Jonas Orbiting is a Berlin based DJ specialising in techno. He’s one half of the Orbiting Giants duo, along with his partner in crime, Tobi Hewer. He’s also one of the original joiners of the Frission family.
We caught up with him, hot on the heels of his 100th episode here on Frission to ask his thoughts on the techno scene, labels he is digging now and where he thinks techno will be in the future.
What got you into DJ’ing?
At first it was the fascination I had watching and listening to DJ’s when I went to a techno party at the age of 13 for the first time with my older brothers and his friends. The atmosphere on the dance floor, the loudness, the bass physically – this all infected me with techno and electronic music until this day. Back in those days everyone was playing vinyl so there was a lot of action to see behind the decks. I knew vinyl from my parents’ house and it was always a medium with a big attraction to me. I had the luck to have a short distance to some local DJ’s that invited me to learn about the basics of DJ’ing. From then I had the wish to start DJ’ing with own equipment.
After I went out to clubs and raves for some years I got to understand techno and it’s variations better than in my early ages. I had more and more moments on the dance floor where I thought: “now I would play something completely different from what the DJ is playing here”. Lots of moments where I thought to myself, “why doesn’t the DJ go harder now, or plays a more melodic or driving, or whatsoever track”. It might sound narcissistic but I was deeply convinced I could do it better. The conclusion was to take things into my own hands and get to know the art and work of a DJ.
Probably the most import reason that still lasts today: exploring techno music in its deepest ways. Although it might sound a bit odd: creating something new by mixing, combining and manipulating two (or more) records is the main force that keeps me going to record stores, compiling radio shows and dj’ing at clubs and parties. Techno music is danceable futurism for me. Playing techno records is a way for me to make this vague future accessible in the present.
Where do you think techno is headed in the next few years?
“Trends come and go, wackness stays” is a saying from a German rap song. There’s some truth in it: it’s not the most honest or real sound that becomes the most successful. Right now there are some trends in the techno scene (and beyond). Trance is coming back with full force, and again it’s there for the cheap thrills. Bass music and everything related developed a growing audience in the last years and it hasn’t reached its peak yet. Electro still is trending but as DJ Stingray says, “the problem starts with the word electro”.
Personally I get bored by “genre DJ’s” very fast, e.g. DJs that play Industrial techno for 3 hours or so, or someone who plays 20 Acid House records in a row. But as EDM has reached the size of a gigantic bubble the techno scene will get to a turning point in the near future eventually and shrink to a healthy size again. This is absolutely expected in my opinion and it happens every few years (or at least once in a decade) in waves.
There are also some promising artists and labels appearing at the moment and some of the more established artists are still on fire, trying to explore new sounds and variations of old ones. Techno still is the most multifaceted genre of all and there’s no better music to dance to as you imagine UFO’s landing on planet earth in the middle of a dark night.
What labels are you really feeling now?
I guess too many to name them all here. I´m buying around 15 – 20 records per month. If I´d purchase them digitally I could simply look into rekordbox now. But I´ll try it from memory. Bbbbbb records founded by Bjarki was a lot of fun to listen to in the last months, always unpredictable as to what will be next. They are one of the very few labels that don´t take the techno scene too seriously.
Midgar records is another label I’m really into, all their latest releases including 12”s by Wata Igarashi, Ruff Cherry or Ruhig. The label releases very hypnotic, sci-fi-futuristic records and all the artists on it seem to continuously search for forward-thinking sound-scapes. They also have beautiful artwork.
When it comes to broken beats and the term “bass music” there´s a handful of young labels that I really dig. Only two 12”s of the Le Chatroom label have seen the light so far but they´re diverse, crossing every sub-genre in the bass and post-dubstep universe. If you´re into sub bass and sample-enriched broken beats music, this label might be the choice of the hour. Reminds me of Deep Medi and Digital Mystikz but with their own handwriting and modern approach.
Brutal, driving, straight forward, no prisoners-taking techno: having two records out in the record stores so far and defining techno in its rawest shapes, Counterweight is a new label from Munich, Germany. Both records were produced by Gonzo MDF, the next EP will be by ANTN from Denmark. Imagine the prime time of a rave in a dusty basement and you´ll get the sound aesthetics Counterweight stands for.
Hailing from Madrid, Spain, Sungate Records released their third EP in the beginning of 2018 and I´m already looking forward to their next strike. They stand for a spherical kind of techno with a very modern and fresh approach to what I would call astro-techno. Each release stands for itself very strongly, first one was by well-established Eduardo de la Calle, second by EQUAL and record number 3 by Echoplex (who also had a fabulous 2×12”-release on Solar Phenomena). Very futuristic techno all around, highly recommended stuff.
