We talked to Affin’s boss and one of the most emblematic faces of deep, atmospheric, and cinematic techno
With more than 20 years making history, Joachim Spieth is one of the most intriguing faces of the electronic scene. He forms one of the most fascinating cornerstones of techno where productions go beyond the established norms and where experimentation and inner connection with the world prevails.
Now, we are privileged to share with you this exclusive interview we did with Joachim in which he talks about his early influences, his musical and creative process, the inspiration behind his latest works, and more.
Affin’s boss debuted more than 20 years ago in Michael Mayer’s Kompakt and then was recruited over the years by idyllic figures such as The Orb, Sven Väth, John Peel, or Martin L. Gore, to name but a few. His albums such as “Irradiance”, “Terrain” or “Reshape”, demonstrate the sharpness with which he perceives his emotions and captures them with great passion in his ethereal musical creations.
The German producer’s music goes beyond the lyrical. What he doesn’t put into words translates into solemn, existential, futuristic, and sometimes enraged sounds. His productions represent the deepest, most atmospheric, and cinematic techno you can find.
You are one of those artists who are not afraid to play with rhythms and sounds, you have a fascinating stylistic diversity. Tell us, when did your interest in sounds begin? Can you mention some of your most transcendental experiences with this?
Thank you very much for your compliment. Music has been with me since I can remember. My older brother was probably the first to expose me to different kinds of music. I was absolutely interested from an early age and saved my pocket money to buy records.
At a young age, I moved from instrumental hip-hop to electronic music… First Warp records and mostly electronica/ambient, but also techno in its various forms. Before that, I had already played acoustic guitar and bass, so it wasn’t too far to save money to buy electronic musical instruments. Early on I appreciated the independence and other musicians being able to make my music alone (after first band attempts were more or less unsuccessful).
How did the city where you were born, where you grew up, the places and clubs you visited, or the people who passed and are in your life, influence the construction of your musical personality? Do you consider that they were very relevant?
The city itself had rather less influence, except that the radius of activity was manageable, which then led to more time for music. Nature was definitely a factor, even if subconsciously, in the beginning, something that I incorporated into my music (later more consciously).
There were outstanding events in the region at that time, so I was able to find my musical preferences. At that time I had a few good friends, and we shared knowledge and interest in music, borrowed records, and played records together at home.
Of course, such an exchange still exists today with a handful of friends and acquaintances. Still, my activity has transformed in the last decades in that I spend much more time producing, conceiving and distributing music (even before I founded my label Affin).
Do you have any established process or routine to find a new sound? How do you find them, organize them, and materialize them?
I don’t have any real routines, I rather try to find things that motivate me by experimenting. for sure there are procedures or software (plugins…) that I use all the time, but I always try to find new ways for myself, so that the process of music production doesn’t always work the same way.
I am very much focused on sampling/multisampling/resampling because from my point of view, it is very exciting to work with and new things always come up, that I can respond to by using them. I enjoy the seemingly unpredictable.
Melodies are almost always going to appear, how do you define the direction of the melodies in your tracks? How do you find the structured unity of musical sense for your productions?
Melodies are feelings. I’m a very emotional person and probably for this reason I have a strong tendency to work a lot with melodies. I let myself be guided by my current mood. If it sounds authentic to me, I can feel it.
What has been the track or album that has been the most difficult for you to make in terms of inspiration, creation, and development? And why?
My previous albums were not created as concept albums, there was no pressure to finish anything. Irradiance was definitely a big challenge because it was my first time exploring the album format. Before that, I had a lot of respect, at which point you could call a work an “album”.
Some of the following albums were actually intended to program a live act, and after a while, it turned out that there was another one, after all, that would become an album, and the live act was postponed. Meanwhile, both exist, a new album as well as an ambient live act.
Do you prefer albums as a single element in sequence, a single narrative, or the sum of songs where each track is a world apart?
Each album represents a certain period of time where things happen that I remember later… I see albums retrospectively as auditory diaries. I would be lying if I said that everything is made completely coherent and then stands in a row as an entire story.
Every track contains a multitude of decisions and omissions, so there would always be so many more possibilities to do something or not… but what I can say for sure is that there comes a moment when you have some pieces together that from my point of view, they sound coherent and round, and then are perceptible as an album.
Let’s not forget about emotions, how much weight do emotions have in your creations? Do you consider them relevant both for you and for those who listen to your music?
Music has to touch me emotionally, otherwise, it’s not suitable for my taste. it’s exciting that different people perceive music very differently. what sounds cold and rough to one person may seem natural to another.
