Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Wolfgang Puck. And with the electronic producer’s rapid and rising success over the past four years, DJ Wolfgang Gartner can be added to history’s most prolific Wolfgangs. The San Luis Obispo, Calif., native has held multiple spots on the Beatport charts and headlined festivals from Coachella to Electric Daisy Carnival. Gartner is widely regarded as one of the most innovative DJs to date. He credits his 20 years of listening, learning and looking outside the box for the success of his recent—and somewhat controversial—album Weekend in America.Gartner spins at XS on Nov. 18.
Your new album features five hip-hop and R&B artists. Many electronic dance music fans turned out to be against this merge. Would you say it was a risk?
There’s a considerable little part of my fan base that is not accepting of some of these collaborations, like the really hard-core underground ravers. They don’t want to hear a vocal, and if they hear a vocal it’s got to be some unknown person. They think that working with Eve or Will.i.am is selling out or going mainstream. People think that this is going with the times and doing something that’s going to be accepted by more people but it’s actually taking a big chance because there are a lot of people that don’t like that whole aspect of it. I did it ’cause it’s what I wanted to do musically.
From a different standpoint, it’s hard for me to just put out an 11-track album of all the stuff that I’ve been doing for the past couple of years, but that’s really what my fan base wants to hear. They want me to keep doing the same thing over and over again, but it’s not what I want to do.
How did you choose who you worked with on the album?
Each one was different. With Will.i.am, I met him in the club and I found out that he was listening to my music and I had some stuff that I needed vocals on it. With Eve, there was a beat that I had made that I just heard her on and she was in my head. I was like, she needs to be the one person that does vocals on this. So we sought her out. Jim Jones and Camron, they’re pretty much all I listen to right now. I’m a huge fan of what they’re doing. Regardless of whether or not they worked on a dance track, I’m a huge fan wanted to work with them. Omarion, my manager actually became friends with him. He turned out to be really into what I was doing, we put him on this track that I wouldn’t have thought to put him on. I wouldn’t have heard a soulful R&B singer on this beat but then it worked in this really crazy way.
Will.i.am seems to have been very important to the merging of hip-hop and dance music.
I think his whole DJ career and him getting into dance music doesn’t really have an impact on dance music, but him as part of the Black Eyed Peas and part of the music that they’ve brought out has had a huge impact on bringing dance music to the mainstream. In my opinion, Will playing dance shows is not because he wants to be a dance star or because he needs money, he’s doing it because he needs the inspiration. He takes things from these shows and he writes a Black Eyed Peas song and it becomes a No. 1 pop song, and this is what converts people over. The way I see it is, Will is doing market research for Black Eyed Peas songs. They’ve had a huge impact on merging those two worlds in a positive way.
Do you think this dance music trend will continue?
It’s already taking over the radio, and it’ll probably become a little bit more embedded in the mainstream society. I always compare it to disco in the late ’70s/early ’80s. Disco was huge. There were all these pop artists and artists from different genres putting out disco albums because it was the hot thing to do. It’s the same thing with dance music right now. Black Eyed Peas are hip-hop artists, Lady Gaga is a pop artist, but they’re doing dance albums because it’s a hot thing. Dance music is at a peak right now, and it will probably fall out of the mainstream again and it’ll come back again over 20 years. It’ll be a cycle with ups and downs.
Until ’07 you went by your real name, Joey Youngman. What’s the story behind your stage name?
Wolfgang Gartner actually was the coach of the Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo men’s soccer team.
Hilarious! Did you play soccer?
I played soccer when I was a kid and he came when I was 10 years old in pee-wee soccer. He came and taught our team how to juggle a soccer ball. I used to always go to those Cal Poly games with my family and he was just this crazy old German dude with long hair and he’d be running around yelling at people, all animated and shit. He was just a character and had a cool name so I just took it.
Does he know?
I have no idea! I’ve never heard from him but if he ever Googles his name he’ll figure it out. He’s gotta be like 70 years old by now.
You should send him some mixes!
[Laughing] I don’t know how he’d feel about it.