WHP FEATURE 058
DJ Seinfeld is not the prankster you might imagine from his artist alias. Over the course of an hour’s conversation, he remains sedate and serious. He often talks of wanting to push himself and break out of the box people may have put him in. When he tells me he's just turned 26, he sighs, again betraying his pensive nature. “It’s an empty age. You’re no longer very young, but not very old either, it’s a kinda in between age.”
Armand Darius was born in Sweden and grew up in Malmö, but speaks perfect English with an accent that would convince you he was American. That’s no doubt a result of learning the language from the same US TV shows he binged-watched following a break up and which gave him his, he thought at the time, throwaway DJ name. Originally the plan was to do a few anonymous releases as DJ Seinfeld to cleanse himself of relationship heartache. But when they took off, he had no choice but to embrace the moniker and run with it. And here we are, only a year later, with Seinfeld as one of the most notable break-throughs of 2017.
THE CLOSING PARTY – MON 01 JAN.
He’s ended the year with the release of Time Spent Away From U, an overtly emotionally album of break-up house bangers that wear their heart on their sleeve. They are scruffy, immediate and unavoidably swollen with sadness. Exquisite samples that tug at the heart-strings characterise many of the tracks and there are plenty of nostalgic Korg M1 basslines, as well as shuffling rubber beats, dusty hits and melodies that manage to somehow be both teary eyed and euphoric at the same time, as if someone is out in the club forcing themselves to dance their pain away.
The album was made entirely on Ableton—even if, as a classically trained pianist, “draw-ing out melodies on a computer screen is tedious”—and has a fuzzy, imperfect aesthetic that artists like Omar S, Actress and STL have favoured for years. In fact, that love of the raw came from first falling in love with Chicago house, Detroit techno and the West Coast electro sounds of Holland as a teenager.
Now lumped in with the likes of Ross From Friends and DJ Boring as lo-fi house, it’s a hype term that’s lead to plenty of exposure and, frankly, unnecessary derision. After all, none of these artists ever refer to their own music as lo-fi, and when it does come up, Seinfeld says he "doesn't enjoy the term, but I completely get it,” adding that “loads of stuff that can be lo-fi is sophisticated and interesting. Take Actress—listening to his albums prove there is so much more you can explore within that palette of sound without it being cheesy or formulaic.”
Either way, it’s clear that Seinfeld has already moved on from the album tracks he wrote a year or so ago. Now based in Barcelona, he arrived in search of sunny weather having spent four years “not seeing the sun once” while studying in Edinburgh. He initially studied for a Masters in Economics, and then worked in IT because the company was looking for a Swedish speaker. He gave it a go in order to stay in Spain, and was secretly rather re-signed to—if not anxious at—the fact that he would be doing a standard 9-5 job at a desk for the rest of his life.
At the same time, he’d been making tunes for a couple of years and uploading them to his Soundcloud. One day he realised that the Media Fury boss had been streaming them so he hit him up. A first release as Seinfeld came in December 2016—a few months after his first ever releases as Rimbaudian, a more classic house inclined alias—and from there the gigs started pouring in. After a few months playing two sets a weekend then rolling up to work dead at his desk at 8am on a Monday, he deiced to go all in on music.
When we speak, he has suspected rave flu and is coming off a first tour of America. “For a long time, doing DJing as a career was a far-fetched dream,” he deadpans. “Part of me never thought it would happen, so it’s been amazing but surreal.” Now though, privileged as he knows he is to be in this position, the realities of the job have started to bite: when paying rent and putting food on the table depends on getting gigs, there is more pressure.
“I was anonymous before,” he muses. “I thought I could do whatever I wanted—I never seek to offend or appropriate or do anything offensive, so now it’s a bit harder. You’re sus-ceptible to criticism on a different level. Even though it shouldn't stop me from having fun, and it doesn’t—you're much more aware about what people might say about you if you do something too silly and goofy. I don’t try and conform to expectations, but everything is more professional now, you have to be someone, but that doesn't stop me or deter me at all, quite the contrary.”
Rather than capitalise on his early success, he seems more keen to prove to the world what else he has in his arsenal. The debut album was a very personal, impulsive, off-the-cuff affair that wasn’t really planned out and was highly specific to a brief period in his life. Already he is working on a follow-up that will show a different side.
“Now I enjoy thinking about it much more,” he says of his more mature approach one year on. “I like to be more thoughtful about textures and sound design, the aspects that were there before that I didn't really pay attention to. Now I'm just trying to expand the pallet of sounds I'm using to create something different. I’m more conscious about the technical as-pect and the concept behind it, and can hopefully rid myself of this pigeon hole so people won’t be too bothered by the name anymore.”
Seinfeld was young when he first went clubbing. Kontra Musik label nights at a club in Malmö were his staple, and were where he’d see acts like Marcel Dettmann serve up heavyweight techno. Oddly enough, though, he never really took up DJing with the passion that many young ravers do, and actually stopped going to clubs a few years before he started touring. It’s for that reason that living in “intense” places like Berlin or London are not for him. All he needs, he says, is to be near an airport. He prefers steady Barcelona life, reading “day dreamers” like Latin American writer Julio Cortázar, drinking a little red wine and enjoying laid back café culture, then going back home to make music.
Right now, he’s in a weird place having just come back from the US tour. “I haven’t made music in like two months up to yesterday. I haven’t really touched Ableton, sat down and done music, which is a weird thing. I was like, ‘oh god, I don’t know what I’m doing any more.’ I wasn’t happy about that, but its just part of the job because I can’t sit on a plane and make tunes. I know that if I’m not able to make music I will be kind of unhappy.”
The other side of that is he now says he feels more conformable DJing in clubs. Though he is “a terrible dancer,” musically he has found his feet after a steep learning curve. He also strongly states that Seinfeld the producer and Seinfeld the DJ are not the same thing. “For one thing, those tunes don’t really work in the club context. When I DJ, I play tracks I would wanna hear.”
He says he “doesn’t have a fixed idea of what I want to be as a DJ,” prefers warm-up sets and is coming out of his shell a little having always been “the insular figure, the guy in the corner,” and enjoys switching between gigs where he plays more “selector tracks” and the ones where it’s all out fun. “I love playing party music, stuff like Haddaway ‘What is Love’ and Faithless ‘Insomnia.’ I don’t play them for the party effect, necessarily; I play them be-cause I genuinely love them. I don't know how young I was when those songs came out, but there are songs like that which people haven’t heard in a long, long time, so when they finally hear them again they go back to where they were when they were young. It’s an in-stant connection.”
On New Year’s Day Seinfeld plays The Warehouse Project. He’s played Manchester a few time before and “loved it. The UK is my favourite place to play in general. People have less inhibitions and even if I’m not happy with my performance, people still love it and lose their minds. You get unconditional support for whatever you’re doing. You’re not playing in front of a bunch of selectors, but people who love a party.”
THE CLOSING PARTY – MON 01 JAN.