Wolfgang Gartner has been a powerful force in dance music for over the past decade. As you’ll read in our interview, he’s been making music since 1993, though his Wolfgang Gartner alias has only been active since around 2008. Nevertheless, over a decade of experience and coming up through the boom that was EDM and mainstream festivals give him a level of insight into the scene that only a handful of other producers today can claim.
As he slowly makes his return to live performance this year, we’ve gotten an exclusive interview from the man himself that goes over history and the future, trends and stability, and so so much more. Wolfgang Gartner doesn’t mince words.
Head to the bottom, or click here, for an exclusive contest and the chance to win a pair of tickets to Kingdom Rave in Georgia, where Wolfgang Gartner will be headlining.
I read once that you felt you had a responsibility to advance the genre of dance music. Do you still feel this way? How do you feel you are doing that on a regular basis?
I wouldn’t phrase my mission statement like that anymore, no. Although I think I’ve played a part in advancing dance music with my contributions already. . . . . by influencing other artists who have gone on to influence others, and so forth. At this point, the state this music is in, I guess the way to phrase it is, “you have to play the game if you want to win.” And part of this game involves doing things that just aren’t me, and that have nothing to do with the actual music. To move the needle of dance music in 2016, I would have to do a lot of other stuff to try and push the music to the forefront and to make people hear it above all the other noise that’s out there right now. And it’s about the noisiest it’s ever been. I would say my mission statement now is simply to make music that I love, stay true to myself, and not worry about what anybody else is doing.
You seem to always try to one up yourself – to take your music in new and interesting directions. What do you think the future holds for your sound? Do you think you are on the forefront of future changes in the genre as a whole?
It’s so difficult to anticipate any of the future changes that are going to happen in dance music – who could have predicted Tropical House or myriad other sub-sub-genres that are happening right now? So I don’t know if I’m on the forefront or the next wave or whatever, because it’s impossible to know what that will be. As for what the future holds for my sound – the album (10 Ways To Steal Home Plate) was a hint of sorts. There are 3 songs on the album that I would say are representative of what I’m doing right now musically: “Hurricane Slurricane,” “Faded,” and “Y.W.M.O.”. In essence it’s a sound more based in soul and funk and house, which are my original roots from decades before electro house came to be. That’s what I’m currently feeling and making.
“It seems to me like a lot of people are scared right now…”
Who are some artists that inspired you at the beginning of your career – Do they still stand as strong influences? Who are some artists that inspire you right now?
The beginning of my career was 2003 technically – that’s when I started making a living from producing full time. So the people influencing me then were DJ Sneak, Mark Farina, Derrick Carter, and a lot of smaller producers. Then in 2008 I started the Wolfgang Gartner alias – and the people influencing me at the beginning of that were Mau5, Fedde, the Swedes, and a lot of Toolroom releases. Nowadays? I don’t really derive inspiration or influence from new dance music. I derive it from other sources. My personal playlists are a mix of a lot of classic disco, some old 90’s house mixes, the new Anderson Paak album, Hiatus Kaiyote, all of Kendrick Lamar’s output, and a lot of other music that has live instrumentation and strays outside normal genre boundaries.
Are there any artists you’d like to collaborate with in the near future? Why?
Yes, but most people who read this probably wouldn’t recognize these types of names. A lot of them are musicians from disco or soul bands who were active in the 70’s or 80’s and are currently doing work as solo musicians. I’m incorporating more live instrumentation into my music and the only thing I can play is keys – so I’m definitely looking forward to working with some guitar players, bass players, and other multi-instrumentalists who can bring a level of authenticity that a computer can’t. I’d love to work with Thundercat for example, or Patrice Rushen (even though we both play keys), Leon Sylvers, people who are masters of their instrument or their craft.
As a greatly respected and widely admired artist, what do you think sets you apart from other artists in the game right now?
It seems to me like a lot of people are scared right now, and clinging to their spot on the EDM totem pole by making what they think people want them to make, and playing what people want them to play. I just kinda don’t give a shit. I suppose that’s what sets me apart. I’m making what I want to make, playing what I want to play, and by doing that, I will attract the people that like what I’m doing, and not the ones who want something else. Seems logical, right?
Are you ever influenced by “trending” patterns in the industry? Does your team ever try to make you cater towards what seems to be mass appeal?
Definitely not, especially to the second question. My team is one of the rare ones that will never tell me to make something that’s popular, or play more of a sound in my sets because it’s popular – they know that if I do something that I don’t like, I eventually burn out on it. We’ve learned this lesson together over many years. So they actually encourage me to do stuff that doesn’t necessarily bring in the big bucks but that I enjoy – because they know it feeds my soul, and when my soul gets fed, the music is better.
Do you think you’ll ever drastically change your sound? If you were to go in a super different direction for fun – into which subgenre would you go?
I did drastically change my sound already in 2008 as a lot of people know, when I started the Wolfgang Gartner alias. Going straight from producing funky underground house music to making electro and progressive. And yeah, I’ll probably do it again, but keep the name. Maybe this disco house tip that I’m back on right now will be my next direction, I can’t say for sure yet. But that’s what I’m making right now. I make a lot of instrumental hip hop tracks too, which is a completely different headspace and approach, and some straight up Soul/R&B stuff too. You learn a lot when you go outside your normal boundaries and I think it improves you as a music producer or musician.
What does the future hold for you—both in the studio and out on tour?
I’ll be releasing this music that I’m working on right now as a single or EP or something, and I think we’ve booked about a dozen or so DJ gigs so far through this summer. So, making lots of music and playing some gigs. I’ll be in the studio a lot more than I’ll be on the road (or in the air, technically).
What are your “bucket list” goals? Any festivals or venues you haven’t played yet that you’d like to?
The Middle East and India are really the only two pockets of the world I haven’t played or traveled to yet, I think I’d like to either play there or maybe just go there on vacation, but I’d really like to see those two parts of this Earth before I kick the bucket.
Lastly, just for fun – name one thing your fans don’t know about you.
Hmmmm. I haven’t left my house in the past 9 days except once to get food, which is completely routine practice for me.
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