2014 was a good year for DJ/Producer Jan Blomqvist. From his hometown of Berlin, his signature introspective vocals and lush, atmospheric beats have made him something of a household name in the dance music world; and his quirky sense of style has won him media support from underground radio stations though to Vogue Italia. From a humble beginning playing grungey guitar riffs with his band in a caravan in the woods to crossing over into the electronic world and owning the stage with his impressive live show at huge open air dance festivals; Jan is a musician in the truest sense and a master of his craft.
We asked Jan if he felt music was always in his blood...
I guess my career started early,’ the renown DJ told us ‘,I sang a lot as a kid and my parents were always playing nice records, classic rock, mostly. They gave me a guitar and I eventually started a little band. Rock music just started to get boring at some point and I think a lot of people would agree. I mean rock sounds from before 2000 were great, but then it kinda fizzled out and all we were left with was The Strokes pretty much. Electronic music was new and interesting, so many possibilities and much less borders. The party scene was way more alive and the sounds were way more massive. It was also more tolerant, more fun, more intense, and sexier. Electronic music became more rock and roll than rock music basically. And that’s still what kids want when they leave their homes. I still want it…
Does that make him a kid still, we enquire?
(He laughs) I would be ok with that!
WSI: Tell us about 2014, for you?
I think it was a great year. Sometimes I felt super exhausted but it makes me happy if it comes from a good reason. So many highlights, it’s hard to name them, but the gigs with my band in the summer at amazing festivals like Fusion, Sonne Mond Sterne, Think Festival and Bmylake were really fantastic. Also the club gigs in Istanbul, Paris, Berlin, Budapest, Zürich, and Amsterdam were great... I played about 100 live gigs, which is almost too many for me, but I loved it. It's addictive actually. But in the end it keeps me away from producing new tracks and working on my album which is a bit frustrating. So I realised that it is always really important to balance your life. Especially if you are working creatively you have to be super disciplined and organized to stay focused on the mission. So that's exactly what I will try to focus on in 2015. Finding the right balance.
WSI: What does 2015 hold?
The most important thing for me is to release my album finally. And I really want to play more gigs in North America. We are working on a North America tour already and I hope it's gonna happen in 2015.
WSI: When were you last in London?
I played a live concert in London with my band in January 2014, one year ago. Feels like last month though. Crazy how fast time is running. I really need to go back soon. It was a great night. My gig there was a bit stressful however because the club was not made for band concerts and we had not enough time for soundcheck, but in the end we made it somehow with the team there. They were really great actually. The audience was also fantastic… I like the vibe in London, and the dance music scene there is really strong. That night I randomly bumped into some old friends from Berlin who moved to there some years ago. For a Berliner it will be always a bit strange that the parties end so early in London but I think I could get used to it if I would live there…
WSI: As a talented singer and guitarist who performs a live electronic music show, do you feel that today’s dance music production is lacking in ‘real instrumentation’?
Maybe people would say that everything is getting more electro and using more electronic samples... But I don't know. Maybe after a few beers I would have a lot of things to say about this, but maybe I wouldn't really mean them!’ (He laughs) ‘, At the moment I would personally say I use more real instruments and live recordings than electronic sounds and samples in my music. But I remember when I started going to clubs I noticed there were really no live instruments in the tracks. Something was really missing there. So I had this intention from the start of my electronic productions to bring back pianos to the club, not like old house music though, more like packaged in clean melodic techno. Also the techno and house basses for me were way too static, so I thought about layering them with my guitar. The guitar is still an amazing and useful instrument for me, the attack especially and the sounds of fingers on the strings. And I use my voice a lot like a synth. Its better just to use what you have I think and try to make beautiful sounds and not worry if it’s real or analogue or digital…
WSI: It's hard to box your music into a genre, is this crossover sound something you actively try to create?
No I guess it’s just something that happens. But to have a 'crossover sound' there needs to be first borders to cross over and for me the normal borders between music styles are not real borders. Maybe they are just friends inspired by each other, not people trying to live inside a border, (he chuckles) I just try to use the sounds and instruments that best fit the vibe of my track.
WSI: Having toured extensively over the last few years, where is the best place in the world you have performed..?
I always enjoy playing on Corsica. I am really in love with all the beautiful nature there. Such big mountains for such a small island. Or Vision Festival in the Swiss mountains. I love to go for long overnight hikes when I can. Unfortunately after gigs I usually have to leave the next morning and don't have time. But I make a note in my mind and when the album is done I will make a little tour of the nicest spots I have been to…
WSI: Your single ‘Time Again’ – which was a huge hit last summer - is about failed relationships in your hometown of Berlin…?
Yes, the track is about how people continue to repeat mistakes and how we stay in routines which do not help us. Everyone comes to Berlin expecting something fantastic, which they usually find because they are already in that mentality that it is there. So people get cosy here even though maybe they would be doing better in another city maybe. Like a relationship that should have ended at the first breakup.
WSI: Is there a musician you’d love to collaborate with?
(Enthusiastically) ‘,Thom Yorke. Damn his new album is pretty good. Unstoppable. I wonder what he eats for breakfast…?’ (He muses) ‘,But I am currently listening to Daniel Bortz, David August, Nu, Acid Pauli, Christian Löeffler and Lake People…’
‘Time Again’ by Jan Blomqvist is released on Soundplate Records