Wolfgang Gartner eschews onstage gimmicks typical of electronic music concerts. Ahead of his performance at the Palladium on Saturday for Hard LA, he talked to us about not throwing cake or champagne at his audiences, about stalker fans in small towns, and about his obsession with day spas.
What makes your live set stand out from other electronic acts?
I don't throw cake at people. I don't wear a suit or a mask. I don't spray champagne. I don't get on the mic and stand on a table and yell at people to get the fuck out. I play music that I think people should hear and put a lot of organic, physical energy into it without gimmicks…
… I feel like I'm one of the few people that has any integrity left in the DJ industry these days because it's all come down to people thinking that audiences are so stupid that they're trying to get them anyway that they can — by throwing stuff at them or getting them to mosh pit. It's gotten to a point where it's ridiculous and personally I will never buy into that and I'm trying to at least try and help people see the light that that's not what it's about. It's about the music and you can still go and have a good time without having food or champagne thrown on you.
Plus the people who clean up at the venues where play probably like you a lot more.
Yeah that's true!
Is it true you stole your stage name from a college soccer coach?
That is absolutely true! It was pretty random. There is not really a significant story. He was the soccer coach of a college team and I used to go to games and I remembered his name for some reason and I jacked it.
Has he been out to any of your shows?
This guy is probably in his mid to late 70's by now. I don't know if anybody's told him but he's never reached out to me. I'm always concerned about that though. I trademarked it though so now I own his name!
Did you have any other stage names that were in the running?
No. It was a real spur of the moment thing. I've used a bunch of random aliases over the years for side projects and I was just like “I want a new alias for this thing I'm going to do right now.” A lot of my aliases in the past have been different nationalities/ethic names like an Italian name or Greek name or something. I was like, “German. I've never done a German name” and then this dude's name came to mind.
And this one's gonna stick for a while?
Oh yeah. This is the rest of my life. There's no question in my mind that this is going to be my professional name for the rest of my career.
There's a photo posted on your Facebook of your niece wearing a Wolfgang onesie. Is the new trend in DJ merch?
Some people have asked for that onesie! I would love to sell it. I'm not really involved in the merch side of things but when I get the merch handed over to me, maybe we'll get creative and do it. My sister actually made that. She asked me for my logo and she went to a printing place and had that made specifically just for fun. It was pretty awesome.
What are your favorite tracks to play live?
Of myself it's definitely “Love & War” and “Nuke” and a couple unreleased things that I've done and “Illmerica” is always a big hit. I don't play a lot of well-known songs by other people because a lot of my methodology is to try and expose people to music that they are not hearing every other DJ play. As far as songs that I guess people would know of, I've been playing “Reload” by Tommy Trash and Sebastian Ingrosso. A lot of my stuff is really good music by unknown artists that just slipped through the cracks. I try to do digital digging to find things that nobody else has for whatever reason.
Tell us about your latest EP, Love & War. Has your sound matured a lot on this latest disc?
It's still my signature sound, it's just all about taking my sound and doing something new while maintaining the elements that make me, me. I guess it has matured, yes, but I don't want to say that it's changed because as an artist, you want to maintain that continuity.
What's the best part about playing for a Los Angeles audience?
It's my home and it's my favorite city in the world. It's one of the best crowds in the world anywhere you play. People know their music and people are cued into stuff. I love the city itself so playing here gives me the same type of feeling.
Do there tend to be a lot more crazy fans in the crowd in L.A.?
On this tour, I went to a lot of smaller cities like college towns and those are the places where people go absolutely crazy and they get really fanatical about you and you get stalkers waiting outside of the bus for six hours and people just doing crazy outlandish shit. Then I'll come to a show in a major market like L.A. and people are a lot more calmed down because they are used to it. It's kind of the same effect of jaded without the negativity. You still get a lot of the crazy fans but you get a lot more of that in the smaller cities because they are not used to the bigger artists rolling through there as much.
Do you remember your first DJ gig?
I remember my first gig in a club. I was opening and there was literally like 3 people there and this was like 1998. I was playing vinyl and I was train wrecking horribly and it was an awful set and I'm glad that nobody was there.
When you're not DJing or producing, what are you up to?
Sleeping or eating. My only other indulgence is day spas and massages, mainly to counteract the effects of travel and fatigue from working way too hard. I've kind of turned one room in my house into a spa – there's a waterfall and aromatherapy vaporizers and I think we're going to get an infrared sauna. That's my only other indulgence, spa life.