The DJ Duo Behind Sound Metaphors Share a Hot New Mix for Club Mel
Welcome to Club Mel, an ode to all things going out. Remember leaving the house past 10pm? Our Creative Director Mel Ottenberg does. This week: Mel brings the party inside with an interview with Sound Metaphors, the Berlin-based DJ duo. They also share a hot new mix, just in time for Friday night.
MEL OTTENBERG: Hey Nemo and hi Castro! What’s up?
CASTRO/NEMO: Hey! How are you?
OTTENBERG: I’m actually really good, I think. Sure. What’s it like in Berlin right now?
CASTRO/NEMO: It’s like any other boring German city, basically, without the parties. So, this is the shop. We have a pretty big disco ball.
OTTENBERG: I like that. Your record shop looks fantastic here on Zoom. I haven’t had a record player in 15 years, and I’m getting a new one now. So I will be buying rare records as a patron of the shop as soon as I have my record player.
CASTRO/NEMO: Exactly what we need.
OTTENBERG: Cool. I’ve been wanting to talk to you guys for a year, since I went to Berghain right before the world shut down, for a last dance exactly a year ago. You were there playing Panorama Bar. The crazy mix of music you were playing that day sounded like the inside of my brain. You played some of my favorite rare disco tracks ever that day. And so yeah, I fell in love with you guys on the dance floor.
CASTRO/NEMO: If I remember correctly, that was a special day. It was International Women’s Day. We brought donuts and it was a daytime thing, I think.
OTTENBERG: It was truly fantastic. I got to Berghain around noon, and eventually make my way to Panorama Bar. The crowd was so killer as always, but really more so that day as there were almost no tourists. I went up to Panorama Bar and the crowd was so killer. You played “Love Attack” by Ferrara and the Disconet remix of “Magnifique” and I was truly shocked because those songs are my shit and I never hear them if I’m not the one playing them. And whatever else you were mixing them with was nuts. I thought, “These guys are fucking crazy. Who the fuck are these people? I need to know them.” I was yelling to my boys, “LOVE ATTACK FERRARA, WOW!!!!” Everyone was like, “WHAT?!?” I’m like, “NEVER MIND!!”
CASTRO/NEMO: They didn’t know who it was?
OTTENBERG: Not at all. Rarities. Crazy disco songs for a spaceship. Amazing. So wait, are there secret parties going on all over Berlin or is it really quiet and responsible?
CASTRO/NEMO: It’s really quiet now. No, I don’t really know of anything. I mean, I’m sure there’s like small sex orgies and stuff, but nothing big.
OTTENBERG: Okay, fab. I haven’t gone out in 400 years, and maybe nobody is dancing here in New York. I’m not.
CASTRO/NEMO: It’s crazy.
OTTENBERG: We will dance again in a big way. And soon. You know what, that day I heard you at Berghain I really had the best time ever. It was March 9, 2020. A huge moment in time, as it was the end of something big—life as we knew it ending is a pretty big fucking huge thing. I really had the best time ever. Oh I was thinking, if you guys wanted to make a disco mix for Interview, it would be incredible.
CASTRO/NEMO:Yeah. A mix would be cool, no?
OTTENBERG: A mix would be fucking great.
CASTRO/NEMO: Yeah, we could make a mix.
OTTENBERG: Great. Thank you. Wow. Ok so I wanna know more about you. How did you guys meet?
CASTRO/NEMO: Just at the shop. Nemo used to run the shop with his ex-girlfriend and then I met him here and then they broke up and I kind of became the new girlfriend.
OTTENBERG: Amazing. Then you guys just were like, “Okay. Let’s just play some records together?”
CASTRO/NEMO: Yeah, pretty much.
OTTENBERG: Are you guys into the same music, or does one of you like one kind of thing and one of you the other kind of thing and you meet at a middle point?
CASTRO/NEMO: No, I’d say it’s pretty similar. I mean, we wouldn’t DJ together if I didn’t trust him musically.
OTTENBERG: Your mix of music and references is nuts. Do people go crazy for the rarities that I connected with you on, or just the popular stuff? What do you love playing?
CASTRO/NEMO: It’s hard to tell. It really depends on the crowd. I mean, I feel like Berlin is a bubble, especially Berghain. It’s not really representative of worldwide musical tastes. I don’t think…
OTTENBERG: Okay, let’s talk about at Berghain. Since that’s the best.
CASTRO/NEMO: Yeah. In Berghain it also depends on which floor, but we’re rarely going to play a straight tech/house set for example. There are plenty of other people that can do that and do a much better job at it than us honestly. For us personally, organic music, made by musicians with real instruments will always have a special place in our hearts. So there will be a lot of that for sure. I think when we play in Berghain (depending on which floor) the key is to just bring a lot of stuff, come prepared, and then just see what happens. It really depends on the crowd again. For example, that day you saw us, we actually kicked things off with 13 minutes of Ravel’s Bolero. I don’t think that’s something we could have planned, but it made sense and felt interesting at the time. At the same time, I feel like we try to play stuff that 200% works on a dance floor, like for example Patrick Cowley stuff, is just completely engineered to human dancing and tasteful debauchery. We’re not going to play something just because it’s rare, it has to work. Good Hi NRG stuff might feel cheesy but it’s going to work with anyone. You present it to a child and it’s going to resonate. You show it to someone that’s only into techno and if they’re honest with themselves, it’s going to have to resonate with them, too.
OTTENBERG: What are your favorite Patrick Cowley hits? Mine is “Menergy” but also “Do You Wanna Funk” of course, because it’s just incredible.
CASTRO/NEMO: His remixes are pretty special, like the Tantra one, for example. There’s this crazy Tantra remix that’s like 13 minutes long.
