[Above Image Credit: Kasia Kacharko]
Hi Darwin, can you tell us a little bit about yourself, where you grew up?
I’m from Edmonton, Canada, you’ve likely never heard of it and I probably wouldn’t recommend it for a visit. Its got a strong redneck vibe, a lot of cowboys and a winter that will freeze every part of your soul.
Can you tell us a bit about growing up with music and it’s influence on you?
Growing up in Edmonton was pretty uncomfortable because I never felt like I was on a level with people so I buried myself in music to escape. I think the lightbulb switched on around 12, my gateway drugs were Nirvana, Tool and Nine Inch Nails. The moody aesthetic never really left me I guess.
Is music your full-time career and if not, how do you balance your work with music?
I’ve been working in music since 2007 and run a company full time alongside the label, REEF and playing out. Its hectic as fuck but I’m a workaholic so it makes me happy even though I have very little downtime. I live in Mexico in winter, surfing and working remotely so I can detox and be in nature. I think its important to take a break from the pressures of city life + not dealing with the 50 shades of grey winter in Berlin.
[Above Image Credit: Kasia Kacharko]
What are some of your favourite places for finding/collecting music?
I always love to go for a good dig in any second-hand shop I can find. Audio In is my favorite in Berlin and I always get pretty heavy in the Idle Hand’s bins on the floor of the shop. I also love to go to peoples houses I meet off discogs and dig in their collections if they will let me, that way you kind of can corner certain sound aesthetics out of someones taste. The people are usually really stoked to talk about their collections too so its a nerdy and rewarding experience. Online – bandcamp is pretty rad.
How did you come to start Reef?
I felt there was a real disconnect between raving and Bass music in Berlin at the time and I wanted to bring that together under my vision. I was a resident at Griessmuehle and was witnessing these 24-hour parties with really electric energies in the club. I thought it was sad that there wasn’t a space to go to a party like that for bass as most of the parties happening in Berlin finished early so I wanted something more stuck in and fluid. I saw a connection in my tastes from 2 step, to dubstep, to footwork, DnB, even tech house and it was all broken beats – so I decided to take on the challenge of trying to make a night that strung them all together. My friends are also incredible fucking DJ’s and I wanted to give us all a space to play on our own terms.
I’ve heard amazing things about Reef and Griessmuehle. Can you describe to someone who hasn’t been what makes the club and the party so special? How do you stand out in a city with countless clubs and brilliant parties?
Griessmuehle is a special place and my home. That club gave me the room to build my sound and to have a deep understanding of what a proper rave environment should feel like. There is no pretentious bullshit at Griessmuehle, people go there to dance not to be seen. I don’t ever think about “standing out” I just do what I do and hope people come and enjoy themselves.
Are there any especially memorable performances over the past few years of parties that you would like to shout out? Anyone who’s played before that you are desperate to get back?
Kode9 blew the roof off REEF, he to this day was my favorite act we had. It was a very beautiful thing to see a big room in Berlin freaking out to footwork. In all honesty, I have to big up my residents the most though, every single one of them are sick DJ’s. Esposito, Mark, Elissa Suckdog, Enchanted Rhythms, Dan Beaven and Nadjé.
SPE:C has had a steady output over the past three years, seemingly opting for a quality over quantity approach. How did you come to start the label and what are some of the biggest challenges you face?
The idea for the label came to me via a meditation and some killer tracks being forwarded my way from a friend. I wait for the music to come to me and I need an emotional connection to it or I won’t release it.
Challenges… well the vinyl industry is collapsing despite recorded skyrocketing sales… but I’ll save that chat for another time.
A lot of the output from SPE:C and the music you play has a very UK, Bristolian sound. What/who drew your attention to that sound? And how did you come to build your relationships with so many UK DJs including the Livity Sound crew?
I think when you are channeling something you attract it, so Id probably credit that to linking up with like-minded people. I was super late to the bass scene, I think it was in 2012 when I started going to the sub:stance parties in Berlin and was super into all the techno the Bass guys were putting out. Then I went to a Swamp81 party in London and was like… fuck, this music is so much cooler than everything I’m listening to. Insert —> love affair with Bass.
Which small, independent parties would you recommend to someone visiting Berlin?
Version, DBRS, Mechatronica and resom’s nights at ://About Blank.
I also think Room 4 Resistance showcase diverse and interesting bookings, they tap a lot of under the radar talent and give them a platform to shine.
What are some of your favorite labels, DJs, producers and even promoters at the moment?
I’m just gonna shout some DJ’s I love right now: re:ni, Roza Terenzi, Cera Khin, Sassmouth, Savile, Eris Drew… actually, all the smart bar ppl are sick. Evan Baggs and Mark… I could go on lol. Also Dez from Moody’s label was my biggest inspiration this year, guy is a bad ass proper old school turntabilist and was mixing some really insane shit together when I saw him in Detroit.
The next Reef party at Griessmuehle is on 24th November: Reef with A Made Up Sound, Mumdance, Parris, Cera Khin & re:ni
Words By: James Acquaye Nortey-Glover