The process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions.
It’s also the title of Sven Väth’s first studio album in over 20 years and the 50th album released on his legendary Cocoon label early in 2022.
Sven Väth is a raver at heart, as well as the multi-faceted artist, DJ, producer, label boss, club pioneer and global electronic legend, revered all over the world. His supernatural ability to connect with every single person on the dance floors of every show he plays to is a rare gift. It’s something he attributes in part to his mum, he told me:
“My mother was my best teacher.”
I caught up with him just before Christmas at his final show of the year in London at Koko after a year dancing to his tunes at numerous parties across Europe. I wanted to find out how the enforced break at the start of 2020, due to the pandemic, from his relentless touring schedule kick-started the process which eventually led to the making of Catharsis.
The title of the album encapsulates the journey he went on after being forced to stop doing what he loves. He says:
“I was really shocked. I’ve never experienced such a radical stop like that in my life. But it allowed me to look back into my photo and music archive of my life. I found myself thinking about what I was playing in 1981 and 1982 and I went on a journey back to the beginning. That is when I had the idea for my What I Used To Play collection. I was sitting there for 3 months listening to this music that I used to play from 81 to 90.”
Always forward thinking, this unique opportunity for nostalgic reflection was the start of something special, resulting not only in Sven’s first studio album in two decades, but also in an amazing personal retrospective collection.
What I Used To Play is a 12 x 12” vinyl box set of music that accompanied him in his first 10 years of DJing and from the very early days of electronic music. He says:
“It really was a contrast from always looking forward all the time to suddenly having this time to reflect and spend time thinking about where it all started. I had so many memories come back to me and I really enjoyed all of this music so much again.”
What I Used To Play started with six thematically oriented playlists with a grand total of 120 tracks from early 80s to Balearic late 80s sounds, with excursions into afrobeat, European new wave and EBM sounds and a few epochal techno/house tracks from the USA in between. From these playlists the 12×12” vinyl compilation came together.
In the early eighties, the crowd in German clubs like Vogue and Dorian Gray danced to what nowadays we call ‘dance classics’ – mainly disco, funk, soul, and chart pop. It was up to a new generation of DJs, including Sven Väth, the youngest protagonist in the Rhine-Main area of Germany at the time, to create their own club-ready music mix. Good new tracks and potential floor-fillers were rarities that had to be sought out and found. Sven says of the era:
“The 80s was such a colourful time, we had so many different genres and different looks to go with it! After these listening sessions I started to write a book also, so hopefully next year I will publish this too. It will be full of stories, interviews and so many pictures from my life.”
After this nostalgic reflection on his incredible life and career, he was finally able to take a much needed holiday at the start of 2021 to his spiritual home Ibiza. This is when the genesis of his Catharsis album really gathered pace. He told me:
“After one year of not doing what I love to do, I was in Ibiza with my girlfriend. I started writing lyrics and putting ideas together and for the first time in 20 years I started thinking about making the album. It took this long because until that point I had been recording two mix CDs every year, building my Cocoon company structure, the events, booking, management and so on. I was just so busy for all those years. Meanwhile playing like hell, doing over 100 shows a year!”
Before the pandemic struck Sven had just had completed an amazing final season for Cocoon in Ibiza celebrating 20 years of unadulterated fun and cutting edge electronic music on the White Isle. Cocoon will remain an integral part of the evolution of electronic dance music on the island since 1999.
The myriad of Cocoon parties in Ibiza throughout that summer was stunning. Kraftwerk, Underworld, Richie Hawtin, Solomun, Bicep, Charlotte de Witte, Dubfire and Tale Of Us were just a few among an amazing cast that joined him at shows not only at his beloved club, the infamous Amnesia, but also at numerous jaw-dropping shows at Ushuaia and Benimussa Park. 2019 marked the final year in Ibiza for Cocoon after an incredible two decade legacy which is now a part of electronic music folklore, but as Sven told me:
“There was nothing more to achieve.”
So in early 2021, armed with a myriad of ideas, Sven called his friend Gregor Tresher and returned to his home town of Frankfurt to work on what became Catharsis. He says:
“Gregor has great musical knowledge. I called him and he was like Sven, I’ve been waiting for this for so many years! So I went to his studio and we opened a bottle of wine and I went through all the ideas I had for it and told him how I had listened to and been inspired by all of this old music. And then we just did it, one track after the other. The album was finished within 3 months.”
Catharsis was announced in the spring of 2022, with the release of the first single, Feiern. An instant classic, the track was accompanied online with an amazing video featuring archive footage from Sven’s incredible career. Feiern was very much a call to arms for the year which lay ahead as he got back to doing what he loves most.
Sven’s album and the world tour which followed this year was also the catalyst for a year of musical catharsis for my friends and I. Having cherished the memories that were made during the 20th anniversary Cocoon celebrations in Ibiza and in Berlin at Watergate with Sven in 2019 throughout lockdown, we decided to pick up where we left off before the pandemic as soon as we were allowed to return to the dance floor. The unforgettable experiences we had on those dance floors in London, Berlin, Edinburgh and Ibiza provided the therapy we needed after those difficult Covid years.
I had the opportunity to thank Sven before he took to the stage in London for his last gig of 2022 at Koko. He told me:
“I really feel the love from you guys, we really enjoy the moment and the music together and it’s so nice to know that you bring your family and friends to share in that.”
Sven proved to me last year that electronic dance music and the dance floor is the ultimate cathartic experience.
Now, looking forward again, thinking about 2023, it’s set to be another vintage year for Sven. As he says:
“We are what our thoughts have made us”.
Sven Väth – Catharsis is available now on Cocoon. Click HERE to stream.
Sven Väth – What I Used To Play is available pre-order from Cocoon HERE.
Listen below to a playlist of our favourite tracks we heard Sven play on his Catharsis World Tour this year including the tracks from Catharsis mentioned earlier in the interview.
Sven Väth – Feiern
Claude von Stroke, Walker & Royce – Enthusiasm
Sven Väth – We Are
Harvey McKay – Black Spider
Pariah – Caterpiller
BDB – Boss Rhythm
Sven Väth – Mystic Voices
Metal Master – Spectrum (Bart Skils & Weska Reinterpretation)
Planetary Assault Systems – Shine
The Rhythm Oddyssey & Dr Dunks – El Cid