For pure and state of the art electro-techno it’s Pulse Drift Recordings. I found one of their records by coincidence over at Hardwax record store here in Berlin, checked all their releases and I´m still pretty much blown away by each of their vinyl. They´re featuring unknown artists next to bigger names on their releases so there´s always new and fresh sounds waiting to be discovered. Equally unique is the Blind Allies label from Latvia which goes into the same direction with pretty pure electro-id sound designs and half a dozen unknown artists on their EPs.
Last but not least, I have to recommend Float Records from Amsterdam, Netherlands. As you might know if you´re a regular listener to my show here on Frission Radio, I dig loopy, minimalistic and sometimes harsh techno a lot. So maybe it´s not too surprising I love Float Records very much. They´ve also featured some of my favourite artists like the Jeroen Search, ROD, Sleeparchive, Psyk or Endlec as remixers and have created a very strong series of defining techno releases during the last years until the present day.
Is there anything you dislike about the scene now and what can done to change it?
The techno scene is a bit of a love/hate relationship for me. I really love playing records and listening to DJ sets. There is no better dance music for me in the world and it´s the only music that still explores new sound aesthetics and re-invents itself every few years. Techno is both dance music and the soundtrack of the future, as it was thirty years ago. I rarely get bored listening to techno and for me it´s the music with the most facets of all genres. Then there is the scene. As a mirror of the society around it.
The techno scenes evolve in the same way surrounding society does. Maybe there are still some rare aspects that might remind you of a sub-culture or counter-culture when speaking of the techno scene, but in western societies the techno scene has lost most of it potential to become a place of resistance.
I don´t want to argue that the techno scene is a homogeneous group of people but there are some things all the sub-scenes of techno have in common. They are about escapism but they´re mostly non-political. There might be some movements like the female:pressure network that promote gender equality and fight sexism in the dance music scene, or artists, labels and events that speak out against racism, homophobia and other forms of oppression but when it comes to criticising the sell-out and capitalisation of techno you won´t hear loud and clear voices. What you´ll hear for sure are big-mouths and egos. What you´ll see are artists travelling with a handful of photographers and social media-experts promoting every bit of every appearance by artists that sometimes release the most boring, superfluous techno music or that simply have no real clue what DJ’ing is about.
As in every other scene – and in modern work-life, too – the techno scene is about networking and the access to networks and “useful” connections for your “career” in the scene. If you hang out with the “right” people, go to the virulent events and connect with people in the core of the scene, you can grab your piece of the cake. The thing is you don´t have to be forward-thinking, or a great producer or a talented DJ – it´s all about who you know (and who knows you).
I don´t want to say that getting gigs and attention is completely detached from talent and skill, there are so many great artists that get the attention they deserve. But there are also tons of DJ’s and producers flooding line-ups that are there for the fame and attention and because of their useful networks and people who pulled them in, not because they´re sticking out in the scene for their music choice, mixing skills or their unique approach to techno music.
So that´s what I honestly dislike about the techno scene. I´m pretty aware that it´s not any different from other music scenes and that the sell out of techno music is a problem of the world we´re living in. But sometimes it gets me down to see the very obvious mechanisms that will get you on line-ups and in the focus of promoters and bookers, and that those mechanisms mostly are not about your love for the music and the effort you put into it.
Are you a cat or a dog person?
I love cats, even though I´m heavily allergic to most of them. The tragedy of my life.
Whats in store for the future?
After 14 years of DJ’ing I´ve finally made a step into producing own tracks. There are a lot of new things to learn and it feels a lot like when I made my first attempts on turntables in my late youth. I´m really looking forward to diving deep into the world of drum machines and synthesizers.
To be a bloody beginner is fun even though I know quite well which direction I want to take now that I´ve made it into the unknown wilderness of producing techno music. I´m also focusing on my radio show and maybe I´ll play out my music in clubs a bit more than I did in the last years. As I just moved to Berlin some weeks ago I´m sure there are some new and interesting opportunities coming up in the near future and a lot of new plans shall be made.
My home-base is and will be Frission Radio and I´m excited to see Tobi´s and my child, Orbiting Giants radio show, develop into a yet unknown but bright future.
Catch the Orbiting Giants show, every second Thursday from 21:00 Irish time.