For Joseph Youngman, his multiple decade journey as EDM titan Wolfgang Gartner has hailed more success than most aspiring dance musicians could ever hope for. Many years Wolfgang Gartner has been a crowd favorite, defining the gold standard for club hits with his fast paced, hard hitting, electro house, which he has brought to the mainstages of the worlds biggest festivals.
After recovering from a much needed haitus, Wolfgang returned to the scene stronger than ever releasing a new album on his own label Kindergarten Records, and delivering a slew of successful singles, including a track with the legendary pop singer, John Oats. For those who were lucky enough to see his set at Exchange LA, Wolfgang put on a clinic of the most elite electro and future house sets I've heard in years, effortlessly throwing in bits of brostep, tasteful trap, and even breakbeats in a seamless manor to keep the energy maxed out all night.
We were lucky enough to have a word with Wolfgang before the show and learned how truly diehard about the music he really is.
Joe, you started at age 14 right?
It was 11, I started DJing at 14, I started producing at 11.
On what software?
There was no software back then man! It was all drum machines, keyboards, four track tape recorders, drum machines and keyboards synced together with MIDI. There was no computer till about '99. I got a computer that had MIDI sequencing capabilities but Ableton, Cubase, all the modern software, that didn't come about till around 2000. For the first 8 or 9 years of my career, it was a bunch a gear.
That's probably beneficial to be doing that in a way that nowadays most producers haven't even touched?
Yeah..I don't know if it's beneficial. It's definitely given me a different perspective and forced me to learn a completely different way of producing music. I guess it's interesting because I appreciate the ways computer based production don't need to go through all these hoops and have all this gear around but there are times where I realize that there is a sort of sterility with computer made music and you can really inject alot of warm and character into it by using external gear. I try not to completely forget to use some synths and keyboards but it is nice to have the convenience of using almost only computers.
Yeah, it's kind of like mixing on vinyl only for production.
Well yeah, I mixed on vinyl for the first…god, till 2005, when CDs became a thing for nearly 10 years, and now it's all on a USB stick. Technology has definitely made things easier, especially on my back since I don't have to carry 80 pounds of records to Russia haha.
So what keeps you going nowadays?
What keeps me going?…I don't know, maybe because i've been doing this so long that I don't know anything else, I just sorta keep going. I've been doing this full time for 14 years, there's nothing else for me. I have no college degree, I have no skills, even if I wanted to do something else, i'd be totally fucked haha.
That reminds me, Moby once said that if he never made it as a musician then he'd probably be a bum.
Yeah thats the thing, i'd probably be flipping burgers if I wasn't doing this, so I keep doing it. It's just in me. Even if I wanted to quit, I couldn't. It's like the mafia, once you're in as a professional musician, a professional artist, you're just stuck dude, thats all you know. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it's like, you're in the fuckin mafia.
Are you still trying to up the ante with all your tracks and your performances?
I feel like “upping the ante” was when I was making a very specific style of music, like when I was making strictly, I guess up until recently, 128 bpm house and electro. I was always trying to outdo previous productions because there were things that couldn't compare to each other. Now what I try to do is completely different from that, i'm trying to do things that are musically and scenically completely different from what i've done in the past. Cause i've realized that you can only improve upon a sound so much until it's pretty much as good as it's gonna get and it's time to move on to something else. I'm not exactly sure what that something else is, i'm working on alot of different stuff thats not electro house, its not 128 beats per minute. So the way i'm approaching it now is not like i'm trying to up my productions from 2012 or something but just trying to explore new sounds where I can do something creatively and more fulfilling then i've done in the past.
How have you changed up your process for this, and not just in your productions but in your lifestyle as well? You had that hiatus for a year and you've mentioned that it wasn't just creative problems but health ones as well.
