Music Features

Digitalism (Interview)

Ahead of their headline set at Kitsuné's Easter Special club night on April 19, Jens “Jence” Moelle, one half of the German electronic act Digitalism, took a few minutes to discuss equalisers, Disko and 2014 with Craig Stevens...


Craig: Perhaps we could begin by talking about the upcoming Easter Special Kitsuné club night at Village Underground in London. It's going to be so big! For those people who haven't been to a Kitsuné club night before now, perhaps you could give them an idea of what they can expect.

Jence: I would say it's perfect for fans of Kitsuné and the Kitsuné roster and also for fans of friendly, almost family vibes. The Kitsuné club nights have always been great nights. Recently, we've done a night for Kitsuné in Miami with Sneaky Sound System. And we've done other club nights with them in Japan and in Europe. It's great to be on board and to see who else they put on the line-ups. There are always new artists joining their roster. It's exciting and it's always good vibes.

C: Digitalism have a long-standing relationship with Kitsuné – in fact, you feature on the first Kitsuné Maison Compilation album from way back in 2005. What is the key to the success in your relationship with Kitsuné?

J: They've been there since the very beginning of Digitalism. With them, it was always something special - it was always a cool, family-like atmosphere when working together. Some of the stuff we developed with them closely together at the beginning; you could almost say they are a part of Digitalism. After the Idealism era, we came back and released Blitz on Kitsuné and last year, we released Lift EP. Our relationship with them is like going across the hall to your neighbours, who have always lived there. And we ask them “do you want to release this?” and they're like “yeah sure, why not!”

C: You've put out a mix on Soundcloud to promote the night at Village Underground. When you're doing those kind of mixes, do you find it easy to pick the tracks or is it difficult to pick from what is clearly a wide range of influences?

J: Our sonic spectrum goes from A to Z, with indie at one end and techno at the other, and with house, electroclash and many other electronic styles somewhere in between. In some respects, it's not hard for us to pick tracks but then we tend to over-think it. We don't want to be boring and have tracks on rotation, simply shuffled into different orders for different mixes. We think of our standards as pretty high. So it takes us more time than it takes others, maybe, who might make ten DJ mixes a day whilst sitting at the airport. We come from the generation that used to make mixtapes using live mixing and recording onto tapes. You know, Thursday nights at home – lights out, enjoying a few records that we bought. So yeah, we take it quite seriously which is why it takes us longer than it should. We try to make each mix different as well; it shouldn't always be the usual suspects.

C: You mentioned that you were out in Miami a few weeks back at the Miami Winter Music Conference. How was it? Did you get to discover any exciting new tunes or new artists?

J: We spent a week in Miami this year. We travelled straight down from Toronto and had a couple of gigs spread out over a week, so we had to stay a week there. And, to be honest, Miami WMC can be exhausting after just a couple of days. Anyone who's been there will know what I mean. It's exhausting because all you do is go to parties everyday! It starts in the afternoon with two parties, and then you want to see this DJ set and that DJ set and check out artists at another location. But I don't want to complain; it's in Miami, it's tropical, it's hot and it's just nice to be there.

To be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect because it's the US, and electronic music in the US is exploding. Some of it is so “big-room” and stadium style, so I wasn't sure what would happen this year. The last time we were there was in 2012 and the scene has changed a lot since then. But it turns out there were so many good parties with new, emerging labels and young producers from not only the US, but Europe as well. And there were showcases that I found inspiring. But of course, after seven days, you just need to get out of it!

C: You mentioned that electronic music is becoming big in the US. We're also seeing a big surge in the popularity of electronic music in the UK. Are you noticing a similar trend in Germany?

