From Finance to Frequencies: Stephan Jolk’s Personal Choices in Music
Aug 21, 2023
10 min read
In the world of electronica, where heart-thumping beats synchronize with the pulse of impassioned crowds, Stephan Jolk stands unparalleled. The man behind some of the most iconic parties held in breathtaking locations worldwide, Jolk's journey—from finance in New York's bustling streets to the fashion streets in Milan—is as riveting as his sets. This transition wasn't just a career move; it was a personal evolution, interwoven with his insatiable thirst for creative freedom.
As a true citizen of the world, with an upbringing scattered across continents, Jolk's music exudes the rich tapestry of his experiences. In this candid conversation, he delves deep into his musical psyche, shares the secrets behind those ethereal tracks, and gives us a glimpse into the future of his globe-trotting, party-throwing escapades. Dive in and discover the man who turned the world into his dance floor.
Your music has been described as a cathartic experience, filled with emotionally charged techno. What drives you to evoke such deep emotions through your tracks?
My music has been described as cathartic and emotional, but I would say that above everything, it should be described as personal. I made a personal choice to stop working in finance and start a new path in music. This choice was dictated by my desire to do something creative because I realized that I did have a creative part inside of me.
All the choices that took me from where I was to where I am today, are personal. Moving back from New York to Milan and not doing anything anymore with a routine job is an example. The music reflects this because my musical path has changed so many times already in a short amount of time. I was recognized as a producer because it is personal. So, the music follows my personal development.
The blending of spiraling melodies and evolving layers in your tracks is truly captivating. How do you go about crafting these intricate elements?
As much as the melodies are concerned, I can only tell you that in the beginning I have a very musical approach to it all. I really thought that this musical path would take me to become a musician. I now realize that I am more of a DJ than a producer because that’s where you spend most of your time.
I'm a party guy. I am the party and people come to see me. That's the reality of the situation. So, the melodies have been again, part of the personal development because I thought I wanted to express this artistic part as a musician, but I never realized that I'm a producer. Producer means that you work with groove and melodies indifferently through citizens of the world.
You're referred to as a "true citizen of the world." How have your travels and global experiences influenced your music style?
I was born in Italy, grew up in Germany, and lived in Paris. Then I went to college in Milan, moved to London, to work for Lehman Brothers investment banking. Then I lived six years in New York. Then I went to Columbia Business School where I graduated in the MBA Class of 2011. I stayed there for four more years and then moved back to Italy. Of course, now during the last few years as a DJ, I traveled to five continents of the world. So yeah, true citizens of the world.
You found your musical path upon returning to Milan. How did this homecoming spark your journey into the techno world?
As I said this was a personal choice and I didn't want to do work in finance anymore. I wanted to be a musician; Milan put me on the spot. Obviously, the path of Europe is much slower than New York. New York is the fastest moving in the world. Always has been, always will be. Milan put me on the spot, everything was the same as when I left, and I didn't like that. I look inside of me for something to shake up the situation. And here we are.
The tracks you've released this year span a wide range. How do you maintain consistency in your unique style while collaborating with diverse artists like Monolink and Jan Blomqvist?
I am very proud to be recognized by and work with Monolink and Jan Blomqvist. The wide range of track releases comes from me playing so many parties and I think that I'm one of the more most versatile and adaptive DJs out there. Every party is different. I can play for as little as 50 people and as many as 5,000 people other months.
Every party deserves a different approach, and I really bring a DJ approach to the event. There are parties in which I play none of my tracks and other parties in which I play all my tracks. There are parties where I bring a house mood and there are parties in which I bring a techno mood. For the production side, it just started to reflect this versatility.
Your mention on your social media that you value uniqueness and surprising your audience. How do you stay limitless in your music and keep your sound fresh?
