Move D on the Digital Music Era: "Ideally, Music Should Be For Free"
If electronic music can be called music's final frontier -- the veritable cutting edge of sonic innovation -- then it's artists like Move D (AKA David Moufang) who are its true trailblazers. If the German production veteran is still relatively obscure (as far as mainstream EDM hype goes), it's only because he's been too busy pushing the possibilities of sound and genre in the studio for the past two decades to worry about trends.
Introduced to techno in 1989, Moufang would help pioneer the ambient genre along with Jonas Grossman as Deep Space Network. But he's also amassed a prolifically eclectic body of work over the years, exploring the uncharted territories between ambient and avant-garde, disco, dub, house and techno, under a number of different monikers and collaborative side projects, including Reagenz, Magic Mountain High, Earth to Infinity, and, of course, Move D.
Thanks in part to the wonders of the internet and social media -- which the always forward-thinking Moufang has wholeheartedly embraced -- a new generation of electronic dance music heads is bestowing the attention this brilliant artist merits. Of course, it helps that in addition to his studio production credits, Moufang is also one hell of a seasoned club DJ with a knack for mixing his headier techno fare with feel-good disco, funk, and house classics.
Ahead of his highly anticipated performance for Aquabooty Miami's 14th-anniversary celebration at the Electric Pickle on Friday, Crossfade caught up with Move D to chat about his two decades in the game, why music should be free, and his new album.
Crossfade: Tell us about your musical upbringing. Which were some of the artists and records that most resonated with you while you were growing up?
David Moufang: I was born in a very musical family. My grandmother was a concert pianist and my dad a jazz trumpeter. At the age of 4, I found out that music fascinates me more than anything. My stepdad had an amazing record collection and a high-end stereo which he brought back to Germany after finishing university in the States. I was very lucky he had enough faith to let me operate his stereo and play his records at this very young age.
Among the first artists that I remember from the early childhood days were, of course, the Beatles but also the Doors, Rare Bird, as well as Pink Floyd, Kraftwerk, and other forms of music: Western classical, jazz, world music -- Jobim, Gilberto, Getz.
I remember that in the early days, before I could understand lyrics in English, the album artwork was always very important in order to draw my attention to a record, and obviously I liked more narrative and radio-play-inspired records a lot -- Disc 2 of Pink Floyd's Ummagumma, "Yellow Submarine," Kraftwerk's Autobahn, etc.
You started out playing in live bands. How did you transition into electronic music production?
When playing in bands, you're always searching for spaces to rehearse in. One day, a friendly man offered his basement for free. Later, it turned out he was running a company doing advertisement movies for big German corporations, such as Lufthansa, Heidelberg printing machines, etc. Cable TV was piloting in those days -- early '80s -- and after a while, the friendly film studio and production biz owner asked me if I was interested in doing some music for his commercials and some cable TV jingles. This was the start of my home studio, one-man show, and career and subsequently moving away from the band and rehearsal room scene.
Although I already knew electronic solo artists like Jean Michel Jarre, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and Thomas Dolby since the '80s, it wasn't until the early '90s and my first encounter with techno and raves that I actually became friendly with the idea of becoming a "solo" electronic artist. My main instrument, for instance, is still the guitar.
How do you typically approach a new production project in the studio? Do you have a mental sketch or concept of what you want to work on, or does it arise from improvisation and playing with your gear in the studio?
Ideally, I just start something for fun, which typically happens when I'm either being inspired by a sound or a piece of hardware or, most typically, something that I come across on a guitar or a piano which captivates me enough to make me materialize it with the help of machines. So, often the basic idea and composition is happening on an acoustic instrument; then I take it to the studio and synths world.
Your repertoire is nothing if not eclectic. Even beyond your many incarnations and styles as a producer, your DJ sets can span the gamut from techno to funk and soul. What are the key ingredients or elements you look for in music, regardless of genre? What turns you on sonically the most?
Hard to answer this one. Of course, there were certain milestones in music production gear that didn't pass a teenage boy's ear without creating hefty desire -- LinnDrum, polyphonic synths like the OB-8, Fairlight CMI and the first samplers. But more than the technical side, I am fascinated by compositions and what they do to my soul. This may be Bach or Chopin, Ravi Shankar, Miles Davis, or Cat Stevens.
Talking about music still feels like dancing about architecture. Harmonically, I am definitely more at home in the minor scales and keys. But it isn't purely about the tonal gender -- a lot of my admiration is based on how simple it can be and still have the greatest effect. According to that, I prefer Satie over Wagner, Miles Davis over Chick Corea, Ringo Starr over Billy Cobham.
