A couple of months ago I stepped across this weirdly brilliant video shot in Düsseldorf in the occasion of the launch of Don’t DJ latest ep “Authentic Exoticism”. Florian Meyer discuss topics such as #Hybridazation and #ExoticismInContemporaryClubMusic together with PhD Thomas Schwarz. Some of you may be familiar with Florian’s work already since he’s part of The Durian Brothers (which released this amazing trippy and mechanical dub Ep in 2014) and active as Don’t DJ since 2013. A lot of interesting subjects comes out of this 7 mins video, so I’ve decided to go deeper and ask few more – maybe intricate – concepts to Florian. Enjoy.

Palm Wine: I would like to ask you what do you mean by ‘Authentic Exoticism’ but I guess it might be too complex. So, how did the idea of naming this project ‘Authentic Exoticism’ come to your mind?

Don’t DJ: I have never been a big fan of neither the concept of authenticity, nor of the notion of exoticism.
Many people seem to be aesthetically attracted by exoticism precisely because of a desire for the authentic. Also the music I love and the one I produce often finds itself referenced in discourses revolving around exoticism and authenticity. So I was wondering if I could find a way to positively relate to those ideas – and I found it in a very early version of exoticism: Victor Segalen’s aesthetics of the diverse, a fundamental embracing of the other as the other (which is opposed to the experience of the other as a somehow underdeveloped self).

PW: Do you feel that ironic distance can be a good tool to access and fight exoticism today?

DDJ: I never was especially fond of irony, too. Even though some humor is involved in the stuff I do, I think reading it as “ironic” mostly cuts too short and gets in the way of understanding. In fact I am dead serious about what I wrote in the liner notes for the Authentic Exoticism 12” – which doesn’t mean that it is not also funny, but not in an ironic way! I don’t want to waste people’s time by making ironic jokes.

Regarding your question I do not think that irony is a very powerful tool: both sides can conveniently ignore your argument. You can try to ridicule by irony but that mostly hints towards you not having a better argument – thus rendering your position weak. Besides: to those who would have an open ear for your point of view you might sound patronizingly.

However, if your position is already a very weak one, for example the one of an openly suppressed minority, irony can be the best weapon you have. In this situation the gesture of taking up any weapon is already a powerful one. And in this case irony is special as it is hard to address for the authorities, as mostly the ironic act involves taking up habits of the suppressors and thus hitting back can be difficult to legitimize.

My attempt with the Authentic Exoticism was a different one: to research history for alliances with whom I could directly install an Exoticism worth fighting for: The Exoticism which is the spearhead of hybridization against the exoticism of patronizing or condescending romanticization.

PW: Professor Martin Stokes – interviewed by Thomas Burkhalter for Norient’s book “Seismographic Sounds” – speaking about the banalization of the Exotic, declared: “[…] when I’m listening to «multi-culti» music, electronic and sampled, or put together in live, acoustic situations, I’m reassured to the extent that I feel some kind of mutually destabilizing dialogue is underway, and that we are not listening to something where everyone has been assigned a place and is acting a role in somebody’s else drama.” Can I ask what type of dialogue were you looking for in approaching, for instance, gamelan music in your song “Gammellan”?

DDJ: As with Professor Stokes case of the “multi-culti” music, the dialogue is something felt by the listener. It is not necessarily the same dialogue the producer engaged in. Sometimes I listen to a piece I’ve produced some time earlier and become aware of a completely different dialogue underlying the production than what I thought of during the making.

In the case of “Gammellan” as with most of my recent works, the prominent dialogue I see/hear is actually the one between humans and the machine: all the sounds are created by algorithms and so is the rhythm itself! Yet the aesthetics stems from my impression of that musical tradition I’ve referenced in the title but the reference is as loose as the title itself (which is put together of “Gammel” – german for “rot” which is often used slang for hanging around lazy, and “Lan” turkish for “dude” – Turkish and german are the two most prominent languages in my residential district.).

I have no clue of Gamelan, just fascination and deep respect. The fascination of that track for me however is that entrancing rhythm this algorithm generated. It is about letting the machines know that these skills they have resonate with us: I like to take into account the possibility that the birth of the artificial consciousness (call it artificial intelligence if you want) is not so that distant and we humans and the AI will have a hard time understanding each other. It will read through our twitter-shitstorms and watch billions of hours of porn, fail– and cat compilations and try to figure us out. If we want to fruitfully communicate with it, it might make sense to be able to identify algorithms that we can relate to on an intuitive level.

