‘Versions’ – the remarkable first instalment in a brand new mix concept from Berlin-based imprint Innervisions – is released today, September 16, courtesy of German DJ and producer Aera. Embarking on a captivating excursion of left-field electronica, trip-hop and down-tempo sound palettes, Versions sees the Applied Magic label head revisit and reimagine some of the most notable records from his extensive back catalogue, as he delivers an impressive opus of edits that explores the more experimental side of his diverse sonic repertoire. We sat down with the man himself to find out more.
WWD: Hey Ralf, thanks for taking the time. How are you today?
I’m good thank you! Thanks for having me!
WWD: You’ve just released your brand new ‘Versions’ mix project on Innervisions — a marked departure from your usual dancefloor oriented records. Can you explain the concept behind the new release?
The concept was to release something a little bit outside of our comfort zone, while still having a connection to what I’ve done before on Innervisions. So I came up with the idea of reworking some of my old tracks into a home listening friendly mix. It was a pretty loose idea at first, but once I started working on it I knew pretty quickly in which direction I wanted to take it.
WWD: We understand it was finished in just a few days. Can you talk to us about your artistic vision and the creative process that went into making the record?
First, I started revisiting my old tracks to see which ones might be suitable. Once I found a track that felt promising, I approached it almost like a remix, with the main constriction of it being 105bpm. To give the whole thing a coherent feeling, I used a lot of Funk and Soul drumbreaks, like in the old days. My studio at that time had a beautiful view of the Mediterranean sea, which definitely influenced the work, and it almost felt like the music wrote itself.
WWD: You mention the record is inspired by the likes of Massive Attack and DJ Shadow. For you, what’s the greatest Trip Hop record of all time?
Whoa. Only one? But it has to be Endtroducing by DJ Shadow. I still listen to it every once in a while and discover something new. Thanks to my old buddy Till Von Sein for hooking me up with it as a birthday present back in the days.
WWD: You have worked quite closely with Innervisions over the course of your career. How did the relationship come about?
I spent a winter on La Gomera in the Canary Islands in 2014. During that time, I wrote a ton of music, which I compiled into a super long playlist and sent to them. Maybe not the smartest move, but it worked for me. They signed my first Innervisions release “Freak Wave” from that first demo. We’ve been in touch ever since.
I originally got their contacts while working at Wordandsound, which was (and still is) one of the biggest vinyl distributors for electronic music. I also had my own label Aleph Music at that time, and I knew that they were playing my stuff, so I felt pretty confident. It was also one of the first times I’ve ever sent a demo to anyone. Before, I was always trying to do everything on my own, so it felt amazing to finally find like minded people to work with.
WWD: Going back to your formative years, what were the first records you can remember being into, the ones that really made an impression on you?
Depending on how far back we want to go… but one of my earliest musical memories is recording the full Pet Shop Boys VH1 Weekender on Videotape. They used have whole weekends dedicated to one band and would show all of their videos one after the other. I would listen to that tape again and again and again.
They are still one of my favorite bands and I can definitely see how their synth focused productions had a huge impact on me.
WWD: Do you remember the moment you decided you were going to make and play records for a living?
I actually can’t remember ever not wanting to do this.
WWD: Fast forward to present day, who are some of the standout producers, live acts and DJs that resonate with you these days?
This year belongs to Jimi Jules. No doubt about it.
WWD: What non-musical projects do you fill your time with when you’re not DJing or in the studio?
Spending quality time with my loved ones, trying to perfect my filter coffee game, getting my kettlebell swing numbers up and reading as much as possible.
WWD: What else can we expect from you over the course of this year? Any exciting projects we can look forward to?
I’m working on a new dancefloor EP for my label Applied Magic which should come out in October or November, as well as compiling music for an upcoming Applied Magic compilation. There’s also an exclusive track called Ketosis on the Mind Against Fabric compilation. And I’ll play Fabric! I also have tours planned for Mexico, India and Argentina / Brazil and I hope to be able to get back to Southeast Asia soon as well.