Man of a Thousand Faces – An interview with Jan Schulte

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© Franz Schuier

As he progresses through his journey, defying labels and being as creative as ever, The Waveform Transmitter’s Léa Ben Saïd spoke with Jan Schulte about his live project as Bufiman, his love for drums, and the creativity emanating from Germany.

Jan Schulte is one of the most creative artists of his generation. Born and living in Germany, he has made a name for himself under his given name, but also through his numerous aliases, including Wolf Müller, his project with no other than Young Marco, and Bufiman, his solo project, with a more electronic touch, for which he tours and plays his live set for the first time.

Waveform: Your sets and your releases are all so different from each other, so what were you listening to when you were growing up? And do you think there’s anything that has been more of an influence on you than the rest?

Jan Schulte: I was always listening to as much music as possible, from every direction possible. So the tapes of my dad we listened to on longer car drives were as important to me as the tapes of my breakdancing days or everything else i could get hold of. I started going to flea markets for records when I was 14 and never stopped being hungry for new sounds… I try to keep my ears entertained and surprised with the music that I listen to and with the music that I produce myself.

Waveform: I read quite a few times that you just love drums, and this reflects in both your productions and your selection. You even made a compilation called “Tropical Drums of Deutschland”. What fascinates you so much that you’re so drawn to them?

JS: I was drumming already as a child and using all my toys as drums. Unfortunately my parents were financially not able to provide me with a drum set.. so at some point I found my own way of expressing myself through drums and rhythm: through sampling and programming. This approach also shaped my understanding of sound colour in drums and in general. The ‘Amen Break’, for example, is not easily recreated, because its sound colour is so unique and special.

Waveform: The first time you played a live set as Bufiman was at Nuits Sonores. How different is your approach to a live set compared to a DJ set? How did you prepare for it? What hardware and what instruments did you use for it?

JS: A live set requires way more preparation than a DJ-Set, plus it contains more mental challenges. From the beginning of the preparations in my studio to the final rehearsals, packing all the gear, travelling with it, then doing a soundcheck and trying to get a feeling for the location and the acoustics of it, and finally preparing the final hours before the concert to be focused for it…. a lot of things can go wrong and disturb and even change the outcome of the performance.

For this concert at Nuits Sonores I brought a loop machine, a drum machine, a digital synthesiser, a sampler and several effects, plus a small variety of percussion things, jaw harps and gimmicks.

Waveform: A lot of your outputs and your projects are collaborations with other artists. As Bufiman, you worked quite a bit with DJ Normal 4, but with Wolf Müller, you work with Young Marco, and those are only a few examples of some of your work. Is there any special direction in which you would like to take your production? And is there anyone you would like to work with in the future?

JS: I love to cooperate and join forces as it expands my musical borders. As I am not a trained musician I feel my capabilities are limited, so working with others can bring the music to different spheres.

Waveform: You often speak of how you dig a lot of records looking for drum samples etc. How do you go on about making tracks? What is the creative process involved?

JS: I don’t know how many producers work with a fixed or planned process…but, for me, I must say that it is always different. It can start of with any element or instrument and it can take a few hours or a few years to finish something. My database of drum samples which I built up over the years is of course very helpful in creating the organic sound I strive for.

Waveform: The Salon is well-known for its eclecticism and you definitely feel that when residents such as you or Lena Willikens play other clubs as it reflects in your sets. Do you often feel totally comfortable to play whatever you feel like because you know you are in front of an open-minded crowd, or is it a rare occasion?

JS: I actually feel there is so much musical freedom these days, everything is allowed if delivered properly. Let us hope this is not followed up by a new era of narrow-mindedness.

Waveform: Why do you think it is that so much amazing music is coming out of Germany? Salon in Dusseldorf, but also obviously Berlin and places like Hamburg and more, are leading the underground electronic music scene.

JS: I relate to the theory that most of the “Krautrock” musicians came up with. After the war Germany’s culture was dead, everything that was there before was destroyed by the Nazis.. so the music scene had to start from scratch, they had to find an own identity again. To me and countless musicians from here, this is our spiritual and cultural heritage.

Waveform: What’s next for you now in terms of DJing and production? Are you taking your live set on the road after this and focusing more on Bufiman than on Wolf Müller?

JS: I will play some very nice festivals this summer, as a DJ and with live performances with almost all of my recent collaborative projects. Further I have a few releases upcoming, Wolf Müller stuff and Bufiman stuff!

Next up is my take on ‘Barbatuques – Baiana’ on Discos Selvagem, a track on the upcoming Mogul 4 compilation on TFGC, the next DJ Normal 4 & Bufiman EP on Aiwo and a compilation of my remixes on Safe-Trip.

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© Alexander Romey

Jan Schulte is currently spending a busy summer on the road, DJing and playing live across Europe. Next stop: Dekmantel Selectors in Croatia. Take a look at our interview archive, here, to get up-close-and-personal with more of your favourite artists.

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