Rafael Ximenez and Mikio Gruschinske have spent well over two decades each perfecting their craft as both DJs and producers. The two first met in a club back in 2002 at a club in Cologne, Germany where Mikio was a resident and Rafael was booked to spin as a guest. Shortly after that night, the two created Plastik Funk as an outlet for their reinvented take on hip hop meets house music. Having spent over 15 years together now, the duo has an impressive back catalog that is highlighted by the still popular 2012 release, ‘Who’, alongside Tujamo.
Recently, we caught up with Rafael of Plastik Funk to discuss his beginnings in the dance music industry and how things are going these days.
Born in Spain, Rafael spent most of his childhood on the move. Having a father that worked as a pilot led Rafael and his family to move around a lot and the Ximenez clan ended up spending time in Spain, the United States, and all throughout Germany during Rafael’s early years.
As a child Rafael was exposed to the history of classical music and learned the violin from his father.
‘My father always told us a lot about classic music, music history and was teaching us some instruments. I think that made it easier for me to understand music and how important it can be for your life.’
He soon moved on to early hip hop music and by the age of 15 had discovered his first dance music tracks. It was around this time, in his home town of Dusseldorf, that Rafael first started attending, and throwing, house parties. These parties are where Rafael began fine tuning his talents as a DJ, taking every opportunity thrown his way to practice.
The rave scene was booming in the UK during this time and cities like Berlin and London were thriving. Acid house, house, techno, and UK style garage music were flourishing and the raves going down during the late 80s into the 90s were iconic.
In Berlin, the Love Parade events became hallmark, and Rafael was encapsulated from the moment he attended his first one. Returning home hooked on just about every sound he heard, he quickly found a way to sneak in to his home town clubs, such as Poison, thirsty for more house music.
‘It was all about the music, great vocals ,sexy girls, positive vibes, and just every night was so special. Thanks to these clubs I was able to listen to house heros like Erick Morillo, Sandy Rivera, Frankie Knuckles, David Morales, and many more, which was my school for house music and great DJ sets.’
In order to make a living and continue practicing he spent his college years DJing house parties and events. One year after attending Poison for the first time, Rafael had earned his first gig there. By the turn of the century, Rafael and Mikio had met at a club and in 2002 Plastik Funk was formed. The following year saw their debut release titled the Do It Right EP and with a string of successful singles to follow, it was not long before they were touring Germany and parts of Europe.
2009 saw Plastik Funk curate the German Ministry of Sound Sessions compilation and in 2012 got their first major break when Avicii caught wind of their single, ‘Who’, with Tujamo. ‘Who’ spent the next couple of years plastered all over just about every major festival and their infectious blend of house, bass, and hip hop was beginning to catch the eye of fans worldwide. Remixes for acts like Shermanology, Deadmau5, and Michael Woods led to their eventual signing with Armada Music’s Armada Deep sub-label.
Plastik Funk has spent the last few years consistently releasing on the Armada Deep imprint. Singles such as ‘Sunrise’ with Katt Rose along with a consistent tour schedule have kept the duo busy. Most recently, the Koolwaters team organized a small run of shows through India headlined by Plastik Funk and their most recent tune with Sagan titled ‘Got No Love’ has been tearing up the dance floor of late.
‘Koolwaters is a very professional agency so it’s always a good feeling to go on tour as everything is taken care of and I can focus 100% on the tour, music, Interviews, and sightseeing. I was playing a lot in Asia lately and I am always looking forward to an Asia tour. The energy in Asia is always amazing and the shows are so much fun!’
This summer will see over 40 festival appearances between May and September along with visits to Barcelona, Turkey, Croatia, and Italy, to name a few. In his down time, Rafael looks to spend as much time at the beach as possible, get in on some recreational sports, and just enjoy time with friends and family. As far as favorite acts go? Rafael has been digging the new duo Brohug, and is a big fan of just about everything Don Diablo and his Hexagon imprint have been up to.
Take a listen to the new Plastik Funk single below and if you’re in Europe be sure to catch one of their performances this summer.