DAX J is a Berlin-based music producer, DJ, founder of the Monnom Black record label
Interview: Elena Savlokhova
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What’s it like to be you?
What’s it like to be me? A very deep question. I don’t know how to answer it really. I could go anywhere. I guess it’s a mixture of normal ups and downs of a normal person.
Do you feel comfortable with yourself?
I could answer that with a yes and I could also answer that with a no. It’s hard to really say. But I guess I feel comfortable with myself.
Why do you think music is such a vital element to your existence?
To me personally, because it was the first thing that really grabbed my attention outside of the norm. It was my first discovery into subculture when I was young, at school, around the age of 13-14 years old. And it was the first thing that grabbed me. It was the first thing that introduced me to a different path. So that’s why it’s important.
And does the magic of music fade over time for you?
So it’s always at the same level?
Maybe it actually increases. Because the old stuff that I used to listen to now becomes even better with time. And, obviously, every year, I’m introduced to new music. So as I get older, I’ve got a whole catalog of music from my youth that I love more and more as time goes on. And then I’m always finding new music as well. It’s what I love and what inspires me as well. So I would say that it’s always getting more and more important and inspiring.
What’s your first musical memory from when you were a kid?
I remember I begged my mom for her tape player. It was like a Sony Walkman but it was maybe four times the size of a normal Walkman. And the tape went on the top and it had a speaker on it. I think my mom said that it was one of the first Walkman that Sony made. It was from the late 70s. And I remember begging her for it because I had this tape from my sister, my 1st ever tape, it was an old Michael Jackson tape. I must have been about seven years old. I remember telling my mom: “I really need this, can I have it?”. And then she gave it to me. I remember it took four batteries. It was like a gun as well, you put in the batteries as if they were bullets. It was this really complicated thing. That’s my first memory of being really passionate about wanting to play my tape. And then I remember actually there was a school disco and you had to bring in your own music and I brought in the tape. The teacher played one of the songs and the teacher thought that it was too… I don’t want to say hard but, like ‘underground’.
Unbelievable as we’re talking about Michael Jackson here! It was “Jam” from the “Dangerous” album and it had a rap verse. We’re talking about, you know, way over 20 years ago. I remember the teacher said: “No”. The bastard cut my track short, I was really annoyed. That’s a very early memory – year two of primary school.
What excites you the most in what you do?
I love DJing in great locations and clubs. I love to play in clubs that have a special atmosphere. I love playing at warehouses. I feel at home playing warehouses – that’s where I play a lot. And then producing in the studio is kind of like a love-hate relationship. I love it when it’s going good. And then sometimes it can be very frustrating when you can’t quite get exactly what you want to do, or you can’t get it to sound exactly the way you want it to sound. And that’s very frustrating. But when you do get to where you want to go, it is very satisfying. So those two things – DJing and producing. It’s kind of like a drug. I got into DJing first when I was at school. I remember during the first two years of DJing I had a few records. Not many. I had some of my friends’ records. And all I did was go home after school and just mix at home in my bedroom, and go to friends’ houses when we played on each other’s decks. But that’s all we did for maybe two years – only DJing this set of records. And I’ve never known another set of records as well as I knew that set of probably 30 records. I knew them all inside out. And a couple of years later when I started to think that I wanted to play at these raves, it was then that I realized all the DJs were record label owners or producing hit records. And so I realized, “Oh, you have to make music if you want to DJ”. At that moment I started looking into making music and started making music. And gradually I spent less time DJing and more time on creating music.
And then I went from spending all my time DJing to spending all my time producing. I knew that I had to do it to get DJ gigs. So I’ve always been a DJ first and a producer second. But over the years, I’ve always wanted to just try and only DJ. I always thought it would be really amazing to go back to that. But I’ve never done it. I’ve never given myself a chance to do it. But I’m thinking of maybe trying after the COVID stuff is over. Because I’ve literally spent every day of last year in the studio. So I think I can maybe give myself a few months off and only focus on DJing. That would be cool. I know that if I did that, I would 100% take it to the next level, I’ll be doing new stuff that I’ve never ever done before. I know it.
The problem is, you’re touring on the weekend – two, three days, sometimes four days. Then you get home, sort some stuff out, and then you go straight into the studio for two, three days, or however long you’ve got, and readjust the tracks that you were testing. And then you quickly download all the new promos. And you go away again. You’re on the road again, and it’s exactly the same every week. But I just always used to imagine that what if instead of working in the studio I would spend the whole time only listening to music, mixing, and editing tracks. Focusing on DJing is what I used to do, in the very first two years of my DJ life. Having decks when I was in school. As I’ve mentioned those 30 records that I’ve had – I never knew any other set of records better than that throughout my entire life. I know it would be very interesting. And so I always wonder what it would be like if I went back to that again. It’s something I’ve been thinking about.