I think that I am a bit intrinsic in myself. Everyone is unique, but I feel as unique as everyone because of my diverse background. Also, because I have no fear of changing things rapidly and constantly evolving, I always want to feel true to myself in connection with what is going on in the present. And I think that, especially my visual identity proves that. I haven't seen anyone present a visual identity like mine: extremely connected with nature, with historic places in the world, and with discovering the marvelous parts of the world. So yeah, unique.
The parties you organize place emphasis on the right audience, those with good taste and a positive approach. What's your dream crowd like?
There's no such thing as a dream crowd. The crowds at my parties consist of friends and friends of friends. There are no tables or tickets; one can only be invited directly. This familial approach to the party ensures that everyone feels they're part of something not available for purchase elsewhere.
The fact that all my parties are held in incredibly unique and gorgeous locations adds to the appeal. Dream crowds lean more feminine because women understand music better. They express themselves through dancing and prioritize feeling safe in environments. They prefer parties where no one harasses them, and my parties are renowned for being extremely safe and well-guarded. I prioritize the safety, security, and integrity of everyone; above all, I feel responsible for their well-being.
With your growth in the last six months surpassing your two years since you began DJing, what aspirations do you have for the next phase of your career?
In the next phase of my career, for sure, I want to bridge and synthesize the way I play with the way I produce. There's going to be an emphasis on groove. Now, more so on less melodies and more words and groove, and on where I want to be. And where I want to play different parts at different times of the year.
Obviously, after two years of touring non-stop, I know where my favorite spots are. And I know where I don't like to play. So, for example, I'm going to take some time off in September now because I know that my producer side needs it.
I want to be in the studio for a month or so. And, for example, I've planned a US tour starting October 19. Starting with Miami and New York, I'm going to be based in Miami for two weeks because I love Miami above any other city, and playing at Space is just the best.
And then I'm going to move to the west coast for two weeks and stay in LA. Why? Because I love LA. I have lots of friends there. And there are many places that I like to walk by myself during the week, during the day. And this is just part of a bigger picture of having the opportunity to be, and not be, where I want and don't want at any given point of the year. So, to summarize, take some time off when I need it and be where I want to be, both geographically and in terms of clubs.
Your Instagram showcases you playing in scenic locations. What's your most memorable performance location and why?
The Star Wars party I hosted this past weekend might be the craziest one yet, rivaled perhaps only by another party I held in Tunisia earlier in the summer. Imagine moving 50 people on a bus for 8 to 10 hours through a country where the highways don't permit speeds of 200 kilometers per hour. Instead, you're navigating through villages at a pace of 80 kilometers per hour, taking stops.
Upon arrival, temperatures soar to 50 degrees, and you have the mammoth task of setting everything up. It's chaotic. Yet, hosting a party in the middle of the desert or a Berber village is undeniably epic and unique. I can't think of many who've done something like that. Of course, I've also had other parties, perhaps less wild on paper, like the boat parties in Dubai and Cyprus. There have also been events that I've opted not to showcase because they didn't meet my standards. What makes these parties special is, first and foremost, that they're mine.
They encapsulate my current concept: invite-only, with attendees bringing a particular energy. I usually DJ from start to finish, and these parties often last longer than most when regulations permit, spanning 5 to 8 hours. In India, for instance, I played for a full 12 hours, from sunset to sunrise. It was an exhilarating experience. These are my parties, which is why I cherish them so much. I have plans for more, especially in the US. I've dreamt of a rooftop party in New York or a boat party in Miami. Even the Grand Canyon is on my radar. Why not?
Looking ahead, are there any dream locations or venues you're hoping to perform at in the future?
In the next 10 years, considering budget and complexity, I'd love to host parties at iconic sites like the pyramids and the Coliseum. Just mentioning these two should give you an idea of my aspirations. And the Empire State Building? Absolutely! Any epic location is worth exploring for me. Naturally, some places might be off-limits, but often, it's just a matter of budget. Films have been shot at so many incredible sites around the world. With the right organization, I believe nearly anything is possible.