Dustin Zahn is Minneapolis-born techno fundamentalist who has been making his way up the circuit over the past 2 decades and has made quite the name for himself. A regular performer at renowned clubs like Berghain and Output , Dustin has been producing some stellar music for labels like Adam Beyer’s Drumcode, Radio Slaves, REK’D, and his own Enemy Records imprint. Over the years he has built his own brand of techno music in Mid-Western US. Dustin recently made his way to India first time to play at sLick‘s annual property A Day Of sLick, this time on the shores of Goa. We caught up with Dustin for a quick chat about his journey over the years, his inspirations and a little dive into his life. Read the full interview below.
Hello Dustin, welcome to India. This is your first time here, how does it feel? What are your expectations from this tour?
Honestly, I had no clue what to expect. I’m always excited to check out somewhere new! Americans perceive Goa as this place with crazy little outdoor parties on the beach where people do psychedelics and listen to trance.
Over the years, you have established yourself as one of the prime figures in Midwest US Techno circuit, how difficult was the upward journey?
It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done…mostly because it feels like the struggle is never ending. There’s always a new obstacle or setback, but it keeps things interesting. With a desk job, you just have to show up and do the work. Your boss will (hopefully) keep the lights on and the checks paid. As your own boss, you constantly question what you’ve done wrong or convince yourself that in two years it will have been the right choice.
You moved to Berlin a couple of years ago and made it your base. What prompted that move? Do you think your career path would have been different had you stayed back in Minneapolis?
It’s many of the same reasons most people move to Berlin: cheap rent, relaxed culture, perfect central location for traveling, etc.
More than 2 years since your album ‘Monoliths’ and we are still pretty fond of it. How has that album helped you in evolving your music in the last 2 years?
To attempt to describe the technical side might feel a bit vague, especially to non-musicians. But…not only has it forced me to step up my production skills, I now take my music and output more seriously. The basis of the dance music industry is releasing singles with little thought beyond the hopes that it is successful. I have nothing against that, but I believe we can all do better. I’m starting to see things in a bigger picture.
You have been a regular at Berghain for quite some time now. Tell us how is the atmosphere in one of the most prolific night clubs in the world? How is it like to play there?
It’s the same story you’ll read a million times on the internet and hear about often on my podcast. Whether people want to argue if it’s the best club in the world or not is irrelevant. Everyone would agree that there’s nothing else like it. The venue’s attention to detail and the psychology of the attendees are carefully considered with great detail.
Tell us about your record imprint ‘Enemy’ and what plans you have for the future? What can we expect from you and Enemy in 2017?
The basis of the label is simply deep, hypnotic music…preferably focusing on the late-night hours. It’s for the freaks left standing. The music isn’t written for people that need 10 facebook posts to convince them to come to the party. I can see why this might seem like a natural connection to Goa. It’s a big year for the label. Before the summer we’ll see music from myself, Ambivalent, Boston 168, and some other new talents. Some regulars from the label are also working on follow-up records. Basically, everyone has their own label now so I am waiting on them to send me the weird stuff.
How does Dustin like to spend his time when he is not touring around the world?
I have a ton of interests, but I’ve dedicated this period of my life solely to music and friends. So…I’m usually working on music or grabbing a bite to eat. The rest of the time, it feels like I’m always dealing with my taxes. That’s the part about Germany that Berlin DJs don’t tell you about.
We always found your music has a story to tell your fans. What inspires your music?
The boring, honest answer is “everything does”. Sometimes the music comes from a very bad day. Other times it comes from particularly high point in life. What I can be specific about is that the ideas for my music are rarely inspired by hearing other dance records. I think that’s where a lot of aspiring producers go wrong. I think it’s important to keep your ear to the streets, but that’s about it. This is why a lot of music sounds the same right now. This is an actual phenomenon that is widely present through all creative fields, especially in writing. Creative types become so impressed or obsessed with something that influences them, that they incorporate it directly into their music or writing without realizing it. There’s a term for it: Cryptomnesia. Google it, it’s interesting shit.
Top 3 cities you love to play – New York, Berlin, Minneapolis.
German Pretzels or American Hotdogs – Pretzels these days as I’ve gone vegetarian. I only ate 1 hotdog a year anyway.
Miami or Ibiza – Ibiza, without question. Neither place is my party vibe, but Ibiza’s nature side is amazing.
Romantic Comedies or Action Movies – Why are you doing this to me? Both are horrible. I guess the chances for sexy time may fair slightly better with the rom com’s if you have someone special around.
3 artists to watch out for in 2017 – Mike Gervais, Jon Hester, Z.I.P.P.O