Wolfgang Lohr Interview (10 Questions to…)
Wolfgang Lohr… an incredibly talented electro swing artist, an inspiring man with many passions and an outstanding producer. In addition to constantly promoting electro swing all over the world, he additionally supports other artists to succeed.
I’m sure many of you admire him and listen to his tracks regularly. :) It was a great pleasure for me to interview this fantastic artist and now you, my dear readers, can get to know him better.
I present to you my new interview: 10 questions to… Wolfgang Lohr! It’s a fantastic conversation about life, passion for music and big plans for the future.
01. LadyDot: I’m very curious (and I think not only me, but also all the readers of the blog), how did your adventure with Electro Swing start? When did you create your first Electro Swing song?
Wolfgang Lohr: My first single was released in 2012 by Ostfunk, a Berlin-based label and organiser of techno and tech-house events. At that time, the electro swing genre was still in the midst of a hype wave, thanks to more well-known artists like Parov Stelar and Caravan Palace who were pioneering it, and this wave was also spreading to the whole electronic music scene in Germany and Europe. I released a 2-track single called “Swing dein Ding”, which was also pressed on vinyl. The two tracks on it are “Chicken Swings” and “Manouche”, at that time only club versions, with an epic length for DJs :-) It was a lot of fun and I suddenly felt more freedom and options when producing, I had only been involved with tech house for the previous 3 years, as a producer, DJ and live act!
02. LadyDot: You have your own music label, the world’s biggest blog about Electro Swing, and you also create your own tracks and support other Electro Swing artists in their career development. You probably do a lot of other things I have no idea about, haha! How do you manage to balance it all? How do you find the time for all this?
Wolfgang Lohr: Sometimes it even feels like I’m pulling not only the whole genre train, but the whole station! :-) Just kidding, but I made the decision to become a full time music producer and artist 4 years ago, I was playing fewer gigs as a DJ and still working as a freelance video editor a few days a week. In the Electro Swing genre there were hardly any labels to choose from, and they were also staffed with their residents, less active and not particularly open to new things. So I decided to go all out and start my own label and immediately started the website with the blog and everything else related to the genre.
It is still a niche genre and there was no platform where you could find everything around it because everyone was focusing on their own things. So with Electro Swing Thing we created an artist directory, started a mix series with a YouTube channel, a music blog, integrated dance videos and in March 2019 I also created the label. It grew out of “Electro Swing Elite”, also a kind of platform for the electro swing community, which I had previously run for 5 years with my buddy Phos Toni. Over the years I’ve found people who are passionate about the same thing and now there are a lot of freelancers working for the label, the blog and the website. A label manager and a motion designer are currently being hired, so hopefully I will soon have more time for my passion and core competence: Music production and composition! :-)
By the way, in 2019 I was able to take over the website from incontroL, who is also a friend of mine. He had started it together with some other buddies as “Electro-Swing.com“, the first worldwide website for this genre.
03. LadyDot: Every song you compose and produce is always polished. Every element, every sound is well thought out, not random. I can hear this in singles such as ‘Upside Down’, ‘Twenties’, ‘Keep On Smilin‘, oh, I could go on and on! 😊 What is your recipe for the perfect, ideal Electro Swing song?
Wolfgang Lohr: Thank you very much, it’s always nice to hear someone take a closer look at my music and analyse it :-)
On the one hand, I work with many artists, which is always a challenge and an enrichment, no matter if it is a singer, a horn player, a pianist or a guitarist. There are always new ideas and other influences that I appreciate and take away with me every time. And most of the melody lines and instruments are created and edited by myself, without samples. It’s always a mix of adding and layering micro samples for the vintage sound and virtual instruments that I play on a keyboard.
At the end of the day, the sound is also very important to me and I always take a lot of time for the final mixing session, sometimes too much time, so that I sometimes lose focus on the whole work and can easily get bogged down. But now I often mix up to 70% of the sound during production. It’s easier for me to integrate the sound design and the many effects and details that really come into their own when everything is well coordinated.
It’s not uncommon for me to change the bass line or drum elements at the end of the process, as well as changing small things in the arrangement. All in all, a production always needs a lot of time to breathe, like a good wine. It’s important to always approach the project with fresh ears, because that’s always the most important 2-3 hours of a studio day. I like to start early in the morning with a coffee and then dive deep into the music tunnel!
04. LadyDot: There are more than just original songs in your artistic output. You’ve created a whole host of perfect remixes of iconic swing songs such as ‘Charleston’, ‘Hit the Road Jack’, ‘It Don’t Mean A Thing’. Which old swing songwriters are you most inspired by?