What worlds are you trying to create with your DJ sets?
An otherly world – to take the listener on an experience. To almost make people forget what reality they’re in. To try and make them forget about life in a sense. To go to a new place.
And it’s possible to do with the right sound and the right lighting and the right location. And the right music. Because it’s happened to me when I was DJing, even being completely sober. I went to another place. But everything has to be perfect. And I remember when I experienced that, I thought, ‘Wow, I can do that to myself sober’.
Is that a rare thing?
Yes, it’s rare because the location and the lighting have such huge importance. And the sound. That happened when I was playing in Bassiani. It’s a huge room and it’s really-really dark. And I remember that I was playing a really long set, it was nine hours or something. And at times it went pitch black – you couldn’t see anything. But then you start to see a glimmering red light in the distance and smoke. I just kind of forgot what was going on for a minute. I mean, I knew what was going on, but I kind of let myself escape along with the energy in the room. It was a strange and amazing moment.
And what’s your definition of beauty?
Well, if you look hard enough, then you can find beauty in anything.
Like I could find beauty in this mask right now. If you think about it, we’re all made of the same stuff. We’re made of the same stuff as this mask. If we go deep enough into the atomic structure of things, then we’re all just atoms vibrating at a certain frequency. I find that very crazy and beautiful. During the lockdown, I was reading this physics book. I don’t know why, because I hated physics at school, and school in general. But it was recommended and it was Richard Feynman’s book “The Feynman Lectures on Physics”, who breaks down the basic laws of physics around the world and explains it in a simple manner. It blew my mind. For example, the thing that I’ve mentioned about us being made of the same stuff. How is that even possible? When you zoom into an atom, and the atom is made of electrons and so on. And don’t quote me on this, I’m not very good at science. But it’s mind-blowing, isn’t it?
It’s mind-blowing when you look at the stars and we’re made of the same stuff as the stars.
If we assume the Big Bang Theory is what we believe in, then everything in this world, and everything you see in the sky, all came from something smaller than the tip of my fingernail. It’s a massive head fuck if you really think about it. It’s like putting yourself in a K-hole without taking drugs. I try not to think about it because it’s just mind-boggling. What also blows my mind is if the Big Bang happened, then what happened before the Big Bang? One theory and analogy that I heard is that if you look at a big pot of boiling water bubbling away, and let’s just say the water didn’t evaporate, and if you were to observe it for a very long time, there’ll be one moment, a split second when all the atoms in the water will just happen to go perfectly flat. The likelihood of watching that happen is extremely low, but with enough time it would eventually happen. We’re talking about observing that pot of water for billions of years. And he said this is what they think could have happened with the Big Bang, with all those electrons and atoms floating and bubbling around. And because time didn’t exist back then it didn’t matter how long it took, but it just happened at one moment and they all met at one specific point. And it caused the Big Bang. But you would need billions of years to watch it happen. That’s crazy. And time only exists because that’s a human invention. Then I always think, well why were there atoms randomly floating around before the big bang anyway, who put the atoms there in the first place!
Would you like to live forever?
Yeah. It would be cool.
How would you spend eternity?
Well, it would be very fun to see what happens in the future. When we have space travel and even beyond that. If you live long enough… Are you ready for another mind thought? If we live long enough, and, let’s say if I could live forever, and as long as humanity doesn’t kill itself, then we would eventually have the technology to create simulations that are indistinguishable from reality. Do you agree?
Basically, you would be in a simulation, and it’d be so real that you wouldn’t know it’s a simulation. Maybe it could happen in 500 years, the way technology is going.
It could happen sooner, yeah. But this is the mindfuck. So how do you know that you’re not already in the simulation? How do you know? This could be the simulation right now. But we don’t know because it could have been perfected. And it never stops, does it? Because this simulation will eventually create another simulation. So it’s simulation within a simulation with a simulation scenario. So who made the first simulation? And then it gets back to well, how does the person who first made the simulation know that they’re not in a simulation? So whoever made the simulation is God. Who is God? We don’t know.
I think we find out everything when we die. We’ll either wake up in a new place or there will be nothing. You will simply return to the place before you were born.
If you could travel in time to the past, then where would you go and why?
I would go back to the Big Bang. I want to see what happens. I would observe the Big Bang and then come back and tell everyone exactly what happens. And that would solve a lot of problems. If we knew then it would solve all of our problems actually. There would be no war, no nothing. If we knew where we came from with 100% clarity and truth. It would prove so many things. It would prove whether religion is real or not. But that’s a very touchy subject, we probably shouldn’t talk about religion, I’ve had problems with that.
