Electronic dance music is a multilayered beast. At the top is the current crop of media darlings who use their celebrity status to forward their career. Below them, a layer of artists no less impressive, but whose star is hidden from view by the glare of the PR white noise generated by ‘The A-Listers’. Scratching the surface of this band of merry souls reveals lifetimes of struggles, of creative endeavour, of grafting hard for that roar of the crowd and being able to touch just one soul with their music. Theirs is an honest account: a story many of us live every day.
Boss Axis are an iconic duo in the melodic techno world. Signed to Parquet, Great Stuff and Black Hole to name a few, they have been dubbed the “Ministers of Melody” by an adoring fanbase. Their sound is characterised by warmth and harmony, which has been key to becoming global travellers entertaining crowds at Tomorrowland in Belgium, OFFSonar in Barcelona, Tresor in Berlin and more.
DMC World had a chance to sit down with them ahead of a busy October tour schedule with shows in Stuttgart, Eppehaus and Amsterdam. This is the journey of Marcel and Thomas, in their own words…
Hi Guys, glad you could join us. Let’s start at the beginning… 2009, Boss Axis signs to Parquet recordings with the Axis EP. Can you talk us through the process of getting those tracks signed to such a presidios label off the bat?
We had these couple of tracks and sent them out to a little netlabel and also to Parquet as it was – and is – one of our favourite labels. Shortly before we signed the contracts with the netlabel we got an email from Norman at Parquet for a vinyl release and the Axis EP. What an awesome day – shortly before Christmas, a signing for our first vinyl on one of our favourite labels!
How do you feel the musical development of Boss Axis has gone? Have there been disagreements/challenges along the way? How do you settle them?
There’s a short scuffle and then classically discussed. Ha! Either that gives an answer or we find a common solution. If it’s getting annoying and loud, we stop and get back to it quickly.
Tell us about working as a duo. How do you prefer to write music and does this translate to playing live? I mean, does one person lead and the other follow or is it a balance?
Its different. Sometimes Thomas is jamming around with melodies, creating a loop. Then mostly I’m responsible for drumming, like beats, fill-ins and fx; percussion things. We make the arrangements together. Otherwise, I start with a drum and percussion loop and try to find a catchy hook. Often Thomas is jamming for hours and hours to find THAT melody, which never appears in a release! Haha.
Skipping forward to 2012, you released your first album. What lessons did you learn from that time about making music, the industry, and yourselves?
That‘s a really time-consuming thing – to have at least 10 to 12 tracks out of a lot of sketches.
Another thing is the opportunity to show a wider range of styles and creativity. Nowadays it‘s difficult to draw peoples attention regarding new music because 100s and 100s of tracks are released every day. So we think, we would choose another type of marketing and another way of releasing it. Maybe as different parts / EPs combined with videos and so on.
Let’s talk about collaborations. You were instrumental in Parquet’s 100th release teaming up with label head, Solee. In these times of producers going from one label to another to climb the ladder of success, you’ve stayed loyal. What was it about Solee and Parquet that made you feel so comfortable?
From the beginning, the collaboration between Parquet and us was so uncomplicated. Solee is such a nice and likeable person. He always has an open ear for us, our ideas and tracks. We know each other personally since 2011 – a real familiar feeling.
Being loyal to a label certainly has advantages. But do you find you pressure yourselves to make music only to fit the label and not the other way round?
Not at all. We producing music for the love of music, not to fit into a label’s sound. So if we have an idea we follow it completely without any other influences like a specific label sound. In the end, we check which label could be the best for it.
Social media has exploded in recent years and a DJs popularity seems to ebb and flow with their fan interaction. You guys manage to do this with a lot of humour, what inspires a social media post for you?
It has to be something unique, we don’t like those everyday normal posts like “Hey Iook, I’m in the studio eating fresh fruits and drinking coffee”. Sure you have to keep pace with the times and to get people’s attention. A normal Beatport or Soundcloud link isn’t creative but in the end, you have to do it to promote your current stuff. If we have the time we prepare little videos or a special graphic or photo.
Let’s move on to gigs. Tell us a cool tour story, something crazy that happened to you…
One time a Dutch guy picked us up in a Jaguar from our hometown, Suhl to play at his event in Rotterdam. Awesome weekend!
Mid October sees you back in Amsterdam headlining a gig for Dutch event team Melodic Deep at De Ebeling. ADE brings a lot of people to the city and everyone’s on their A game, what can the crowds expect from Boss Axis in headliner mode?
Headliner sound! haha … always 100% Boss Axis sound included a lot of our own stuff, unreleased new material an nearly every set, special edits and always danceable.
The world of dance music has had some troubling global stories in recent months, not least how Spotify plans to change the current business model for royalties. Most artists don’t seem to comment on these types of stories and allow ‘the suits’ to work everything out. Is that right? Or should artists be more business minded?
It would be better to be more business minded, us included. But as artists nowadays you have to be web designer, booking agent, producer, marketing expert to promote your stuff on social media and so on. We think a lot of artists don’t mind that much on streaming services and prefer more to produce music. So often we only want to make new stuff, playing that shit in front of a lovely crowd, having a nice label / management in the background who take care of those things like streaming services etc. Often it’s too much that an artist has to deal with.
Another story which caught the world’s attention was the arrest of David Morales in Japan recently. Drugs always seem to be at the root of it, but how they’re handled remains a huge geopolitical problem faced by Governments. How much responsibility do you think the artist has to be a role model vs. living their life as a regular person?
If you‘re a person of special interest, being a well known DJ for years, you should definitely think about what you’re doing in public. Sure everyone has also a regular life and also famous artists have a weak moment, but sometimes it’s better to hold something back.
Boss Axis socials/links…
Melodic Deep socials/links…