Hailing from Hamburg, Germany and comprised of Jens "Jence" Moelle and Ismail "Isi" Tüfekçi, Digitalism has been a major player in the electro-house scene for almost a decade now, tirelessly exploring the genre's limits over the course of three albums and countless shorter releases. Throughout the various stages of their career they have performed both as a larger festival act—complete with live vocals, instruments, and an insane lighting package—and as a more intimate electronic DJ duo designed for the club. The duo has a new EP, Lift, coming out September 30 on the Parisian music and fashion label Kitsuné, and are currently promoting the record with a North American tour. Jence and I got on the phone before their show at Output in Brooklyn to talk about his favorite movie soundtracks, the music scene in Hamburg, Germany, and their thoughts on Boiler Room.
Bonus! All of our European readers are eligible to win a trip for two to Paris for to attend the launch of Digitalism's latest EP Lift at the Grand Palais September 21—flights and accommodation included. If you're not in Europe, you're still eligible to win a runner-up prize with an armful of signed merchandise and a copy of the new EP. The competition closes on Friday September 13—check the widget below to enter.
THUMP: Where are you? How's New York so far?
Jens "Jence" Moelle: I got in last night, pretty late, like after midnight or something. I came from Mexico—I was hanging out at the beach for two weeks so this is a massive contrast but it's nice and summery weather here so we'll be fine. I'm currently somewhere in midtown but I'm heading over to Williamsburg in a bit.
Awesome. Where is Isi?
He's on a plane, should be landing in two hours or something—straight from Hamburg! I haven't seen him in two weeks so I'm gonna wanna catch up a little bit. We don't play until 2 am so we've got a bit of time.
Is this your first time playing Output?
Yes. One of my friends told me it's gonna be an ace time so I trust him.
I hear you guys are really into movies and movie soundtracks. What are some of your favorites and what makes a good soundtrack in your mind?
Blade Runner is really good. There are a lot of good ones. Vangelis is a great composer. I love John Williams. I mean, one of the best movies of all time for me must be Jaws. It's so simple but it was groundbreaking, that soundtrack. It's just two notes, you know? They played around with the music and the pitching a lot. There are times when you hear the thrilling music and you expect something to happen, but nothing happens. Now that's become standard for movies.
I wasn't so much into the Tron soundtrack. I like the group that composed for it, Daft Punk, but overall it wasn't really the best. But Isi and me were really into Drive. That was a great example of a compiled soundtrack, as opposed to a composed score. I like classical music, like soundtracks and everything, but that was a great soundtrack. Put you in a great mood and everything. Oh, and Trent Reznor's soundtrack for The Social Network!
How does your interest in movie soundtracks influence your own creative process?
Well, other people say we're influenced by The Stooges, Led Zeppelin, The Prodigy or something and I think our main influence is basically soundtracks. Not specific ones, just the atmosphere about them. When we're in the studio we love big risks, and epic stuff, and that's like the soundtracks of movies. It's more about mood.
How is this coming tour different from previous ones?
Yeah, it's almost like our 10 year anniversary or something. We've done everything I guess. We've done three albums, we've had big massive light set ups where we have 10, 12 people on the bus and stuff. We've played big and small. The new EP, we're really excited about it because it's the first time we've worked with collaborators, like with other people in the studio, which is a first for us. With electronic music, you don't play guitars and all that stuff, so when you go into the studio with another electronic musician you just sit down and think, "OK, what can we do?" Everyone gets their laptops out and is like, "I have this beat, let's try something with that. We made this loop yesterday, let's try to use that."
This tour is all about this EP. We love the States—we've been here so many times—but we've learned a lot over the last month, production-wise and everything. Even on the road now we've finished up some new ideas that we're gonna drop into the DJ set. It takes us back to our roots because that's how we started. All these amazing we've gotten has really pushed us further.
You've worked with Kitsuné for a long time. Can you speak about your relationship with them?
Yeah, they're kind of our family. They released our first project, like, nine years ago or something. They were there when we made our first album. At the beginning people thought we were from Paris actually because that was our second home. We were there every week. They coordinated the artwork for our first album and everything. It's a very strong relationship and, well, we also had our fights in between but we love each other so it's very intense. It's great, and since the last album we've done some stuff with Toolroom and Spinnin Records. Now, we started with completely new artwork and design and concept and everything—who else could be better than the guys from Kitsuné who are number one? I mean I couldn't think of anyone better when it comes to very strong vision and artwork and concept combined with the music. That's why this EP has to go with Kitsune. It's great to be back with them. It's like you've been to university and then you visit your parents and it's like, "Hey! Let's catch up. What's been going on?"
So Paris may be your second home but what about your first, Hamburg? What's going on there?
Hamburg is a very relaxed, laid-back city. It used to be very punk in the 70s, like Berlin is now—anti-, alternative, underground and everything—but all that moved to Berlin after the wall came down. Hamburg is now like a huge park. It's very green. And you know, there's not one scene that holds Hamburg together but there's pockets of creativity. Like, DIY Records—Tensnake is from there. Boys Noize is from Hamburg but he moved 10 years ago. Everyone is kind of doing their own thing, it's not like everybody's working together. But that's good thing because then you have your own bubble and you can get really creative in it, you don't get sucked into, "Oh, I have to go to all these shows" or something. It's not like Berlin. It's also kind of the gateway to the world because you have this huge harbor and I guess that's kind of the path to our romantic, melancholic sound where you think of other places far away. It's pretty soundtrack-y! But it's also great to be on tour. After a couple of days at home I get sick of it, I need to get away. The grass is always greener, you know.
I saw you played a Boiler Room, the new international online party series—what do you think Boiler Room means for the future of music?
I think the Boiler Room concept is great because people from the countryside can listen to great music and they don't have to be in a big city with access to the record shops or something. They can access everything from at home and everyone can contribute. I mean sometimes Boiler Room's a bit weird because people stand behind the DJ looking, wondering what's going on and stuff. It's not always like a crazy party.
And the electronic music scene is still growing. We were thinking it as a bit of a bubble maybe. At some point it must implode or something because I don't know how much headroom there is any more. On the future... I really don't know. I'm just excited to be a part of it.
Who are some new acts your excited about?
I've been offline for a few weeks now because I was on the beach, so I'm a bit out of touch, but The M Machine—they are super talented, I really like those guys. There are so many new people coming from the States that we don't know, coming from Europe. There's a lot of people, I'm excited about Machinedrum. I like what Brodinski is doing. There's so many names I can't even remember that I have on my playlist! Unless I have a binder in front of me and I have the names in big bold letters I forget. There's a lot of good stuff, but you have to really dig deep. First, there's less record labels filtering the output for you, because everybody can release themselves, and second, there's no record shops that select what they're gonna sell. So those two phases are gone and you really have to spend a lot of time finding great stuff. A lot of music is just generic and it's all the same, which was the reason we started making our own music back then—it was the case back then as well. Something gets really big and everyone listens to it and everyone makes it—then it's interesting of course to make something else.