Yes, so we’ve heard. What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received?
Someone once threw an egg at me. It was Halloween and I played a gig in Ireland. The egg hit a wall. I don’t know if that was a compliment… I guess it wasn’t a compliment. And someone once threw a glass bottle at me and it smashed into the lights.
A dangerous job you have.
During a gig, a drunk guy climbed up the DJ booth, which was up about 2 meters, and so he climbed up and tried to shake my hand and he pulled down one of the decks and nearly pulled the table. It was this little club in Scotland. They’re crazy over there. So I take those as compliments.
Then a follow-up question. Could you share some fucked up or bizarre stories from your tour life? Except for the ones, you’ve just mentioned.
Well, I think I just told you those. Oh, I don’t know if I should talk about this one. One time I’ve had armed police escort me to the club. That was pretty crazy. They thought that I was a bomb threat. I came out of the hotel and a car driver was there and it was surrounded by 4 policemen leaning against the hood. I was laughing and said: “Whenever I see the police I always get paranoid that they’re there for me”. And the driver replied: “Haha, they are here for you”. I said: “Yeah right, very funny”. But he wasn’t joking and said that they were going to escort us to the club. It happened right after the problems I’ve had before. They checked the bins for bombs and stuff. And all of a sudden I realized that it was real and I actually got a bit worried. It was fine, nothing happened. But it was strange that night.
What’s the wisest thing you’ve ever heard or you realized yourself during your lifetime?
The wisest thing I’ve heard recently was that you have to forgive anyone who’s ever wronged you. And, you know, you don’t have to forgive them, you just have to not let it bother you. Because when you let it bother you, that’s when the devils at work in your head. It was Mike Tyson who said this.
I saw him say it on his podcast a few months ago. He’s right. I think everyone sometimes thinks about something that’s happened in the past. And then you let it make you angry for some reason. Maybe you’re just at home, just chilling, and then all of a sudden you get angry. And then when you think of it, it’s so stupid. Why would you let something from the past affect your present moment? So yes, it’s a very wise thought. Whenever I find myself thinking about stupid things, or worrying about stuff, I just remember this thing and try not to let it bother me too much. It shouldn’t bother you at all. It’s a waste of energy and time.
Are you a forgiving person?
Not really. This is why it meant a lot to me when I heard that. Because I’m not a forgiving person at all.
But you are trying to be?
Yeah, yeah. I’m Scorpio. They’re not known to be very forgiving. I’m not really into astrology, but people who know that I’m a Scorpio always say, “you’re such a Scorpio”. Apparently, I’m a typical Scorpio. I try to be more forgiving these days. I try to not let past situations affect me because it’s a waste of energy, isn’t it? What Tyson was saying is that you don’t have to forgive them, you have to forgive yourself for thinking about it. He’s amazing.
What qualities do you value the most in people?
Just being a good person I guess.
Do you consider yourself a good person?
Yeah, I know, I’m a good person… Or am I? I don’t know. It’s very easy to say that you’re a good person. You can always be better. Probably I’m not a good person now that I think about it. Probably not as good as I think I am.
A really good person is selfless. The most saintly person will give everything they’ve got to everyone else. Their whole being is to help improve other people’s lives. Maybe that’s the definition of a really good person because there are not that many of them in the world.
Have you ever met such a person?
I guess not.
Do you think they’re good to themselves by doing that and being like that?
I think the main thing is, you know, helping people who are less privileged. A lot of that is charity work and stuff like that. But then I’ve heard one guy say that the best way that you can be charitable or help people is to get a well-paying job and give as much money as you can to charity. It’s not about giving your time. Obviously, that helps, but if you can be really skilled in a job, let’s just say as a doctor, then you can earn a good wage and give away a large sum of money. That would be more helpful than say just volunteering for a year or so. So, just as an example, you can give away 100,000 euros, which could help employ 30 people full time. So it’s one person giving time vs. creating change that would give 30 people a job. That’s the point this guy was making. I guess generally we as a society don’t do enough for other people.
If you were part of the Space X colony plan to Mars, what would you miss the most about Earth? Music-related things not included.
I guess food because you won’t have any good food on Mars. You’re living off rations, right?
Things you can’t unthink.
Probably thinking about how I can improve the latest track I’m working on.
Yeah, unfortunately. There are pros and cons. It can be a con when you’re constantly chasing and trying to constantly improve a track, and you can end up driving yourself crazy. Because at the end of the day it’s never perfect really. You can always find something wrong or something to change. So you end up driving yourself mad. And that’s basically what I was saying earlier about the love/hate factor of making music.