J: I spend a lot of time in the UK and I agree, electronic music is big in the UK at the moment – on the BBC radio stations, for example. Electronic music has always been big in Germany, but it's also been deeper. It's a cliché, but it's true - Berlin and Germany generally are into deeper electronic music. Of course, I've been spending the last three and a bit months on the road out in America so I'm not too sure how things have been changing in Germany over the last few months. But when I was in the UK towards the end of last year, you could tell there was so much hype about what the BBC Radio 1 DJs were playing, for example. And increasingly, you have artists from the USA covering the Essential Mix. It's starting to connect everything.

C: Do you think the current popularity of electronic music in the US will impact upon the next steps for Digitalism? Or are your next steps unaffected by the wider scene?

J: We've always just done what we wanted to do. We've been touring for pretty much ten years solid now and we've kept on releasing music that sounds like what we wanted to listen to. So I don't know if it's a game-changer for us. But of course, it might mean a bit more attention now, purely because the music we make is electronic music. Which has got to be a good thing.

C: Absolutely. Perhaps we could talk for a minute about how you create your music. I can understand how, with a band, it can be possible to create music as a collective but how do you create electronic beats as a duo? Do you start with an idea and Isi develops it, or do you work together throughout the whole process?

J: The last EP we did on Kitsuné was full of collaborations, and that was a new thing for us. It was collaborations with electronic artists, so we went to the studio and there were other people with laptops. It wasn't a case of we all sit down and write a song. You ping-pong each period back and forth. But usually, when we're working as a duo, I come up with a lot of ideas and then we work together to decide which ones we want to keep working on before deciding how we turn it into a full song or five-minute track. It's a bit like trying to direct what's coming out of my crazy brain! We complement each other. We're like Ying and Yang!

C: On your Facebook page earlier this week, you and Isi posted what was quite an elusive picture where you're standing back to back under a status which simply reads “2014”. Can you give us any clues as to what the picture might mean? Are we to take it that there might be a potential new release coming out?

J: Well, there's definitely a lot of activity going on around us here. I would advise people to keep one eye open and an ear to the ground. We already dropped that there would be a new release very soon . But if you're trying to decipher the message, well – the status is “2014” and the year's not over, so there might be a lot more coming up.

C: A lot of people are excited about the upcoming release of Wolves, and a few have mentioned that it might be a track that you have incorporated into your DJ sets before now. Can you confirm that?

J: I can't say no to that!

C: You remix a whole range of artists, with recent remixes including versions of tracks by Bloc Party and MØ. Are there any artists around that you would like to remix when you have the time?

J: I don't know. The thing is, we have new favourite tracks almost every day. And we don't really have one or two artists that we want to remix. It's always a last-minute decision.

C: If you had to pick one piece of software or equipment that you couldn't live without, what would that be?

It would probably have to be my favourite equaliser. I couldn't work without an EQ. It's so important to get the basics right. If you have a magic plug-in or harmoniser that adds a bit of magic to a mix, that's great. But get the basics right first. As long as you know the basics, it doesn't matter what brand you use or equipment you have, as long as you know what you're doing with it. 

J: And finally, the Palermo Disko Machine. Is there the potential for further releases under the PDM banner any time soon or is the focus very much on Digitalism at the moment?

C: Legend has it that the Palermo Disko Machine went to Miami a couple of years ago, and hasn't come back yet. Maybe there'll be something new soon, it depends upon whether the Disko Machine is up for it. But yeah, the PDM is always fun. And he definitely hasn't died. At the moment though, we're pretty focussed on what we're doing with Digitalism.


On April 19, London's Village Underground plays host to an Easter Special club night, run by the record-cum-fashion label Kitsuné and headlined by the German electronic duo Digitalism.  Also on the line-up i sBeatauCue, Jerry Bouthier vs Punks Jump Up, LOGO and Tobtok.  Advance tickets cost £12 and can be bought from

The event is taking place as part of the Convergence Festival, a festival which runs from April 18 to April 27 and which features sets from artists including Ulrich Schnauss, Mount Kimbie, Gaggle and Fuck Buttons.  Full details of the festival can be found here.