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â€œI have to make something thatâ€™s never been made before; have to make the best thing that Iâ€™ve ever done in my life - otherwise it gets stagnant or worse,â€ says producer/DJ Wolfgang Gartner. Whether or not his progressively more maximilist take on electro-house is your bag or not, you have to respect his exponentially steep rise through the electro-house ranks. And Lord knows, youâ€™ve heard it -- or about it: flipping Beethovenâ€™s 5th for the 4 am crowd; eight #1 tracks on Beatport; remix/collabs with Britney Spears, Timbaland and Black Eyed Peas; festival-highlight performances at Coachella â€˜10 and Electric Daisy Carnivalâ€™s â€˜10 and â€˜11.
Where Joey Youngman, the one-time party kid from San Luis Obispo, CA and another-time househead old soul, has been electro-houseâ€™s dark (work) horse, Weekend in America, his debut full-length for Ultra Music, is Wolfgang Gartner becoming dance musicâ€™s one-man parallel universe, outpacing electro-house and outdoing himself.
â€œOne of my mantras is that I have a responsibility to advance the genre. If Iâ€™m capable of doing something Iâ€™ve never done before, I feel like I have to use that ability, because there are not many people who do - or can. I have to push myself real real hard to do it. Thatâ€™s something thatâ€™s really surfaced with this record,â€ he admits. Gartnerâ€™s work ethic is mythical amongst even his most storied contemporaries: Make music all week. Play it out all weekend. His DJ sets - and this speaks to a combination of prolificness, personal taste and a proven track record - are almost entirely made up of edits of his own work. Then again, when you spend 20 hours a day working on music...
â€œMaybe itâ€™s like an insecurity and not being satisfied listening to it over and over, but Iâ€™m constantly asking myself â€˜Could it be better?â€™ It could take me three hours to add this little milisecond sound that nobody but me will ever know is there, but I do it,â€ Gartner says of his somehow self-effacing self-confidence. â€œI get into tweaker mode; Iâ€™m just sitting there tweaking for ten hours straight on this sound or that track and putting everything together and coming up with something else.â€
Take â€œForever,â€ the menacingly not-what-youâ€™d-expect will.i.am collab on Weekend In America. Itâ€™s a track that, with its ominous chord progression and middla-nowhere â€œRIPâ€ shout-out to DJ AM from will, is as unlikely as it is, literally, amazing. â€œThatâ€™s just me sitting with my keyboard and pounding out chord progressions for three days and coming up with a hundred or so and some of them are good and a few of them are great, until finally I get to that one where I can say, â€˜This is something I can spend three weeks making into something,'â€ says Gartner.
He attributes this spike in his equal parts obsessive-compulsive/obsessive-creative disorder in part to his recent move from Austin, TX to Los Angeles. â€œI had one friend in Austin - who I met for breakfast once every six weeks. I woke, up, went to Starbucks, made music, drove to the airport, flew out, and flew home. My studio was in the master bedroom. With my house in California, itâ€™s in a guest room - I decided I want to make the master bedroom for sleeping.â€
There are no love songs on Weekend In America, but there is a new love: hip-hop. â€œStill My Ladyâ€ features Omarion, Dipsetâ€™s Jim Jones and Camâ€™ron trade verses on â€œCircus Freaks,â€ and Eve brings it on â€œGet â€˜Emâ€ as highlights on the album.