Do you have any rituals that you follow that help you work better?
Not really. But I know that when I have a coffee I really feel and notice the effects. You notice the effects quite substantially for an hour. I have a coffee and go to the studio and you’re in a really good mood for an hour and that always helps. I try not to rely on that too much and so I maybe have one coffee a day. And I try to time that one coffee. That’s one thing that I do – I consciously think about when I’m going to drink my coffee in order to get the most out of the good effects it delivers. I won’t just drink a coffee and watch TV, because that would be a waste. I’d rather drink the coffee and be in the studio.
What’s your coffee preference?
Well, recently, I was making flat whites at home. I got a steamer and I steam oat milk. I was practicing doing the coffee art during the lockdown. I ended up buying decaf beans because I would make more coffees just so that I could practice my art. So I’ve been literally making flat whites for the last year and trying to perfect the craft.
Did you perfect it?
Yeah, I’m really good now. But now it got to the point that just recently, literally in the last few weeks, I’m now so over it. It took me a year. And I’m done with it. And it’s just such a long process. You have to grind the bean, put it in the thing, then steam the milk… It’s long. The whole process, including turning the machine on waiting for it to heat up, sometimes the whole process takes 15-20 minutes. So it’s over now. I’ve recently just started having espressos which is so much easier.
So what’s your new hobby now?
Drinking espressos maybe.
Apart from coffee.
I don’t know, it’s hard. I haven’t really picked up any new hobbies. Nothing new. The coffee was the last new thing.
What about before the coffee? Apart from music.
See that’s tough. But my sister had a baby and I’m an uncle now.
What does that feel like?
The thing is, she’s still 6 months old. She hasn’t really developed into a person yet. She’s just crying and doing all the stuff babies do. So I think it will be a role that I will grow into.
Also, my sister lives far away from me and I don’t see her that much. But as of recent and since lockdown, I also definitely speak more to my friends. I spoke to way more friends again. That has been one benefit that is a really good thing with everyone having all this extra time. Before you just never really had time. I mean, you can always make time, but it’s very easy to not make time when you’re constantly traveling. So that was one good thing.
What do you think will matter at the end of life?
I think nothing.
I don’t think anything matters. If there’s no afterlife and this is it, then nothing matters, does it?
Like I said earlier, it’ll be just like before you were born. That’s what it will be – nothing. I don’t believe that you will be judged by how you acted on this earth. That’s just a human invention. At the end of the day, we’re all animals. We know we’re no different from the cows, the horses, the dogs, and the cats. We just developed cognitive skills and we evolved. We are able to communicate things, but at the end of the day, we’re all just animals. And animals are not worried about being judged when they die. They’re not bothered about leading a good life in order to get into doggy heaven.
I think it’s also a huge paradox – the meaning of life.
This is going to sound really dark but you could say that the meaning of life is to die. Because when you die, you potentially find out what the meaning of life is. They say all of life’s biggest questions are paradoxes. You may feel so small right now when you look up into the sky, but we are connected to everything. We are tiny, minuscule on this earth.
We are nothing yet we are everything at the same time.
And it’s the same with the meaning of life because when you die, you go to the next stage. That’s one thing that I’ve realized – the world is full of paradoxes. Perhaps the real meaning of life is that there is no meaning of life. It’s the ultimate paradox.
Would you like to be remembered in the world somehow?
I’d like my music to live on. I’d like to be remembered for my music. Whether or not that happens is not so important to me.
What question would you like to be asked in an interview and what would you answer?
That’s a tough question. I find it hard to think of an answer and I don’t know why.
Maybe because it’s 3 AM in the morning. But a few more questions for you – in which film, book, or cartoon reality would you like to temporarily exist in?
The Matrix. Because I think maybe we are already living in the matrix.
What’s your perception of happiness?
I think good relationships with friends and family. That’s very important.
What makes a friend? Who is a friend?
Someone you can speak to about anything and someone you can trust. That’s something hard to find. It’s hard to have friends with who you can really be completely open. And trust them. I think a lot of people don’t really have many close friends. You only have a handful of close friends in your life.
Do you have a lot of friends?
I’ve got a lot of friends but just a handful of close friends.
Would you say that you’re a good friend?
No, I don’t think so. Because I don’t stay in touch and I’m constantly traveling. But I’ve been better in lockdown.
And back to the topic of happiness – are you a happy person?
Yeah, I think so. Most of the time. But I think everyone has their ups and downs. I try to be.
Special thanks to VESELKA