In the world of house music, Berlin-based producer Till Von Sein stands a little off kilter. He’s not big on self-promotion and in fact he spends half his time working as a booking agent for Wolf + Lamb, Soul Clap, or others.
He’s a bit of a jokester or a bit of an asshole, depending on how he feels about you, and when he sits down to make music, he does it more for therapeutic reasons than for any future life on a dance floor.
That’s how he put together Precious, his most recent LP. It’s 10-tracks of silky smooth late-night grooves with just enough drum machine kick for the dark rooms he frequents, like the Electric Pickle. Precious is soulful and different, mostly because at the time, Von Sein wasn’t out to make a house record at all.
“I was basically just working on R&B and soul, having this dream that I could make beats that maybe Drake could rap on,” he says. “Then I realized, fuck, I can’t release an R&B album. That would be a little bit weird. I built a career as a house DJ. So, I started talking to other people in my inner circle, like, ‘Wait, I need your help, because I really lost the feeling of producing house music.'" Sitting at home listening to a 125 bpm for two hours fucking freaks me out.”
Dedicated to turning these rough soulful skits into something releasable, he holed himself in the studio with his friends and associates and worked the best ideas into suitable house atmospheres. Precious is notable, however, because it retains so much of that old-school feel. To truly capture the live jazz experience, Von Sein brought in real musicians to lay down live grooves, then hooked up with various vocalists around the world to add a final human touch.
“That was my goal, I wanted to do some soulful kind of R&B music, and then house music which is kind of the same vein,” he says. “I just try to keep the balance of those two worlds, like, stuff you can listen to at home and take your girl to bed.”
The album opens with hand drums and spoken words on “One feat. Lazarusman,” then dives deep into playful sex disco on “Booty Angel feat. Kid Enigma.” That track features a lot of Von Sein’s own sense of humor.
“I wanted the idea of doing a track called ‘Dr. Booty,’ like a doctor who nurses booties. Little boys can have dreams, right?” he laughs. “And then he came up with ‘Booty Angel’ and I was like okay, maybe not what I wanted, but maybe even better.”
Tracks like “It’s All In The Spirit feat. Russoul,” “Young Again feat. Diamond Setter & Maria Leonard,” and “Tilly’s Vibes” bring more of a straight-forward house vibe to the table with hooks that’ll hang in your head for days. It’s a banging record, but even still, Von Sein is more likely to let loose some Detroit Swindle or Nick Monaco in his sets than anything he’s produced on his own.
“I’m not really good at playing my own stuff, I never did and I guess I never will be,” he says. “There is so much good music out there that I really want to play. I’ll always try to play my own shit, but I forget it and at the end of the night I’m like, damn. Sometimes it happens when you’re in the zone, but I’m not really that kind of DJ who just plays his own shit the whole time.”
Maybe that love for spreading great sounds explains his fervor as a booker. Already a successful business owner and DJ in his own right, Von Sein took to the side-gig like a duck to water.
“I used to run a skate shop, and when I was 29, I just realized I’m already fed up with selling clothes to 23-year-olds. Just imagine being 45. I need to get out of here,” he says. “I fell in love with it straight away. Because I work with so many artists I was really looking up to, it was a little bit like that little kid in the candy shop.”
But the spotlight will be on Von Sein whether he likes it or not at the Electric Pickle tonight, one of his favorite venues in Miami.
“I played there a bunch,” he says. “Personally, I think It’s the best place in Miami for the music.”
For the past four or five years, he’s been coming through to let loose magical sets for WMC or any occasion that’ll have him. According to him, it’s the closest thing to Berlin he can get Stateside.
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“I started playing, and then at one point I was like, wait, everybody is smoking here. People actually smoke weed,” he laughs. “We play all the other cities in the U.S. and at 1 a.m. there’s no more alcohol or at 2 a.m. they close. I said, ‘wait, this is kind of like being in Europe.’ It’s a love affair, and I mean, the whole sound system, the lights, the staff – I think that you can really tell that they’re in it for the love and not for the money. They really treat you with respect.”
For Von Sein, it’s not quite home, and it’s not quite house music, but you know? It sounds just about right.
Till Von Sein. Friday, June 26, at the Electric Pickle, 2826 N Miami Ave., Miami. Ages 21 and up. The party starts at 11 p.m., and tickets cost $15 to $20 plus fees via residentadvisor.com. Call 305-456-5613 or visit electricpicklemiami.com.