Wolfgang Gartner: Back on Track
If anyone hit the rising EDM scene at the right moment, it was Joey Youngman.
Releasing energetic electro-house tracks as Wolfgang Gartner, the L.A.-based DJ/producer scored a slew of chart-topping tracks—including collaborations with Deadmau5, Skrillex and Tiësto—and headlined festival stages from coast to coast. In 2010, he earned a Grammy nomination for his remix of Andy Caldwell’s “Funk Nasty.” But recent times saw him step away from the spotlight, as a health issue curtailed his ability to tour.
After re-evaluating his career and hunkering down in the studio for more than a year, Gartner has returned, in better health and with a new album—10 Ways to Steal Home Plate. His first full-length since 2011’s Weekend in America and released on his Kindergarten imprint, the new effort offers a bit of an artistic change-up with its mixture of soaring EDM anthems, banging electro-house tracks, bright pop cuts and bumping urban flavors.
We recently caught up with Wolfgang Gartner to discuss his recent experiences, in and out of the studio.
DJ Times: About a year ago you cancelled your Unholy Tour due to cardiac issues. What were the causes?
Gartner: The result of being on the road for too long, over a decade, living the nocturnal non-stop lifestyle that is required of professional DJs. I don’t drink or do drugs. I don’t party after shows. So it wasn’t anything like that. It was my body’s response to the stress, the random sleep cycles and the constant travel.
DJ Times: How are you feeling now?
Gartner: Excellent! No joke. I have to hit the gym, though. I never realized that touring and always being on my feet was keeping me thin.
DJ Times: How was your time away from the scene?
Gartner: It was probably the best thing I ever did for myself, and for my music—even though it was an accident at first. I never intended on taking a full year off, but I’m glad I did because I think I needed a full year to reap the benefits of a new perspective.
DJ Times: How’s that?
Gartner: Musically, in 2015, I was on a whole other vibe. I wasn’t thinking about my next dance track. I was in the studio every day producing hip hop and this R&B side project that I started up, and a bit of pop here and there. I wasn’t thinking about when I would start touring again or when I would start producing dance music again. I was just doing what I felt like doing day-to-day, and that just continued until pretty recently when we finally released my album. Since then, my mental space got shifted around quite a bit. I was back in “dance world” again suddenly, but it felt new and different this time.
DJ Times: Did your time away play a big part in this new album?
Gartner: Actually, not at all—the album was basically finished by the beginning of 2015. It just took a year to figure out which tracks made the cut, then deal with all the contracts for the featured vocal artists, master it, mix it, and deal with distribution and all that. I knew we had this album to put out for the past year, and it was just kinda sitting on the shelf while I went off and explored other musical territory.
DJ Times: What gear do you use in the studio?
Gartner: A fast computer, some very loud speakers with a sub, a ton of software, and six or seven analog synthesizers. I think for a lot of producers, using analog or outboard equipment seems like a hassle and might deter them from doing it. But for me, especially recently, I’ve found out that these big, heavy synthesizers actually help me get out my ideas faster than software.
DJ Times: Why?
Gartner: I don’t have to open a plug-in on my computer and scroll through menus. I can just flip a switch, and start playing any one of my synthesizers based on what type of sound I’m going for. Each one of these synthesizers has a different sound that it does really, really well, so to get down quick ideas I just start playing around on the one synth that excels at whatever sound I’m trying to achieve.
DJ Times: What gear do you use in the DJ booth?
Gartner: CDJs and a mixer because that’s how I’ve always DJed—except it used to be turntables and a mixer. The use of a computer to play a DJ set is just something that’s always scared me. It’s probably an irrational fear.
DJ Times: Who do you admire as a producer?
Gartner: Max Martin because he’s been the No.-1 pop producer in the world for over 20 years. I’ve been a fan of this guy from his productions from Ace of Base all the way to Taylor Swift and The Weeknd. Everything he touches turns to platinum, quite literally. He is some kind of super-human and he’s Swedish, so it stands to reason.
DJ Times: Who do you admire as a DJ?
Gartner: Mark Farina, Derrick Carter and DJ Sneak—I couldn’t list just one. Why? Because they are my personal godfathers of house music, who I grew up listening to and studying. Those three taught me more than anybody else about the art of mixing.
DJ Times: What can we expect from you this year?
Gartner: New dance music, for sure, and other new music, too, although that won’t come out as Wolfgang Gartner. I’m going to keep making hip hop and R&B stuff just like I have been, and switching back and forth making dance music. I think it’s good for my creativity—it jogs the brain.