Uncanny Valley · UV Podcast 101 - Sneaker

Sneaker has been on a mission to reveal the origins of electronic music for more than twenty years now. Whether as a producer in one of his various projects (GOTT, Serial Error, Bionda E Lupo) or as DJ under his Sneaker or Dunkeltier alias, he is doing it properly and always after careful consideration. On the occasion of his 2nd contribution to our podcast series, Conrad took the chance for a conversation.

The mix originates from our annual “Uncanny Valley Betriebsweihnachtsfeier” in December last year but due to too much distortion, you re-recorded it afterwards. What did you have in mind for the original set and how did it evolve in the process afterwards?

The set was supposed to weave psychedelic leftfield tendencies, 80s extravaganza with classic Ron Hardy style and acid madness. In the DAW I pretty much reassembled the distorted recording 1:1 – with the difficulty of faking the wild rides on the EQs.

You produce and mix music from all over the world and with various cultural backgrounds. How do you approach it and what effect does it have on your own identity?

The approach is everything goes. I look everywhere. I judge only the music. The aim is to create intensity by any means. 
Yes, we had this topic … When the genre policy comes or people tell me it’s politically incorrect I remember them and myself that it’s art – abstract or fiction. And art should be free! Art doesn’t harm – stupidity does.

I strongly believe in the concept of synthesis. There is nothing original to me. Everything has evolved from inspiration plus open creativity. Rearranged. Sample. Edit. Finally and after many generations the traces might not even be suspected. They are inherent and evident in full effect, but beyond they don’t necessarily need to matter as a quoted knowledge to shape the future.

My music doesn’t have an influence on my identity. However the other way around my music is rather an expression of my existing identity. But other people’s music shape my identity. So leaving my foot print in this world may effect others, too. And thereby I see myself as stirring the cosmic pot.

Image of Sneaker

From one of our earliest conversations about deejaying I remember that you pointed out the importance of “clashs” (not train wrecks!) during transitions between tracks in your sets. In the present mix I sense this approach especially between minute 70 to 85. Can you further explain why this is so important to you and what you try to bring across with it?

Of course it’s an excuse for my inability as a DJ, haha.

However as you know me this intuition was sourcing from actual musical schemes and tools. Focussing on the sync we can see and compare the phenomenon of swing. … but also the time-based audio FX of flanging and phasing, where one track meanders continually forth and back round the other.

Further being open to layer unsteady tracks in longer transitions is pushing limits rather than regarding them as impossible (like the wonky Alan Vega at min 75).

When we think about harmonics one can use harmonic tension in a creative way (min 60-63). Quality mixing is harmonic mixing. Scales don’t need to match (which is rare and close to impossible due to the microtuning on the pitchslider), but nowadays I am getting better to judge in the headphones whether a transition works harmonically or if I rather blend only the beats or even do a cut.

And when I said importance I must have referred to the human factor. Friction as an impression results in the uncomfortable desire for relief or solution. So if the brain evaluates – and further feels – what should be right (the ideal match) we are more involved then listening to a perfect beat. … to a certain extent. Train wrecking is so shameful because the brain is endangered of loosing track of the relation of both sources!

The impact of a DJ set in a live situation (club, open air or festival) can be controlled only to a certain degree by the DJ. Other factors are the vibe and mixture of people, the room/environment, the sound, lights, time and so on. What’s your favorite setting? And if you were in charge of the surroundings, what would you put your focus on?

Either fog & strobe to loose yourself (dodgy basements) or a good sound system to loose oneself in the sound (super clubs). Or both (did this ever happen?). When both is missing it won’t be fun. Guests are looking around, distracted from the music. They chat and drink rather than dance. Your message is more or less lost in translation.

Were there certain incidents in other people’s performances that influenced and shaped you as a DJ?

I am counting 25 years behind the decks (not necessarily being a good DJ right away). Without the earliest impact in squat houses and raves in my small town of birth called Jena I wouldn’t do what I am doing. Foch, Mikk and his friends played Green Velvet, Dance Mania, DBX, Josh Wink, Joey Beltram, Neil Landstrumm. It’s shaping my taste of quality techno & house until today. I might do Italo and EBM, too. But this impact from back then won’t go before me.
On my new EP – The Beat Poet – there is a track featuring DJ Smiley. – It’s called Wild Pitch. 
Besides reenacting DJ Pierre’s sound it also has the sound of that time.

Image of Sneaker, ca. 1995
Sneaker, ca. 1995

At a rave I have seen Rok scratching. That was something I only heard of before. And yes – it was the wonder I imagined. Raping the oh-so-precious records you weren’t allowed to touch in your parents collection, haha. Oh my goodness!

Flyer from a rave 1995 with DJ Hereos
Rave-Flyer from 1995 with sneaker