Three albums deep and more eclectic than ever before, Germany’s Timo Maas has proven a born survivor in the world of dance music. As a champion of the Ibizan underground stronghold DC10 and joint owner of the Rockets and Ponies imprint alongside Santos, his reign has been one of creative consistency and an undying commitment to perfecting his craft. With his latest album, Lifer, offering a full-length journey of diverse sounds and seemingly impressive collaborators, Beatport News sat down with Maas to talk album mongering, White Isle hopping, and the labor of love behind his long-serving career.
Between UK chart success and underground cult status, your studio albums have had considerable success to date. How did you approach Lifer given the success of its predecessors?
Lifer is my third studio album and I keep returning to the format because it is always a different experience. It’s just a way I like to express myself, even though the process is very often a long one. Lifer is not just club music from A to Z; it is like my hour[-long] interpretation of electronic music right now. That isn’t just music we hear in clubs, but also something you can digest at home and use to get away from your daily madness. My intention is to push boundaries and try new, fun, and creatively stimulating things.
Between the likes of Placebo’s Brian Molko and UNKLE’s James Lavelle, Lifer boasts an eclectic run of collaborators. Did bringing such varied talents from across the musical spectrum provide any challenges to your creative process?
When you do collaborations, it is always the same thing for me: get genres colliding and characters rallying with new creative minds. It is always something that is very interesting, as you never know what the end product will entail. I met Brian 12 years ago for the first time and occasionally we would run into each other. I sent a few tracks out to him and he turned out to be up for the wildest track on the whole album. Sometimes you receive nice surprises along the way, so I love collaborating.
As if Lifer wasn’t a big enough landmark for you, this summer will see you celebrate a decade as a DC10 resident on the White Isle. How does it feel to have fared so long with the infamous brand?
It’s like those guys made the impossible possible. Ten years ago, we all went completely nuts and had the craziest parties to the coolest music. They just went along with it. They always had a fantastic sense of what could be cool, hip, and different. It was always very ambitious and it is still what it is: a mad party with high-quality line-ups and fresh music from across the globe. It is still about partying and music. There was never an obvious movement like some of the other Ibiza clubs. I am still very glad to be a part of it. You look at the big guys like Jamie Jones, Seth Troxler, and Loco Dice—they all came through DC10. That says it all for me.
There have been some varied responses to the current state of Ibiza’s club life over the past several years. Where do you stand with regard to the health of the scene?
It’s a bit strange compared to when I started going, back in 2000; it is easy to forget that I was considerably late compared to my colleagues. It was generally all about club nights. These days, especially the last three years, a lot more wealth and strange culture [is] going out there; [it] seems a lot more important to be seen than to generally experience it. As music lovers, we have different priorities. It is not about having champagne on a hip beach—it is about the clubbing experience. Some clubs have changed not for good in my personal opinion; they are focusing on the wrong things. But in all fairness, they are a business. They have 16 weeks to make their business and they need to do what they do. At the end of the day, there are still places that make me want to go throughout the summer. It may be getting bigger, but for me musically, it is still on par and very educational for artists and music lovers alike. It is a never-ending learning process over there.
It is easy to forget how long you have been contributing to electronic music. Has your approach or hunger towards the genre shifted at all since emerging from rural Germany?
As you say, I grew up in the German countryside, but it never deterred me. I am 33 now and I started collecting records at the age of seven. I started off filling cassette tapes with music off the radio and music from friends. This has spanned over 30 years, from small parties with friends to a mobile disco when I was in my 20s. Playing six, seven hours of music and then storing our own soundsystems was an everyday thing, but I was used to that thanks to my years as a roadie for a successful German band. My love was always DJing, not always as my profession. That started at the end of ’94—which is a super-long time in this business. Then it wasn’t enough to just play other people’s music; I wanted to [play] my own music and see people in the crowd react to that music… I am very happy with what I have done and am living beyond my own dreams. I am still restless, still doubting, and that is a perfect sign that this is just another step forward in my career.
Word is that your Rockets & Ponies imprint alongside Santos is set to re-emerge in a big way for 2013. What drove you towards starting an imprint in the first place, and where is it headed from here onwards?
I always liked the idea of having an imprint. The music business is changing, but I still like to have a platform for brilliant music. Sometimes I receive music that no one else will release because it sounds too different. Santos and myself run the label together and the motivation is the same—we can release things we really love. We have had a little break since last year, but we are back with the label this month. We seem to be heading towards the electronica route; we have definitely opened up a little bit more.
With nearly two decades of industrious activity behind you, are their any essential life lessons that the road so far has taught you?
When you do this for such a long time as a living, change is the most important thing. The people that just do the same don’t last long. 19 years is a long time, but I could never use the same formulas. I need to be inspired and exposed to new and stimulating things, which in turn make me want to create new sounds and opportunities and push things that stimulate me. You cannot be afraid to try new avenues.
What has the remainder of 2013 got in store for you?
The touring is dedicated to the album release, but I am doing what I always do, traveling all over Europe and then hitting the states in June. I haven’t been over there for a while, so I am looking forward to going and checking out how the scene is looking over there. We also have dates set in Japan and the festival season is filling up nicely. DC10 will be taking up a lot of time, and some new parties with Loco Dice. [Overall], a lot of interesting stuff and vain attempts to get a sun tan somewhere in Europe, which might be asking a bit much.
Photo via Local Suicide