Deep in Dresden – Interview on Zero“

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Jacob Korn is Germany’s great new house music hope, combining sophistication and rawness in his productions for labels like Running Back and Dolly. We talk to the up and coming producer about his music, his background in media art, and Dresden’s new Uncanny Valley imprint.

Over the past few years small but highly noteworthy scenes for electronic music have been flourishing in the cities of former East Germany. Labels like Moon Harbour have put Leipzig on the map, Jena became known for its Wighnomy Brothers, and lately things have been stirring in Dresden as well, the home-town of current house music hot-shot Jacob Korn.

Oscillating between the drawn-out deepness of Theo Parrish and the melodic emotionality of Detroit veterans like Carl Craig, every single one of Jacob Korn’s tracks last year has been a highly memorable affair.

Take his slowly grinding ‚Distant Point Of View‚ for instance, a massive track clocking in at just under 14 minutes, his elating ‚Sundaysun‚, which recently ranked among the best tracks of 2010 on zero“, or the laid-back sample grooves of ‚Dance Away‚, his collaboration with Detroit house queen Kelli Hand, which just appeared on the second release of Dresden’s newly foundedUncanny Valley imprint.

Jacob Korn’s creativity doesn’t stop at music however. Holding a degree in media technology, Korn is also involved in a number of interesting media art projects. His thesis project for Dresden’s Trans-Media Academy was mentored by the Fraunhofer Institute’s ‚Father of the MP3‘, Karlheinz Brandenburg, and is called ‚Harmony Universe‘. It is an installation aimed at children, enabling them to create music together using only simple gestures and body movements.

2008 took Jacob Korn not only to Barcelona’s to perform at the Sónar festival’s Red Bull Music Academy stage, but also to Amsterdam, where he presented the ‚interactive dancefloor application‘ IDA on the Picnic multi-media conference. And in 2010, the year Jacob Korn’s music career really took off with releases on Basic Soul Unit’s Left Of The Dial and Steffi’s Dolly imprints, he travelled to Los Angeles‘ prestigious design conference, Siggraph, to present another motion-based installation, ‚MotionMeetsMusic‘.

An Interview with Jacob Korn

Besides producing music you are quite involved in new media art and technology. What came first for you – making music, your interest in digital media, or did these two aspects of your work go hand in hand?

I got into computer music during the mid-90s, starting out with Fastracker and over time trying out any other programs that could make noise somehow. While I was studying media technology I gained some in-depth knowledge about digital media, but I never saw myself being strictly an engineer. I always tried to pursue my passion for music at the same time. So, at the beginning it was strictly music, later came mutual benefits between the two areas.

Most people in the field of media art seems to be drawn towards experimental electronica. You on the other hand have gravitated towards club music. What are your thoughts on this?

Actually I’ve always been interested in all kinds of electronic music. I have worked in the directions of broken beats, abstract hip-hop and electronica, and I have also looked at programming environments such as Max/MSP and Reaktor for the creation of more experimental sounds. For me it all started with techno however – of the harder, Detroit-style variety – and eventually turned towards 4-by-4 again. Releasing under my real name actually signified a return to club music. I had the feeling that I had found a certain sound for myself that I could put my name to.

When it comes to interactive art projects, where I’m often the ’sound guy‘, I try to keep things simple, putting the visitor at the centre of the work, and enable him to create his own soundtrack. The dynamic within an audience, created through dancing or other social interaction, is still the most important criteria for a night out – so why not for once visit an exhibition in your dancing shoes, or a club equipped with an exhibition catalogue?

Jacob Korn: „Why not visit an exhibition in your dancing shoes?“ // photos: Robert Arnold

Your first release appeared on Gerd Janson’s Running Back imprint. How did you get in contact with him? At the Red Bull Music Academy in 2007?

That’s right. When I took part in the Red Bull Music Academy in Toronto, each participant was given the chance to play in some of the city’s smaller and middle-sized clubs after the lectures and workshops. I played a live-set there, which started with 90 bpm wonky stuff and which sped up to around 125 bpm during the course of an hour. The entire RBMA team was present and Gerd Janson came up to me when I played ‚I Like The Sun‘. I also met Stuart (Basic Soul Unit) that night, which led to other projects: My release on his Left Of The Dial imprint, and his remix for my ‚Supakrank‘ EP. I seem to have been at the right spot at the right time…

You are living in Dresden, like fellow house music producers Break SL and Cuthead. How would you describe the city’s music and club landscape?

I’m pretty happy with the way things are developing. There is a number of crews that are doing a good job of promoting parties. The crowds are very grateful, and the nights are usually rather intimate, but can there are also bigger events taking place depending on the acts. You usually meet people at clubs like the ‚Altes Wettbüro‘ or at record store like ‚Fat Fenders‘. This is also where the plan was made to pool the city’s musical potential under the Uncanny Valley banner.

I do see a problem however regarding venues that do not cater for the musical mainstream. Clubs of an ideal size have recently closed, like the ‚Galerie Disko‘ or struggle with administrative regulations imposed on them. 500.000 people currently live in Dresden – half a million sounds like a lot, but the club scene is still relatively small, compared to close-by Leipzig, which is the same size, but has an organically grown, well educated scene. Dresden still has some catching-up to do here, also regarding its label landscape.

Something the recently launched Uncanny Valley imprint is addressing. Can you tell us a bit about that?

Uncanny Valley is our label project, for which house music serves as a basic template, but which will also reach out towards techno, disco, and dubstep. It is further intended to serve as a platform for exchanging ideas between young talents and the old hands in town. When we got the offer to curate a stage with Dresden-based artists for the ‚Nachtdigital‘ festival we decided to make a real job of it. There hadn’t been a shortage of good and unreleased music in our mailboxes, and after half a year of organising and preparation, the first records hit the shops.

At first we intend to present four different tracks by four different artists with each release, but eventually this will change towards traditional artist EPs or even albums. Participation is essential for Uncanny Valley – everyone involved brings his strengths to the project, and decisions are made in the collective as much as possible. We are organising workshops as well as parties, which incorporate visual and interactive art. We also hope to change the way Dresden in perceived from the outside, and I think we’re on a good way.

What can we expect from Jacob Korn in 2011?

I’ve just finished a number of remixes, an EP for Mildpitch, several tracks for Uncanny Valley, as well as a first artist EP for the label, which will be a summery track with nice remixes. I will also continue to play live, for example at Robert Johnson’s or as part of the Uncanny Valley label showcase at Panoramabar. Regarding multimedia projects we’re planning a few projects as well, one of them will be an audio-reactive VJ-set for my live performances, which will be inspired by the work of Raster-Noton and the audio-visual performances of Nosaj Thing und Antivj.

Uncanny Valley 002‚ is out now. Listen to and download more Jacob Korn releases below.