German DJ and producer Aera, aka Ralf Schmidt, has been a consistent purveyor of melodic techno and house for more than 15 years now, releasing on imprints such as Hivern Discs, Maeve, Permanent Vacation and Dixon and Âme’s Innervisions label, where he has been a staple for years already.
In 2020, he launched the Applied Magic label, which has released 11 EPs to date, by both Aera himself and artists such as Aldebaran, Last Men on Earth, Ede and Tayga.
Recently, he released Acido on Innervisions, a track that made big waves and helped to propel him to the next level of his career – a momentum he’s hoping to build on with his latest project. Versions is the first instalment in a brand new mix concept from Innervisions, which sees Aera delve into his back catalogue and re-imagine some of the most notable tracks from his career, casting them in a new light.
We caught up with him to find out more.
Hi Aera, thanks for talking to us. What are you working on at the moment?
Hey, thanks for having me! I’ve actually been on the road, traveling and playing gigs for the last three months, so haven’t really found the time to make any music recently. I’ve been mainly working on my label, Applied Magic, and as always spent a lot of time to go through new and old music for my DJ sets.
Your new remix project Versions is released on 16 September. What prompted you to go back in time and revisit your previous tracks?
I’ve been talking to Innervisions about doing something different than the usual dancefloor 12″ for our next project together.
During this, we came up with the idea to create a mix of special versions of some of my old tracks that was more suited towards home-listening. It was a really open-ended idea in the beginning, but once I sat down and started working on it, the music came to me really quickly – within just a couple of days.
How would you describe the project?
It’s basically a DJ mix of remixes of my own tracks at 105bpm, for your home listening pleasure. We also threw in the unmixed tracks as a bonus.
What are Dixon and Âme like to work with?
I’ve worked with a tonne of labels before and can attest that I’ve never felt more at home on a professional and personal level. Everything just works – my ideas are being heard, communication is easy, and of course it’s a huge platform to present my work on. It’s a pleasure working with them.
You have mentioned that Versions was influenced by albums like K&D Sessions, DJ Shadow’s Entroducing – absolutely seminal albums. What sort of influence did these albums have on you and why?
It’s the sound of my youth. This whole era left a deep imprint on me musically – from Mo’Wax to old Ninja Tune and Warp releases, DJ Shadow, the first DJ Kicks compilations. I just love openness of it.
There were no rules to the sounds you could use, and the way things where arranged and mixed felt so natural and organic. This kind of approach is something that I still try to uphold to this day, be it my own productions or when I’m DJing. An openess and a love for experimentation.
Did the creation of Versions enable you to explore a new side to your musical personality?
It felt more like going back to an old side of my musical personality that I hadn’t acknowledged in a while. It also felt like completing a circle – musically in paying homage to the sounds of my youth, and also content-wise, as I am actually reworking my own music. It has opened up a lot of layers to me and made me think in different ways about my craft.
Your Applied Magic label is a few releases old now – how is that going? How are you trying to position the label, what sort of sound are you going for?
It’s going great, and it’s one of the most exciting things for me at the moment. I’ve just released catalog number 11.
The greatest joy for me is working with new artists who might not have a platform yet and seeing them get the recognition and feedback they deserve. I also love working with new graphic designers for each release, coming up with concepts and seeing the projects grow together.
It’s also a place for me to easily release and present my own music without having to align with other labels’ schedules and ideas. It’s very freeing to know that I have this outlet with full control over everything.
When it comes to the musical direction, it’s really simple – I have to love the music, and I have to love the artists that I’m working with. It’s the same as my approach to DJing: I am my own target group. If I truly love something, the chances are high that somebody else will feel the same way about it. I believe that enthusiasm is contagious.
Aera – Versions is released on 16 September. Click here to learn more.