“I never thought I'd be featured in DJ Mag,” says modest producer-man Derwin, aka Gold Panda, who has been causing pandemonium in electronica circles since releasing his glistening debut album, 'Lucky Shiner', in 2010. He then released a well-received 'DJ Kicks' comp in 2011, although claims not to be very good at DJing — preferring to play live, which he's become a headline act doing.
“I know what I'm doing live, and I know the tracks,” he tells DJ Mag. “When I'm DJing, I'm not confident in what I'm doing. I don't want to go out and DJ using the Gold Panda name, I don't think it would be very fair for people to come out and pay for something that wasn't being done well.”
On his new album, 'Half Of Where You Live', he's gone a bit more uptempo, although this isn't so evident on new single 'Brazil', dedicated to one of the many countries he's toured recently...
You were born in Peckham and grew up in Chelmsford in the UK. Why did you decide to relocate to Berlin?
“I met a girl in Hamburg called Sophia, and we became a couple. So I moved to Hamburg first and then had a lot of friends living in Berlin, so decided to move here. It wasn't a musical decision, although there are some really good record shops on my street, especially one called Oye. I go in there a lot and buy a lot of house vinyl, which I never used to buy, and listen to all the new releases I've never heard of before. That's had an influence on me, but I don't really go clubbing or go out much, I spend so much time touring that the last thing I want to do when I get home is go out to a club. I am going to see Mount Kimbie this week, though.”
Your new album 'Half Of Where You Live' seems more uptempo than 'Lucky Shiner', housier — is that fair?
“I guess so, I wanted to make it more beat-driven. I've been playing live in clubs more, and never intended to make dance music but people started dancing, so I made the beats more 4/4 and a bit more danceable in the live setting. That's come out on the album, I guess.
“My tracks are made pretty much live, very quickly in one take, so that's why they have a certain sound and the arrangements are quite weird. I've basically used an MPC200 XL as my main piece of equipment since I started making music, and get other things to run alongside it, and I'll bring things in and out and do a demo take. I listen to it to see which bits are good or bad, then later on do another take in parts to try to recreate the good bits that were live. It's more fun and natural for me this way, I can't really sit in front of a screen and arrange stuff, I find it really boring.”
When you play live, what do you do?
“When I was doing the last album tour I had a laptop being controlled by an MPC, and then some other bits. I didn't really feel comfortable with that, but I did it for so long because I hadn't made any new tunes for so long and I didn't know what to do for playing live. But now I have a couple of drum machines, a sampler, a loop pedal and a mixer, and I use a laptop for a few bits — although I try to avoid it. I'm trying to find a small synth at the moment — when you're travelling around a lot, it's good to pack it down as neat as possible.”
Have you been surprised at how successful you've been?
“Yeah, totally. It's been a bit overwhelming, really, although I've tried to take it in my stride. The music scene can be quite fickle — you can be the big thing one day, and then the next day someone else is and it's all over. But it seems to have been quite steady for me, especially gig-wise, which is where I make most of my living. People who I think will probably hate my music say, 'Oh yeah, I like your album, yeah'. Unbelievable.”
You also lived in Japan at one point — and there does seem to be a bit of an oriental flava to some of the harmonics in your tracks...
“Yeah, definitely, that's been a recurring theme. I wanted to avoid it, but it just comes through. I think it becomes more subtle as I progress, I can't get away from it, really. I just love those sounds and those harmonics.”
Have you got any toy pandas?
“I've got a soft toy panda whose back opens up and it's a CD holder — like a CDJ. And I've got a Panda-Z toy in the bathroom, which comes from a Japanese animation called Panda-Z. I just randomly picked the name, and people assumed that I really like pandas."
“I didn't know what to do for a name, so I went through a load of colours and animals — pink worm, or whatever — and ended up with Gold Panda, which kinda suited the tracks that I'd made. At that point I didn't think I'd really be still doing it five years later."
“At times I love the name, and at other times I hate it — when people put your name on a flyer with a gold panda next to it, a badly-drawn panda. I guess I could've made merch with gold pandas on, and I would've made a lot of money. But I haven't done that, cos it's just a name — and I didn't want it to become a brand. I could've cashed in, but tried to avoid it. It's more like a mythical name, I guess. Sometimes I don't feel like it's me — it's its own entity.”
What's the weirdest sync your music has been used for?
“I don't know really, but I have had someone telling me at a show that they have sex to my music — that was their thing. That was weird — that I soundtrack that for them. I don't know what I'm supposed to say to that. What did I say? I said 'Cool', I think. It was weird, you just shook their hand and they're both there. It feels like you should go and wash your hands afterwards.”
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