These days it's hard for artists and musicians to stay relevant in the ever-evolving dance music scene for any more than three years. With that being said, this unfortunate reality is what makes Timo Maas's three decade career as a pioneer and tastemaker that much more impressive. I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to interview one of Germany's finest, and pick the brain of a man who has, quite literally, seen it all.
His career grew with the culture from the very beginning, and while his eclectic sound has evolved over the years, he has managed to do so without ever compromising his artistic vision and conforming to the "mainstream". He maintained an open mind and adapted to the innovations of sound and technology with such dexterity that allowed him to outlast his contemporaries and become one of the few founding fathers of dance msuci who is not only active, but influencing.
You see, Timo Maas is dance music. Dance music is Timo Maas. In my humble opinion, there are few voices with as much credibility as his. That's why I jumped at the chance to interview the living legend and ask him about... everything.
Your long and successful career is a dream-come-true for countless young musicians and at one point it must have been a dream for you as well. When did you realize that you not only wanted to be an artist, but an electronic musician?
"I was always a DJ…loving and playing music from the early 80`s…. it was more of a natural process coming over the years, that at some point I wanted my own vinyl in my hand. Artist/electronic musician…it`s the same in a way…, as long as you are able to express your musical ideas! I always had more diverse, sometimes also strange ideas, that I liked, followed and realized."
While you were honing your DJ skills, dance music was in its infancy. What did the German music scene think of the 4/4 rhythms that House and Techno were spreading from their homes in Chicago and Detroit?
"We've been there quiet early really…Germany also has a huge experimental electronic scene building since the 60`s and 70`s… a lot more than Kraftwerk and all those well known acts and artists. I do remember, when the US stuff came over, combining the straightness of early electronic programming with the disco and funk influences… loved it!"
What were your preferred genres before dance music came about? When and why did you decide that you were going to focus on this specific area?
"Again, that has been a natural process for me. I have been playing music out since `82, basically everything from the late 70`s and then growing with the music of the 80`s. The focus also came naturally, as I was bored of the other music at some point and I concentrated more on the electronic music. That was around the end of the 80`s."
At times people fail to realize the years of hard work that it takes to reach sustained superstardom; An average music fan would be shocked to hear that you “built a studio in a barn next to [your] house [with] Funktion-One speakers so [you] could make music that was perfectly” crafted for the club. How did you keep yourself so relentlessly dedicated?
"It`s in my blood bro! When I did or do things, I try to do them right!!!! DJing now over the span of nearly 34 years shapes you in a way… Believe me, J."
Your remix of Azzido Da Bass’s ‘Doom Night’ was one of the first tracks to put you in the dance music spotlight, how did it feel to suddenly become recognized by the mainstream?
"It needed some time, to be recognized, as it was not sounding like anything else at the time (and still doesn't…) Lets say, that wasn`t planned, but it worked out in the end… Nice!"
That remix still slaps! I’ve dropped it a few times when I’m messing around behind the decks and it always flowed nicely in between contemporary tracks. The styling of the lead synth has been often imitated, but never duplicated, while the composition and bass-line essentially became the blueprint for speed garage and bassline – in turn, influencing House & Bass and jackin’ House – did you realize the track’s potential impact while in the studio?
"No, not at all…Martin Buttrich and I did that thing in about 3 hours back in '99. We felt comfortable with it, and that’s about it… The real [impact] we only saw a year later or so. That was just our understanding at the time of doing something 'cool and unusual'"
Your most recent full length LP was 2013’s Lifer and was a release that truly showcased your artistic range. How do you manage to craft such distinct pieces that are all so high caliber?
"It`s all about having the right ideas and most essentially finding ways of realizing those. I have always been quiet experimental and musically open minded, so to produce a proper studio album is also the process to dig deeper in your ideas and visions…"
You’ve witnessed the development of modern day dance music from inception to every peak and valley, do you think the “EDM bubble” from 2011 to today is bursting? How do you think the scene will react?
"I don`t give a flying fart about the EDM thing… It has nothing to do with what I do… End of!"
Having played all over the world during a career that has spanned the genre’s lifetime, you surely have to have some preferences. Which is your favorite city to play? And which ‘era’ of dance music is your favorite?
"I LOOOOVE Tokyo!!! And obviously Ibiza…. I am very grateful to have experienced the whole thing from the beginning and looking back, I can say, that every era has or had its highlights and downers. I`m still very ambitious of what I plan and do and obviously put all my emphasis on the future and the new upcoming times and projects!"
Where do you think the mainstream dance music scene will go in 2016? More importantly, what do you have in store for 2016?
"I really don`t know what the mainstream will do (if I did, I would be a very rich person, J!) I have a couple of very interesting projects seeing the light of day this year…from underground releases and remixes on, for example, MFR or Sasha`s Last Night On Earth label up to a big new single with my partner James Teej and Sir Paul McCartney. I will make sure you will hear THAT project, trust me ;)"