Derek Plaslaiko is a name who might get lost among the other heavyweights on this year’s Forward lineup particularly among new comers to this festival so we hope this introduction will change this opinion. Quite simply, Derek is one of the best DJs on the planet and that statement remains true whether you consider him a native from the Detroit Area cutting his chops in the height of the city’s rave era or as a distinguished veteran in the massive EDM community inhabiting Berlin. We took a few seconds with the gregarious music lover and Forward Festival 2009 veteran to ask him about life abroad and what’s in store for this and other festivals he will be playing stateside.
88: First off how are you?
DP: Happiest I’ve been in years, maybe ever! Thanks for askin!
88: Did you know when you began that you would DJing as a career?
DP: Not at all. Was never really the goal. Before 1995, I was buying 12″s of songs I liked (because back then, that was the only way to acquire this music outside of mixtapes and CD’s, basically) but didn’t own a proper turntable. A friend sold me 2 belt drives and a mixer for $100, so I started teaching myself how to mix. After a while, my good friend Patrick Russell started nudging me in the direction of trying to play out at parties in Detroit. I sorta laughed at the notion, and when I got my first bookings I sorta figured I would play out a couple of times and that would be the extent of it. 16 years later, here I am still!
88: You probably get asked about living in Berlin, a lot. Instead tell us a little bit about the transition from being so popular stateside to an international player in an international city.
DP: It’s been a slow one, for the most part, but that’s how I wanted it. I’ve had some pretty high profile gigs, but it hasn’t blown up the way some people figured it would when I made the jump. That’s mostly due to my lack of self promotion. I always figure it’s better people find out about you in their own ways. Plus, I see too many people come over here and try to blow themselves up and it doesn’t work out how they wanted and they get frustrated and leave. I have to much respect for this city and it’s scene to start throwing my name out there and pressuring people for gigs. And I certainly don’t want to be seen as “just another American moving to Berlin to make a career for themself”, which many Berliners are really starting to get sick of. I love it here and have felt quite welcome since my arrival, but my primary reason to move here wasn’t career motivated.
88: We realize you’ve DJ’d professionally for many years and you didn’t make your career following trends. How do you continue to push yourself as a DJ? Is it simply finding new music or is it reconsidering what you’ve done before now?
DP: I try to push myself by being the best DJ I can be, really. With music being so easy to get these days, anyone can get the big tunes and use an internal sync program and be a “DJ”. Those type of people generally feel that if you’re playing whatever the hot new shit is for the moment and not trainwrecking while doing it, then they are a “DJ”. Sure, they may get crazy amounts of gigs out of it and all, and I’m not tryin to knock anyones hustle, but theres just so much more to it than that for me. Reading a crowd can be extermely fun and rewarding. It’s something I have always tried to push myself to be better at.
88: You played our festival in 2009 and it’s stood as a highlight in our five year history. Tell us about other small festivals in the US you’ve liked and why these festivals worked, if you think the experience was successful.
DP: I really like Decibel Festival in Seattle and Communikey in Boulder, CO. Those 2 are constantly growing, and I feel they totally work. Both push new and exciting music, as well as arts and creativity. Communikey is an anniversary of sorts for me and my girlfriend, and is happening during Forward Festival, actually. I will be flying into DC directly from Colorado. Sad to be missing the end of it, but very excited to play DC again! Plus, the lineup for Forward seems great all around. The night you guys have planned for when I play is incredible! I’ll be having tons of fun even when I’m not playing. 🙂
88: You were asked to play Movement (DEMF) again. Last year you did not get play for very unfortunate reasons. Does that build your excitement for this year or make you more anxious.
DP: Well, last year I was only playing our No Way Back party, and yes… that being broken up was a huge blow! This year, I play at Hart Plaza on Monday, and No Way Back on Sunday night. I’m extremely anxious for both, but it doesn’t have much to do with last years unfortunate incidents.
88: As to other milestones, the Bunker party in New York you helped establish and carry during its lifetime turned nine. Tell us about the anniversary party and how often you hope to play it in the near future.
