It's no lie that CGNY is pretty fond of Dutch techno! And Darko Esser is one of our faves! Last here in NYC in 2011, he has been working on new tracks and with his new live and techno moniker as Tripeo, he is busier than ever. Holding down day duties as the booker at Doornroosje we grabbed a little time to catch up with him ahead of his most recent booking at Tresor with his buddies Rod and Doka!
CGNY: I was just looking back over our last chat in 2011 when you made your first trip to the US. Already you had made a lot of in roads, you’d played Panorama Bar and Berghain, you’d founded your own label so let’s talk about where your career has gone in the past 3 years? Tell us a little about the Tripeo moniker?
DE: I basically have gotten ‘split up’! I still do stuff under my own name and there are some new singles coming out at the end of this year/early next year on a quite well-known Berlin label – I can’t say just yet. Tripeo was not really a joke but it wasn’t something I was really serious about when I started it. I had a track that I made on the shelf that I played a lot (I don’t play a lot of my own stuff) and I didn’t know what to do with it because it felt different than what I do under my own name and it was on the hard drive for a while. And then all of a sudden this old nick name that I had when I used to play in punk bands came to mind which was Tripeo. It really fitted the sound of this track which is Untitled One from the 1st Trip. It moved on really quickly after that. I had the name Tripeo; I wanted to do a credible white label vinyl only release with as little information on the records as possible and because of the name Tripeo – I could 1st trip and because of the name 2nd trip, 3rd trip etc. It all kind of fell into place after it came to mind.
CGNY: I think the first time I heard a Tripeo track and I didn’t immediately make the connection that it was you…
DE: It wasn’t a secret but I wasn’t going to announce it per se.
CGNY: Exactly you weren’t advertising it to the world! It was Samuli Kemppi – Search (Tripeo remix) which I loved. And then soon I realized it was you – so a pleasant surprise. And have you been playing out as Tripeo or as Darko?
DE: I do both. As Tripeo I do live shows and dj sets. But for the moment most people seem to be in interested in the live show because it’s something new and because I released an album it made sense to do more live shows for a while. I still play under my own name and the good thing about it is I got mostly requests for techno gigs but I don’t consider myself a techno dj per se. I love to be on the borders of everything or do straight up house sets and because of the alter ego, I’m able to split it up more. If they want techno, I’d prefer they book Tripeo and under my own name I can do more eclectic sets.
CGNY: Yes I heard one of your more housey podcasts yesterday. And I guess it’s nice when you don’t have to get locked into a genre. What’s your set like for your live set?
DE: It’s a very travel-friendly setup. I’ve experimented from the beginning with more hardware like mixers and guitar pedals but it’s just a pain in the ass to carry it around especially if you go on an airplane. So I’ve narrowed it down to a laptop, an APC40 controller, Kaos pads and I need a separate dj mixer because I use all 4 channels on it. I basically split up all the tracks in their separate parts and I make the arrangement on the spot. The live shows are completely different in that way. Tracks are never the same.
CGNY: And that must give you a lot of freedom – to be creative?
DE: Yes and I’m doing longer and longer shows now. I started with an hour because it’s pretty intense. But I’ve done quite a few now. I know where everything is and I feel pretty comfortable so I’ve done shows that are almost 2 hours long.
CGNY: That is kind of unusual for a live set – most are only an hour.
DE: Nowadays an hour feels kind of short. Everything I’ve made as Tripeo is in there – it’s like 50/60 tunes so it’s quite easy to do an hour and a half without getting over tired or overthinking; it’s more automatic you know? I don’t have to think about certain transitions anymore because I know how to do it.
CGNY: It takes a while I’m sure to get comfortable and to feel like you can go longer and still keep it interesting and creative for the audience. What’s going on with your label,Wolfskuil? You are busy with the club bookings and the label!
DE: Everything still revolves around my ‘normal job – well it’s not really a normal job!
CGNY: Yes you are the booker for Doornroosje – and you mentioned that you are moving venue too?