PW: In the liner notes you wrote for ‘Authentic Exoticism’ you say “See what I did? I slipped in a plant metaphor (“branch”) to get a hold of principle structural elements of cultures and how they appear to be interconnected within that culture in a natural way.” Can you expand on this parallel?

DDJ: Sure. I wrote that mainly to point the readers’ awareness towards how our language lets us understand abstract concepts in a certain way by using metaphors we can relate to by experience. In the part the quote is taken from, I wanted to postulate that cultures do in fact have a lot in common with organisms, to prepare the ground for the thesis that individuals grow on cultures and not the other way round. Since we are so fond of ourselves we tend to think that it is us who produce the culture but the other way round is maybe even more true: culture produces us. And it does so precisely through language. The truth that we live in language, that our whole world consists primarily of language, is one which I got aware of on different levels at different occasions. That does not mean that language is all there is but unfortunately we hardly even develop interest to look beyond. And if one does develop that interest it’s hardly possible. And if you make it possible how are you gonna tell anyone about it?

The quote you took works on different levels, which was pretty much the idea for the type of text I wanted to accompany the sound with – it gives most people a pretty hard time I was told, but it is supposed to work together with the artwork and the sound – as an experience. At least that was what we aimed for – but you can as well ignore the aspects that don’t speak to you.

PW: Leaves, tribal logo types, 3D artifacts and a hybrid pan flute live peacefully together on the cover of ‘Authentic Exoticism’. Would you like to add any comment on this artwork? Was it inspired by anything in particular?

DDJ: The Artwork was done by Marco Buetikofer and Lotte Meret. I showed them some covers of old exotic records which inspired me, also Shipibo patterns and holographs. They read the text, listened to the music and worked intensely on bringing it all together in this beautiful way.

Lotte recalls their approach included researching various corporation design from sport, cosmetic and wellness companies which served as material to be deconstructed: “After this intensely humorous research we found a pretty satisfying strategy to clash well-established elements and explore their commodification, therefore to construct a sincere communication between negative social assumptions and positive perverted potential. It was important to connect sound and text and find a visual strategy to communicate questions and critique without any didactic gestures.”

PW: In the symposium you did with Thomas Schwarz you declare that “trance and ecstasy through repetition is one important aspect of exoticism”. Can you expand on this, also considering the way you approached repetition on the record?

DDJ: On the record rhythmic repetition is very strict. Even to a degree that you might consider boring. Yet it is laid out in a very complex multi-metric arrangement which is revealed over time and not easily exposed to the listener (maybe to the very skilled listener, but not to me). This opens up the question if chaos might actually just be simple repetition but at a degree of complexity that is too high for our abilities of pattern recognition.

Exoticism emerged as an european phenomenon and has to be understood as such. It carries within a euro-centric perspective. I tend to think that the protestant reformation of christianity took the ecstasy and trance even more out of peoples lives than christianity had done already. There is a desire to let these aspects back in through all sorts of different channels and exoticism has been one of them, even if it is just the fantasy or recollection of trance and ecstasy. People would read exotic literature, listen to exotic music and watch exotic dancers from the safety of their living rooms and dream of doing wild and strange things with strange looking women and men and eventually loosing all ties with their actual environment and engage in an adventure into the unknown.

Some subcultures actually brought the drug and repetition induced trance back into the realm of experience of western lives and created safe environments where people could go and venture out into the unknown. Culture is always reterritorializing these places and times and there is no ideal setting for engaging in this kind of adventure – that is to say a good setting will only exist temporarily and individually.

This is the case for two reasons:
First — It strongly depends on yourself: your needs, your state of mind, body and reality.
Second — Every rip in the horizon of our collective reality will be knitted together fast in a collective effort using language. This collective effort is the being of culture in the double sense of it’s existence and as a living entity.

In this sense analyzing the record as we do now is precisely what takes away it’s potential to open up something new because we try to explain it by putting together concepts already familiar to us. If there is a potential for something new we will rather encounter it as an immediate experience than reading about it.

PW: I love this quote from Thomas Schwarz: “Resistance can manifest in parody”. Is ‘Authentic Exoticism’ an act of resistance?

DDJ: Could it?!