Pic: Marie Staggat
By: Lamisse Beydoun
What Makes Derek Plaslaiko Spin?
“DJing, for me, has always been kind of a side thing,” Derek Plaslaiko surprised me by saying that in the first 60 seconds of our meeting. Though it’s clear he takes his commitment to music seriously – when I was assigned this interview I thought I was going to have a conversation with a man about his career – instead I had a conversation with a man about his passion. After having spoken to him, it became apparent that music happens naturally for him, he doesn’t want to compromise the fun of it.
I often associated DJs with young musicians who grew up surrounded by the intricate technology of music programs. Sitting down for a few minutes with Derek, I realized just how wrong I was. He created his own sounds with what he could in the 90s, teaching himself with the limited software available to him. “It was kind of painful,” he admits, “it took me months to do what anyone could do now in like, you know, five minutes with Ableton Live.”
Derek started DJing in the mid-90s in local Detroit venues. All he could use was vinyl, and now, despite the digital age, he continues to work with the antiquated tool. He’s not the only one. “In Berlin it’s almost a sin to use digital,” he says. Vinyl has made a comeback for reasons he explains, as “some people like to be limited,” as well as the crucial importance of the physicality of it. With digital “you lose the momentum of being part of the party”. He DJs so that he can interact with his audience. “I pull the records that I’m gonna bring and see where the crowd takes me.” Each set is shaped to the intimate energy the audience gives him. He doesn’t plan ahead of time, nor does he limit himself to just techno or house. Instead he engages in a conversation with the crowd, responding to their energy. Laurent Garnier (one of his many influences) inspires him to use his time on set to tell a story. “Intense moments, calm moments, quiet moments, loud moments, and all having it seamless.” It’s storytelling. Despite the difficulties musical storytelling entails, he continues to strive to master the skill.
Like many other artists, he has been influenced by his hometown.
“Detroit can be rough, but it has a lot to offer creatively and is a ton of fun.” Like many in the burgeoning 90’s techno scene in Detroit, Derek turned to music, eventually becoming one of its bigger names. He created sounds that allowed him to have fun. Sounds of dance, spirit, excitement, all these things coming out of a city of desolation. Isn’t that what art is? A means of expression, to get to something better. It’s clear he doesn’t want to exploit that by turning music into his career. It has to stay a hobby for him; it has to come to him naturally as opposed to battling a deadline.
In his shows, Derek aims to create a throwback to his own roots,Detroit in the 90s. In his latest event, NO WAY BACK, which recently played at the Bunker in Brooklyn, he creates an experience that was the “antithesis of what a normal club would be.”
He is notorious for playing unconventionally long sets. He even performed a 12-hour Boiler Room set for his friends and family. His favorite shows include his Bunker parties. They always have a high energy that’s “conducive for taking LSD,” he laughs.
His collective, NO WAY BACK, creates an atmosphere by decorating clubs with parachutes and cargo netting; the room is dark, loud, and the music borders on the scary. It’s sexy. It’s a “fire hazard galore,” he jokes. Environments like these make pupils dilate and heart rate quicken. They create a discomfort that instantaneously transforms into an excitement. And in that excitement, everyone is connected through the music.
This coming May, Derek is dropping a new EP with four tracks. He even admitted to not being fond of one of the four songs, but refers to this as an “exercise in letting go.” Today, music remains a side-gig. Living in Berlin for the past few years, he’s been playing at unique venues such as Panorama Bar, and Renate. However, he mostly focuses his attention on his two-year-old son Elliott and his wife Heidi. Family is a priority, but whenever he finds the time, he devotes it to music.