The multi-faceted, veteran DJ David Moufang, better known as Move D, has seen it all in his 30-year career: the dawn of Berlin techno before the fall of the wall, experiencing its evolution through the nineties and noughties, as well as maintaining his vigor, enthusiasm and international recognition, with his sets still sounding as fresh as ever. We chatted to him about nostalgia, the freedom that the scene today enables him and the reason he became immersed in dance culture.
Moufang is a DJ whose style and selection has transformed over the years, as he’s adapted to the changing climate. As a lover of all music, he is well known for playing a variety of genres, often switching things up in the same set, but also dedicating whole sessions to a specific genre and concept. This is something that he stresses hasn’t always been the case; that he feels more freedom now, as electronic music has overlapped and different styles have integrated. He recalled how he was discussing the future of music in 1990 with friends, when one of them – also a DJ – envisioned something he couldn’t have imagined at the time. “It’s going to be four-on-the-floor, with similar sounds like today or some variations”, and he turned out to be “pretty damn right”. Now you can play music from the 80s and it sounds up to date or even better than more contemporary music. Even with the inferior technology, it’s the simplicity of the production that now makes it all so timeless.
Going back to his days before DJing, Moufang admits his interest in house and techno wasn’t from the music itself, but the culture associated with it. Recalling the time he went to a friend’s rave, there came a point in the night when he was sitting speechless, not really moving to the music, just taking in the scenery and the people. A stranger stopped dancing momentarily to check on him. “You look a little pale, are you alright? Have you had a bad pill?”, Moufang re-enacts. He thought to himself, “what the fuck? How nice, such an odd bit of social behavior that I’d never witnessed before”. He puts this down as the moment that properly cemented his interest in the culture, encouraging his total immersion in it, as a DJ, producer and label head.
Fast forward to the present day and the freedom Moufang experiences now differs massively from when he was DJing in the 90s, where Germany especially was much more conservative. Today though he can play a disco set without fearing a reprisal. “I’ve never had a reputation for being a disco DJ because I simply wasn’t”, he explains. Even though he’d had an appreciation for the music since the beginning of his career – where he would play late-disco or heavily disco influenced music – there were fewer opportunities to showcase it. That was until two years ago at Gottwood, where an unannounced daytime set was his first dedicated to disco.
Likening it to a “fairytale”, his appreciation for Gottwood was like nothing we’d heard before, remarking how the “scenery is the most beautiful of any festival I’ve been to”. He followed on by stressing the importance of the UK scene for him, describing it as the “most creative” around and how the parties “are always so friendly, fun and open”. He’s even more fond of playing to a UK crowd than to Germans, but don’t tell them that!
This appreciation extends beyond just his own set time, to the people who help make the party what it is. Giving thanks to the dancers, he sees them as “the people who enable me to live the life I’m living… I’d never get pissed off at a raver.” He’s also known for arriving early for his set to enjoy whoever’s playing before; admittedly this is also to make sure he doesn’t “repeat any of the records”. He can often be seen wandering off to different parts of the festival or party to experience other stages, rooms or DJs, meeting people and just “hanging out”. The main downside to the end of a party for him is that, “with my schedule, I don’t get to party so much” and so “in these few moments, when I’m not too busy, I really enjoy it”. It’s a refreshingly affable approach to a profession that’s increasingly being formalised by strict contracts and touring schedules.
In the same vein as his Gottwood disco excursion, we talked about his spontaneous set at the last ever Bloc. Festival, when Steffi had to cancel last minute. He’d been perusing the two on-site record stalls and ended up spending over £200 on some records he knew, some he already owned but needed a new lease of life, and others he’d never seen before. He then overheard supervisors discussing how they could remedy Steffi’s cancellation and stepped in, jokingly offering to take the plunge, gesturing to his new sack of wax. Left with no other alternative, they accepted his half-serious offer and he played one of the best sets of the weekend, before signing off in true Move D style, sending dancers to bed over the microphone with “go back to your tents and make love”.
At this point, he stressed how important it is to know your records, something he realises becomes harder with digital DJing. He appreciates the “limitation of his record bag”, knowing how he can play around with the same records over a number of different sets and maintain a certain amount of unpredictability. “If I’m touring and I end up playing 10 to 15 gigs with the same 70 records it’s still fun to see how well (or badly) I can use them. Elaborating further, “even if you do it well one night, if you repeat it the next, you wouldn’t necessarily find that same success, because each night requires a different selection to match the vibe.” A testament to the consideration he puts into constructing a set, he likens these limitations to playing chess: “no one game involves the same moves as the last, but it’s good to empty out your record bag sometimes and start over.” There are still many records that keep finding their way back into his bag though – “the older the better”, he insists.
When asked if the fun had been lost in DJing, as it has developed into a lucrative and formalised profession, he actually finds it more fun than ever, again referring back to the increased “choice”. He finds the most enjoyment comes from digging and collecting, the “physicality and tactility of the records”. It wouldn’t mean the same to him “if somebody gave me a hard disk full of the best disco tunes”. Putting it down to nostalgia – “or maybe it’s because of my age” – he values the physical format “on a different level”, emphasizing that he’d “rather not play” than “give up” on it. Simply put, “if I was playing digital I would be bored”.
Like his love for vinyl, he speaks fondly of the underground partygoer, compared to people at mass events, putting this down to “the way they treated each other”, how they’re much more benevolent, rather than “trampling on each other to get to the front row”. Having said this, he argued how different an experience it is today. The big clubs are “laid out and presented in such a way that they attract casual ravers” contrasting to those during and after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when all party-goers were much more dedicated to the scene than they are, perhaps, today. In the beginning, he reminisces, “you’d use an abandoned warehouse or beneath a highway or a forest, you’d bring a generator and just do it. He attributes this to “the commercial nature of the events that decides what kind of people will come. You do something which is in the forest and people know only through word of mouth. You’ll probably end up with people who are a bit more committed and a bit more nerdy”.
In Berlin when the Wall came down, he explained that “people had very little money, especially in the East, and so when there were parties, people would basically give what they had, or help with the decoration”. It all indicates a much more palpable “underground-ness” that doesn’t exist in the same way anymore. As much as he misses this aspect, there’s a definite realisation that things must change, and it’s not something he loses sleep over. Instead he’s adapted to the change and approaches it with the same love, care and attention of that concerned partygoer who first triggered his love affair with dance music. The resultant diversity and freedom he now experiences results in a level of enjoyment that is unparalleled at any other time in his career.
Move D plays Gottwood Festival 2017 (8th-11th June), first with his customary disco set, then b2b with Johannes Albert. For a more detailed day-by-day breakdown, had to Gottwood’s Facebook page.