Epic talk with YOKTO

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We know the duo from our local record store Plattentasche back then and we’re even more impressed when we listened to their debut ‘Two for Wood’ EP on Compost Black Label earlier this year. Causing an international stir over the last months, the duo continues to set dance floors on fire with two Detroit-influenced, epic gems for one of our favourite labels at the moment: Lossless Records. We took the chance and caught YOKTO for an interesting conversation about their approach to music and are honoured to present you an exclusive mix by YOKTO’s very own Christian for our DOGMATIC radio show on Dinamo. Enjoy!


Hello Jürgen! You are doing the interview while Christian delivered the guest mix for our DOGMATIC radio show on Dinamo FM. Can you introduce yourself and YOKTO as your project together with Christian?
Hello and thanks for having us! It’s a great pleasure for us to be featured on Istanbul-based EDHID because we have some good friends from your awesome city.

YOKTO is a project based in Saarland, Germany that started out a few years ago when I decided to get into my music more seriously and was looking to form a group with friends sharing my passion. Christian was that time in the middle of his studies in electrical engineering so although being enthusiastic, he wasn’t able to join up at that stage. After a period of time in which I lived in Berlin for one year, I moved back down south to Freiburg for work and at that time Christian visited me and we talked some more and decided to make a serious start for the project. I brought my equipment to Saarland, where my wife and I are living in a little village close to the French border now and since then Christian and I have worked regularly in my studio producing music together. We work from Friday to Sunday each week and have been working in this way since 2012.


Your biography just states ‘Deep in the Woods’. Is there an association with the eponymous French film or is rather meant to be that you are taking your inspiration from nature?
You are likely referring to the short bio on Resident Advisor. I decided to write this description shorthand when I was living in Freiburg and decided to move deeper into the Black Forrest, where I lived for two years. And yes, right behind my home there was a little mountain called Kandel. I have spent a lot of time walking in that area enjoying nature. Thus, deep in the woods was actually a state of consciousness. However, I should actually change the bio on RA, because the description you can find on our Facebook page is more up to date… Chemin de la frontière!


How would do describe your respective roles in the studio?
It’s my studio, which is located in a dedicated room within the house I live. For our first EP, I did two tracks on my own (‘Nishinomaru’ and ‘Panamax’), and for ‘Two for Wood’ we did the production together. Usually, I try to find interesting sounds and often made some sketches or rhythmic patterns when working alone. Working together with Christian is more like a discussion. We try to fix things together and argue (in a positive way!) which parts have to be discarded and which stay. Of course, we often find new rhythmic patterns, bass lines or harmonics when working together as well. On Sundays once Christian has left, I refine or focus on details in the mixdown.

The project is such a pleasure but it’s important to keep in mind that it is also quite a lot more than working in the studio! In addition to making tracks we are managing social media, graphics for releases and a lot of other things. It can take a lot of energy and focus, especially as Christian and I both have full-time jobs during the week as well as doing YOKTO on weekends. And of course it is such a huge plus to have a partner who supports you and your passion! That is why I want to give a big thank you here to my wife Heike!


Does the characterisation ‘modern house with vintage attitude’ also apply for your studio set-up?
It is important for me to be able to describe our work in one or two sentences when we have finished a particular EP. I think that the process of summarising it in this way gives us a rather good personal feedback and allows a retrospective view on how we responded to any focus we might have taken. For us it is really important that all tracks on our EPs are coherent and that the EP in total is meaningful. The Two for Wood EP felt like modern house with vintage attitude to us. The new Mara EP is more like psychedelic house with a touch of class.


Your first EP on Compost Black received already serious support by Innervisions’ Kristian, Marcus Worgull, Mano le Tough and the Maeve crew amongst many others. Did any of the feedback letters surprise you or included also names that you didn’t expect to play your music?
We were very pleased and surprised when we received the email from Compost Black Label with all the positive feedback to our EP from various people! And we still are (smiling).


Your new Mara EP was released through fine house label Lossless on the 1st of December. How do the tracks ‘Mara’ and ‘Devadatta’ demonstrate the development of your sound since your last EP? Do you think that your tracks are difficult to be remixed by other musicians?
Christian and I have a longstanding interest in electronic music in general and electronic dance music in particular. From the very beginning, this passion and focus was a starting point for our productions. The Two for Wood EP is house and towards the border of techno (modern with a touch of vintage). The Mara EP is definitely more modern (with psychedelic elements in both tracks). There will be a new EP coming early 2015. The upcoming EP will be more techno oriented (a mixture of vintage, modern and psychedelic elements). I am not so sure if it is difficult to remix a YOKTO track. At the moment, we are not looking for remixes of our tracks, but who knows, things may change. In case we are still going in few years, it could be interesting for us to remix our own tracks or even doing a live thing out of our tracks. But at the moment, we are totally focused on producing original tracks. We actually have to limit ourselves since we just have one day a week together in the studio.


How important is social media for upcoming artists?
Communication is something meaningful when creating and producing a track. As a computer scientist, I am not very impressed by the tools that artists use nowadays. Speaking from an artist perspective, however, I can say they are very meaningful. At least for myself, because I don’t live in a major city in Germany. Through social media I can stay in contact with like-minded people who are as passionate as myself about house, techno, ambient music and many more, i.e. it allows sharing a common musical interest irrespective of geographical distances.


Christian co-owned a local record store. Do you think that the owners’ pre-selection influence too much the music style in the region?
There were several vinyl stores in Karlsruhe at that time, so everybody could choose the shop that addresses her/his own taste utterly. Personally speaking, I think that Plattentasche was the best record store in town between 1999 and 2010, with a staff and clientele that visited regularly and were still as passionate as in the beginning when it comes to house. Plattentasche and good house music shared at least one thing in common – having heart and soul and thus enlightening your cognition.


You both live in different cities. Do you think that moving to a bigger city with an established music scene would benefit your musical career?
I lived in Karlsruhe, Berlin and Freiburg. Recently, I moved to a small village close to the French border in Saarland, south-west Germany. A rather vague experience of mine is that irrespective from the spots I lived, half of my expectations have been fulfilled whilst the other half surprised me for good or bad. YOKTO is a Saarland-based project. All our tracks have been developed there. I am quite satisfied how things are going on at the moment. Of course, living in the same town, having more flexibility doing our tracks would be far more relaxing. But sometimes having constraints imposed on the creative process can be very positive and it works very well in our current situation.


A last question to the end. If you have to burn down your entire record collection except five pieces, which would you pick and what memories do you associate with them?
I wouldn’t prefer one track to another. I would take the chance and start from scratch. For me, listening to music is the process of translating combinations of sounds into emotions. To be fair, this could lead to the assumption that listening to music is a permanent misunderstanding or reflection, in case you put it in another way. In both cases, however, this results in very joyful experiences (smiling).

YOKTO’s new Mara EP on Lossless Records is out since 01 December 2014.  You can listen to an exclusive mix by YOKTO’s very own Christian for our DOGMATIC radio show on Wednesday Midnight (GMT+2), 10th December. Tune in via www.dinamo.fm.


YOKTO Compost Black Label Guest Mix


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