Wolfgang Lohr: These are not remixes, but cover versions, that means replays of old swing classics or modern stuff, without samples of the original, mixed with electronic music, own grooves and contemporary arrangements. To create something new. But don’t worry, almost everyone gets it mixed up and it’s not really important for the listener, but for the artist and the release of course. :-)
I really like the compositional style of the 20’s to 40’s, the interesting vocal lines, the jazzy chord progressions and the playful melodies played by horns, violin, guitar or piano. Most of the time, however, the arrangements are not catchy enough for my taste, as music had a different function back then than it does now. In film music productions, it is not uncommon for there to be a musical intro lasting more than a minute that has nothing to do with the rest of the piece. There were hardly any verses in those days and the “A – A – B – A” scheme is not really working with today’s arrangements.
So I take my hat off to the pioneers of swing, jazz and pop music of that time, who created really virtuoso and very musical things that are timeless and give a nostalgic feeling. But I don’t have a favourite composer. I pick the things that I like the most and they are from very different composers and musicians. But I would mention the musical genius Irving Berlin, for example, who wrote a lot of evergreens like Puttin’ on the Ritz, Cheek to Cheek and White Christmas.
05. LadyDot: LadyDot: One of your first Electro Swing collaborations was with the duo Balduin. Later on, you also invited Alanna Lyes, Deladap, Ashley Slater, DanyloM and many other top artists for your tracks. I’m very curious to know what it’s like to co-write songs with artists who live in different corners of Germany, Europe and even the world?
Wolfgang Lohr: It’s a surprise every time, and my skills and experience grow with it. The trick is to rely on each other on both sides and get involved. But because it’s all digital and we can exchange everything easily via the internet, everyone has enough space and time to concentrate on their contribution. We send each other complete ideas, lyrics, arrangements, mixes, masters and toplines via Dropbox and work on them.
It’s usually more binding and definitive than sitting next to each other in the studio because we have a finished idea in front of us and we’re usually trying to get the best out of it. Technology has improved, the internet has gotten faster and most musicians can record music in much better quality now, so this kind of workflow works very well.
I love working with different musicians and people from all over the world and I always enjoy working with the ones you just mentioned. It’s fun and uncomplicated, everyone gives their best. Still, I dream of having a bigger studio here in Berlin sometime in the next few years, where I can work with musicians and songwriters in an analogue way. That would be the next step for me, to take a little more time for ideas and compositions and to work on them together with other musicians!
06. LadyDot: I remember how surprised I was when I found out that the distinctive trumpet sound we hear in most of your songs was your creation! How many years have you been playing the trumpet? Or do you also play other instruments?
Wolfgang Lohr: That’s not quite right, I’m a trumpet player, but I haven’t touched the instrument since my farewell concert from my ska band “DaSKArtell” in 2012. But it is a very important part of my compositions and productions, because I think like a brass player and also create melodies like it would be played in a horn section. I play these melodies in several voices and arrange them on the computer in the music production software Cubase, so every note is set by me. But unfortunately I no longer play my instrument actively and for real. I would have to take the time and practise every day to reach the level I had back then. I had my heart set on doing that in 2020, but then Corona came along and, as we all know, that changed a lot of plans. But maybe I’ll make plans for next year.
Other than that, I’ve been trying to play guitar a little bit, and I’ve been picking up drums before or after the band rehearsals at the time, but that’s not really worth mentioning, but it’s helped me understand and feel those instruments better. I was composing and playing music on the keyboard by the age of 16. My trumpet teacher later helped me a lot with harmony and jazz improvisation, which I could use very well for composing, which was very important. So I can play chords and melodies on the keyboard, but I am absolutely no virtuoso! :-)
07. LadyDot: When I carefully listened to your singles on Spotify, it became clear that you love to experiment with different musical genres. I know that besides Electro Swing, you are very much into house, disco and techno. You’ve even created projects called DINKS and Dorade. I’m sure you have a few other favourite music genres. What kind of music do you listen to on a daily basis? Maybe you’ve been playing a particular track non-stop lately?
Wolfgang Lohr: I have a lot of musical influences, through friends, my childhood, holidays and different periods of my life where I listened to completely different music. Basically, everything I liked and listened to a lot is still there emotionally years later, they are preserved feelings, like photo albums only with music and much closer to the time. You always look different in a photo than you do today, but the piece of music is still the same and conveys the same feeling and lets you immerse yourself in that time. For me, only music can do that so intensely.
I listened to ska for a long time, northern soul, a bit of punk, in the late 90s I was influenced by The Prodigy, trance, house and I was also interested in hip hop and drum & bass. Later, during my trumpet phase, I listened to a lot of jazz artists and standards. When I moved to Berlin I was really into tech house and then I discovered electro swing.
I think music has a different function for everyone and there are different situations in which you listen to music. When I do sport, I like to listen to music that pushes me forward; when I’m relaxing, I like to listen to things that aren’t too intrusive; and when I’m cooking, I like to listen to nostalgic things that I haven’t heard in a long time. My taste in music is too diverse to be reduced to one style, but to be honest I listen to very little music these days because I make music all day. I prefer to listen to talk podcasts while walking and relaxing. Unfortunately, I discover very little new music as a result, and I haven’t had a song that I’ve listened to over and over again for a long time!
