Wolfgang Gartner eschews onstage gimmicks typical of electronic music concerts. While there's no shortage of DJs looking to be the center of attention, Gartner prefers to let his skills do the talking, showcasing the candy-colored, sawtoothed synths and glitchy beats that fuel his laptop alchemy. Ahead of his performance at the Yost Theater on Saturday, the electro house guru from northern California talked to us about not throwing cake or champagne at his audiences and his obsession with day spas.
What makes your live set stand out from other electronic acts?
I don't throw cake at people. I don't wear a suit or a mask. I don't spray champagne. I don't get on the mic and stand on a table and yell at people to get the fuck out. I play music that I think people should hear and put a lot of organic, physical energy into it without gimmicks. . . . I feel like I'm one of the few people who has any integrity left in the DJ industry these days because it's all come down to people thinking audiences are so stupid that they're trying to get them anyway that they can—by throwing stuff at them or getting them to [form a] mosh pit. It's gotten to a point where it's ridiculous, and personally, I will never buy into that. I'm trying to at least help people see the light, that that's not what it's about. It's about the music, and you can still go and have a good time without having food or champagne thrown on you.
The people who clean up at the venues where you play probably like you a lot more for it.
Yeah, that's true!
Is it true you stole your stage name from a soccer coach?
That is absolutely true! It was pretty random; there isn't really a significant story. He was the soccer coach of a college team, and I used to go to games. I remembered his name for some reason, and I jacked it.
Has he been to any of your shows?
The guy is probably in his mid- to late 70s by now. I don't know if anybody's told him, but he's never reached out to me. I'm always concerned about that, though. I trademarked it, so now I own his name!
What are your favorite tracks to play live?
Of my own, definitely "Love & War" and "Nuke" and a couple of unreleased things that I've done. "Illmerica" is always a big hit. I don't play a lot of well-known songs by other people because a lot of my methodology is to try to expose people to music they are not hearing every other DJ play. As far as songs I guess people would know of, I've been playing "Reload" by Tommy Trash and Sebastian Ingrosso. A lot of my stuff is really good music by unknown artists that just slipped through the cracks. I try to do digital digging to find things nobody else has, for whatever reason.
Tell us about your latest EP, Love & War. Has your sound matured a lot for this disc?
It's still my signature sound; it's just all about taking my sound and doing something new while maintaining the elements that make me, me. I guess it has matured, yes, but I don't want to say it's changed because, as an artist, you want to maintain that continuity.
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When you're not deejaying or producing, what are you up to?
Sleeping or eating. My only other indulgence is day spas and massages, mainly to counteract the effects of travel and fatigue from working way too hard. I've kind of turned one room in my house into a spa—there's a waterfall and aromatherapy vaporizers, and I think we're going to get an infrared sauna. That's my only other indulgence: spa life.
This article appeared in print as "No Cheap Tricks: Wolfgang Gartner says he's one of the few DJs in EDM who still has integrity."