In Conversation with DJ Kaiser


WORDS Liam Cagney
Whether it’s Freddy’s K’s epic Berghain closing sets, Pablo Bozzi and Luigi de Venere’s colourful Italo disco, or Caterina Barbieri and Claudio PCR’s out-there electronics, Italian electronic musicians have sizable clout in Berlin’s club scene. One of the scene’s rising names is the Italian techno producer and DJ Kaiser.

Head of the K S R record label, Kaiser exploded into my consciousness in summer 2022 when my friends and I caught a Sunday night closing set he played in the main room of the club RSO, located in an abandoned industrial premises on Berlin’s outskirts. That night, in a dark cavernous space lit up with blue and red flashes, the tracks Kaiser wove together so smoothly and so intensely sounded like transmissions from an alien species, perfectly coherent yet perfectly headspinning. I was instantly a fan. 

Recently, I caught up with Kaiser after he made his DJ debut at the Berghain Klubnacht. That night, dressed in a white sleeveless t-shirt and black cap, Kaiser opened Berghain’s main weekend party with a four-hour set shifting smoothly from ambient electronica to his trademark minimal techno (playing tracks by the likes of DVS1, Amotik and Mark Groot) to a fun, groovy breakbeats close. 

Liam Cagney: Your set at Berghain recently felt like an affectionate embrace under red and blue lights, setting a warm tone to open the club-night. How did it feel to make your debut in that space?

Kaiser: Berghain is an experience that marks you. When I first walked in there in 2016, I knew right away that it was exactly the experience I was looking for. That’s how I came to move to Berlin in 2019. I chased the dream of being able to enter that booth for several years and finally made it by debuting on August 5, 2023. There is no better space than Berghain for you to be able to be yourself artistically, of course, but most of all in a human way. The DJ experience there is simply unique and inimitable because of the technical maximization of every element that influences the composition of the best club in the world.

L.C: What is your background, leading up to becoming a professional techno artist?

K: I come from a small town a few kilometers from the sea in southern Italy, specifically Apulia. My background happened there when I entered the world of electronic music in about 2008. I got into vinyl by watching local DJs playing around clubs in the province. I used to buy records of various genres: funk, house, disco, minimal techno. The latter genre was where I found my identity.

L.C: You have established yourself as one of techno’s top producers. What kind of equipment do you use in your studio, and when creating a track, what are you looking for?

K: My set up in the studio is completely digital flanked by a Roland TR-909. In order to compose music I have to be inspired – I cannot compose as if it were a chore – so I am always looking for old and new music that can convey the right energy that will ground my next record. My goal is to convey my vibe through music. Each time it is a different vibe that allows me to experiment, to swim within myself, to learn more and more new things.

L.C: The vocal sample in your brilliant track ‘Bring Me So High’ for me gently nods to Joey Beltram’s classic track ‘Energy Flash’ (though the tracks are totally different otherwise). In your artistic development, which techno artists were inspirations for you?

K: My greatest sources of inspiration are and will remain Jeff Mills, Luke Slater, Regis, Surgeon, Function, DVS1, Steve Rachmad, Robert Hood, Steve Bicknell and many others.

L.C: In hypnotic, stripped-back tracks of yours like ‘Time Moves Slow’ and ‘Nobody (Sleeparchive Remix)’, I feel like every acoustic element plays a vital role. What effect can you achieve as a producer through this layered, stripped-back approach?

K: My goal as a producer is really to create life within an audio file. I like to build ‘a room’ for each individual element, in order to achieve this three-dimensional approach to listening. As if the music is enveloping you. A mix of effects that, at base, are based on reverb and delay.

L.C: Italy has a long tradition in synthetic electronic dance music, going back to Giorgio Moroder. Is your continuation of that tradition important to you as an artist?

K: Absolutely. I am very attached to traditions in general, and in music and elsewhere, I believe they should be passed on so that new generations can be given the opportunity to learn and evolve as best they can by taking ‘the old and good way’ as an example.

L.C: Your recent K S R compilation is called Nature’s Structure. What does that name mean for you? Does techno itself explore nature’s structure?

K: For me, nature plays a key role in music. I believe that the surrounding environment influences every producer’s sound. Nature’s Structure is a project that I wanted to dedicate to our land. The music of the contributing artists is its structure.

L.C: A very general question: What is techno for you? In its early days, techno was tied to futurism. For you, is techno still an art of futurism?

K: Techno will continue to be an ever-evolving futuristic art without forgetting that it would not exist without the foundation of the past.

L.C: What projects are you currently working on?

K: I’ve released different music in the past years as a solo artist but also in collaboration with other artists [Kaiser and Matrixxman’s 2022 track ‘Nanofactory’ has recently been a Berghain mainstay]. From this I’ve taken a lot of satisfaction and I’m happy my records have been able to play and convey my vibe to the people who are part of our community. I’m currently very dedicated to my DJ work and have no new singles coming out; I’m working on a new EP but it is still being finalized. However, my label will be releasing two new singles very soon: KSR011 by Lee Holman and KSR012 by ORBE. Both records include a remix by me. The vinyl is planned for late 2023 and early 2024.