OTTENBERG: “Hills of Katmandu.” It’s very, very hot.
CASTRO/NEMO: Yes. Stuff by Lime, I think, has a bit of a ‘cheesy’ edge, but if you’re honest with yourself, it just feels so good.
OTTENBERG: What’s your favorite Lime song?
CASTRO/NEMO: I think The Break, it’s also called Kat Mandu, actually, the project name. “The Break” is such a powerful track. I’m sure it’s in some of the mixes online that we’ve done. Off the top of our heads, Bobby O produced great stuff, but that’s already more in the high-energy realm. That can be very powerful as well. The stuff that was done with Divine. There’s some really good Divine stuff.
OTTENBERG: I love “Shoot your Shot” and “Jungle Jezebel.”
CASTRO/NEMO:: Yeah, “Jungle Jezebel.”
OTTENBERG: My friend Harold had a disco called Hurrah and he brought Divine there for her whole music residency when she was just performing all her tunes, when she didn’t do Desperate Living and was doing her music thing. Hurrah was happening during the height of disco but it was also an alternative trip. And Divine did her music show there. I don’t know how long she was there for. I need to sit down with Harold and get the whole story recorded because it’s really so fantastic.
CASTRO/NEMO: Hey, we want to ask you, though, did you ever go to the Saint, by chance?
OTTENBERG: To the Saint??? No, I’m 44.
CASTRO/NEMO: Okay, you would have been too young.
OTTENBERG: Ha. I wish I had been to the Saint.
CASTRO/NEMO: Yeah, we’re kind of obsessed with the Saint, early period, but we still haven’t been able to find someone that has actually been there and could tell us more about it.
OTTENBERG: You know what? I know some guys. I’ll see what I can do for you. I love knowing about what were the hot songs then or the biggest hits of the real party crowd. You know, not the radio crowd, the party crowd.
CASTRO/NEMO: Yeah. Have you read Tim Lawrence? He’s written quite academically about that scene in New York. He writes down a lot of the charts from back in the day and it can be really interesting to go over.
OTTENBERG: I think there was a book that has every single song that was played at the Saint for 24 hours on the last day of the Saint. I’m going to look on my bookshelf. I think I have it.
CASTRO/NEMO: Oh, wow. Okay.
OTTENBERG: Maybe it’s not the Saint and it’s from the last night of Paradise Garage. I’m going to find it for you. There’s no pictures in it. It’s just lists, lists, lists, and it’s so long because the party was so long that it’s like a full book. So, I think my favorite disco song for real is “Hills of Katmandu” by Tantra, whats yours?
CASTRO/NEMO: Impossible to answer that question.
OTTENBERG: There’s got to be a couple that you’re like, “This is Sound Metaphors. This is us because it’s so hot.”
CASTRO/NEMO: Ok, this answer will change tomorrow, but how about “I’m Gonna Kiss You All Over.” There are many versions of that. There’s this nine-minute version… Broadway, “Kiss You All Over.” It really grows. It’s a really groovy kind of trip. Or Patrick Juvet stuff, like, “Pillow Talk.” I think a lot of people would think it’s super cheesy, but I think it’s kind of a masterpiece.
OTTENBERG: Cheesy is good. We love cheesy.
CASTRO/NEMO: I mean, same. “Walking on Music” by Peter Jacques. Anything 120 BPM and above from Cerrone is going to be amazing. I like Costandinos, the “Romeo & Juliet” suite. “I’m a Man” by Macho. Those are super known ones, but they’re just so well produced and work so well on a dancefloor. They’re not such secret weapon type of tracks. I think it’s really special when people listen to something that they’ve never heard before, but they really like it, which is kind of tricky because I feel like a lot of times people like something because they’ve heard it before. So, it’s kind of a special psychological moment when you hear something for the first time and you really get into it.
OTTENBERG: That’s part of what I was so into listening to you guys in Berlin, because I almost wonder if, in New York, people would be going crazy for songs that they’ve never heard before like that. In America, disco is programmed in people’s minds to be like Chic and Donna Summer and like “Born to be Alive” and stuff, which is all great, but there’s so much more. I want to know all the weird shit.
CASTRO/NEMO: Skatt Bros, “Walk the Night”—there’s this crazy disconet remix that has this crazy, added, pitched-down voice of this really creepy guy talking and it’s just so amazing. It really makes a difference and that’s special because once people that have already heard “Walk the Night,” they’ll hear this for the first time and it’s like, “I know this track, but I don’t know this version. What is this version? This is amazing.” I think that really tickles people’s fancy.
OTTENBERG: Oh yes, this remix is on your amazing Cocktail D’Amour mix which is on SoundCloud, and it’s so hot. “ARE YOU WILLING TO TAKE IT ALL? GET DOWN ON YOUR KNEES!!!!!”
CASTRO/NEMO: It’s borderline explicit. Stuff like that we’re really into. Maybe only DJs got ahold of it or the stuff was too long for radio play. It was always not so easy.
OTTENBERG: I also love how you slow things down all fucked up, like what you did with… What’s that Donna Summer song? [Singing] “Baby, I Want You NOW! Oh now now, ohhhhhh come into my ARMMMMSSS….” You make it really weird and freaky. It’s like some totally different trip than what we know Mr. Giorgio and Miss Donna were giving.
CASTRO/NEMO: Yeah, a K-hole.
OTTENBERG: It’s the K-hole version, yeah. It really is. Very now. Well, thanks guys. I’m glad to get to know you and I’m really excited to have you on Club Mel and with a hot new Sound Metaphors mix, no less.
CASTRO/NEMO: Perfect. Nice chatting. Bye.