Artist Spotlight

Jonathan Kaspar

Germany

Jonathan Kaspar—purveyor of patient production, sultan of the sonic journey. His famously extended sets provide room for the imagination to run wild, using strategic layering and sound design to guide listeners through new spaces. Born in Bonn, Germany, birthplace of Beethoven, one might think Jonathan’s path to music would start with formal lessons or frequenting music performances. But it was on the basketball court where Kaspar first found his love of music and music sharing.

“I was playing basketball really heavily in school… and doing it semi-professionally actually after school. The whole team was listening to R&B/hip-hop music so that was the first kind of music I got in touch with. I can remember I collected all kinds of albums back then. Having the albums was the main thing. Nas, Notorious B.I.G, 2pac, all those guys. I can remember we all exchanged albums on the team.”

Kaspar eventually crossed paths with dance music in his later teens when he attended his first electronic music party. He immediately fell in love with the music's hypnotic grooves and cyclical loops. Similar to hip-hop, electronic music was able to convey entire feelings and moods through layering and groove alone.

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In 2013, Jonathan returned to the Rhine region of Germany after finishing medical school and realizing music was his true passion. He and his friend began hosting and playing parties at a club in his hometown of Bonn to make ends meet. Unfortunately, the club was later forced to shut down. While this might deter some up-and-coming DJs, Jonathan used this as an opportunity for growth.

Gewölbe, a renowned club in the European underground scene, is located in Cologne forty-five minutes from Bonn, and had previously captured Kaspar’s interest. He inquired about relocating their previously scheduled shows to the famous location and when they accepted his request, a budding partnership was born.

“Our first night at Gewölbe was in 2014. The party was quite good, so we had the chance to do more, and it came quite naturally… Before it was always a dream to play Gewölbe and be a resident there, and I’m still proud to play there and love to play there… Also, when I finish tracks, I always imagine how it would sound and how it would work in Gewölbe… So, it has been quite helpful to me.”

This fruitful relationship with the prominent establishment gave Jonathan a place to fine-tune his sound until he was ready to make his first official release in 2015 with Upon You Records. After the inaugural release of the Tudeles EP, Jonathan’s constantly evolving sound led him to release music with labels like Pets, Crosstown Rebels, These Eyes, Objektivity, VOD, and now most notably European mainstay, Kompact.

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Trying to give a singular description of Kaspar’s sound would be nearly impossible and an overall disservice to the development of his craft. Tribal themes are found in tracks like “Maarifa” and 2017’s “Khaya” (the latter even becoming one of the most played selections throughout Ibiza). Tracks like “Paradise,” “Apart,” and “Mera,” find themselves sporting a house-driven vein while techno finds its way into recent releases like “Von Draussen” and many of Kaspar’s exceedingly deep sets. 2020’s "CHI" reached #1 in the Beatport Afro-house chart and recently, “Beton” reached #1 on the indie-dance chart. He credits this wide swath of sound to an open-minded approach to inspiration and sound.

“I find [inspiration] everywhere. Before the pandemic, I was finding it in going out and playing music and hearing music and hearing other DJs. Or [for example] I just finished a track that I was listening to, and it was already fine, but I was listening to it at a friend’s place on a high terrace and there were [ravens] flying around and I heard them screaming. I recorded them and put it on the track… and it was even better… now the track is finished with the recording of the ravens… That’s just one example but I find my inspiration everywhere. There’s never a real plan of ‘Today I'm going to do tribal stuff, or some techno stuff,’ it just happens. In the beginning of making music I was really loving percussion and drums, I still do, but [in the last] two or three years I also love to just put as rare elements as possible in the track and keep it really empty… That’s something I had to learn over the years, that when you reduce the tracks to the key elements only the strong stuff survives… the main elements have more air to breathe... Let’s see how it keeps evolving. That’s what I love about techno music—it’s always changing, always evolving.”

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This devotion to sound evolution is one of the traits that led to Jonathan’s partnership with the renowned record label, Kompact. After a few years of refining his style, 2016 and 2017 saw Jonathan land two EP’s, Rantou and Supine, on Kompact sub-label, KX. However, the goal always remained to have material on the main label.

“It took another two years,” Kaspar tells us. “Then my first release was on the yearly various artists, Total 19, and when I got the feedback of the A&R, Michael Mayer, I was jumping around," He laughs. "And that was followed by a solo EP. Track on a various artists is super super nice but having your own solo EP is the main thing.”

The release of that 2021 EP, Muster, required patience but was well worth the work according to Jonathan.

“It was quite some work actually. I sent a lot of tracks, but it took quite some time before Michael replied saying ‘Ok now we have enough material for a whole EP.’ He’s quite selective, that’s also what I love about Kompact, I love that it’s so super broad. They release more pop music, ambient, real techno bangers, house stuff, but through all of it you can somehow feel that it’s Kompact even though it’s totally different music.”

Throughout his steady rise from Kompact record store customer and dance music fan to international touring producer, Jonathan’s heart has always been focused on the music. He knows the intangible power of music to connect people with their emotions and soul. He relishes finding the perfect balance between sharing new sounds and providing an exceptional experience for those attending one of his journey-like sets.

“In the end, we are there [to make sure] the people are having a good time. That’s what it’s about for me as a DJ,” he shares.

His love of music has taken him a long way from first exchanging albums with his teammates, and from his very first release to his latest, the overarching feelings of positive regard have never wavered.

“The feeling is exactly the same [from] 2015 to now. Because from my point of view it’s a huge compliment when you send a track to a label that you like or admire and the people are also into it. There are [artists] who send out music to a lot of labels and some labels say yes or no, but I try to be at least very selective. I always think about where [the demo] might fit, I never just send it out because I want to be on that label, if I don’t know if the music at least fits that doesn’t make sense to me. So I really make up my mind and put three or four tracks together and think ok these [fit, and maybe this label] will want to sign and release the music and to me, that is the biggest compliment. The feeling, to be that happy, is the same. And I think it will always be the same. There’s not a lot that is beaten by this.”

Words by: Austin Miller

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