As the first moving lights begin to play off the ornate architectural ceiling of Avalon Hollywood, Kyau & Albert welcome clubbers onto the dancefloor for a marathon set. Celebrating 20 years of making music together, the German DJs/ producers bring an embodiment of trance with them. Not wanting to miss a moment of the opento-close set, the club fills up quickly and a synergy permeates the room. The #TranceFamily is out in full effect.
“When you play that long from open to close, you can’t play the same kind of music the whole night, so we started off very progressive and deep — which we also like — especially when someone hears our ‘Euphonic Sessions’, our podcast where we mix in some progressive or deeper tunes,” says Steven Moebius Albert, reflecting on the set the next day. “Of course, we played a lot of our own tracks from over the 20 years.”
Ralph Kyau chimes in: “The thing is, we have so many tracks and people are always requesting things when we are playing a normal two to three hour set, but you cannot play two hours of your own material. So that’s what’s really nice about this extended-set thing. Also in preparing, looking for tracks, it was very interesting to go back over the years and I think the fans really enjoyed it. I saw on social media that they liked it and it was a really nice thing.”
Some of those classics included new interpretations of their hits, such as their remix of ‘Jump The Next Train’. “It was our first big remix in 2004 and it was so huge,” regales Kyau. “We were releasing on different labels and they were selling thousands of records. We haven’t played it in ages! We expected people wouldn’t really know it anymore, but the people were singing along.”
This aside, when it comes to DJs, there are particular challenges to digging in the crates for some classics. “Even when you play a track that is 10 years old and you mix in a new production, they are all more powerful, the new ones,” says Kyau. “Maybe the normal clubber wouldn’t recognize it, but as a DJ you feel it when you’re mixing in.”
Looking back on the duo’s history, they’ve both been making music since they were teenagers in high school. “We did music we liked, but we never ever had a plan to do it this long,” says Albert. They’ve come a long way from schlepping their records from store to store in their neighborhood in the mid ’90s.
“The very first single we did together was for a huge summer festival,” says Kyau. “It was very diverse from techno to trance, house. We are from the same town and Stevie is younger than me, but we went to the same school. We had the opportunity to play there. Back in the ‘90s everything was very expensive, all the equipment, so we joined together and the result of this live act was our first release. Then half a year later we started our own record label. It just happened, you know?”
Counting the milestones along the way, Albert believes album releases were some of the most pivotal, particularly their first album ‘Here We Are Now’. “Before that we only did singles and did some more diverse things, chill-out tracks and experimented with other styles, which brought us further as artists,” he says. “But also I really must say the whole industry and the whole scene changed a lot in 20 years. In the beginning when we did promotions we made special dubplates for the big DJs like Paul van Dyk or Oakenfold, every dubplate cost about $50!”
The pair expounds upon the business before the digital era. “When we started the music there was no internet, or it was starting with slow email. The whole music industry was on CD and vinyl, the whole procedure was different compared to today,” Kyau says. “The albums were really important for us. Before we started our international career from 2004 to 2005, we had a couple of big records on the sales charts and radio — not only Germany, but also European countries such as the Netherlands and also in the UK. We did this at that time we were with Warner Music and Warner was always saying, ‘Yeah guys, you can do an album in the future, we are working on singles right now.’” When that contract was up, they signed their album to an indie label with Universal distribution and they took off internationally.
“In the early 2000s, we were a little bit faster and we had a period where we were more progressive,” explains Albert. “Recently, I think we really enjoy a lot the more driving stuff, so it’s always in waves.”
In their two decades, they’ve played all the major festivals around America and Europe. “For me, it’s very clear to define exactly two big things in our career,” cites Albert. “First was when I was a kid, I was always into techno and the first time playing at May Day in Germany was huge for me. Another one was when we played Trance Energy in 2008. It was the biggest indoor crowd we ever saw. It was one floor and maybe 40,000-50,000 people. You couldn’t see the end.” Adds Kyau, “Maybe you could compare it with an aircraft hangar, a huge building in the Netherlands. The thing is … we got booked to play the main stage alongside Tiësto and other guys and we didn’t really know about Trance Energy, we were just booked and came in and we were blown away. We said, ‘AH! It’s so huge!’ It was really, really cool.”
But it’s not just a walk down memory lane for Kyau & Albert as they’ve already got big plans for the next couple of years. “When you work on an album, you work for a long time, so we already have a couple compositions and productions,” says Kyau. “We also tested a few things and there’s definitely a new album coming, but before that, the focus is on the 20 year EPs,” he says of the remixes of their history. “We have five EPs planned and at the end of this EP series in late summer, there’s also an album coming early 2017.” Add to that new tracks on both their Euphonic label as well as Anjunabeats and they show no sign of slowing down.
What would be a key factor to their longevity in an industry that can get boring quickly or go through flash-in-the-pan fads? “We always try to follow our own sound,” Kyau says. “Something very significant was always that Stevie was singing on our tracks, so in the whole scene maybe everybody recognizes his voice and this is something special, our trademark, that we are very proud of.”
“When you’re younger you think you can maybe do this 10-15 years, whatever. The cool thing is we are still in the business and we still do well. It’s exciting!” Kyau says emphatically. Adds Albert, “Ralph said sometime ago, ‘I will stop at a certain point,’ but that certain point is already over and we are still doing it.”
Originally published in DJ Mag USA