In 1999 your music was turning towards house grounds, then in 2003/2004, you went to more industrial grounds and years later to minimal. Since 2015, we feel that your music revolves more around deep, atmospheric and cinematic, what is your opinion about your own musical evolution?
The focus of my music has always been readjusted, but I did ambient 20 years ago as well besides other styles I tried out a lot and followed some paths over a few years since 2015 I’ve been back on the path of my musical coinage returned, but with the production-technical experience of more than a decade.
I think it would be boring for me if I tried to do the same thing today as I did in 1999. it’s exciting to get down to things and try out new things that keep your own excitement, and many things that you think about Appropriate to help downstream with other sound designs. From my point of view, it’s an interplay.
We like to talk about music, but we don’t forget that there is a human being who creates them. Nowadays, do you consider that there is a balance between your personal life and your life as a DJ/producer? What do you do to make that balance work?
Frankly, it’s not that easy. A large number of my contacts and friends are active in the music sector, which I think is quite normal after such a long time. nevertheless, I also have friends who only see me as a person, not as a Dj, musician, or label owner. sometimes I have to make adjustments, my passion for music is sometimes rampant, and being able to let go is not always my strength but I don’t see that as a bad thing.
What I need almost every day is a walk into nature to open up space, to break out of my own world of thoughts, and thus enable a certain cut. this has proven to be a very good way to relax in recent years, along with other things to balance things out.
What is your top 5 best own tracks of all your musical career? If you don’t have a definite list, you can tell us some of the ones you consider most important for you.
I don’t have a specific ranking, once a track is made and released, it’s done. The focus is more on the future, on tracks that are currently being worked on, on tracks that will be released in the next few months.
I think it’s cool when you can listen to a track years later and still not find it boring.
There’s the “You Don’t Fool Me” track from my early days, which was also the opener of the first Pop Ambient 2000 and was later licensed for The Orb’s “Back To Mine” compilation. I think it’s timeless.
Within the last decade, Luciferin from my Irradiance album has certainly been a breakthrough, because it charmingly fuses my preference for ambient pads with hypnotic techno.
Or Sparsha from my Ousia album, recently interpreted by alva noto (featured on the recent Reshape album)… I’m sure there are a few more just check out my “The Memoir” mix that was released the other day, it contains a collection of tracks that have been created since 2015, and the material fits together quite well in my opinion.
We loved “Terrain”, what was its creative process, since when were you working on it and what were your points of inspiration to create it?
Thanks first of all! The album was created in a time of restrictions, in relative seclusion. It just fell into place, piece by piece. Everything was done live in Ableton live, and a lot of field recordings were used… Nature was a source of inspiration. I also worked a lot with time stretching, a lot of multisampling, a whole range of filters, special EQs, and plug-ins for dynamic processing. Nothing spectacular, really, as far as the tools of the trade are concerned. The magic comes from emotion, and there’s no plugin for that (yet), except my own.
We are in love with “Reshape”, your work within the album as well as the richness of style and personality of each producer make this compilation unique, how was the process of selecting artists to release the singles? What is your own perception of the LP in general?
It is a compilation of people whose work I appreciate. Through the process of years of selecting for releases on the Affin label, I think I’m confident enough to make a selection that fits together on an album.
I think it’s a well-rounded album. Everyone contributes their own musical character, but they have all respectfully taken on the material, which means that you can identify both musicians per track. I had a wish list at the beginning with a few more names on it, because it’s never clear who can take the time and who might not be interested. Fortunately, I got positive signals from most of the people I asked.
In summary, the album was a gift to myself for the years of label work. So besides some past and future label artists, I was also able to win a few “dream candidates” like alva noto or ASC for my music, which made me happy.
Many young producers aspire to be recognized DJs; however, they are afraid of not making it because they have a very underground, new style, or something that they feel the majority will not like, what message can you give them?
I believe that it is best for your own credibility to do what you feel. Whether you are more or less successful in the music market should not define the style you represent. everything else I would rather put in the entertainment category. In short, it’s a question of one’s own motives and goals.
This year has been a busy one for your work as a producer, what does 2023 hold for Joachim Spieth? How do you perceive the next year will be for your career?
To be honest, at the moment I don’t know exactly what will happen, but that’s life, right? That’s why I’m looking forward to it because it will certainly remain exciting and challenging at the same time. In the label area, there are already a number of projects and collaborations that are ready.
Among others, an interesting variation of my music by Claudio PRC, a split 12″ with ASC, a project with Markus Guentner, and a new edition of an out-of-print album of mine. There will definitely be exciting things, I’m sure of that… and for the rest, that remains to be seen.