Ibiza clubbing: Matthias Tanzmann – Forming character
It was a Monday evening in 1989 when a 12-year old Matthias Tanzmann first got wind of civil unrest in Leipzig, the city where he was born. Glancing out of a tram window on the way to a ping pong lesson, he vividly remembers seeing streams of people running in the opposite direction towards the city. At the time he didn’t know he was witnessing the stirring of a political movement, but by the following day it was headline news: protesters had gathered to demand the collapse of the Berlin Wall, enforced segregation was teetering on the brink.
“It was the beginning of the end, really,” he explains when thinking back on these pivotal moments before the divide between east and west Germany finally crumbled. “There was a demonstration every week and at the start only a few thousand people were attending, but by the end there were hundreds of thousands of people, all marching round the city ring. There were so many involved that eventually the government collapsed and everything came down. Everything broke together.”
In the following months and years – as witnessed by so many cities across the world that have endured some form of societal suppression – creativity began to rise from the cold war scarred ashes. An implosion of industry left many buildings empty, and machines designed to drive economy were replaced by communities of people who came with speakers, ideas and a then relatively unknown genre of music, which pushed progress forward in an entirely different way. “Everything was changing then,” says Matthias. “And techno just fitted perfectly to the time and the situation. That was my introduction to electronic music.”
His teenage years were spent rocking up to raves in his hometown and the nearby city of Berlin wearing a series of outlandish outfits, mixing vinyl on his friend’s turntables, and then eventually saving up enough money to buy his own. Because in techno, youngsters found something concrete they could invest in – it helped form characters and beliefs; it went on to define an era that previously had been plagued by adversity. “For an entire generation of people, techno was an identity they found,” he muses. “Our parents didn’t know what it was, but for us it represented the dawn of something new.”
Indeed for Matthias, it was the start of a now decades long career. A DJ, producer, and founder of Moon Harbour Recordings, that period of uncertainty went on to form foundations for the passion he would dedicate his life to. “It’s been more than 20 years and I’m still finding inspirational moments courtesy of music,” he ponders. “And it’s because I absolutely love what I do.” It’s a profession too, that’s taken him all around the globe, including to the shores of Ibiza where he’s a been resident of Circoloco at DC-10 since 2006, and a common fixture at many other parties. And despite cutting his teeth in a totally contrasting clubbing environment, he admits he warmed to the island quickly.
“At the time everybody was talking about Ibiza and I didn’t really believe the hype,” he chuckles. “But after my first visit I realised there was something true to what they were saying! It’s a magical place.” His first gig took place on the hallowed Space Ibiza terrace back in 2004, and even though many consider that period still rooted in Ibiza’s hedonistic heyday, he admits that even then there were constant nostalgic references to the past. “People were saying Ibiza’s glory days had been and gone, even then,” he explains. “But that’s not exclusive to music and Ibiza, that’s happening all the time, in every aspect of life. Everything was much better when you were younger – because you were younger then!”
Matthias may not be one for mourning the grandeur of yesteryear, but he concedes that in some ways, creativity can be hindered by experience – after all, when you’re fresh to the scene, there are less influences to compromise artistic vision. “When I first started producing music I never thought about what it would sound like at a particular club or how it would be judged by anyone. I didn’t know and I didn’t care,” he affirms. “But now I know how to do things much better technically and that means I’m not as free creatively – it’s much harder to allow things to happen unconsciously, so you have to try and work around that.”
Of course as times passes, inspiration begins to filter in from myriad other angles. Matthias studied at the Bauhaus University, so unsurprisingly he takes a keen interest in contemporary artists like Neo Rauch, Carlos Sagrera, Daniel Agdag and Oskar Rink, although he says fusing the worlds of music and art can also be a complex matter. “There are parallels between art and music but also a lot of differences,” he explains. “For us as DJs, there’s an entertainment side to it so you can’t really play with narrative. It’s difficult to play in an artful way, unless you’re someone like Nils Frahm, who’s an amazing musician – for me ,what he does is pure art.”
So much like techno itself, Matthias continues to soak up diverse cultural facets, and to mature, as an artist and producer. “There are many things that aren’t new to me anymore, but I still find things that I didn’t notice when I was younger that motivate me now,” he says. So does techno still have the power to be revolutionary, like it was all those years ago in Leipzig? “I don’t think it does,” he contemplates. “But to be honest, it doesn’t have to be. Music needs to evolve, but mostly, the new generation needs to find their own identity.” Eyes on the ball, march on. Perhaps the best is yet to come.