08. LadyDot: You are one of the most well-known Electro Swing artists, you have had a whole lot of success. Which musical achievement are you most proud of?
Wolfgang Lohr: I’ve done a lot in the last few years, including my other pseudonyms and producing for other artists. At the end of the day, I’m happiest with the 60 million plays of “Hit the Road Jack” on YouTube and the many millions of plays on Spotify and the other platforms. The collabo track “Boring 20s” with Tamela D’Amico and Ashley Slater is a good piece of music in my opinion, but also the productions with Balduin, for example “Dizzy” and “Magic Man” already feel like classics of the genre and “Party Like Its 1920” will soon be heard in an HBO series. With Deladap we made it into the top 3 at the ESC preliminary round for Austria 2022 and “Make Swing Great Again” was played in a bigger Spanish Netflix series. These are all small successes that make me very happy and motivate me every day.
But personally, I have a lot of music productions that I was very convinced of, or that I thought would be something new, exciting and possibly musically valuable, that unfortunately didn’t live up to my expectations. This is unfortunately also a learning process that probably every musician and artist knows, that it is usually the simplest things that work over and over again and it is very difficult to develop and try new things. I have a couple of releases coming up that are a little bit different from my straight style and unfortunately I have to expect that they won’t be as successful and won’t be heard as much. But I have my other artist pseudonyms in other genres to add some variety to my work. And I think and hope that my sound and skills have grown a lot in the last few years!
09. LadyDot: You are not only a composer and music producer, but also a DJ. You create brilliant Electro Swing mixes and playlists that have rocked many parties in my house. I had a very interesting situation recently, haha. I went to a pool pub where the landlord was playing one of your YouTube compilations. We started talking about Electro Swing and then he told me about Wolfgang Lohr being his favourite Electro Swing artist, seriously! I would love to go to Berlin (and I think not only me, but also a whole lot of your fans – including those from Poland) to listen and party to your DJ set. Are you planning to perform at any festivals or clubs somewhere this year?
Wolfgang Lohr: That’s a very nice story and of course these are always things I like to hear because I hardly ever experience them in everyday life. I love my life, but it’s also 90-95% hard, disciplined and meticulous work alone in the studio and most people who listen to my music probably don’t know what I look like and who I am. That’s fine, because it’s about the music and not about the cult of personality, that’s what I like about the Electro Swing community, it’s about the essentials, the music and not so much about other things.
In the last 4 years I have withdrawn more and more from the DJ business to concentrate on my music productions and my label. When you’re playing shows on the weekends and travelling around, you don’t have time for your own music and you’re always being interrupted. I decided to go this way also because I’m not in my mid-20s anymore and this way of living and working gives me more and I can sleep more, do sports, be more rested and live more in harmony with myself, according to my own ideas and rhythm and timing.
This year I’m playing an open air festival in Germany in July and nothing else is planned yet. I might do my own event next year, here in Berlin with the EST label. And if something interesting comes up, I’m always happy to look at it and take it on if it fits. I can’t do it for longer without an audience and a live show, because then I get nervous and need a live experience again. Last year at the Beats 4 Love festival in the Czech Republic it was a great comeback after the Corona break, I was positive about it for a long time and it motivated and influenced me again for my productions!
10. LadyDot: I’ve already done a few interviews, but I haven’t asked this kind of question yet. What are your plans for the future? What else would you like to achieve? To release your full album, to organise some big Electro Swing party? Or do you have completely different plans for the next few years?
Wolfgang Lohr: I would like to have a bigger event here in Berlin every year, where I can invite the label’s resident artists, dancers and people from the scene who can perform, and where everyone can meet each other. A meet and greet for the more active people in the Electro Swing community, but also for the audience. The planning is going on discreetly in the background! :-)
I would also like to release many more singles and albums and try to bring something new to the genre and develop it further. It’s a long way and maybe it won’t work out, but it would be nice if I could take the listeners with me and meet their taste.
I hope to be able to concentrate more on the music next year when the processes for the label and the music blog are all outsourced. Then I’ll have more space to breathe and things will be more relaxed and I’d like to release more albums. As I mentioned before, a dream would be to have a bigger studio where I can invite a lot of artist friends and we can chill and make new music together here in Berlin.
We also have an annual music convention in a small circle of producers, DJs and promoters, which we could possibly make a bit bigger to invite more people. It would be a great opportunity to meet and brainstorm.
Apart from that, I hope that some tracks will go their way and appear in a series or game, or reach many streams. In any case, it’s great to see that the genre is here to stay, that it’s being heard all over the world and that many young people are taking part.
LadyDot: Wolfgang, thank you so much for these great answers and for letting the readers of the Electro Swing Thing blog get to know you better through this interview. I wish you much musical success! :)
Wolfgang Lohr: Thank you for this great interview and I really enjoyed your questions!
Interview by LadyDot (Ja, Wizeruk) Date: 2023-04-24