The Don

Interview with Don Williams

The Don

10-10-2014 | 10.37

If you’re up for his style, Don Williams is a dj who'll never disappoint. His name is as American as his sets, with a heap of influences from Chicago and Detroit. After the interview, Don Williams said: “The first time I met Convextion in person, I was expecting a dark skinned guy from Detroit. But he’s actually from Texas and looks nothing like that.” You could say the same about Thomas (Don Williams’ real name), who grew up in a small town near Berlin. After playing several surprising sets in Trouw and De Verdieping, he’s about to do a b2b all night long set with Jean Pierre Enfant – who recently released an EP on Thomas’ label A.R.T.LESS - in your favourite basement.

You don’t do back-to-back’s that often, how did this one come into existence?
“Les Enfants Terribles was hosting a night in club Tresor where I also played. Near the end of the night, Jean Pierre, Delta Funktionen and me did quite a long back-to-back. This was an initial moment for the idea. In Tresor, it came out of nowhere, but when you plan it, you get to make more out of those sets. It’s a complicating thing, but very challenging. Sometimes with b2b’s, you see a dj already picking another record without even hearing the other dj’s track. I don’t get that.” 

And with Jan Pieter, this won’t happen?
“We already did it before so I know what he’s capable of. Plus I’m interested to see what he’ll do. I really like his approach. Especially compared to Berlin, it’s unique that he fuses techno with UK bass and broken beat. In Berlin lots of people aren’t willing to dance to that stuff. For example, only once a year they do a dedicated electro party in the Berghain. In some German cities, it’s still there though. Take Dresden. I was playing in a club that was like the Dresden version of Berghain. Everybody was dancing to really good electro tracks and I didn’t have much of a clue about what was playing. Convextion was doing his E.R.P. stuff, and I was the only one playing 4-to-the-floor techno tracks, which felt pretty weird.”

In The Netherlands, electro is quite popular. Especially the guys from The Hague are making a return. Is there a shift happening in Berlin towards that as well?
“I have to say people are getting more open minded. Back in the 90’s, somebody who listened to techno would barely know any hip-hop. They couldn’t stand each other. Not only in these genres, but everything was very split up. Now it’s much easier to consume different kinds of music. You can still see a lot of different groups in Berlin that don’t mingle though.”

Yesterday you played a set in Berlin for a very small group of people; do you try to play different stuff when there are fewer visitors?
"I’m always nervous for a gig, even yesterday. The question you always ask yourself is if you can convince the audience. It’s even harder to maintain five people than a whole crowd. Because when they get bored, they’ll leave. I tried a few things yesterday, and the audience was quite open for it. Beforehand I only pick an opening and a closing track. Then I see how people react and I work onwards from there."

Do you always pick an opening and a closing track before the party?
"Yes. Sometimes I don’t, when I know it’s not the right moment. I even used to open every set with the same Jeff Mills song and also close with a Mills track. I did that for nearly ten years. The opening track was a 30 sec jingle on Axis and I closed with Changes Of Life. In my recent Boiler Room set, I used the same opening again. Besides that exception, I mostly quit playing them. Maybe I got bored, or my artistic approach is a bit less strong now. I’m trying to find the right combination between being an entertainer and an educator for the audience, while still maintaining my own approach."

Text: Ruben Leter