Ten years of career in this day and age is an undeniable milestone, but in cases like Delta Funktionen’s, it is first and foremost truly deserved. Léa Ben Saïd caught up with him to look over the last decade.
It is for his appearance at Concrete’s infamous Samedimanche that I chatted with Niels Luinenburg, as his latest EP, Space Race, comes out on MORD Records. Delta Funktionen is discrete, but throughout the years, he has made a name for himself thanks to his remarked appartences as a DJ, and his original productions. Originally from the north of Holland, he moved to Berlin in 2012 and started his own label, Radio Matrix, in 2014. Niels is a fervent believer of serious fun, but he became known for his stern and serious techno. He has evolved a lot since, and his influences come from everything from Chicago house, Detroit techno, to Italo and electro, and this is something that translates when he plays out. He has come a long way since his days working in a record shop in his home country which has had an undeniable impact on him as a DJ, but also as a producer.
Today, as he celebrates the tenth year of his career, I caught up with him to gain some insight on the way he viewed himself and his journey in the industry so far.
Waveform: What have you been up to recently?
Delta Funktionen: I’ve been spending quite some time in the studio, learning new tricks and techniques. Loads of researching and kind of changing my workflow. The time has come to translate it into music again. Next to that I have quite a busy DJ schedule with gigs all around the planet. So yeah, keeping myself active at the moment.
Waveform: What has your journey been like as a DJ and producer so far?
Delta Funktionen: Ha, I basically just realized that I’m doing this now for almost a decade and it has been quite the ride. I started off kinda young in a time when my peers from Berghain etc were all a bit older. It’s been interesting for sure. I’ve travelled the world, made friends around the globe and learned a lot about other cultures and opened my mind several times. I’m happy to have shared line ups with basically all my heroes. Have and had some great residencies. For example at Trouw in Amsterdam and most recently at Tresor. The trust I have had from promoters and club owners has been really good. To be able to host my own nights and create line ups has been really fun to do. As a producer I’ve tried to cover quite some substyles of house, techno and electro. I have a broad interest in all these subgenres and always wanted to contribute to this in the widest sense possible. There are still grounds to cover, so the future is still very open for me!
Waveform: When did you realise that this is what you wanted to do?
Delta Funktionen: I don’t know, I just grew into it. And when basically all my time was consumed by travelling and answering emails about what I do, I guess I could call it my ‘job’?!
Waveform: The first line of your RA bio is: “Delta Funktionen is an artist driven by concept and stories”. What is actually meant by that? And are there any stories that have been particularly influential on your journey as a producer and a DJ?
Delta Funktionen: I like it when electronic music is about something. I’m not so much interested in another 4×4 beat track that fills the gaps between whatever void is to fill. Sure as a DJ you sometimes need such tracks, but as a producer I need something more. And because I keep my output quite low and rather work in certain projects within different styles, I think it’s important to give some extra depth to these projects, to make the listener understand a bit better how I like to work. It’s mostly about some fantasies that have been crossing my mind for a longer period of time. Or it’s about things like love, life, travel or even politics. The stories are all kinda documented in the album, EP or track titles and in the artwork and the press releases. As a DJ I try to play sets that can be perceived as a movie, taking you through many colors and emotions.
Waveform: When you created your label, Radio Matrix, were you trying to tell a particular story or to achieve something specific with it?
Delta Funktionen: Yes of course. I wanted it to be a label that is a homebase for all the talented guys from my hometown Leeuwarden in The Netherlands. But I quickly realized that not everyone has enough time to have a big output, so I kind of changed the attitude a bit. Now it’s more about personal relations I have build up with certain artists that I have met along my trips around the world. I still put my own money on the releases so it has to be personal for me. And I need to hear my perception of the persons character in their music. I get send a lot of music from people I don’t know and a lot of it sounds like the Wasteland project I did. Of course it’s very flattering, but it’s not something I’d want to release on Radio Matrix.
Waveform: Is there anyone in particular you would like to sign (which would help you achieve this goal/tell this story)?
Delta Funktionen: No, I have no ambitions to run a big label with big names or so. It’s a personal label about connections with people from different countries and cultures. And it’s underground and I rather let new producers debut than going the safe route. It’s not very economical for myself haha, but I think it’s important that you also give something back to the scene.
Waveform: What was the creative process behind Space Race EP: your inspiration, your mood, the instruments that you used? And is it any different to the way you usually go on about producing any of your music?
Delta Funktionen: The tracks were made around the same time as I did my last album, ‘Junior High School Excursion To The Parallel World’. So soundwise they don’t differ that much I’d say. The inspiration came from the current state of the world and how global politics sometimes seem to go very backwards and then on the other side there are people like Elon Musk who really push for new technologies and new frontiers that give society new frontiers or basically something to look forward to.
Waveform: In general, your productions often have an old-school feel to them, with influences from Detroit techno or Chicago house among them. What inspires you so much in these sounds?
Delta Funktionen: Sure I’m inspired by the Detroit and Chicago sound and you could say the Wasteland project was somewhat a hommage to this era. I like the oldschool grooves a bit better than most modern techno grooves. I need something to shake my body to. I’m not so much into the ‘mind’ techno. Something for the mind, body and soul still has a bit more sex appeal to me. I also like the playfullness and the sometimes not so seriousness from the older stuff. And the grittyness is something I really like. But on the other side I have also done projects that I think sound a bit more modern…
Waveform: I read somewhere that you are not such a big fan of the digital revolution, does that include everything surrounding social media? And after already 10 years of career, have you noticed a change in being a DJ and producer in a world so influenced, almost governed, by social media?
Delta Funktionen: Ha, an old quote that comes back. Yeah this is a complicated topic. Seeing that we are basically just at the start of the whole digital era, it makes completely sense that we still see a lot of flaws. But let’s narrow it down to the electronic music scene. To me it feels that it has become very much centered about the person and how they portray themselves instead of what they actually do. In regards to groundbreaking releases, running labels and giving opportunities to others. There’s a lot of hype going on these days. And if you pay for some PR you can be a star within no time, even without having any releases out. But ok, I don’t want to sound old or look too much back to how it was etcetera, hell, I don’t even want the old times back. But back when I started it was much more about what you actually do instead of how good you are at taking photos of the dinner you have.
Waveform: From what I understand, your production has become increasingly hardware-focused throughout the years, but you mostly play DJ sets. Would you like to play live sets some time or maybe hybrid sets?
Delta Funktionen: I do get this question a lot and apparently there’s quite some interest for it. So yes, I have decided that the next few months I will dedicate my time to develop a live set. Still not sure which tools I will use, but it’s good to challenge yourself.
Waveform: Have you got any project you’d be able to talk about today, and do you know what the next steps are for you?
This year I will release some tracks on different V/A releases on different European labels. Next to that I’m working on another project, but that’s still very fresh and needs more direction before I can speak about it…