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It’s been more than a decade since superstar DJ and producer Solomun dropped his debut album Dance Baby – an LP that set the Bosnian-German artist on a path towards global dance hero status.
Now, 12 years later and with a host of acclaimed productions and collaborations under his belt, he’s back with its long-awaited follow-up Nobody Is Not Loved – a stellar collection that entwines Solomun’s genre-bending influences, ranging from post-punk and indie electronica to synth pop.
Across its 12 tracks, the poignantly named Nobody Is Not Loved – named after graffiti he spotted during a stay in London – enlists the talents of a number of high-profile guests including Anne Clark (on Take Control), exciting young duo ÄTNA (on Tuk Tuk), and Berlin-based electro star Planningtorock (on Your Love Gives Me Gravity).
And on soaring new single Ocean, which was released on Friday, he’s teamed up with revered singer and Hollywood megastar Jamie Foxx. It’s a slick dance cut backed by kick drums, horns and Foxx’s unmistakable vocals, making us all yearn for those hazy, sunset nights dancing under the stars once again.
The collaboration took shape after Solomun and Foxx connected through mutual pals. It saw Solomun tailor an instrumental to his voice after studying Foxx’s performances, especially on late night shows.
Despite a few setbacks along the way as both teams juggled busy schedules, the partnership saw Foxx rent out a studio, lay down the vocals, and add his own personal touches.
This led to a very special moment between the pair, Solomun told Daily Star.
He said: “Later we did finally meet at a restaurant in LA (pre-Corona), he played the track from a boombox and sang it live in front of the other guests in the restaurant. You can’t imagine how great this felt.”
On his partnership with Foxx, Solomun added: “I really admire Jamie – he is such an outstanding talent with a beautiful energy.”
Nobody Is Not Loved is another landmark for the dance titan in a career that’s seen him rise to become one of the world’s premier DJ talents.
The Hamburg-raised star has evolved from the underground dance scene to produce 24 of his own records and provide remixes for some of the biggest names in the music world, including Depeche Mode, Lana Del Rey, Leonard Cohen, Interpol, and Jamiroquai.
And in an era where we’ve been starved of live music, last year he launched his new record label NINL and dropped singles from the likes of Jane’s Addiction’s Perry Farrell, ZHU and Bob Moses.
The wait may have been long but Nobody Is Not Loved is the stellar culmination of an artist whose creativity knows no bounds and whose output continues to evolve in thrilling new directions.
Daily Star’s Rory McKeown caught up with Solomun to talk about Nobody Is Not Loved, working with Jamie Foxx on Ocean, his collaborators, live music post-pandemic, and his hopes for the year ahead.
Hi Solomun, how have the past 12 months been for you? How have you navigated the pandemic as an artist?
"So in the beginning, when the news out of China first broke, it all seemed very distant. I felt reminded of Sars, Mers and Influenza, which were of course very tragic, but really blown out of proportion by the media.
"At that time, it was March, we were in the middle of preparing the video shoot for Ocean (the first time round). We had hoped that we could finish it quickly, but two days before it was planned, the film studios put the entire film industry in LA on ice. Here I realised it was much bigger and closer than I had anticipated and suddenly you are completely in the middle of it all. The big shock, the unknown.
"I have to admit that I’ve wanted to do a longer break for quite some time now, as in the past 10 years I rarely had two consecutive weekends off in the summer time, so in the beginning I really enjoyed it. Of course I can consider myself lucky that I am privileged enough to be able to take such a long time off.
"I tried to find a good balance between enjoying this time off and focusing on all the projects I am working on, and there are a few besides the album. The more time passes, the more this balance shifts towards those projects though."
You’re dropping your new album Nobody Is Not Loved, the follow-up to your debut album Dance Baby, on May 28. Tell me more about its creation. When did it get underway?
"The first piece of the album was actually the album title (more on that later), and it must have been around 7 years ago. Then, around 3-4 years ago, I had a collection of music ideas and rough layouts on my computer where I slowly began to think: maybe this could become an album project somewhere down the line.
