World-famous techno DJ Sven Väth was recently in Malta to take part in the International Music Summit, a weekend-long event focusing on electronic music. In a rare interview, he speaks exclusively to Mark Netto.

Sven Väth is one of the best loved and most famous Techno DJs in the world. With over 30 years’ experience, he is internationally known as the DJ that sets standards for electronic music production. He is the curator and founder of Cocoon, the super-cool techno party famous around the world and especially in Ibiza.

It was in 1981 in Frankfurt, Germany, that Sven started a techno revolution and became the figure- head for the movement that was to spread worldwide. Playing only vinyl then and only vinyl now, Sven is quite simply unique – a legend in his own lifetime with a commitment and passion that has influenced the advance and evolution of electronic music.

Recently, the artist played a rare appearance at Uno Village in Malta to promote the International Music Summit (IMS) College, an annual event brought to Malta specially to encourage, inspire and educate those people who want to break into the electronic music industry. He shared some thoughts with me below.

Where did your passion for music come from and when did you take your first steps into electronic music?

It was in the 1970s when my parents opened a nightclub. I was very young and excited about my parents’ club and they were playing a lot of rock and roll and disco music. This was my first introduction to music and by the late 1970s I became a fan of the likes of Sisters Sledge and all the sexy bands ofthe day.

By 1980 I became bored of my hometown and moved to Ibiza, where I ended up for three months. I discovered all these amazing nightclubs and saw DJs playing techno, Italian disco, psychedelic rock – it all just blew me away and I loved it. It was quite inspiring and so I decided that this was exactly what I wanted to do.

Do you think that these kinds of real life experiences with music still inspire musicians? Or have the times changed so that it’s more difficult to be these environments?

I think they still do. My DJing experience enabled me and my friends to put some money together to buy some machines and in 1985 I produced my first track that I was singing on. By 1986, the track was No. 1 all over Europe and suddenly I was a pop star. I think this is still happening today, but differently because of all the social network support out there – you can attract fame.

When you produce a hit, you have to sell bigger hooks and bigger melodies and I don’t like this attitude

You have a unique style and it’s obvious you were driven from the beginning by your passion and creativity. What advice would you give to up-and-coming artists?

Remain true to your own creativity.

So you were a pop star and had huge success across Europe. How did this shape your next releases? Did the success you experienced push you to create more pop or did you go in the opposite direction to get away from this scene?

Well, I definitely felt this pressure. When you produce a hit, you have to sell bigger hooks and bigger melodies and I don’t like this attitude. This was also the time when acid house and the sound of techno really began to grow. I was aware of the new sounds from New York and so decided to open my own nightclub in Frankfurt when I was 24. I dedicated it to techno.

And would you say that the definition of techno music is different now to how it was back then? Techno seems to have become a much more broad term. How do you define it?

The sounds and the power of techno music today are much greater. But back then I was still a DJ, while also being a pop star, so I decided to quit my pop career. I didn’t like it anymore and so I started from zero again. I started my own label and my very first solo productions. I was keeping my style and doing things the way I like to do it.

Are you still producing? Is producing and releasing an integral part of performing?

When I gave up producing, a long time ago, I had released 13 albums. As a label manager I still have an overview but when I turned 50 three years ago I had to ask myself some questions. What do I have to do? What do I want to do? What is my heart saying? I wanted to make people happy with my DJing and so I have really focused on this.

You started Cocoon as a record label before you started organising your events. How important is it to have a brand or an event brand to work with your record label? Do you think it’s necessary to establish yourself to have all these different arms?

Well, when I started I had a vision of doing my thing. I  knew I had a strong idea about clubbing, nightclubs and events. So, I said to myself, let’s get this organised. I had good people around me who said ‘come on we can do it together’ and so I opened the booking agency. My company is now 20-years-old and we are still performing well with a niche product.

Who would you say has influenced you artistically over the course of your career? And inspired by any artists of today?

Well I have to say Richie Hawtin is a good friend of mine. I really like his way of pushing boundaries and how he’s always doing his thing. Ricardo Villalobos as well; he’s also a crazy guy, the way he plays and the way he is. These guys are my buddies and I admire a lot of DJs like DJ Koze, Dixon.

What’s one lesson you have learned that you wished you knew at the beginning of your career?

There are many lessons I’ve learnt but, if you feel successful and you suddenly think okay anything is possible now… Well, at one point I realised I’m losing focus on the essential things, on the music, on what I really like. That’s what happens if you try out too many things because you are successful; you should always be focused on the essential part of what you do.

Using the term underground is more an attitude than a sound but do you see or do you resent the success of non-underground house music? Now we seem to have so many different sub genres, so many different labels at a time when electronic music is the most popular it’s ever been. And it’s on the radio, it’s popular music.

I see this as a positive evolution for electronic music because there are some pop acts that people might discover and maybe they will find a way into what people call underground.

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