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We speak with the seemingly infinitely talented David August about establishing connections with the audience, constantly improving and his collaboration process.
Hamburg native and Berlin resident David August has thrived on the acclaim he received upon breaking through six years ago.
His development can be seen each time he releases a body of work. His classical training mixed with a more modern electronic infiltration has become something of a signature, and along with his talented band he has enchanted audiences on each tour stop he makes.
We chat to him on a break from rehearsing in his roomy Berlin studio.
I read somewhere that you’d find it difficult to express yourself musically without the ‘live’ aspect. Can you tell me about your live show?
Things have certainly changed recently. My personality and everything else too. It’s not that I’m actively thinking about it, but playing live just feels right. My point is, I just play music. I just had a DJ tour, where it was sort of a hybrid because I was playing Abelton, and at the end I was playing 80 per cent of my own stuff. Even when doing the DJ thing I always felt the need to put my own productions in there.
It’s a good feeling knowing that no one has these tracks but me when you play unreleased stuff and edits.
It’s much more interesting to present a unique set list. Every good DJ plays a friends new track or an upcoming release on a new label, or whatever, that’s where DJing becomes interesting.
I see myself on stage with a band though. Something I like to do is to express myself with more than one genre, so with a band we can explore more styles of music. The concert circumstance allows you to maybe have a little more tolerance within the audience.
You mention the audience… Is there more of an emotional connection when you’re playing live?
Well it’s very dependent on the set times. If you play a DJ set at 7pm at sunset and there are 200 people in front of you it can be quite intimate and emotional, but if you’re playing at 3am with probably 70 per cent drunk people it can maybe less emotional…
Or maybe more?
Yes maybe more. But yeah, it does depend on the circumstances. On one tour I was playing with a harp player, a guitar player and a drummer, similar to the set up at Body&Soul but without the harp. So we were playing in concert venues in the evening at 9 o’clock latest and we had quite beautiful venues. Quite luckily. People go there after dinner, they’re having a drink listening to your music and they set up their mood for his listening session.
The connection is totally dependent on lots of factors, including the city your in and its culture, and of course the performance you put on.
Do you take a conductor approach to you your music due to your classical roots?
No, I don’t think I’d describe myself in that way. Of course my first contact with music was classical, and I’m sure somewhere sub-consciously I’ve put my influences into my live performances, but I don’t see myself as a conductor in an orchestral setting. That probably goes too far.
So, a lot of your work features collaborations with vocal artists. Can you give me a bit of an idea of the process of finding who to work with?
I had this track with a Greek singer, who was actually the harp player from the last ensemble tour, named Sissi Rada.
We put this track out on Soundcloud last year, but in terms of collaboration we were friends. I really wanted to do a track with her, singing in Greek. I wasn’t influencing her a lot, but I was trying to get her to implement all of the tragedy of the country, financial and otherwise, into the lyrics and music.
“Η πατρίδα μου μαραμένη χώματα και θάλασσα και φρούτα Στοιβαγμένη σ’ αεροπορικά εισιτήρια Μαζικά συλλαλητήρια Αέρα σου στρωσα και λούσα
Η πατρίδα μου αμβλώνεται και κουράζει με αλλονών τύπους χώματα και θάλασσα και φρούτα συμφέρει.”
The whole situation in Greece makes it quite difficult for young people to get something out of their lives, so that came across quite naturally in that music.
I trusted her from the beginning, I was sure it would be great.
It’s obviously important for you to have weight behind the lyrics. That gravitas can often be hidden when it comes to lyrics in electronic music.
For me any kind of music should have meaning. But it’s not important to make it obvious.
My latest EP was released on Ninja Tune’s Counter Records and that had a lot of messages in there. But I put them for myself in there. It’s something very personal.
You’re putting together a new album at the moment. Was it more daunting producing ‘Times’ in 2013 than it is now?
I can’t really tell yet, because I’m not done. I have some different sketches and even some tracks that might go in there. But it’s going to definitely be another approach.
Back then I just wanted to make the album. I wanted to have more material out there. Now I want to produce an album more so to tell something, and more to have the need of expression and not just to have music out there.
I didn’t take enough time… Funnily… back then. I was producing it quite fast and I was also by myself in the planning. It was quite stressful, but this time I want it to be more natural. I want it to be out when it’s done, not earlier or later. It shouldn’t be a record to dance your shoes off at home to, but it will be a record that will translate really well into a live show.