“We’re living in times when numbers count a lot. I think a lot of people compare DJs by that measure only, but I don’t believe in digits. There are so many good DJs, but when I look up their Facebook pages, I can’t believe that no one knows them.”
An hour into Tennis’s set at Job Jobse’s Drukpers Weekender at Trouw, the room is still coming to terms with what had just occurred: three hours with Barnt that sounded like nothing he’d done before. As Daniel Ansorge, he returns to the booth. ‘Are you ready?’ He asks. ‘I’m sorry, I just needed a minute to gather my thoughts.’
We weave through the bowels of the building and coming to a door, he freezes. ‘Chappell’, from Magazine 13 (released November 24), is pounding through the door, and Optimo are on the decks beyond it. We enter the room, Barnt leaps onto the table and the dancers lose their shit.
Some time later, we’ve recovered. We find a quiet place and sat down to chat.
By Henry Cornwell
What’s it like to open a door to find Optimo playing your record to a room full of ecstatic people?
He smiles. I don’t even have the record yet. I saw it for the first time down there a minute ago. I have been downstairs the whole hour after finishing my set, and I just came up to pick you up. So if we wouldn’t have gone down at exactly that moment, I would have missed it. It was crazy. I think maybe Optimo is my favourite DJ. He pauses. I mean probably. I don’t like superlatives. I don’t like rankings, in music it’s not important. But if I would have to choose, I probably would choose them.
It’s strange to say, but to spurn the idea of ranking musicians seems countercultural at the moment. In that way, it’s not a surprise to hear that from you.
Does it? I know there’s a lot of pressure today for DJs to get Facebook likes, for example. I think a lot of people compare DJs by that measure only, but I don’t believe in digits. There are so many good DJs, but when I look up their Facebook pages, I can’t believe that no one knows them. We’re living in times when numbers count a lot, and that’s why I try not to say Optimo’s number one. I try just to say I really like them. Too many rankings right now, and it’s not really helpful. Music is a technique, you can’t measure it.
And if you try to, you lose what makes it special, right?
You lose the essential thing. Totally.
That tendency must make it uncomfortable to release an album.
To be honest, I don’t really like to talk about my album. So often I will read a review and the guy who wrote it will just not understand. I will read it and strongly feel this guy just doesn’t know about Dadaism or surrealism, and he’s taking too seriously what I’m saying. I know in the end, I’m the expert in technical things. If they ask me this kind of stuff, it might get lost in the dialogue or the translation and we don’t gain anything. The outcome, the review, will be a false document of what I actually did.
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Tell us more about the Dadaist vision that you take to the recording studio and your sets.
It’s like when Optimo played ‘Chappell’. As an intellectual or shy guy or whatever I may be, to dance on the table might be Dadaism. Because to myself, I am this boring guy. I think, “you have to dance on the table, right now.” If it’s super embarrassing, it has to be done. I would be embarrassed if I was just going by the emotions. But once I’ve said, “It has to be done”, it’s a mission. No matter how stupid the mission is, “Let’s do it.” When KLF burned a million pounds, they said, “It’s a mission.” If they hadn’t thought it was a mission, they really would have felt really bad about it. And that’s what is related to Dadaism. But again, I wouldn’t say I’m influenced by Dadaism, but I’m…
Yeah, something like that. It makes my life easier. Because, if I wouldn’t be like that, I would always be ashamed of things. I wouldn’t have dared to do “Geffen”, because I knew people were going to hate it. On Youtube, they hated it. They think, “Did a child do that?” “Why didn’t he finish the track?” Through “Geffen”, I’m saying “No. This is the world, I don’t have to behave the way people think I should behave.” That’s what Dadaism was about. They opposed so much the idea that you have to tick like people want you to tick. But when I talk about Dadaism, I mean it more as a broad concept. I don’t really refer to the historic movement in the 1920s and ’30s; for me it’s more of a state of mind. Maybe I should be using another word.