Sun 09 July
Dresden-based billion-stream disco behemoth Tino Piontek’s intoxicating mix of house, disco and funk might have become unavoidable in the last decade, but the story of this agile producer, songwriter and DJ begins far earlier.
As a boy growing up in whatwas then known as East Germany, where Western culture was largely banned, Tino became well-acquainted with the mysterious, exotic allure of music: at night his father —by day a mild-mannered teacher —would drive off under the cover of darkness in searchof black market music. Sometimes he’d come back having lost his cash at the border. But sometimes he’d return with contraband: cassettes or vinyl by forbidden rock bands.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Tino was granted his first real glimpse of everything pop had to offer, when his family took its first trip to Munich. “I walked into a record store, its walls full of vinyls and CDs, and I thought: ‘I’m in heaven’,”Tino remembers. “I was running around in circles for what seemed like hours. And at that moment I realised: this is the moment. I'm obsessed with music. From now on, I will spend all my money on music on CDs.
”Since then it’s been Tino’s life’s work to recreate the excitement of that first trip to the Munich record store. And he’s found itin Purple Disco Machine, a project that first turned heads with 2013’s Beatport-conquering breakthrough hit ‘My House’, became an international concern with 2018’s preposterously banging‘Dished (Male Stripper)’and went on to multi-platinum success with 2020’s global smash ‘Hypnotized’, on top of hundreds of DJ bookings, residencies and festival slots and being one of the planet’s most in-demand remixers for the likes of Lady Gaga, Calvin Harris, Dua Lipa, Diplo, Mark Ronson, New Order and Sir Elton John.
“Whatever I’m doing, I need this little moment where I get goosebumps,” Tino says. “When I get a smile on my face or start dancing in the studio, that’s the moment when I know: I’m on the right track.
”He's continuing on that right track with second studio album ‘Exotica’, a fresh, distinctive and exhilarating body of work that’s the best showcase yet of a musical education whose pivotal moments include a passion for Prince’s music and first hearing Daft Punk’s Homework at 16, subsequently hurling himself into the rise of French filter house. Unmistakably, there’s also the earlier influence of Italo disco, the high-octane brand of pulsating, euphoric pop that dominated the dancefloors of mainland Europe in the 80s and bizarrely, Tino says, became even bigger in East Germany than it was in Italy.“For some reason it was basically the only pop music that was allowed on the radio when I was growing up,” he smiles. “So that by default was the music I grew up with.
”The authorities, it seemed, had made the classic error of thinking disco couldn’t be political. Later a family friend, who happened to be a DJ, would make mixtapes for teenage Tino,“and I decided: I need my own turntables. I don't want to listen to technowhen I could be playing disco music.”He began playing parties in his school’s basement; not long after, as Tino was old enough to go clubbing himself, he’d start burning his own mix CDs and sending them to clubs, eventually earning his first residency ata local venue where he could explore his passion for disco and house. Having experimented with Cubase he began making music under the name Stereo Funk and even started his own label. But with the late 2000s came the rise of EDM.“It was,” Tino says, “not the music I wanted to play. And it definitely wasn’t the music I wanted to make. I didn’t hear the passion in it.
”It was time for a rethink. For a short while he paid the bills producing for other artists and making music for advertising, but he had a plan. In 2009, while the world was looking at EDM, Tino invented PDM —Purple Disco Machine, a moniker inspired by Miami Sound Machine and Prince, specialising in warm disco and extravagant funk. Tracks like ‘My House’ found a global audience, and in 2017 following a steady stream of club hits Tino released his debut artist album ‘Soulmatic’on Australian tastemaker label Sweat It Out.
It was harder work back home, particularly in techno-obsessed Berlin. “I’d play shows around the world then every time I flew back to Germany no one understood the music,” Tino recalls, but he ended up finding strength in that strange situation:“I always felt somehow exotic in my own city.
”Which brings us to ‘Exotica’, an album largely cooked up in a studio in a converted warehouse five minutes from Tino’s house, and finished during lockdown.“At the start of 2020 I was about to miss the deadline I’d set myself for the album, but then everything changed and I suddenly had a little more time than I’d planned,” he recalls.“For the first time in many many years I could be at the studio every day: each morning, I dropped my kids at the kindergarten and school then drove to the studio.
”He dug into his analogue synths, and replaced some he’d parted company with back in the day, and immersed himself in the world of Purple Disco Machine. As well as featuring collaborations with diverse talents such as Sophie & The Giants (‘Hypnotized’), Eyelar (‘Dopamine’) and Moss Kena and The Knocks (‘Fireworks’), the resulting album also sees multiple writing collaborations with Jamiroquai’s Matt Johnson, after he and Tino struck up a close bond when Purple Disco Machine supported Jamiroquai in 2017. (Derrick McKenzie, Jamiroquai’s drummer, also turns up on some tracks on Exotica.)“We have the same feeling about music,” Tino adds.“We feel the same energy, we have the same passion for disco, funk and soul, we speak the same musical language.”
Energy, passion and a belief in a shared language of music —across dancefloors, radio airwaves and streaming platforms —will always lie at the heart of Purple Disco Machine’s music. More than that, they’re at the heart of Tino’s very being.
“Music is important assomething to spend your good times with,” he says, “but in dark times too you need positive energy from positive music. Music you can listen to and say: ‘Okay, things are not that bad. Tomorrow will be a better day. I can get through it.’
The album encompasses all the grooves, signature guitar licks, and funky basslines that are synonymous with a Purple Disco Machinerecord, whilst having moments of light and shade inviting you further into his universe. Having already released a handful of singlesfrom the LP, including the Sophie and the Giants collab ‘Hypnotized’, ‘Fireworks feat. Moss Kena & The Knocks’, ‘Playbox’and more recently‘Dopamine feat. Eyelar’, Purple Disco Machine has quickly gained a mammoth international following eager to hear more.‘Hypnotized’became an anthem the world over, having been streamed over 250 million times across platforms, whilst going triple Platinum in Italy, Poland and Switzerland, with the carefree stylings of ‘Fireworks’quickly following suit with over 70 million streams to date, whilst dominating airwaves across Europe hitting #5 on the overall chart, and #1 across Italy and Germany. Further skyrocketing up the Shazam Charts, the single went to #1 in Germany, and #3 across Italy, Denmark, and Austria to become another certified hit for Purple Disco Machine.