We talked to Move D about his prolific career as a DJ, producer and record label owner through various stages of electronic music. In an extensive interview we cover highlight from the early nineties through his revival and his latest Pandemix Live Jams series ahead of his appearance at Skranglejul.
David Moufang (Move D) hadn’t owned a pair of turntables at any given period of his career until the pandemic. The 56 year old DJ, producer and record label owner has avoided the traditional DJ setup at home, but like so many other things that changed with the pandemic. With the prospect of long periods of isolation at home, he thought “I’ll get a pair of Technics.” David’s intention turned to streaming some mixes via social media channels during the down time, but he soon started “running into problems”. Over-eager bots would shut down his streams with even some of his own work causing copyright conflicts.
It was unsustainable, and David found he had to change his approach. He would need to circumvent these issues and the only way he’d be able to do that was with unreleased, original material. He packed away his new, pristine pair of decks and brought out his well-worn synthesisers and drum machines. He would “play new stuff with the gear,” making only original tracks in the moment for a virtual audience tuning in from home. He called the series Pan de mix.
As the pandemic eased out of lockdown and the world started getting back on its feet, David was left with all this music on his harddrive and “offers from other labels” started to follow. Doing some minor post production on what was essentially the unaltered live performances, some of the tracks found their way onto Smallville Records with the rest of the music consolidated as a series of releases and eventually an album called the Pandemix Live Jams.
Pandemix Live Jams is just the latest in a prolific career as a recording artist and DJ, one that has its origins at the beginning of DJ culture and has continued to evolve and contribute to the contemporary history of electronic music. The record finds itself at the revival of he and Jonas Grossman’s legendary Source Records and its sound can be seen as a direct descendent of the sounds and spirits that influenced the start of the label. There’s the warmth of analogue equipment and the imperfect touch of human improvisation ebbing through the entire record, much like it did on that first record he and Jonas released as Deep Space Network almost thirty years ago.
“That’s why they are called jams, because they really are jams,” says David from a telephone call via his hometown Heidelberg in Germany. He’s called Heidelberg home throughout his entire career, and it’s in the small town that he started his career as a DJ back in the eighties.
“Life is just a stream of coincidences,” he ponders when thinking back to that time. “Born with the Beatles,” David moved through “Led Zeppelin and probably AC/DC,” during his formative years while he was learning to play the guitar. At that time, Heidelberg was the headquarters for NATO, and with “30 000 American soldiers in a town of 150 000” American music was in the air… literally. As a youth he could tune into the American radio station broadcast from the GI barracks, exposing David to a wider range of music than local stations would offer. The Americans “played stuff you wouldn’t hear on German radio like Parliament and Hendrix’s voodoo child” and it piqued a latent interest in music that eventually went beyond rock music.
As he was coming of age, he started frequenting one of the “mainstream” discotheques in town where two DJs with “American GI backgrounds” would hold court over a record collection seven days a week. ”There was a shelf behind the DJ,” remembers David. “The club owner would give the oldest, most respectable DJ in the club (some) money to go record shopping and those records would go into the shelf.” While most of the crowd was dancing and having a good time, David was “watching, kind of nerding” and taking notes on where all the “good records” were kept.
On an occasion when one of the American DJs got into “some trouble” with the local police and the discotheque was left in a crunch without a DJ, David stepped up to challenge. He persuaded the owner with; “I come here regularly and I know where the good records are.” That was all it took and David was inducted into the resident DJ lineup.
By that point David had already been into electronic music for a while. An initial interest came “when the technology arrived” around “1976, the year before the prophet 5 (synthesiser) was invented.” Not being able to afford a piano, his mother bought him the more affordable (then not so much now) electric Fender Rhodes piano, planting a seed for manipulating electronic sounds. It evolved from there with the first “major milestone”, a Tascam four track cassette recorder, before Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message” eventually saw David fall into a rabbit hole of machine music. “That was a very important track for me,” insists David, “it changed my life”. That track encouraged him to buy his first drum machine and started the decline in an interest in rock music altogether.
