“please correct some of the typing i did… so fast”
Dennis Kaun sends me this request as I’m stitching together a series of e-mails that we exchanged over the course of 24 hours this week. It’s difficult to get a feel for someone’s personality during this sort of interview, but that’s not the case with Kaun, a Berlin-based producer and DJ who performs and records as DJ Kaos: He has a mind that seems to race a mile a minute, and even over the Internet, he communicates loudly and with hairpin-triggered enthusiasm. Some of his thoughts end without the luxury of punctuation; others are capped with six exclamation points. Roughly a quarter of what he writes to me is in all caps and though I have no way of proving it, I imagine that rather than use Caps Lock, he smooshes one of his fingers against the Shift key for extended periods, the digit flushed pink from the pressure. At one point, he sends me three separate e-mails in the span of a minute.
You don’t really get a sense of this excitability listening to Kaun’s music. On the contrary, DJ Kaos’s singles are tightly constructed affairs, songs that patiently unfurl over seven-minute runtimes. He’s certainly restless stylistically, applying a disco sensibility across multiple strands of dance music, but once he settles upon a sound, he inhabits it, effortlessly gliding through peaks and troughs as if it were the only kind of track he knew how to make. To wit: recent years have found him producing smoldering house (“Keep on Movin'” ) and psych-kissed disco (“Kosmischer Ruckenwind”), while two outstanding singles for DFA Records–2009’s slinky “Love the Nite Away” and last year’s silky smooth, krautrock-indebted “From Inside”–convincingly pulled off more analog, song-oriented approaches. DJ Kaos is a cool and collected fellow, even if Dennis Kaun turns out to be a bit of a wild man.
Kaun adopted the name Kaos in the mid-’80s, when by his account he was the “first graffiti painter in Berlin,” producing art heavily influenced by hip-hop. He also skateboarded semi-professionally. From there, he moved to London, where in the early ’90s, he hung around the studio of legendary producer Cameron McVey and immersed himself in England’s blossoming club scene. By the late ’90s, Kaun had returned to Berlin and joined with two other journeymen, Fetisch and Marco Meister, to form Turntable Terranova, a trip-hop influenced production trio who would be responsible for an early, beloved entry in the prestigious DJ-Kicks series. For the last decade, Kaun has been going at it alone, at least in principle: His sole full-length, 2005’s Hello Stranger, included collaborations with Erlend Øye, Daniel Wang, Captain Comatose, The Rapture, and The Boggs.
To state the obvious, Kaun has seen and done a lot of things. And he’s still on the move, recently starting his own record label, Jolly Jams, and touring the world with a high-flying DJ set. After some visa issues last week, catch him in action when he visits Le Bain at the Standard this Sunday alongside Dr. Dunks of Rub’N’Tug.
You said you have a lot of new stuff coming out. Can you fill us in on the details?
OH YES! We have a bunch incredible releases on Jolly Jams, the label I run. Our newest talent is called Richard from Milwaukee! Have a listen here if you want: http://soundcloud.com/jolly-jams. Also, there is FINALLY a new DJ Kaos 12″, a very techno orientated tune! All [of this is] out this September.
What else… Clone Loft Supreme is about to release DJ Kaos “Kosmischer Rückenwind” Remixes! That should be also out soon.
I try to focus on Jolly Jams at the moment. We’ve just released a record by Tiago called “Soul Jam.”
After an active 2009, the frequency of your releases seemed to slow a little bit. Was there any reason for that?
We had a baby ((-,
Your music is hard to pin down stylistically. What would you say are the defining characteristics of a DJ Kaos track?
This will never change… I just do what I want!!! I don’t care about genres and their media!!!! KEEP AN OPEN MIND. THAT IS WHAT MUSIC & ART IS ABOUT…
Your last three originals have come out on three different labels. Why jump around? Why not release everything on Jolly Jams now?
I have same labels that I like to work with from time to time, like DFA in the USA … I did a beautiful record with them a while ago called “From Inside.”
Was there anything about your experiences with labels that made you want to start your own?
I was signed to record companies and their dramas for about 10 years… At the time, the companies had budgets to produce LP’s… These days are over!! So, we’re independent again.
Your 12”s always seem to come paired with particularly strong remixes. If you had to choose, what’s been your favorite reworking of one of your songs?
It’s funny with these remixes: Most of these kids I bumped into, and it was like OK LET’S GIVE IT A TRY! I guess I am surrounded by great talent…
A quick Google search reveals that you are not the only DJ Kaos out there. Has the glut of other DJs with your name caused you any headaches or led to any confusion?
I NEVER GOOGLE ! Kaos has been there since the mid ’80s when the Graffiti Hip Hop came around… The “DJ” came later, when I started playing night clubs!!! I guess you could Google different names and it will have the same effect. CLONES VS CLONES – THAT’S WHAT THE INDUSTRY IS ABOUT.
You’re not really helping matters by refraining from setting up a webpage, aside from your Myspace. Why deny the world a DJ Kaos website?
DUDE YOU REALLY GOTTA DO YOUR HOMEWORK!! I GUESS… http://www.jollyjams.com.
I GOOGLED MYSELF JUST NOW: “DJ KAOS JOLLY JAMS,” “DJ KAOS DFA,” “DJ KAOS BERLIN.” WHAT DID YOU DO AND WHERE DID YOU LOOK ….. hahahah
There is so much!!!! JESUS, AMERICANS AND THEIR GOOGLE HAHAHAH!!!!
I could find your websites! I’m saying that if I put “DJ Kaos” into Google, here are the top five sites: Myspace (you); Resident Advisor (you); DJKaosNYC.net (not you); DJKaos.net (not you);DJKaos.com (not you). I was just surprised there were so many other DJ Kaos-es. I had no idea.
Me too, since I check Resident Advisor. Scrawl that down…. I guess this [other DJ Kaos] is not popular at all… Or he’s around some other scene. My stuff gets related to these labels, so people [who] look around there like Jolly Jams, DFA, Clone, etc. It is kind of confusing. You’re right.
What’s been the best show you’ve DJ’d in 2012?
Japan tour this year.
Japan is a good, educated dance scene… They know pretty well about the music and do their homework…
You’ve been coming to New York City regularly since the early ’90s. How have you seen the electronic / dance scene change over that time?
A LOT ! It all started in NYC for me, NOT ONLY FOR ME… but most the NYC kids even don’t know about that. THEY DON’T CARE. ITS ALL ABOUT EDITS AND STARBUCKS NOW!!
I AM AN OLD HEAD. I’VE BEEN CLUBBING AROUND THE APPLE A LOT – IN THE LATE ’80S AND ’90S. I SAW IT ALL COMING AND GOING — FORWARDS, BACKWARDS, ETC. NOT MY THING – THE NEW EDIT GENERATION… NOT WHERE I AM COMING FROM!!!!
Has the night-to-night experience of DJ-ing changed much since you first started?
YES YES !!
What are some new tracks we can expect you to work into your set on Friday?
COME DOWN AND LISTEN YOURSELF…