Solomun firmly believes in the divine power of music. “I have always been a believer, and I don’t think it is blasphemous to put music on par with God,” says the prolific dance DJ. “It has this healing power, as well.”
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And he’s absolutely right. When you step into a venue, from arenas down to the club circuit, a catharsis melts over you. Whether you’re seeking a safe space from the troubles of the world or simply washing away the 9-to-5 grime, music is a one-in-a-lifetime experience that is both wholly personal and universal, connecting each and every one of us together.
Furthermore, researchers revealed in 2013 that “listening to and playing music” actually strengthens one’s immune system. “Just looking at my personal experiences, during my work, I have seen the effect often during my shows,” Solomun tells American Songwriter. “Dancers with their eyes closed, hands waving through the air during a break, and a big big smile on their faces. I mean, I can only assume, but that looks like the music is doing something nice to them.
“And not just that, there were many instances where people have come to me after my show and told me how they fell in love during one of my sets and are now happily married,” he continues, “how every time I play in their city is like an anniversary for them and thanked me for that一although I’m pretty sure there are also stories that go the other way.”
With another story, Solomun shares how one young woman, who lost a friend in a car accident, returned over and over again to his shows, as a way to reconnect to her late friend. “When she comes to my shows, she feels like that friend is with her at that moment, and she is thinking back to the great times they shared… a happy grief that helped her process,” he says. “I’m pretty sure all of us have our own personal experience as dancers or listeners; I know I do. A moment where you are on a dancefloor, almost in a state of meditation, and the music completely transcends you and transports you to another place.
“When you return, you just have an incredible smile on your face. This bliss after a night out with fantastic music, connecting with people through music or just reconnecting with yourself,” he adds. “Or when you’re feeling down, and a certain song picks you back up, almost hugs and embraces you. It can actually alter your mood, even though physically, it’s ‘just sound waves.’”
Solomun’s latest record, Nobody is Not Loved, embraces the cosmic stretches of music’s deeply-rooted healing power, brandishing synths and rhythms into swirling clouds of sound一always immersive, forever hypnotic. From tracks featuring the likes of Jamie Foxx (“Ocean”) and Anne Clark (“Take Control”), and an oceanic expanse of mood-altering vibes in between, including the shimmying euphoria of “Home” and the skull-crushing darkness in “Wadium,” 12 tracks curl and twist around the listener’s body for a total transmission of energy.
Its very nature is holistic and transcendent, lining up with the kinds of artwork that really drives into “your head” to “make you associate and think and react with your mind,” he observes. “But music is one of the rare mediums that you can actually feel with your body. When you are in a place that is created with music in mind, and for the reception of music, like a concert hall or a club, with a proper sound design and a decent level of volume, the sound waves actually physically push your body, albeit just temporarily and in very small amounts). And I think this has a very strong influence on its impact.”
Through his excavation of sounds, rhythms, and structures, Solomun and his many collaborators, including Planningtorock and ÄTNA, began to have discussions around the album’s “meta-level” nature and “its whole philosophical aspect,” thus nosediving even further below the surface. “My friends and I always followed a kind of philosophical approach in life, and actually we really enjoy philosophizing about all sorts of topics,” he says. “Here we discovered for ourselves the layers behind the music. While contemplating about it with my best friend and my manager, the meaning for us suddenly started to transform一that music was the heroine of the album, that only music could make the statement: Nobody Is Not Loved.”
Out of this deep reservoir, a “realization about how important music is for humans” and “how it helps us deal with the human condition” began to form and fling to the surface. In his many years as a DJ and mounting six-hour-plus shows at Pacha in Ibiza, Solomun “had been intuitively witnessing” such a transformation for years, yet its magnitude wasn’t felt until making this record. Especially during the pandemic and lockdowns, “we realized that we can’t take music or events for granted. Now that we are missing these places made for music, we really understand how much we need them.”
Music is far more than a commodity. While it’s certainly vital for artists to be paid for their work, music soundtracks many of the most important moments of our lives, often piercing the layers of our emotional cores in a way no other medium can. The experience itself is worth is priceless. “Music has accompanied us basically throughout our entire lives, so we have taken it for granted. It has become a part of us. Certain memories are even linked to specific songs. I can’t stress enough how vital music has become for us all, in general, and of course, also for me, personally. I feel blessed having found a home in music. Everything I have done has been in connection with music. The things I do, the people I surround myself with 一 basically my entire life, my whole reality.”
When his father became very ill with lung cancer, entering “the final stretch of his life,” Solomun had been working on the track “Story of My Life,” the bookend to his 2009 debut album Dance Baby, and even now, it remains tied to his father. “I have to admit, there were times when I played this track and had to shed a little tear in the DJ booth. Not only because I was thinking of the pain of missing him, but also from the joy of reminiscing about all the good memories we shared.”
While delving into and unearthing such grander themes, Solomun also challenged himself to tinker with different genres and soundscapes, bringing in a playfulness that oozes across the album. “I didn’t want to limit myself in feature ideas or dancefloor-ability, instead think more in terms of song structures, but without following a traditional pop formula. I think that’s exactly what an album should allow,” he says. “I had been collecting ideas and inspirations for years and slowly started to puzzle the pieces together.”
His musical appetite, frequently placing electronica over post-punk, new wave, and dance-pop, erupts into a free-wheeling exchange of moods and emotionally-charged hyper-kinetics, arranged into a decorate flow to form an album with a cohesive throughline.
“I continuously produce, and honestly, whatever happens, happens. I don’t feel the obligation to necessarily go genre-hopping in the future, just because I have done so in the album project,” he continues. “But I definitely have the liberty to. When I’m working on a dancefloor record, that’s what I will opt for. I will continue to go in the direction that feels right for the specific project, whatever that may be. As long as it feels right to me, I will follow that instinct.”
On “Take Control,” Anne Clark’s voice rattles through the fog to deliver the album’s most poignant lyric. The human race leaves a human stain, Clark sings with a ravishing intensity. The words rush into the eardrum, encompassing what it means to be a human being in this very moment in time. A global pandemic and last summer’s social upheaval wraps freshly gnarled tentacles around such ongoing issues as world hunger, inadequate water access, and a host of other problems, leaving one bereft and disheartened about where civilization is headed next.
“It feels like a bullet train that is racing towards us, almost impossible to stop. It’s such a shame that politicians are trapped in their behavior patterns,” Solomun reflects, “and it feels so frustrating to watch because there’s so little one can do. I mean, there is some positive change and action within the younger generation, and I think the way to go is to support and really listen to them.
“It also feels as if the media could have a greater impact on this topic. Through conscious decisions, they could really influence the public opinion and maybe help the next generation turn the wheel around,” he continues. “But in the end, everyone has to look into the mirror and make their own choice and see how they can contribute. Of course, you’re trying, but you can’t do everything right. I recently also thought about Musk and Bezos here, and without wanting to throw shade at their life’s work, and of course, it’s all great and visionary to try to go to space一but whenever I hear that I think to myself: why don’t we take a look at Earth first, and see what we can improve here, before flying to other planets?”
Over the course of his career, Solomun has played the globe, remixed songs for Lana Del Rey and Depeche Mode, and done all there seems to be done in the world of dance music. Yet Nobody is Not Loved is evidence that there is still plenty to explore, discuss, and live, and the legendary producer is only just getting started.