‘PAPA’ Sven Väth is one of the biggest names in the electronic music industry and was one of the founders of the Techno movement back in the 80s and 90s.
Hailing from just outside of Frankfurt in Germany it is perhaps no surprise that he has carved out a career playing cutting edge electronic music such is the influence that his country has had on the global scene over the last few decades.
Before his DJ career started to really take off Sven was something of a pop star with the release of ‘Electric Salsa’ under the pseudonym OFF, which sold over a million copies and was a top 5 hit in 5 different countries.
Sven or ‘Papa’ as many know him, has spent over 30 years perfecting and developing his craft. In an increasingly throw away, digital world Sven is one of a handful of DJs that has decided not to embrace many of the technological advances and has stayed faithful to vinyl and the physical product.
The passion he has for music is evident. You only have to see him live or watch a set online and you can see how he lives and breathes the sound. He feels every beat.
As well as having a hugely successful DJ career which now spans over three decades, Sven also runs the Cocoon platform which not only acts as a label but also throws some of the best parties in the world and has now been running for 16 consecutive seasons on the magical island of Ibiza.
Even hitting the big 50 hasn’t slowed him down. There seems to be no end in sight for his career as a DJ and perhaps the best is still yet to come.
We caught up with him at the end of 2015 to find out more about what makes him tick and what he had planned for 2016 in this interview first published on December 31, 2015.
This summer saw you complete your 16th season of Cocoon in Ibiza. Many DJs don’t even have a career that long, let alone a club night, what’s been the secret of your success with Cocoon and what does the future hold for it?
No compromise. The format remains the same. Cocoon is about dancing and a sort of fellowship. We are still thriving because the name Cocoon and I believe my name, brings a guarantee that you will be dancing to music of quality alongside people that also want a similar experience. We work so hard finding the artists that fit and then we offer them the time to express.
My aim, our aim, is always to make a party. The future looks better than ever as we saw last season.
How much planning goes into the season long Ibiza residency? With all the changes next year in Ibiza is there ever a time you could see Cocoon not being at Amnesia or not even on the island?
I have an amazing team, many have been with me over many long years and we are so tuned to our goals and staying ahead of the game with what we offer. To answer your question, there is much much planning involved. It starts after the final closing party. On this scale nothing happens by accident. Amnesia – we belong there.
How has the island changed over the 30+ years since your first visit? Do you think there is a threat to the island and its continued longevity?
It has changed a lot. There are many more people wanting a slice of this cake and making their moves in festivals or new club nights. In the end it is not my concern because I know if we keep presenting parties where people can walk in on any Monday night having really felt Ibiza then I am happy. We aren’t going anywhere and nor is the Island
When you returned from Ibiza back in the 1980s you started what has gone on to be one of the most influential and genre defining careers, what do you put this success down
Passion, belief and taking the risks
In the article you wrote ‘30 years on the decks’ you mention that you have a dislike towards some of the technological advances within the industry. What is it that you don’t agree with and what has made you stay so loyal to vinyl over the years? Has there ever been a time when you almost cracked and went digital?
It is a double sided question. Of course I am aware of how wonderful it must be to have thousands of digital tracks just waiting to be clicked. Doesn’t work for me. Every set I play and construct comes from the heart and I need to smell and feel my vinyl. I don’t have a star index and 50,000 half heard tracks. Some advances I welcome, but I won’t be cracking.
Do you think there will always be a space for the vinyl DJ in clubland and the industry? As technology advances and generations change, will it get lost in the evolution or do you think there will always be enough of a demand that every club will still need a pair of 1210s in their set up?
Yes but not every club. Guess where I will be playing!
It would be fair to say that when you’re behind the decks you are some what of a showman and exhibitionist. Is that your normal persona or is this something you switch on when you’re performing?
I am not like one of those comedians who is a manic depressive at home. But something does switch on when I have a crowd in front of me. An auto switch. I cannot control it. The showman shows up.
Going back to talking about Cocoon. It’s so much more than just a party, it’s a platform and a place for DJs and producers to express their sound and personality through their music. Can you tell us how it all came about and what were the original reasons were behind starting it all?
You almost answered the question yourself! Starting out I just wanted to play the music I loved and create a different sort of party. The next logical step was to offer other artists I liked the chance to play and the time to express themselves. Cocoon is quite simple in that sense.
Not including your own Cocoon events, what are your favourite events or venues to play? Are there any that you look forward to each year more than others?
There are certainly some gigs or venues I seem to have a great time at every year. It’s hard to choose but for this interview I will select Cocoon In The Park, Time Warp Festival and Watergate Club, but this is only three of hundreds!
You’ve set up a more permanent residence in London. What prompted the move and how are you finding our lovely capital? Do you miss spending less time in Germany?
I have always loved London and it is more vibrant and energising than ever. I felt I was ready for some city life and where better than London? I am so often in Germany playing so it is not a problem for me.
You’re also very family orientated, how do you manage being a dad and being a jet setting DJ?
Very cleverly! Of course the festive time is one of the busiest for a DJ and one of the most important for families. It is not easy but my son Tiga already knows what his Father does and knows that his time is always just around the corner. I make sure of that.
Nowadays I am rather lucky in the way I travel which keeps exhaustion at arms length. The adrenalin of playing and performing energises me just as much as ever. I have no other complaints apart from the usual irritations of things breaking down, whether it be planes, decks or promoters.
You’ve recently turned 51 and looking ahead to the future, how much longer do you think you will continue with such a full on lifestyle and can you see a time in the near future where you might hang up your headphones?
I can honestly tell you I feel better than ever. I embraced entering the 50’s and had one of the most memorable parties of my life to mark it. A very moving experience. Something must be going right.
I show some love to the body by eating well and keeping fit but not much has changed. I just want to play and the headphones are going nowhere as long as people still want to celebrate a party with me
What’s in store for you when that time comes? Do you think you will stay involved some way or another?When the time finally comes…I am trying hard to imagine it. I cannot.