Yeah the main thing that was causing problems for my health was that I was touring so much, like over 100 days a year, which for my body is too much. Some guys can do that and I do did that, I did 200 days a year for many years, but it was a matter of cutting down my touring schedule and finding a better balance. Nobody really wants to do that cause all the money is on the road. For me it was a choice of choosing happiness over money, and i'll still play however many shows a year until it gets too much, but right now i'm playing 30 shows a year.
Wow, thats a drastic change.
Yeah and it's a comfortable pace for me and I don't have any type of health issues anymore. It was all about finding the right balance doing what I really love doing which is spending time in the studio.
One benefit though of playing less shows is now a Wolfgang Gartner show is a more of a special event.
I guess so haha. I didn't really think about it like that. Actually I thought about it the opposite, the less i'm out there, the less visible i'm gonna be, and it's just gonna go downhill haha, but that's cool, thats good to hear.
So since you have more time for Joe, what do you like to do outside of dance music?
The only other thing I do besides produce music is cook. I don't really do anything else. I have a studio separate from my house so like I go to the studio, I come home, I work a little more at my home studio, then I like to cook. I get a bug for a few days where I wanna go to the store, make all these extravagant recipes. Thats my other thing, i'd really like to create the menu for restaurants. I wouldn't want to own a restaurant or operate it, but i'd want to create the menu. Cooking is very creative for me, the way that everything compiles together, almost similar to music for me, so when i'm not at work, I kinda go crazy and cook all this extravagant shit.
What's some of the craziest dishes that you made?
My signature is a scampe fra di avelo, on a bed of linguine, which is a classic Italian dish. I'm also perfecting what I call a “portobello supreme”. It's a giant portobello mushroom cap, barbecued, with a fried egg on it, and sauteed in garlic, olive oil, white wine, lemon, mix arugula in it, roasted tomatoes, and put that all on top of the egg and mushroom. Then when you put the sauce on it and break the yolk, it's like fuckin CRACK man, its so good! I get the urge to make it everyday!
You gotta pitch that man, that's straight outta Chopped.
I know! It's sooo goooood.
Another thing I wanted to ask you about, you mentioned before that part of the message you try to get out with your music is disconnecting. Meaning, that our generation is so plugged into electronics that it's negatively affecting us. I also think it's fair to say that people have only gotten worse with how attached they are. Do you think that's had a big effect on dance music and people tastes?
I should probably filter myself, I know how i'd piss alot of people off, but I personally don't think that social media in general has had a good effect with the way people act and how they ingest music. Especially the way that people choose which type of shows they're gonna go to and which artists they're gonna see, because I think it's become all about personality and very little about music. But there are some good sides, I probably wouldn't have a career if it weren't for Myspace. I can't be mad at it, but in the past few years I feel it's more about personality. People will go to see a DJ and they don't even know their songs, they just know they're funny on twitter and they're famous or whatever else makes them desirable.
As far as the future goes, you're talking about doing different stuff, are you referring to different genres?
I'm messing with stuff that's not necessarily 128 bpm dance music. It's more radio friendly, which is not what people are used to from me, but i've been making club music and club tracks designed for my sets the past 10 years and I wanted to do something different for a while.
Do you want to make music more for listening rather than dancing?
Yeah, it's still gonna be electronic music, just not dance oriented like electronic…
That seems to be a forgotten genre. It seems like people have forgotten alot of the founding father of electronic music.
I would say that's where agism becomes a factor, sexism and agism are both factors in dance music. Finally, I noticed Rezz is headlining a world tour recently and that was amazing to see and it's big step forward. There's a bunch of dudes underneath her, opening for her and I was like fuck yes! But there's also this issue with agism where people are forgetting artists that were really big years ago and they're getting blocked out by their age and their generation.
While many artists rise to fame then slowly lose motivation and fade into obscurity, Wolfgang Gartner is one of those rare talents that fans will not forget. We eagerly look forward to the great things that are coming in the future and for those of you who haven't seen this living legend yet, dont' sleep the next time he comes to town.