IN CONVERSATION WITH ADAM BEYER
interview by TIMI LETONJA & THORE DAMWERTH
Since the 90s, Adam Beyer has been a key figure of the techno scene. Now, over two decades later, he has become an established artist, the owner of Drumcode label and a true techno visionary, playing at major events all around the globe. Becoming the first ever artist to have had 100 performances at Awakenings, Adam reflects on his journey, offering wisdom to aspiring DJs, and shares this thoughts on current techno scene and utilization of A.I. in creative spaces.
For this year’s ADE, Adam Beyer will participate in The Art of A&R by Adam Beyer conference, where, together with moderator Renske van Kollenburg, he will talk about the launch of his label and how to navigate and prosper in the world of ever-changing techno scene.
You’ve been a pioneer in the techno scene since the 90’s. How do you view the progression of techno from then until today, and what are some of the key changes you’ve witnessed within the genre?
I’d have to divide it into a couple of categories. One is the musical aspects and the other is the technological one, obviously. I started to DJ in the late ‘80s, so I kind of saw the techno scene from day one and it’s been an interesting journey. I think the biggest change is in key points. I would say there’s one big one every ten years, and I guess the biggest one that kind of surprised me when it happened, was the minimal boom in the mid 2000. And now again with the kind of hard techno coming back, it starts to feel very early ‘90s again, which is quite interesting because I remember how it was when I started playing. We would play everything in DJ sets and there weren’t really any genres. We played English breakbeat records, the Belgian records, the German Frankfurt stuff and it had no boundaries really. That is coming back now again, which is quite a big change from how it’s been over the last 10 or 15 years. And then, technology has had a huge impact. There was pre-Internet and after-Internet and that changed everything for obvious reasons. It just connects people on a whole new level and makes everything very accessible for everyone.
full look LOUIS GABRIEL NOUCHI
You hold the distinction of being the first artist to accumulate over 100 performances at Awakenings. Could you tell us about the significance of this achievement and what draws you to consistently perform at their events? It’s the symbiosis between me and Awakenings. We both grew up together, and I think I’ve been heavily influenced in my career by playing there, and they’ve also had their evolution as a brand and as a promoter. I would say it’s probably the most important promoter for me across my career and the most important party because they also started to livestream quite early on and those livestreams have gone quite big, and today that is a vital part of marketing yourself. I remember the first time I played, I think it was 1998. Rocco, who is the owner and founder, picked me up in his car, and it was very low key. But already back then I felt it was something very special because the venue was so spectacular.
This year obviously has been a very busy year after COVID and everything, including your residency at Hï Ibiza and performances at Tomorrowland, Awakenings, Loveland and many more huge festivals, including Coachella. How do you approach crafting sets for different venues and types of audiences?
That’s something I’ve developed over the years. I mean, when I started to DJ, techno didn’t really even exist, so I was playing hip hop and pop music and whatever I could get hold of in Sweden in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. I started to practice DJing when I was 11 or 12 and have been playing professionally for 27 years, so I draw influences from over 30 years of experience. I’ve gone through a lot of different periods and styles, and I always like to challenge myself and I love different types of music. I never felt comfortable only playing a certain type of techno, although that’s my main sound. The fact I’ve been DJing for so long, in so many venues and parts of the world and experienced different energies and different parties just makes me enjoy it. It’s good to do different things and I see it as a challenge.
sunglasses DOLCE & GABBANA
coat & pants GIVENCHY
sunglasses RICK OWENS
top, skirt & pants JIL SANDER
One of your highlight tracks “Your mind” released in 2018 together with Bart Skils, later on also remixed by Charles D is regarded as one of the best techno tracks of all time. It’s been five years since the release. How do you reflect on the track’s impact?
It’s just one of those things. I hear a lot from producers that your biggest records usually come very easily. We didn’t expect it to get that big. Bart sent me his half-finished idea and I remember working on it on the flight to Miami. I basically just added a lot of stems and a bunch of other stuff on top of his track, and then rendered it out and I played it at Ultra Resistance for the first time. I really dug the version and it went off. This track is massive, but it just came from a sample that he found on Netflix. There’s a series called “The Get Down” where we found a sample and then we actually recreated it. We never expected it to be such a worldwide hit and go beyond techno. People today still listen to it and it’s still doing massive numbers on Spotify. It was a huge push in my career at the time.
What actually motivated you throughout your long term journey in the industry to start Drumcode, one of the most recognized labels in the industry?
I was 20 years old when it started. I don’t remember exactly, but I released between 10 and 20 records for other labels. The main one being Planet Rhythm, which still exists only it’s called P-Rhythm today, was based in Sweden. I remember I was in the studio every day at that time and DJing as well. I was making a lot of progress very fast but the records, because of the labels’ busy schedule, came out maybe ten months later. It already felt so dated and I didn’t want to wait. Also, the style of that label was slightly different. I was getting heavily influenced by Jeff Mills and the Detroit sound, the UK techno sounds like Luke Slater, Planetary Assault System, Surgeon and Dave Clark, so I wanted to start a label sounding more like things that I could play. My music started to sound more techno that turned out to be a unique new sound, which was the Swedish techno sound and Drumcode started. I was advised not to do it. They said it would be hard, but it went really well from the first release and the rest is history.
Balancing a very demanding career in the music industry and personal life can be quite challenging. Could you share how you managed to find time for your three daughters and navigate the intricacies of your personal relationships? How do these aspects of your life influence your music and career, as well?
