We hooked up with Cologne based globe trotting eclectic techno DJ/producer Esther Silex to talk a little about her work, life and the Cologne music scene of today. Esther has recently released her debut Pachamama EP on Studio Barnhus + busy working in her studio. She also took time off making us this incredible mixtape, picking cherries from her wide-ranging record collection.
I made it in the style of a mixtape you used to make for friends. This should be done far more often – it’s such a shame that making a mixtape is really out of date! Just imagine how much you’ll brighten up someone’s day! – Esther Silex
I read somewhere you moved around a lot growing up. Tell me a bit about that and how you got drawn to the club scene and the dj/production business.
That’s true, I’ve already moved houses 25 times during my life! My parents were highly creative and courageous people that loved children and traveling. Therefore I spent most of my childhood between France, Portugal, England and Germany or on the road with my 3 siblings in an old red VW bus. I am so grateful for their way of bringing us up. We never had a nanny or sorts, instead they would take us with them everywhere they went, which meant that we would come along, sleeping in the pram or on the sofas around when they went for a drink or to friend’s houses. It might sound outrageous to some, but children love being around people and being part of their parent’s life. Music and the club scene has therefore kind of always been part of our life. May it be Jimi Tenor, Sade, Sly & The Family Stone or Tchaikovsky, my parents eclectic record collection was always part of our lives at home.
At one point everything kind of broke up – to put it mildly – and my parents both moved away to different places. That’s when I really started digging all the old records they left me. I didn’t have a record player at home so I asked some friends who were running this Bar in Cologne if I could come and listen to the old gems I had found. They loved what I was playing which quickly got me my first gig! From there on I spent a lot of time looking for new music, going from Soul and Funk to Italo Disco and House and Techno. I started to play around with Ableton as well but quickly got very frustrated by just sitting in front of the computer screen. I learned that’s its easier to start making music with a limited vocabulary, the sorts that machines offer. Just 2 years ago I picked it up again, got myself a synthesizer and gave it another go. I felt more mature and ready to transmit my ideas of the sound I wanted to create into real music. My debut EP ‘c’ are the results of this!
Your DJ-mixes are really eclectic and with often unanticipated transitions. It feels like it’s a lot about playfulness and spontaneity. Could this be an accurate assumption and/or please elaborate a bit on how you work with them.
I love being surprised when I listen to other people playing, I love it when they take me on a ride, a ride I wouldn’t have even dreamt of. This what I am doing when I’m playing myself. Originally Techno was rebellion, it was a statement, a look into the future. It wasn’t supposed to please you or to be what you wanted to hear. I want to convey this feeling, this attitude, no matter what kind of genre who would could it. Help open up new strands of thoughts, new lights at the end of the tunnel by overthrowing any kind of musical-boundaries during my sets. This results in my gigs being very eclectic and playful!
You recently released your debut EP on Studio Barnhus. Tell me a bit about how you got picked up by the label.
The Studio Barnhus guys have been playing in Cologne for quite some years, so we’ve ran into each other a few times already. They’ve been on the list of my favorite labels for a quite a while now and as we liked each other instantly it made sense that they would be the first to be able to listen to my music. My friend Matt, who helped me with the release at his studio in Gothenburg and also has a tight bond to Studio Barnhus encouraged me to send it over, they loved it straight-away and we had a deal!
How would you describe the current club/music scene situation in Cologne, do you spot any trends or direction and which clubs and/or music venues can you recommend for visitors.
I would recommend Gewölbe and JackWho in Cologne. Fantastic bookings, location and sound and so many lovely people involved. For the good – there are loads of clubs in Cologne, and more coming, for the bad – there isn’t much interaction between the owners which is a shame as it would be far more profitable for everyone if at least musically wise they would work together. There aren’t enough people in Cologne for the wide offer of dance-nights, which means that big bookings often don’t get the attention they should. Too much going on in one night designed to address the same target group. If you want to hang out at a bar, I can warmly recommend Metronom, best drinks and jazz in town or King Georg which boasts by far the best booking of underground indie bands.
So what’s you future plans ahead?
Im going to be in the studio a lot during the next months. I used to be involved with tons of other projects and have now finally freed myself of all to just be able to concentrate on playing and making music. It’s a big step, and I’m so happy with the decision! Besides that I’m moving to Hamburg at the end of the month to go and live with the love of my life!
11.03 Wuppertal, Klub
12.03 Cologne, Heinz Gaul
24.03 Kopenhagen, Culture Box
08.04 Berlin, Katerblau
Words by Gustav Bagge