DE: Yes after 20 years in the same location! We started in the 80s about the end of the 80s and now its 2014! But it’s such a well-oiled machine. I do the bookings and then I pass it through to the next guy who is taking care of logistics and all that kind of stuff. I don’t have to do night manager duties so I don’t always have to be here. I try to be here at least half of the time. Certain dates I don’t take any bookings because I want to be at the club. I’ve been doing this for almost 2 decades now. Things get easier – I get better with my time, more efficient so to speak. I can move a lot faster. The same goes with other stuff at the label. A lot of things are always the same. And for the studio, I’ve noticed the last couple of years especially since I’ve started with Tripeo 3 years ago. I used to need hours on end to do something. Now if I make something super quick, If I like it I’ll check the next day and move on. I try not to overthink things which took up most of the time in hindsight just being stuck in a loop you know what I mean?
" I’ve noticed the last couple of years especially since I’ve started with Tripeo 3 years ago. I used to need hours on end to do something. Now if I make something super quick, If I like it I’ll check the next day and move on. I try not to overthink things"
CGNY: Yes and your ear must get better tuned to the possibilities of a piece of music. It is part of the universal creative process I think. Just to go with your gut on something
DE: Yes and I’ve taught myself to do that more. If it doesn’t work out I can always go back and try something else. It all comes down to experience. I wouldn’t be able to do this 10 years ago. I would have agonized over every detail.
CGNY: You’re playing Tresor Aug 16?
DE: Yes I’ve played there many times and it’s always, I love to play downstairs (behind the gates!) the dark, cellar atmosphere; crazy! Crazy sound and crazy people. I’ve always had a great time playing at Tresor and now I’m doing an album tour over there and they let me decide who to bring with me so I’m bringing my friends Rod – Benny Rodrigues and Doka – he’s the new kid on the block! Although he’s an experienced dj – been playing for almost 15 years.
CGNY: Any plans to come back to the US? We’d love to hear you play again!
DE: I’d love to come back but no direct plans as yet. Nothing substantial enough to do a tour. I would love to come back to New York and stay for at least a week. The last trip was only 5 days and it was too short. The city has such an incredible energy,I was overwhelmed when I was there. You can just feel all the creativity. A lot of music made a lot of sense coming from New York all of a sudden.
CGNY: Any other big gigs or releases coming out?
DE: Two singles for Tripeo coming out. I’m doing a track and its being remixed on a Mindtrip release from Pfirter. I’m also doing a release on my favorite Dutch label – can’t say that just yet.
CGNY: You are still excited when you go to play out? Do you have a pre gig ritual? Do you ever get nervous?
DE: Like really nervous doesn’t really happen anymore. Last gig I was nervous about was TimeWarp last year doing a live set. I hadn’t done so many live shows before and they put me primetime in the second biggest room between Gary Beck and Marcel Dettman! I don’t have a ritual before. I like to be relaxed. Especially in new places I come a bit earlier – maybe an hour before just to see what’s going on and what the vibe is like especially with foreign gigs I do this. There are a lot of places I play now I’ve never been before and I just want to see what makes them (crowd) tick and get the vibe of what to do when I start. And I like to hang out after with the people because you may never see them again! Try to be a bit of a tourist as far as that’s possible. I’m actually enjoying myself more and more the past few years compared to before. I always had a good time but everyone gets down to these dead ends when you think “What am I doing it for?, I’m not feeling it anymore” But I always get over it and the last 4 or 5 years it keeps growing and growing – like a kid in a candy store!
CGNY: And maybe the live set and Tripeo has helped that process? You can’t feed creativity to others unless you are feeding yourself creatively.
DE: It all came together this way. I feel happy to have an alter ego where I can hide behind – not under my name – just a part of me. When I leave the stage I become “me” again. I never thought about it before but I am experiencing it now. It makes me feel more anonymous and I kind of like being anonymous which is kind of weird if you go onstage. I come from the 90s where the dj was always in a dark room – not shining a spotlight on themselves.
CGNY: And finally my usual end of interview question, a piece of music that you love to send to the aliens?
DE: I decided instead of picking a classic tune, I’m going for a future classic. This track from Breaker 1 2 has everything I love about techno: emotion, raw energy, melody, abstraction and an overall sense that a real human being is behind the machines. There are production flaws and little mistakes in this track that make it absolutely perfect!