â€œRap music is actually all I listen to when I can just listen to music, like in my car. I spend so much time listening to dance music, rap is something I can just enjoy,â€ Wolfgang Gartner explains. â€œIâ€™m not trying to do all these collaborations with rappers to be trendy,â€ he adds. â€œI reached out to each of them to make sure they were down and understood where I was coming from. I honestly like hip-hop almost as much as I like dance music, so itâ€™s a perfect combination.â€
It should come as no surprse then that the track that opens Weekend In America is â€œGet â€˜Emâ€ featuring Eve. Gartner explains: â€œI was in New York playing Pacha so I actually went into the studio and worked with her on the track, looping it, trying stuff out,â€ he says. â€œShe came up with, â€˜Party round the world/All my fly people no nasty girls/Jet planes baby thatâ€™s me/Come on people now sing along with me.â€™ We knew that was the hook. It sounds like something Sugarhill Gang would have done, like it knows itâ€™s this classic-sounding hook.â€
The addition of rappers is all part of the progression of Weekend In America, he says: â€œItâ€™s getting progressively harder to make music without hearing vocals and vocal melodies on it - thatâ€™s what comes naturally to me.â€
Of course, â€œnaturallyâ€ is an evolving word in the Wolfgang Gartner lexicon. As â€œMenage A Troisâ€ proves, you donâ€™t need a vocalist to hear voices. Another of Gartnerâ€™s mantras is that heâ€™s making music for the future, and â€œMenage A Troisâ€ sounds straight outta 2016: fully articulated synth lines trading verses in their own freaked-frequencies like MCs spitting in some as-yet undecipherable tongue. â€œThe thing that makes that track for me is how conceptually different it is for me,â€ Gartner offers. â€œItâ€™s literally just a bunch of random pieces from all over the place and some Fender Rhodes piano and this bass tone and then this vocal snippet that sounds like itâ€™s saying â€˜Menage A Trois.â€™â€
Random, yes, but Weekend In America is nothing if not inspired by Wolfgang Gartnerâ€™s almost contradictory need to evoke his best live moments while pushing himself to top them - and then gig some more to create new moments to top: â€œMantra number three for me is that when Iâ€™m writing I think about the last really amazing show that was f$%ing unbelievable for whatever reason - everything I make is designed for playing out. I get super tired of playing out every weekend, having one day at home. But I know I need to get out there - I have to do it for market research,â€ he says.
As Weekend In America proves, itâ€™s often the tracks that are most obsessed over privately that make the biggest impact publicly. Take the Electric Daisy Carnival festival â€˜11 favorite â€œSpace Junk,â€ caned as it was in several sets, which seems to take everything great and terrible over the last 15 years of dance music - vintage synths, hands-in-the-air trance flutter and dubstepâ€™s modulated stammer, and fits it in one track - often in a single measure, sometimes even a single bar. â€œThatâ€™s the one that haunts me,â€ Youngman admits. â€œThatâ€™s the one Iâ€™m always trying to top.â€ Ironically, itâ€™s also the one that contradicts another Wolfgang Gartner myth: that Youngman is himself a gearhead.
â€œIâ€™m actually working on Windows XP with limited RAM, on Abelton and three vintage synths - one of which I donâ€™t even use anymore,â€ he admits. â€œMy computerâ€™s constantly freezing up and maxing out,â€ he says. â€œBut Iâ€™m more concerned with music than technology. Iâ€™m willing to write the entire breakdown of â€˜Space Junkâ€™ on an old keyboard with a busted arpeggiator that comes out so muddy that I have to deal with the hassle of spending a whole day editing it in 16th notes,â€ he continues. â€œBut the fact that it came out of a synth - and not a plug-in - makes it totally worth the day I spent.â€
Likewise â€œIllmerica,â€ with its long, phantasmic synthesizer chord progression, belie the heart of a composer over the somehow soulful rhythm sections that chug and chew more than chop or churn- Youngmanâ€™s past life as a Kerri Chandler-loving househead living on. That, he says, and his other past life: third grade piano virtuoso. â€œMy parents made me take classical lessons,â€ Gartner laughs. â€œI played in competitions at local colleges with a bunch of other ten year-olds and I think I won a couple of them. Now I couldnâ€™t play to save my life, but that foundation is there.â€
And therein might lay the greatest mantra/myth of the Wolfgang Gartner story and the greatest contradiction of Weekend in America: that itâ€™s just dance music. â€œI would think I would hate whatâ€™s mainstream, but the truth of it is, the dance world makes sense to me,â€ says Wolf. â€œI understand how and why it creates the response that it does with people.â€ That said, as Weekend in America shows in its byzantine soul, kaleidoscopic command of frequencies and impossibly imaginative arrangements, Weekend in America the artist is answering to an altogether higher power and potential, one the Wolfgang Gartner massive has the good fortune of being able to get onto the floor and out of their heads to every weekend.
But for Wolfgang Gartner, the introverted empath spending thousands of hours in isolation making these tracks that will connect him to tens, even hundreds of thousands of people at a time, Weekend In America is party-rocking speaker-freqâ€™-ing as self-realization. â€œI can imagine it and I know something amazing thatâ€™s never been heard before is possible. Occasionally itâ€™s even something I can already hear in my head and thatâ€™s why I have to make this music.â€
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