"After that we began thinking about who could be a featuring guest on the album, and step by step all the pieces began coming together. As each track slowly developed, so did the feeling of this whole thing being an album.
"The first finished track that actually became part of the album was “Home” – when I first made it I actually called the file Album Track 1.
"I think as an artist you always have an ambivalent relation to your own tracks. But with “Home” I am still surprised that, even though it has accompanied me for like 3-4 years already, it still gives me a good club-feeling. I was able to test it many times and at some point I thought: 'Hmm… this could really be the beginning of something.'
"Then step by step, all the pieces came together, and on the 28th of May Nobody Is Not Loved will see the light of day in its entirety."
It features the single Ocean, which you collaborated with Jamie Foxx on, and it’s also the opening track. What was it like working with him?
"I really admire Jamie – he is such an outstanding talent with a beautiful energy.
"We connected through a mutual friend, and in February they suggested for me to come to LA to meet him. But February and March is when I do my annual touring break in Tulum, and this time-out is very sacred to me, so I didn’t come in after all.
"I had a first idea of how the track could sound like, which was meant to have a speech on it, not a singing voice. We sent it to Team Foxx, but after three months of no reaction I thought: that’s also a response. Maybe he was just too polite to say it’s not his thing.
"So what we did was check out Jamie’s performances, especially the late night shows, find new inspiration for the track, search for a way to incorporate the way he sings and acts. Then I made a new instrumental, more tailored to his voice. We sent it over again, and this time he loved it.
"But after that, we were chasing them again, for roughly half a year. Jamie is a busy man so it’s of course a challenge to get some of his time. We thought: we have to make it even easier for him. Malky, who is a singer and a friend, and who also wrote the lyrics, then recorded vocals of how we thought the voice would best fit, and sent it again. They loved it, but we ended up chasing it again.
"Then we were almost at a point where we wanted to cancel the whole thing, find someone else.
"But Jamie, who was at that point shooting in New Orleans, rented out a studio and sang in his voice what we had sent him. And not only that, he added so many extras and his personal touches, we were amazed. And this is what ultimately became Ocean.
"Then later we did finally meet at a restaurant in LA (pre-Corona), he played the track from a boombox and sang it live in front of the other guests in the restaurant. You can’t imagine how great this felt."
The album sees you delve into a sonic palette of synth-pop, electronica and even post-punk. What was it like seeing the record blossom from its initial ideas to the final form? How much do you enjoy experimenting with different soundscapes?
"For this project it has been very important with me to play with different soundscapes, discover what feels right and fits. I didn’t want to limit myself in the ideas of features, to think more in song-structures but without following a traditional pop-formula. I think this is exactly what an album should allow for.
"I had been collecting ideas and inspirations for years and slowly started to puzzle together the pieces, arrange the order in a way that creates a flow and is connected, and in doing so, ultimately shaping an album that tells a story.
"It was a very exciting process and I’m very happy I took my time with it."
You also collaborated with a host of artists including Anne Clark, Isolation Berlin, Planningtorock and Zoot Woman. How much did you learn working with them and what did they add to the Solomun sound?
"Every story is slightly different. Anne Clark has been a great inspiration and an idol since my youth and I feel blessed to finally be able to work with her, she is such a poet and a kind soul. At first I made a track that was a lot clubbier, and she absolutely loved that. After some time I felt like it didn’t really fit into the whole album context anymore, so I created a beatless, more reduced version with strong synth pads. She loved both but was a bit sad that the more intense version didn’t get chosen for the album – so I gifted her the latter as a tribute remix for her Classics Re-Worked Compilation.
"Isolation Berlin is a proper indie band, the process working with them is much more labor intense from the usual way but I learned so much from it and I wouldn’t want to miss this experience.
"Getting the band on board, getting the band inspired of the idea of the track I sent them, the first draft of the lyrics by the singer then were cool but in my opinion not the right direction, in the meantime me finishing the track and with this the band was on fire to go into the studio in order to replay the track with their own instruments, then us taking those recordings and implementing them into one mix, in the meantime the singer re-recorded new lyrics which brought the track composition to completion, re-adjusting everything to make it fit, and probably a few more things I forgot now… it was a real challenge, and took almost four months from start to finish, but I’m super happy with the result.
