Tomorrow night in Miami, we are heading out to Rakastella—our last must-attend event of the busy art week. Held on Virginia Key, the 12-hour immersive event features an array of musical talent and art installations spread throughout the outdoor venue. Each year, we look forward to its special atmosphere—a true production of lights, sound, and experiences only those on the tropical island can relate to.
To the newcomers, Rakastella was created by two of the most respected music labels in the world: Life & Death, Miami-based DJ Tennis’ label; and Innervisions, Berlin-based Dixon’s label. Produced by Becks Lange, with special assistance by Electric Pickle, tomorrow night welcomes talent from around the globe, including Âme, Andrea Bra, Ashley Venom, Aurora, Halal, Call Super, Danny Daze, DJ Tennis, Palms Trax, Soul Clap, Will Renuart, Tara Brooks, and last but not least, Dixon.
Whitewall spoke with Dixon about where it all started, and why tomorrow night’s stimulating environment is one unlike any other.
WHITEWALL: Tell us a bit about your background in music, leading up to today.
DIXON: I’ve drifted up and down different cycles of music over the years, changing dependent on my environment and surrounding influences. I would say my preferences are based more on a feeling of what sounds good at any given time. When I started out playing in Berlin clubs, I first ventured through the heavier techno scene, dipping into a lot of drum-and-bass as well before arriving at playing house nights. You had to start an all-night-long set sometimes playing to rooms of less than 20 people, and watch them fill up wall-to-wall within the same night. This forced you to dig deep into the records you pulled out, leaving enough space to build a vibe up or down depending on what the crowd was doing. You couldn’t just stick to playing within one boxed up genre, which definitely broadened the scope of music I got exposed to early on.
Âme (of Frank Wiedemann and Kristian Rädle) and I came together under the label Sonar Kollektiv, which put out releases spanning a much wider cross-section of sounds. When we decided to kick-start our own thing in 2005 with Innervisions, it was originally as a sub-label for people to come and discover what we took to be purely house music. As we branched out and became independent later on, this gave us even more control over the path the music took. It was always defined as house, but even within that category there is a large scope for different directions. Naturally, as more artists came on board and we began to release more music, the parameters of our preferences expanded to include the influences of our labelmates, whilst still keeping within the signature sound we worked hard to achieve.
WW: Through music, what type of culture do you aim to impact; what type of vibe do you aim to create?
D: It’s not so much setting out with a particular culture in mind to impact, but rather moving to evolve and disrupt what’s static. For us, it has always been about doing things our own way, may it be on the music or the business side of things. To discover new methods and integrate them into the creative and business process, enabling us to make mistakes along the way but continue to learn by doing so.
In terms of parties, we started our Lost In A Moment events hoping to keep the overall organization as close to our core as possible, bringing unexpected locations into the foreground, on-par with the music in the equation for the overall experience. The focus was to build up these key elements to create something that captured an experience, and then strip it away and leave the place as it was found, with only the memories in the minds of those who were there.
Similar can be said when talking about playing sets for a crowd. Primarily, I play the tracks I like at that given time, most being unreleased tracks that people have not heard before. But it’s about finding a balance between serving up what you want and figuring out how best to do so to elevate the mood of a space in the interest of the people dancing. It’s heavily context dependent.
WW: Can you tell us a bit about your relationship with Rakastella?
D: Rakastella is a brainchild of the team around DJ Tennis in Miami and our team from Berlin. From the beginning both sides were in it 50/50. However, now that we are doing our third Rakastella, there are certain things already established, so the team from Miami is in control of the execution. The booking is still shared equally between us as partners.
WW: Your path has been filled with notable accomplishments, but what are some of your personal career highlights over the years?
D: Most recently, what stands out for me is the closing night of Transmoderna. I think the whole first Transmoderna season we had at Pacha was still such a fresh venture, that we never had time to truly sit back and enjoy it until the very end. It was a culmination of all the energy given by everyone involved in its entire 20-week operation boiling to the surface and multiplying within the four walls of the club. Truly, it was one of those nights that can’t be summed up in words.
WW: Tell us a bit about your Ibiza event Transmoderna, which wrapped a huge season at Pacha.
D: Having a residency in Ibiza was something I had been approached about several times over the last few years, but until now, had never felt it was the right moment to go ahead with. Transmoderna evolved out of conversations between myself and its art director, Ana Ofak, teasing the idea that the present and future had eclipsed, finding ourselves left in a time surrounded by hyperreal anomalies. The Transmoderna residency in Ibiza provided a platform to examine the fusing of new technologies with these global phenomena. Ibiza is a holiday island, and people make a huge effort to come there particularly to experience multiple nights of clubbing. It’s not like you are leaving your home to go out for dinner and then decide on some clubbing afterwards. So, we wanted to create something very special, something that clubbers can only experience there and nowhere else I am booked around the world throughout the year. In today’s landscape, Ibiza is still undoubtedly one of the epicenters of electronic music, so it seemed the perfect opportunity to try and ripple the norms of club culture from the inside-out.
Looking towards the future, I would like to use Transmoderna’s inception to further explore the melding of technology and music in a more global context. We grew a lot from our first season in Ibiza, and whilst it’s not set in stone, a second could soon be emerging on the horizon.
WW: Let’s dive into your Together We Dance Alone clothing line, as well, and the process of finding your collaborator and developing the designs. Do you believe fashion is a crucial part of your brand and self-expression?
D: Of course. It’s been something integral in both sourcing inspiration and expressing it for as long as I’ve been DJing. How you dress tells its own story before you even have the chance to open your mouth or set foot behind the decks. I like to keep tabs on what several different fashion houses are doing artistically. It’s interesting to me to see another creative medium have to come out each season with a new collection whilst still maintaining their core brand identity. I think it’s something that can be mirrored in how we decide which releases to bring out each year on Innervisions, and how to present them every year with a completely new visual design.
WW: Tell us a bit about the music scene in Berlin right now. How has it changed the most since you began DJing?
D: Contrasting the scene now back to how it looked in the early ‘90s, the most obvious shift has been away from what it once meant to have a club residency. Starting out, having your own residency meant playing all night long sets at a club the same day each week, to build a reputation people would return to. Going to see a resident DJ meant people held you accountable to a certain standard of quality, whilst at the same time meaning you had to play a set interesting enough to keep them returning week after week. Sets weren’t uploaded on the Internet, and everything that happened remained inside the confines of the club. As the scene became more globalized, the accessibility of music grew and with it, the demand to see international DJs play and the money to book them. Nowadays, a residency might mean the same DJ plays at club once a month, whilst the rest of the nights in the calendar are kept free to book big international names and drawcards.
I don’t see these kinds of changes as either positive or negative, but rather a reality in the direction the scene has gone. The music scene as it exists now in Berlin is as bright and diverse as ever, giving greater exposure to artists that collect here for its longstanding reputation, so whilst it’s different to how it once was, it’s not a change that needs to be discouraged, but rather can be embraced.
WW: What are you particularly looking forward to at this year’s Rakastella, and for the rest of December?
D: At Rakastella, the sunrise. It’s always the most magical moment of any outdoor party.
As for the rest of December, it will be interesting to see how our first 24-hour Innervisions party unfolds amidst the current nightlife ecosystem in London, facing tightening regulations. I’m curious how this backdrop will affect how the crowd receives the event. The last time we held an Innervisions event in London was at Royal Albert Hall, so it will also be a chance to return with a more minimalistic and stripped-down approach to production, pushing the music to center stage.
Aside from that, skiing with my family in the Alps at the end of the year is for sure the most anticipated event of the season for me.