Having kids and being a traveling DJ, especially since we were both DJs, has definitely been challenging. At the time, I was the one playing more and Ida took the backseat and played less. These days, I live in Ibiza and I’m fortunate enough to have a few people that work with me to help me with the kids. There’s a lot of their friends and a really good community around the kids. It works pretty well and since they are getting older now, we try to take them with us. But being a performer, I think there’s a lot of sacrifice involved that a lot of people don’t realize. They see only the fun traveling side and think it’s like a holiday. I spend at least 50% of the year on the road. I’ve missed weddings and friends’ birthdays because my calendar is booked so far in advance. But then on the other hand, you will find new friends and it becomes a lifestyle.
sunglasses DOLCE & GABBANA
Looking back on your incredible journey as a techno artist and the label owner? What words of wisdom you’d like to share with aspiring DJs, producers and music entrepreneurs who aim to make their mark in the industry?
The industry has changed so much, the way I did it wouldn’t really work today. I took the long road, which you kind of had to do back in the day since there was no social media. The only way to get yourself hired was to produce music and then get recognized and then obviously be a good DJ, so people wanted to see you again and so on. Today, marketing is almost the biggest part, I would say. Being able to play music is obviously important but a lot of things come into the picture because of the social media aspects. But no matter what, my advice would be to find your sound and stick to it, even if it goes out of style a little bit. I see people struggling a little bit with their careers when all they do is jump all the time to new trends. It’s very easy to get lost in who you are, your identity and what music you actually really love. So, unless you already are very good at it, I think it’s important to find a strong identity. Another advice I would give is to remember who helped you on the way up because I see a lot of people, who are very humble and nice only until a certain point in their careers. And then once they pass it, they start acting in a different manner and those things usually come back to you. So, it’s very important to pay respect to people who help you, even if you’re not inspired by them anymore, you should always act nice in the scene. It goes a long way because although it’s a big scene, the core of it and the people behind-the-scenes mostly know each other. And if you’re not acting nice to people and treating them with respect, even though they might not be as successful as you at that moment, it is going to come back to you one day. I’ve seen it happen many times. I was lucky to have people like Paul Knox, my mentors and people whom I look up to, instil in me the importance of always maintaining good relationships with my peers, colleagues and my fans. You should always be nice to those around you, as those are the people who support you.
Your recent EP “Robotic Arms” reference A.I. entering the creative Space. What’s your point of view on the utilization of A.I. and the creation of art?
I’m pretty fascinated with the whole subject of A.I., but I think everyone should also be worried because its evolution is so fast. We really need to think twice about what will happen and what it can do and how we view it. Because very soon we won’t be able to tell the difference between something made by an A.I. and a human. That goes with regards to art as well, which puts a lot of philosophical questions on the art we create, whether it’s music or paintings, everything art related or anything else for that matter. But art is what we’re talking about. It’s a very double-edged sword. It can be used in a very creative manner to also make techno and electronic music. It’s a very exciting but also a slightly scary, scary future.
rings STYLIST’S OWN
It’s been a huge few years for you getting through the tremendous challenges brought on by the pandemic and then some big changes in your personal life. How do you see this current period of time?
I’m super happy. I’m working more than ever in the studio and I have some exciting new music coming. I’m meeting people that I probably wouldn’t have met in my past life because I’m more out now and looking for opportunities, so there’s a lot of good stuff happening. If you go through difficult things with a positive mindset and focus, hope will never leave you. I think something very good can come out of hard times. You learn a lot about yourself and if you can take that pain and transform it into creativity, into things you want to do and to transform yourself, you’ll get to know yourself better than ever. That’s what growth is, basically. I don’t know how many years I have left in the industry, but hopefully 10 at least. So, I’m really enjoying it and crazily enough, my career is still getting better, or at least going very strong. A lot of people have a big hit and they get big for a few years and then later on they have more. I’ve never had any big peaks. It’s just been a steady, slow climbing path, but I think it fits my personality because I’m so determined and disciplined. I never take time off and I always keep going. But with all that, I’m also focusing on my health, too. I started to work out many years ago almost on a daily basis and I eat healthy. I realized that I can both work a lot, and take care of myself. I built a mindset that’s about never backing down, never skipping a training day, always getting things done. It’s so important to have those habits especially in the music industry.
I’ll just ask one last thing. You mentioned you were working a lot in your studio and your music as well. Is there anything that your fans and the techno scene can look forward to in terms of your future releases, projects or anything coming up that you can talk about?
My next single will be released around the time ADE takes place. I have quite a few songs lined up and I’m just finishing a few more right now. And then I want to do something a little bit like an album project. I did a full album during the pandemic, but it was very different, even too different I might say. And in the end, even though I had a deal on the table, I backed out. I think it would have upset and confused everyone a bit too much. But despite me backing out, I learned a lot of the new ways to produce because I took the time. So, I now have some new exciting people to work with and I want to start working on an album in the background. Something fresh and new.
talent ADAM BEYER @realadambeyer
photography DANIEL SARS @daniel.sars
styling & interview THORE DAMWERTH @thoredmw
hair artist FAYE BROWNE @fayebrownehair @modamanagementglobal
makeup artist LILLI KELLY @lillikellymakeup @modamanagementglobal
casting director TIMOTEJ LETONJA @timiletonja
cover design ARTHUR ROELOFFZEN @arthurroeloffzen