08 January 2019

But then of course he’s an actor. For at least as long Lars Eidinger has also been a DJ.

By Florentin Schumacher

Ahead of his set at SCHIRN AT NIGHT on January 12, Lars Eidinger tells us what he thinks of blending tracks and celebrity parties, and why he likes to show his butt on stage every now and then.

Word is that while you were at the Ernst Busch Academy of Dramatic Arts in Berlin in the 1990s, you carried around your box of records everywhere. How did you see yourself back then – more as an actor or a musician?

I actually always saw myself as an artist. Already as a child I wanted to become famous, and I think what I meant back then without knowing it was: I want a profession in which I can express myself to an audience. The form in which I do so is of secondary importance. I have been making music for at least as long as I have been acting. At parties I always used to choose the songs because I have a good sense for the atmosphere in the room and am able to create energy. That’s also the point at which playing records and acting intersect: Both make little sense if you’re doing them alone. They demand some kind of exchange, a kind of interaction. Of course you can prepare for a DJ set by practicing the mixing, but a good DJ decides on the sequence of the songs in situ depending on the audience.

Lars Eidinger © Franziska Sinn

As a DJ, do you prepare? 

Well, really my ideal is the same as with acting: You make fresh decisions with every appearance you make in front of the people. When I’m playing records, I often don’t even know the first piece I’m going to play. Before, when I used to play electronic, experimental music and wasn’t even trying to get people to dance, I focused more on the mix, practiced at home, and had a sequence in my head of which records matched based on their speed.

You even released a record during this time, the instrumental hip-hop EP “I’ll Break Ya Legg”. The title itself tells what happens when you try to dance to it. How did you end up going from that to pop music?

When I started at the Schaubühne, which was in 1999, we had unbelievable difficulty finding an audience for our performances. The old theater audiences no longer came and we were unable to reach the young people we were aiming to appeal to. So I suggested a dance event. I invited avant-garde DJs, who were only known by people who were really interested in electronic music.

My ideal is the same as with acting: You make fresh decisions with every appearance you make in front of the people.

Lars Eidinger

And did anybody come? 

No, only the friends I had called up, around thirty or fifty people. It was during that time though that we also had our first launch parties at the Schaubühne, where we played hits off the radio and had a lot of fun.  The question arose: what exactly was better about our super-avant-garde music event where everyone just stood around and nobody danced because they were all too cool anyways? This was a phenomenon I also experienced in the clubs back then, the feeling of being “lonely together”. Autistic disco. That gave rise to the event that was supposed to be the very opposite of its name.

You have been organizing the “Autistic Disco” at the Schaubühne for many years. 

Yes, since at least fifteen years, at the last event – no exaggeration - there were 800 people queuing. In Berlin! Where the competition is huge. The music I play at the “Autistic Disco” is what I like to call eclectic pop music. Of course it’s not particularly eclectic to play hits from the radio, but what I mean by that is that even within pop music there are things I would never play. I won’t prostitute myself for the audience by playing “I Will Survive” and “It’s Raining Men”. 

You also refuse such DJ conventions as blending songs. Is that something you don’t want or you’re not able to do?

Lots of people have criticized that, “Do a bit of mixing every now and again”, “You’re not a real DJ”, and so on. I can do it. I know how to match speeds. For a house set or instrumental hip hop it’s not a problem, because everything moves at the same tempo, but I play pop music from all genres at various speeds, and to mix it I would actually need to change the music I play. At some point I also just found it fun to be more naïve or amateurish in my approach by just pressing stop and seeing what happens.

The music I play at the “Autistic Disco” is what I like to call eclectic pop music.

Lars Eidinger
Lars Eidinger, Autistic Disco © Peter Kaaden

You also press stop when somebody requests a song.

Yes. That’s already changed though, because now most people just hold up their cell phones instead of asking. That annoys me – I’m not a jukebox.

This question is for Lars Eidinger as both a guest and DJ at celebrity parties: Is it worse to be a guest or a DJ?

Neither, I don’t go to parties I don’t like. I mostly find celebrity parties to be really fun. I am still always impressed when I see someone I only know from the television in real life. And maybe they’re even dancing to my music. What’s not to like about that? 

Why do you like to show your butt sometimes when you’re DJing?

That always used to be part of it. I did that at every party in the early 2000s – various friends have photographic evidence. I got the gesture from the punk scene, and it’s meant less as an affront and more as an expression of freedom, anarchy and cockiness. When photographers take pictures of me DJing, they always come at the beginning of the set and then leave, but at that party in Berlin three years ago, one photographer had obviously stayed and was quick-thinking enough to capture the moment. The next day it appeared on the title page of the “Bild” newspaper. Since then I haven’t done it again.

I got the gesture from the punk scene, and it’s meant less as an affront and more as an expression of freedom, anarchy and cockiness.

Lars Eidinger
Lars Eidinger © Peter Kaaden