By 1985/ ‘86 he heard the first DJs beat mixing on trips to Italy, where clubs were “spearheading” the evolution of the dance floor at that point. At his local discotheque however “beat mixing wasn’t really a thing.“ It was more of a “mainstream place” where you “would hear Happy Birthday by Stevie Wonder every other night when it was somebody’s birthday.” David stepped into this role on a pair of rudimentary belt driven turntables, spending a couple of hours every night practising beat mixing, before the audience would inevitably flock in and start requesting the last chart hits.
He never considered it a job, thinking this was going to be a mere stepping stone between school and university, “like a bartender or waitress.” His first inkling that this could be a job, was meeting a friend of a girlfriend who had been “Djing for 12 years,” and even then it seemed incredulous. “To me this was shocking!” snickers David. “I was full of pity for this guy.” The money David had been earning at the discotheque “was barely enough to pay rent” and he “couldn’t” even “afford to buy vinyl with my money,” but the fiscal focus took a back seat to the music he was playing and starting to make in his free time.
Rock n Roll is dead
While playing in bands, he had had access to a studio and like so many of David’s stories, it was mere coincidence that he started making music for “short movies or advertisements” out of that studio during this time. It put him on a “path moving away from the band” and towards early prototype Techno without even knowing it. “I was making Techno in a way like all electronic music, without thinking this could actually be released. I hadn’t heard my first house record yet.”
“It was all thanks to D-Man really, who started putting on Acid House parties around ‘88” in town, insists David about his introduction to this music. The DJ, who is a little older than David, brought characters like Ron Trent and DJ Pierre to Mannheim, a town just outside Heidelberg, with people from as far afield as France and Switzerland frequenting what would become a scene. David ”got to hear these amazing DJs” and it had “a huge influence” on his own nascent prospects as a DJ and producer, but it wouldn’t be until he met Jonas Grossmann that these efforts started to take shape as Deep Space Network and Source Records by the early nineties.
Source Records and the scene that he and Jonas created around the label which included KM20 studios and the local “hangout” Milk! has remained a touchstone on the history of Techno and House music. Aphex Twin would stay with David when he was in town, while the KM20 studio would feed into Milk and become legends in their own right. Milk! was an ambient café, “a kind of hippy place” according to David, where you could get your coffee served by Jonas or David while being served the latest creations coming out of KM20. We were playing this music and we were the people making this music” and this “really drew people.”
Those rose tinted glasses aren’t looking so rosy
David rambles through these pivotal moments in his career in a matter-of-fact tone that places all the emphasis on characters like D-Man – and later in the conversation, Lakuti – without much concern for his own incredible achievements. He almost brushes over his entire career in the nineties summing up a decade in a few concise sentences before moving on again to the present.
“It’s easy to be nostalgic,” he says before warning, “but I wouldn’t over-idealise it.” Yes, it was originally “ grounded in this freakish thing,” where impromptu parties would pop up in abandoned buildings and the woods,” but it was also the dawn of Techno’s commercial success and with that came pitfalls.
Deep Space Network and Source records would be part of this momentum too. “People were ripping the albums out of our hands,” says David without hyperbolic inflection, while he and Jonas were being flown to London for NME photoshoots. With Source Records they had found a niche as Techno was booming with the advent of what David defines as “listening Techno,” but we would probably call ambient today. There was certainly something in the air at that point which coincided nicely with things like Warp’s Artificial Intelligence releases, and they all soon found they had become the darlings of the media. But trends moved quickly, and in “one year Aphex twin was god and two years later the headlines were ambient is dead.”
Source Records remained prominent during this period, with classic records like Roman Flügel’s “Ro70” and Move-D’s “Kunststoff” entering the label’s catalogue, and even during ambient’s death spiral they were still introducing new and exciting artists like Lowtec to the world.
