Mayer has done it all in his expansive career. It began with DJing his high school dances with a turntable and sneaking into clubs at 14, continued with DJ residences in Barcelona and Cologne, eventually opened his own label, Kompackt in 1998.
But what has been most remarkable has been his ability to change, experiment, and augment his music throughout his career by producing popular dancefloor hits while simultaneously constructing avant-garde underground concoctions. While he is loyal to the 4/4 kick drum of most house and techno, he’s tinkered with cosmic disco, disco, minimal, progressive, and everything else in arms reach.
The premiered track “For You” with Joe Goddard (member of Hot Chip), shows Mayer’s eclectic past combing subdued techno with Goddard’s gloomy lyrics forming an almost tangible mood. Yet the ambient song remains enlivening with cheerful xylophones and and and a mantra that repeats, “It’s for you, that I wake up... that I keep walking.”
We caught up with Mayer to ask him some leading questions.
You've said that each collaboration on your new album means a lot to you, why did you choose Joe Goddard for this track?
We've been wanting to work together for a quite some time. I've always admired his work, be it as a member of Hot Chip, The 2 Bears or especially his solo works. Although we didn't know each other very well, I always felt like he's a kindred spirit. When I invited him to take part in this project, he directly sent over some sketches he had made. 'For You' instantly was my favorite of the bunch as it perfectly encapsulated what I love so much about Joe's work. It had this all out emotive vibe to it. It just needed to be structured and put together – something that I like to think I'm quite good at.
What are the pros and cons of incorporating such narrative-driven vocals into a track?
I'm seeing more pros than cons. For my taste, there can't be too much emotion in a dance track. It's not a secret that I like my dance music more introspective and emotional than merely just functional. If I had to choose between fists pumped or eyes closed I'd always aim for the latter. The human voice is the perfect vehicle to trigger emotions, to take people to a different place. Surely, there are risks involved. Someone could feel disturbed by the lyrical message. More often people simply don't like a certain voice. Voices are typically a love it or leave it thing. But these are risks well worth taking.
When do vocals make the track, and when is it better without?
It's a fine line... and a very subjective decision. First of all I need to feel the sound of the voice. I've often been asked for remixes but I couldn't do them because the vocal didn't touch me. The lyrics are secondary to me, given the fact that one of my all time favorite songs is about a cake recipe (Richard Harris' "MacArthur Park"). When I do remixes, I usually prefer to keep the song structure largely intact. I don't really see the point in chopping the vocals up until they're unrecognizable. As long as they've got a nice flow to them I'd try to use them in their full glory.
You've said that you knew that you wanted to DJ since you first saw someone behind the turntables – when is DJing better than you could have imagined and when is it just everyday mundane life?
In the early ‘80s, when I fell in love with the silhouette of that guy behind the turntables, it was still unthinkable that DJs would become world-traveling role models. So in that sense, DJing today is much better than I would have ever imagined. It's a huge privilege to make a living from playing one's favorite music to others and it should not be betrayed. I'm in a constant dialogue with myself about this. Am I giving back enough? Did I play the best I can? How can I improve my craft? There's no denying that the world has become a darker place. As a DJ I potentially have the ability to turn the lights back on. My goal is to take my audience to a better place. Clubs are a sanctuary, a place that should allow you to dance your troubles away. Here's why I prefer to play very long sets... It's like with massages: The longer you get worked on, the better you feel. On a perfect night I can pretty much knead all mundane knots away.
We are pleased to premiere “For You.” Buy the track here.
Written by Miles Griffis