"The first time I tried to get a track from Planningtorock was ten years ago for the 5 Years Diynamic Charity Compilation. Then again at the very beginning of the album process, and both times it didn’t work out timing wise. So I'm incredibly happy that it worked out now since the album was postponed and there was still one track available for a feature – and Your Love Gives Me Gravity became a wonderful addition to the rest of the album.
"When we contacted Zoot Woman, they immediately had an idea of a direction we could take, and so I was happy to jump in on something which I really liked.
"Tom Smith of Editors was also extremely involved, he sang a few ideas for Home and The Center Will Not Hold, but in the end it felt like the songs would maybe work best without any kind of vocals. For Night Travel however, he wrote those incredibly mesmerising lyrics: “I’m not your saviour, but I’m by your side”…
"I almost felt bad when I sent him the draft in which I made him sound like a robot, but he really loved it!
"No matter how difficult it was, I am happy that I went through the process, because with every interaction I learned something."
The album title Nobody Is Not Loved is also a hopeful one. What was the decision behind its choice?
"I hope that it’s hopeful, because for me it definitely is! And actually, the birthplace of the title lies in the UK!
"A few years back I was in London for a show, and on the way there I drove through a pretty rough neighbourhood, where I saw a graffiti that said Nobody Is Not Loved… the words really stuck with me, especially considering the place I saw it. Time passed, but those words never left me.
"Weeks later I jokingly said that 'if I’d make another album, that should be the title.' And funny enough, it did not change.
"Then of course, much deeper in the album process, we were thinking about the philosophical background of it all. After all, we are trying to tell a story. I wondered who could even make such a statement, when it finally dawned on me: It is music – only music loves everybody equally!
"The meaning of every piece began to shift, and it all started to unfold in front of our eyes. The whole time it’s been about music! She has always been our heroine, and we realised that this was actually the story we wanted to tell all along."
What have you learned in the decade since Dance Baby was released in 2009? What sort of artist have you evolved into?
"Well, it was a completely different time back when I was making the first album! I was in the studio every day, I toured much less too. On the second album I collected ideas over a much wider time span than on the first. Plus I had a much more mixed exchange with other producer friends than on the first one; the creative process now had more entities than on the first album, where I worked everything out on my own.
"Of course I have final say in everything, but it was a true challenge to walk this path together with others, to inspire each other, but also to lead one another. You could say that we have become much closer friends and that it was all worth it in the end, no matter how many discussions we had to have."
Last year you launched your new record label NINL and released singles and remixes for the likes of Bob Moses and Perry Farrell. How much fun is it helming your own label? Was it always an ambition?
"I mean, me and my team have been running my label Diynamic since 2006, and our sublabel 2DIY4 since 2009. NINL is just the next step for a slightly different agenda: NINL is designed to be the home for bigger, album size projects, such as my album Nobody Is Not Loved as the maiden voyage, and later more projects.
"For the album project we did talk to a few existing labels beforehand, but in the end, once again, we stuck with out DIY ethos and chose to walk down this path. I have my core team on it, people that I trust and have been working with for years, we have full control over all decisions plus BMG as the distribution backbone of the operation, and I feel very good about it.
"With live music being put on hold for the past year or so due to lockdowns, how much are you looking forward to performing again? How special will it be when clubs are back open?
"It goes without saying that we’ve all incredibly missed this. You can see how enthusiastic people are in the places that are slowly starting to open back up: events are sold out in the blink of an eye. I just hope that the circumstances will soon allow for all other places to follow as well, so everyone can go back to doing the things that we miss so dearly.
"I miss sharing music with people, dancing with them, connecting, all those analogue things. It’s time."
What are you hopeful for in the year ahead?
"Closeness with others is food for our souls and our immune systems, and this has been pretty much taken from us now, for too long.
"I hope that music, in its highest form, gets the chance to bring us back together, reconnect us in our hearts in those sacred spaces designed for them."
Solomun's Ocean featuring Jamie Foxx is out now
Nobody Is Not Loved is out on May 28 via NINL
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