Throughout all this time however David’s career as a DJ remained suspiciously low key. “It didn’t really matter in the nineties,” he says of Djing. “It was all local or German clubs.” He was “doing ok, making money” from selling records, and the label would sustain him as he became a stay-at-home dad. He would play “Techno parties,” both as a DJ and a live performer, and while there “was extra money” in that at a time when the fees were particularly high, he never considered it a career.
And by the “end of the nineties the introduction of the cd burner and then Napster was finally it for the prospect of making money as a label” too. “Winding down the label” during this period for the first time, “less and less gigs,” started coming David’s way and in that unique catch 22 for any DJ, if “you’re not active, you’re forgotten in no time.” By the early 2000’s, David says; “my career was rock bottom. Nobody cared, neither for the records nor for the Djing. I was at a point, where I thought eventually I have to find myself a job.”
The job search never had materialised however.
“Again, it’s one of those lucky instances,” says David. With the global village shrinking in the shadow of the internet, David found fortune in the advent of social media. A friend had introduced him to MySpace and then suddenly, without much prompting, people from places as remote as the British midlands were reaching out. One of those people was Lerato Khathi, better known as Lakuti and synonymous today with her label Uzuri records. At that point she was still “putting on illegal warehouse parties in London” and invited David as a fan of Move D.
“I didn’t even have a proper record bag,” remembers David who also recalls being “really nervous.” Playing after another DJ with a minimal set, the trepidation of following the stark sounds of his predecessor was getting closer. Luckily, the transition between DJs coincided with a power outage; a “ twenty minute break” and time for David to compose his thoughts while the crowd re-adjusted. It turned out to be a “good thing” and he was able to “reset the mood with cool Deep House.” It hit a nerve with an audience possibly somewhat fatigued from those minimal bleeps and “people lost their fucking minds.” It was pure kismet that it happened at a time that coincided with an era of Deep House’s own revival and in that scene Move D yet again became a vital proponent, bringing new audiences to this music and his own back-catalogue.
He became a fixture on the scene, playing places like the much lauded invite-only Free Rotation festival, while releasing music again with labels like Workshop, Running Back and of course Uzuri knocking on his door. And while his working methods might have “been changing drastically” based on a curiosity that continues to go unsatisfied, there’s that consistency in the warm analogue sounds, and the imperfection in human improvisation that has remained consistent. It’s still there in Pandemix Live Jams finding a natural home in the 2nd phase of Source Records as an exclusive vehicle for his own music.
Move D remains a constant presence in the underground, and as a DJ he’s staked out a claim as one of the best. This is possibly his greatest claim. His ability to find some common ground with crowds, while playing on the dynamics of his own musical history has garnered a reputation as a DJ other DJs like to admire.
I’ll still find my place
Today his sets can go “from more broken beats” to “Chicago acid” with a focus on “mixing styles” through his set. It’s what he admires most in other DJs too – “That was my biggest complaint about the early 2000’s; I could be there for two hours and it was like they were playing one track.” And he’s not eclectic for the sake of casting a wide net, it comes down to his own personal tastes. ”Do what you believe is right and don’t try to please because you think you know that’s what people expect from you,” he says in some grand philosophical gesture.
David doesn’t often talk in platitudes like this, so when he does, you have to stop and take a beat to let it sink in. There’s a wisdom there that only experience can bring, and he carries that over to a sincere commitment to the music he plays. “I want to entertain them, but I have to like it as well,” he adds as he considers the statement. We’re a long way from the eighties where a person like David “would get into a fucking fight about music,” and today he’s eager to share the optimism of an interconnected world where people are less stubborn.
He can see the positive aspects of being more “open-minded” about music, even if it might not be to his favour. He’s realistic that perhaps he’s not in that sweet spot of popularity like Source Records was in the 90’s or Deep House was in the early 2000’s, but “it’s ok” says David.” I’m aware my personal taste could be right and the pinnacle of what is hip and other times… they are far apart. Now we’re at a point where it’s medium far, but I’ll still find my place.”
That place is enshrined in the history of electronic music today.