We already knew him as a part of the electronic duo Vimes. Recently, Cologne-based Julian Stetter engaged our attention making his mark as DJ and producer. Meeting this tall whole blood musician, we were impressed by his enthusiasm for music as a comprehensive profession as well as a complying raison d’être – and decided to keep a very close eye on him and his ongoing projects of bringing sparks of magic to our lives.
Julian, since when are you in Cologne?
Being raised in Stuttgart, I came to Cologne for my studies. I did a major in musicology starting in 2008 and my Masters in music production afterwards – and found it a good side for my musical development since then.
“Cologne is diverse, dynamic, constantly developing and a good home base for me. So I am always happy when I’m back for some time. As long as this feeling does exist, there is no reason for change”
So, nowhere you wanna go, be, move?
For now I am well set here – with our studio in Ehrenfeld, my regular DJ’ing at venues like Jack Who, my musical environment and a lot of projects going on. I am always on the move, travelling to and working at different places. Cologne is diverse, dynamic, constantly developing and a good home base for me. So I am always happy when I’m back for some time. As long as this feeling does exist, there is no reason for change.
You studied music. Is there an artistic background in your family? Have you always been keen on making music?
Not at all. I started playing the guitar at the age of ten and in my teenager years a profound interest in music aroused. Not only in listening to it, but also in making music, accomplishing sounds. I was focusing on a career as a music journalist before realising that I want to invest completely into making music. Within the first years in Cologne, I became fascinated in club culture and I got more and more interested in synthesizers. I had lessons in various instruments throughout the years but I am not professional in none of them. Production is more my field of expertise. It took some time to realise that you can make the most amazing music without all those virtuous instrumentalist skills only few have.
So music is your profession, as well as your field of study and hobby. Also your passion?
Definitely. I take music very seriously. Not only performing as and with Vimes, but anytime I work as a DJ. I want to currently improve, develop and get involved with music. I play very frequently at various places in Cologne, Antwerp and Madrid which I love very much. As kind of a weird contrast to that, I’m still DJ’ing in a few bars in Cologne almost every week. Not mainly for popular appeal, but for almost selfish reasons. Playing music in these small venues for hours and hours is like a big playground for experimentation and also the foundation of what I developed my routine on. And – if I find the time – I am trying to be well prepared for all the venues I play on – no matter how big or small they are and how many or few people listen and dance.
“The key is to reach people with your selection and its arrangement. If you put things together the right way, a song or track that has been heard many times can convey a whole new meaning which might have been concealed before”
How can we imagine you preparing for a job like that?
Well, fortunately not in a way that I got my sets arranged before and just play them. This would definitely work, but is the most boring way of DJ’ing. The approach is much more to not bore myself by playing the same stuff again and again. For me, making music implicates listening to music a lot – to new sounds, mixes, productions. I got involved with the latter a lot. Working with friends and bands, setting up covers, new mixes. The key is to reach people with your selection and its arrangement. If you put things together the right way, a song or track that has been heard many times can convey a whole new meaning which might have been concealed before. On the other hand, presenting people stuff they never heard of but instantly like is really a great experience.
When do you enjoy music the most? How do you feel when making music? Is there any other feeling comparable to that?
You would laugh if you saw me in the studio but when I really feel that something is getting great, I get up and start dancing in front of the computer while nobody is around … producing stuff by yourself can be very satisfying! I am also a fascinated club-goer and there are moments when you feel like the whole place is dancing together and having a common magical experience by listening to something.
Your music sounds mostly melancholic, reflected. Is that your purpose?
This is something that just happens. Even if I try to do something more dancefloor orientated and straight forward, it always has this touch. Probably a touch of personality so there’s no reason to get that out.
Fair point. Was there a moment in your life, where you had enough of music? Or of the night life which comes along with DJ’ing?
I’m just back from a weekend that included two festival appearances and about 2.000 kilometres of driving which I still feel a lot in my bones. Touring is an amazing opportunity but also very exhausting. One other thing about making music that you have to get used to is the fact that there’s mostly a long break between finishing something and finally having it released. It can be quite tough because you mostly have to plan things so long ahead and always depend so much on others and their speed. Anyway – if the stuff you make is quality, it should still be liked the same way even if its release has to wait for months so I probably shouldn’t complain.
Your portfolio is quite broad and you worked and work with a lot of different people. What do you enjoy the most?
I definitely enjoy the DJ’ing as a very independent and experimental way to be occupied with music. And of course our band life with Vimes, being in the studio or on tour. We’ve been touring the US and Mexico in the last years, some parts of Europe earlier this year and will even make it to China in summer. This is really special to us as we worked quite a while on achieving that kind of attention!
Playing at Jack Who in Cologne with all the – sorry for that – “residents” is very unbent too. We know each other well and have the freedom to be creative in mixing and playing together. This experience is very unique from other places. Whereas most clubs stick to strict timetables, we try to keep things free at Jack and mostly end up standing all together in the booth, putting on record after record for longer than everybody would have expected at the beginning of the night.
Among many other projects, I also do some live electronic performance in cooperation with the Kölner Philharmonie twice a year, which is always great! It’s pretty weird, because it feels like the kind of music I’m into, slowly gets out of the subculture and is arriving where nobody would ever have expected it. Imagine the situation of all the well dressed people, sitting in their chairs and watching you putting on drum machines and synthesizers to somehow build up a live electronic rave. It really is very nice to see that happening!
Who was the most inspiring person you worked with till today?
There have been many great cooperators in the last years but very recently I had the chance to play with Midland, a producer and DJ I admire a lot. We were at Jack Who and he asked me to join him while he was playing. This worked out perfectly and was the start of an inspiring, fruitful musical intercourse. We are in touch since then, which I find very flattering! Making music is so much about the right vibes – also on a personal level.
Let’s talk about Vimes for a second: How is the work with your partner? Are there issues between your personal projects and your work as a band?
No, not at all. We are both equivalent partners, always inclined to take care of our band projects and obligations in a thorough way. Our personal projects are more an enrichment to our musical development as a band than a distraction.
“Most of the people come to clubs to dance, to escape reality and I enjoy to contribute to that vacuum in an enriching way”
How is your day structured? Is there a routine or do you miss this sometimes?
Well call it a cliché – and I encounter those a lot. But, no, my life is not structured in a clear way. I work a lot when most of the people have quitting time, my days vary a lot in their routine and appointments and weekends are never free. But no complaints – I take music seriously, but never get sick of it. Being involved in other peoples’ free and quality time is a very precious experience. Most of the people come to clubs to dance, to escape reality and I enjoy to contribute to that vacuum in an enriching way.
Agreed! So what is next? What is your big dream, your next steps and projects?
At the moment everything develops quite well. I have a lot of different and interesting projects going on. We have another release with Vimes set in late summer and I have my first two releases as Julian Stetter later this year. I’m also about to finish an EP I did with a befriended experimental band called C.A.R., where I functioned as a recording engineer and producer. Summer is also fully planned with various DJ sets – among them Christopher Street Day in Stuttgart, which I am looking forward to very much – and several Vimes festival appearances.
The interesting thing when you make music is, that your self-perception completely differs form how the exterior world sees you. From my point of view the status quo is a place where I definitely wanna be but also develop further from.
Perfect – we hope so. Thank you for your time, Julian!
And as a little example of the magic of music Julian choose this little mix for:
Follow Julian’s newest projects here:
Header credit: Frederike Wetzels