Unlike many other artists from your generation, you seem to have enthusiastically embraced social media, keeping an active presence on Facebook and SoundCloud. What are your thoughts on the way social media and the internet in general have transformed the way underground music is consumed? What are the pros and cons of this digital age for an artist like yourself who still remembers the era of white labels, limited-edition vinyl and independent record shops as the exclusive source for underground electronic music?
The internet and everything that comes with it, first made it possible to interact with your fanbase and followers globally and directly, if virtually. The idea of networking, which was always fundamental in the global techno scene, also in the early '90s, came to a new level of affordability and speed with the arrival of global high-speed internet around the turn of the millennium. Of course, we are still this obscure minority of whitel label diggers, underground record shoppers and anonymous artists -- we are just way better connected.
So nowadays, I can be in touch with my small scene either physically, in my small hometown of Heidelberg, or virtually with almost anyone worldwide. So yes, in my case or even for the electronic underground music scene, the internet became a vital factor. The other thing that I always said: ideally, music should be for free. Of course, we all need money to survive, but seeing how many people apparently enjoy the DJ sets and own productions that I offer for free on SoundCloud makes me very happy. I know there are people with money out there, but a lot of them wouldn't have the spare money to buy music.
As an artist who has consistently stayed on the cutting edge of electronic music for two decades, what are your thoughts on the '90s house and techno revival of the last few years? In your opinion, is this nostalgia and the recycling of classic sounds getting in the way of innovation?
Music has always been all about recycling and crossing-melting borders and styles. Trends and fashions seem to return in cycles of decades. I don't see anything really special in this phaenomena right now, when it concerns electronic, techno, and house music. Ask me again, once the pop world will stop trying to reinvent the Beatles.
Quality music is timeless, so I'm not surprised how many tracks from about 20 or more years ago still are relevant and referenced in today's club cosmos. A lot of the spearheading, groundbreaking music that's been made today will probably take another decade to make it mainstream. It will earn its recognition only in retrospect, which is totally normal for arts and trends and fashion in general. We just can't really smell the contemporary spirit while we're sorrounded by it.
So what is the secret to longevity as an underground artist? What keeps you motivated to keep working after two decades, even while eluding riches and mainstream fame?
At all times, even when I was really poor, the feedback, warmth and appreciation of the handful of followers were the biggest motivation. At the beginning of the techno era, it was also very easy to point out what kind of electronic music is still missing and work on this end. Nowadays, there is a feeling of over-saturation with labels like Deutsche Grammophon and Blue Note jumping on the techno bandwagon -- essentially they are selling us old wine in new containers.
The music I really want to hear, I still know best what it should sound like and I will continue the pursuit of it as long as I am fortunate enough to do so! Looking up to the elder buddies, I've been blessed to work with the likes of Karl Berger -- I know it will always stay that way.
Your upcoming new album, The Silent Orbiter, has been called a tribute to the late great avant-garde electronic music producer Pete Namlook. What was your relationship to Pete and what did he impart to your as an artist? How did you approach the album in terms of a tribute?
Tough question! Pete was always the most reliable and honest guy I've worked with, and I was always well aware of this, as well as I took for granted that he would be around forever and I was looking forward to our projects in our old days to come. Now that he passed, I am beginning to understand how much he actually meant to me and how much of a close friend he was. I am in terrible shock and agony, even one year later. Lesson to be learned: you can never take anything for granted, not even tomorrow's sunrise. Try to live each day as if it was your last -- blah blah, but so true!
Musically, we shared some common ground, but we were also very different. However, there was enough respect for the other person's body of work. I was sometimes wondering why it all had to happen so quickly in terms of production. Now I understand -- our time was limited. What I admired about him most was his musical flexibillity -- he would be into playing with anyone under any circumstances.
I've seen him entering stages and jamming with people he didn't even know before -- he really knew no fear. Also, he was an outstanding guitarist -- so outstanding that he came to the remarkable conclusion that he had to put the guitar down, as he felt he was running out of inspiration and into too much of a routine, damn licks and fingers were playing by themselves.
The Silent Orbiter is my requiem for Pete -- dark, sinister, austere, stagnant, painful, with occasional shimmers of light and hope -- definitely not music for everybody. Miniature step for mankind, but a most important mission for me!
What else does the future have in store for David Moufang? Any forthcoming projects or releases we can look forward to in the near future?
More releases by Magic Mountain High, Reagenz, Move D and Benjamin Brunn. And if i don't run out if time, something very different from myself: Move D going accoustic.
We're excited to have you in Miami on Friday. What can we expect during your performance at the Electric Pickle?
Red wine, a smoke, happy faces and a great party. Didn't they tell you? [Laughs]
Move D. As part of the Aquabooty 14th Anniversary Party. With Osunlade, DHM, and special guests. Friday, September 27. Electric Pickle, 2826 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The show starts at 10 p.m. Call 305-456-5613, or visit electricpicklemiami.com.
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