DP: The anniversary party is always a great time! Has been since like the 4th year. So many people come out of the woodwork from the past days of Bunker. Plus, Bryan always tries to do something unique for it. 3 years ago, it was Speedy J all night long. The 8 year anniversary was Optimo, Donoto Dozzy and me for 8 hours each in our own rooms. And the 9 year was Derrick Carter and I all night in the back room, and a SUPER sick electro and acid lineup in the front room. I unfortunately didn’t get to check the front out much, but the back room was insane! Derrick played techno classics in the back, which was a step outside the norm for him these days. Who knows WHAT Bryan will put together for the 10 year, but I expect it to top all the others. 10 years is quite the milestone! I hope I am part of that one, as well as all the others! Bunker will always be home to me, and I’m gutted everytime I DON’T play one!
88: Tell us about music creation and you right now. You just released a remix for Interdimensional Transmissions. Tell us about that remix and future productions you have in the works.
DP: Well, it was actually a collaboration with BMG on the main track called “Is Your Mother Home”, and a dub mix done just by myself (along with BMG doing his own dub). It was incredibly fun to do, as we did it in Brendans studio over Easter in 2010, so it’s great to finally see it out! The reactions to it have been fantastic! I’m sure I will play it at Forward, but it’s out now on the Interdimensional Transmissions website, as well as Beatport. I don’t really have anything else slated right now. I’m working on a remix for a label run by my friend, Dominique (MIghtykat, from Montreal). I should have that done by the weekend. I also *really* need to get new stuff over to Perc Trax. Ali has been very patient with me. Working last year was tough, as I had quite the amount of things in my life fall apart. But, everything is worked out now (hence the happiest in years comment from the opening question in this interview) and it’s time to get back to working in the studio. It’s hard, though. I never feel like anything is finished, or very good for that matter. Classic excuses that most people seem to have. I just need to be able to let go and say “fuck it, it’s done” but it’s a difficult.
88: As to Interdimensional Transmissions, tell us about your relationship with Ectomorph and how you came to be a consistent headliner for the label’s parties.
DP: You’d have to ask him about why I headline, but I’m certainly glad to be asked as often as I do! I’ve known Brendan and Erika for… god, like 15 years!? I think theres always just been a crazy amount of mutual respect and admiration all around. Their parties have always had that certain element of classic Detroit party that I’ve always loved. Just a dark and dirty room, with punishingly loud sound. When shit gets like that, things can really get crazy. People lose their minds when the music is right! Brendan also just asked me to do a solo release for him, but who knows when I will be able to actually get it done.
88: Tell us about what people seem to be calling a CDV residency. Will you curate and invite artists you would like to see?
DP: Noooooo…. Basically, my residency is for Visionquest’s Tuesday night called Soul Shower. Their careers have exploded to the point where they weren’t in town very much anymore. I’ve known them for years, so they asked me and Eric Johnston to jump on to pick up the slack. It’s always been a very personal night for them, so they still do all the programming for it. But, it’s always fun people and friends of our coming thru to play. It’s a bit on the lighter side, which is challenging for me to play like that some nights, but it’s a fun challenge!
88: If you could name one track that has not left your DJ “bag” that you will always come back to time and again, which one would you choose.
DP: Oh, theres way too many to list….. I’d probably have to say Model 500’s “No U.F.O.’s”. I’ve probably played that record more than any other record I own! And not just because it’s been around for that long! Such a JAM! Actually, I think I shelved it for a bit. Might be time to break it back out! 🙂
88: Tell us about 5 non EDM albums you look forward to this year.
DP: In that dept, not really anticipating anything at the moment. Really pumped for the new Silversun Pickups LP (guilty pleasure)! Would be great to get another Yo La Tengo and/or New Pornographers LP. Both bands are due! And it sure would be nice to see the Bell Garden’s LP finally get a release date! For those who don’t know, that’s a project from Kenneth Gibson (Apendics Shuffle) and Brian McBride (Stars of the Lid). It’s really fucking gorgeous. Like the Beach Boys meets Pink Floyd meets Phil Spector. SOOOOO good!!
88: Tell us one thing about Derek Plaslaiko you wish everyone who hires you knew but never does.
DP: That Plaslaiko is not my last name. Can be quite messy for airline tickets sometimes! Either that, or I am a big fan of single malt scotch! If you book me and know of a great bar with a firm selection of single malts, a pool table and a KILLER juke box…. take me there!! We can always get Taco Bell for dinner. 🙂