Frank Spirit (Varia Instruments) Mix & Interview

Switzerland’s capital Bern is home to Varia Instruments, the company behind our favorite dj mixer, the RDM20. Simon Schär is one of the two brains behind Varia Instruments; today we’ve invited him to share a mix with us and talk about his life. Simon dj’s and produces under the moniker Funk Bastard and is also part of the duo Frank Spirit. We brought him to Miami a year ago for a Terrestrial Funk Friday Night at Gramps. On that trip he delivered our very own Varia Instruments RDM20 rotary mixer which has served as the centerpiece of the Terrestrial Funk Sound System. The rdm20 provides incredibly honest and raw sound, complimenting the clarity of our full Danley Sound Labs rig. From a DJs perspective the mixer has an intuitive layout and serves as the perfect tool to blend music. For me personally, it’s felt like the most natural extension of the craft. So it’s with deep joy that I welcome Simon. During his time here in Miami he exuded such genuine love and passion everywhere he went and it reflects in his work. While interviewing Simon, he maintained the secrecy of a project he and Marcel were working on in the Varia Instruments lab. Since then they have announced the new RDM40 mixer and we're proud to share this mix that was recorded on the prototype. Enjoy!


Simon tell us about the origins of Varia Instruments, your partner Marcel, and the products you make.

Varia Instruments started by pure coincidence. I was looking for a quality DJ mixer since years but couldn't find something that suit my needs. One day a friend told me to call Marcel, it seems as he has built kind of a prototype of such kind of thing. I din't really know this guy by then but he was super kind on the telephone and then invited me for dinner. I went to his place to have a look on the mysterious machine. In my pocket a feature list of the mixer I was dreaming off. After chatting for an hour or so he finally showed me his creation and guess what- I could make a tick in every single box of my list! This guy has literally created what I was dreaming of and of course I had to have one of these machines! The RDM20 as we know it today was born 6 months later when we released a super limited batch of ten pieces. They were all already sold when we released them and quickly further orders dropped in. One lead to the other and what started as a freaky project became a small passion driven manufacture.

The next big step was the release of our TTW10 in 2018 which is a clever turntable weight.
We're proud to say that all our products are actually built by us and our employees here in Bern.

Our philosophy is to create high-end DJ goods on the highest quality standard- and that's what we do basically every day since 4 years now!


What’s a day of your life in beautiful Bern look like?

When I'm not on the road with my daughter I'm mostly in our beautiful workshop which is in a big shared house. There are many artists but also a silkscreen workshop or movie makers and a amazing tailor which already worked with/for us. There are several music studios too. Such inspiring surroundings! We own an amazing Italian coffee machine so the day starts with good espresso and a chat with Marcel where we plan the day or simply talk about the things we love- music, culture, food, life! Then we start working, whatever this might be. Rather we're assembling PCB's for our RDM20, or I go to the workshop across the street to turn new parts for the TTW10's or we reply inquiries from customers. We're mostly cooking lunch for the people who are around and eat together on one big table. After break we go back to work- The best thing is that we have an amazing PA in our workshop so we basically listen to good music all day every day! Currently we're working a lot on our new development, these days are so exciting and one highlight comes after another. I'm deeply thankful to have such an satisfying work in an environment which is so closely connected to music. 

After work I see my beloved ones or go to the studio to work on new Frank Spirit material. I love cycling too. And oh, there's an amazing river, the Aare, which flows through our small lovely city. You can jump in it, the water is so clean, and float down before you take a walk back to your towel. Everybody is doing this during summer time and you see friends there. When the mood is good, why not go for a beer with some friends? It's a good life right here, you should come by and try it!


What are you and Marcel working on at Varia right now?

Well, I can't tell too much at this point but it's going to be a four channel mixer. We worked really hard on this project for more 1.5years now- I'm so excited that it's starting come together and being more concrete day by day. We share the whole development phase on our social media and a homepage should be up soon too- so keep an eye on our channels!

 When did you begin collecting records?

It started was when I was 16- so almost half of my life. It was such a bizarre situation- all of a sudden I had the desire to buy records- and I do it since then.


Tell us a little bit about your musical influences growing up in Bern.

The earliest influences were the crates of my parents- while my dad bought a lot of psychadelic rock and hard rock my mom was into jazz, jazz-funk, soul and so on. When I was a young adult I met Turntill who introduced me to the hip hop- my whole life was influenced by the impact of this new music and it's culture. The biggest influence came clearly from my very close friend and music-partner Azul Loose Ties. Together we're forming the duo Frank Spirit. We became friends quite quickly after we met some years ago. He's a house dancer and thought me very much about electronic music. Before that I was really into hip hop, beatmaker stuff and the whole old organic music. He was the guy who introduced me to house, deep house, broken beat which became an important part of my musical identity. Here to mention is Narco Marco/Marc Matsuki who is a long time friend who shares the passion for records and hardware gear- we had many great jams in the lab, released stuff on his label Hot Jam and so on. Bern might be a small city but there's a colorful scene with many shining people who are part of it!

When you traveled to Miami last year, you stopped in New York first. What were some of your favorite experiences in the United States?

Oh lord, where to start!? We just had the time of our lifes- amazing people, best music, good digs, soul food all around- what do you want more? Dance till you're sweaty all over at Nowadays, a 5-hours-talk with the legendary Mr.Alex Rosner himslef or being invited to celebrate love and music at 'The Joy' Party in Bushwick were definitely moments that will stay in my memory for a long time.


Where are some of the other places you’ve toured as a dj? Tell us a little bit about those experiences.

We had amazing Frank Spirit gigs in Hong Kong and Japan, that was crazy! Strasbourg was crazy too, or Paris! But to be honest: Many of my really special DJ-moments happened during our Brain&Device parties here in Bern. Since Luca is a dancer we're happy to have an unbelievable crowd of unique souls how are actually coming to a party to dance. What's more satisfying than playing for your dancing friends and have good times with them!?

Share a little about your duo project Frank Spirit.

I've already mentioned some things before but to be clear: Frank Spirit is Azul Loose Ties and myself. Our different backgrounds kind of melting together which creates something fresh and unique. We both love the same music in general, but each one has it's niche. We're basically playing records together but also sharing a lot of gear in our studio. We try to produce music and sometimes we bring even some of it on vinyl, as now: Our next EP which we've done together with Keys of Lynx comes out in a few weeks. We're really happy about this release- it's exactly the music we love: Danceable electronic music, clearly rooted in soulful styles. It's the Jazz, baby. 


Can you tell us about a record that brings you deep peace?

I've put a whole bunch of these records together on this mix for Terrestrial Funk. I hope you enjoy it as much as I've done when I recorded it.




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