ”introduction EPs” do not totally overload everyone but still find a good way to share my vision…
You are also famous for your long DJ-sets. They require variations and constant changes. What’s the concept beyond that?
I would say its each time a result of all my experiences in life until this respective moment. A long set gives me more freedom to try things out and see where they might bring me. I get to know the crowd and the energy in the room. I have more time to sense everything. I direct the energy in the room but at the same time I am a part of it and it guides me to sometimes unexpected places which I couldn´t have planned before. Never ever. At this point I achieve this feeling in shorter or regular long sets too. I guess it comes down to “practicing” it for so many years. A friend who is meditating for years told me once that she just falls or tumbles into deep meditation after only a few moments due to her long years of practice. This reminded me of that. In the past, it took me a bit to reach this mental state while playing. Nowadays I just glide into it within a few moments.
Could you talk about “Figure”, your record label? How was it born?
Like many labels back then, it was only for my productions in the beginning. I needed a fresh start. Before I was part of a label group in which I had invested a lot of music, time, and money but it got insolvent and I lost a lot of what I had back then. I didn’t want this to happen again and be free to make my own decisions and be independent. At one point I started to release friends’ music on the label and it started from there and evolved over all the years constantly. It’s a place for evolving artists and changing constellations. It´s a snapshot in time, of where we are at musically. Only in a small frame and for the music.
2023 has just started. Even though you are an icon in the music industry, someone who ‘made it’; what are your goals for the future? What advice would you give to a young artist that wants to start a career as a musician?
For 2023 I want to have a good time releasing the album and hopefully bring some joy into people’s lives with those tracks. I want a year back to normal touring life in which our world can hopefully recover fully from this pandemic, and I want to stick to my resolution to keep the balance between touring and producing. I am honoured that you say that, but I have never seen myself as an icon. I am part of our scene for very different reasons than fame. I do fulfil the producer side for my innermost because this is just what I exist of, and I fulfil the DJ part to share my music, and my visions and create beautiful moments for the people around me and myself through music. That I managed to make this into a living is sometimes still unbelievable for me, and I consider myself very lucky that it worked out well till now.
Pieces of Advice for young artists might be that they need to prepare for constant learning, evolving, changing, and finding their own style and way. Not following others but learning to listen to their own inner guidance.
What should we expect next from you in terms of releases, dates etc?
There is one more, very exciting new project coming up this year. I cant tell yet. Only so far. It will have a new name and combine both my passions into one. You need to stay tuned ;)
Artist: Len Faki / @len_faki
Editor: Anca Macavei / @ancamacavei
Interview: Alice Lipizzi / @strafiko