LWE Podcast 177: Oliver Hacke

PODCAST-177-1

Though the minimal sound fell from favor some years ago, there is no denying the quality of music created by some of its progenitors and those who were influenced by them. Although very much an integral part of the minimal movement, labels like Traum and Trapez also stood slightly apart from it; their releases from that time still are relevant today. One artist who popped up repeatedly on both labels was Oliver Hacke. He had deep roots in the sound but rather than driving relentlessly at the aesthetic like many producers later did (causing the genre to become a parody of itself), he infused his tracks with more disparate influences. To that end you could hear disco, jazz, deep house, and elements of dub techno throughout his productions. First releasing in 2002, he had a prolific flurry of releases in 2003, but from then on his output became more erratic until it seemed to have stopped entirely from 2008 onwards. And when a mix from Hacke came through at LWE HQ I had to rack my brain a bit to place the producer whose name I hadn’t encountered for some time. One listen to the mix piqued my curiosity, so LWE contacted Hacke to find out why he stopped producing and whether he is likely to return to it. He filled me in on these questions and more, with his stunning mix — the 177th exclusive for our series highlighting why DJing is his primary passion at the moment.

Download LWE Podcast 177: Oliver Hacke (104:45)

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Tracklist:

01. Stereociti, “Dialog” [Mojuba]
02. Ben La Desh, “Escape Route” [Sleazy Beats Black Ops]
03. Arcarsenal, “Lower 9th Tribute” (Dubbyman Afro-Odyssey Remix)
[This Is Not Happening]
04. Guillaume & The Coutu Dumonts, “Discotic Space Capsule”
[Circus Company]
05. Unknown artist, “Whisp” [Le Borgne]
06. Crimea X, “Floordance Track” (Prins Thomas Diskomiks) [Hell Yeah Recordings/Internasjonal]
07. Martyn, “Memory Hole” [Sub:stance]
08. Afrikan Sciences, “Ejercicios” [Deepblak]
09. Leisure Connection, “Jungle Dancing” [No ‘Label’]
10. Charles Manier “Waiting for Electrocution (Live)” [Nation]
11. Jean Nipon, “Black Things on Desk” [ClekClekBoom Recordings]
12. Versalife, “Advancing Capabilities” [Clone West Coast Series]
13. Norman Nodge, “NN 8.0” [Marcel Dettmann Records]
14. Carl Craig & Moritz von Oswald, “Movement” (C2 Version)
[Deutsche Grammophon]
15. Massimo Di Lena, “You Better Hear” (XDB Remix) [Prime Numbers]
16. Eddie Fowlkes, “We Need More” [Detroit Wax]
17. Alexander Robotnik, “Problems D’Amour” (Kenny Dixon Jr Mix)
[NDATL Muzik]

You’ve been releasing for a while now, a little over ten years. Right from the start you were releasing on very respected labels like Trapez and Background. Did you already have a relationship with the people from the labels or had you just sent them demos?

Oliver Hacke: In the early 00s fewer people produced electronic music as technology was expensive and communications infrastructure was lacking. I guess it was much easier to get in touch with labels back then than it is today. I met Gabriel Ananda through a friend and he liked my tracks. However, him and Alex from Karmarouge weren’t able to release my tracks for some reasons. They said they knew this great guy from a record store in Cologne who ran a fine small label with a lot of great Russian and South American artists and recommended to pass my demo on to him. I agreed and some days later when I was working my student job as a sound engineer in a convention center, my phone rang. It was Riley from Trapez. I still remember this phone call very well; it kicked off a great and happy era for me.

2003 was a very prolific year for you with a good handful of releases culminating in your debut album release in 2004. Were you working on music full time at this stage?

I was a very negligent university student but quite the focused musician back then.

Your releases really slowed down a lot after the album. Was it a conscious decision to step away from producing so much or was it simply a matter of life happening?

I got more into DJing when I did the album. Plus I was booked a lot more after its release. 2005 I moved to the U.S. and left my gear in Germany. Also by learning more about electronic music I lost the naivety as a producer, so it became increasingly difficult for me to get something done that I enjoyed. In the beginning I did one or even two tracks in a single day including mixdown and mastering. At some point it just took more time to get there and out of personal reasons I had less time available. MP3 distribution started and vinyl releases started to become an economical venture for labels. I preferred to spend the time at hand on organizing events, DJing and finishing University.

Whereabouts were you living in America and how was your experience there? How long did you live there?

I did an MBA in the US back in 2005 in central Pennsylvania. I just brought a bag of records, no turntables (hence the rather mediocre RA podcast from that time), and no production equipment either. I went on a photo walk through the town on my first day with a larger camera and was stopped and interrogated by the police three times within a couple of hours. It was a pretty techno-free year over there aside from few shows in Sao Paulo, Detroit and New York. I remember well how surreal it felt to play at Wolf and Lamb during that time after months in the middle of frat houses, Ruby Tuesday, and pickup trucks. The winter in Pennsylvania was hard. Andrew Lochhead from Chicago who promoted me in the U.S. picked me up with his car one time for a December show at the Bunker and we almost died in a snow storm.

Being heavily associated with labels like Traum and Trapez, you probably unfairly get labeled as a minimal producer. While that is definitely part of your sound, you can hear a lot of other influences in there too.

Ha, yes the minimal producer image is sort of a stigma nowadays. My way of mixing is often a positive surprise to crowds now, but in the mid 2000s when straight minimal techno was at its peak it was sometimes quite the opposite…

What was your involvement in music before this? What got you started with producing?

I started with classical guitar when I was 7 years old, played in bands later on but lost interest in the sound of a guitar and the concept of a band because I was not able to find my identity in either. I dived into other youth culture in between but always had been a computer nerd and experimented with it as a means of expression — Demo Scene and all that. At some point in time I got used to a straight bass drum and developed a taste for it by listening to Sven Väth’s radio shows. Sven’s shows also impressed me because he played very deep, narrative and versatile on the radio, like a short summary of a good, opulent club set. Early Kompakt, Perlon, Mille Plateaux and Playhouse records but also the Brighton stuff Sven played impressed me because I had not experienced techno as “author’s music” before — more like an anonymous, industrial, inhuman product. That made me spend some money on gear.

Can you run us through some of the non dance-related music that you feel influences you in some way?

The characteristics of chamber music were that it was not made to appeal to a mainstream audience in a concert hall but to a select few, in a chamber. The friction between this slightly elitist notion and the “global communication” characteristics of dance music is certainly a basic influence. I listen to a lot of different stuff from John Coltrane to Alva Noto. Film and game soundtracks always inspired me, way before I bought my first synthesizer. “Miami Vice” maybe. The RZA is one of my favorite producers but Paul’s Boutique is my all time favorite album. I remember the first time I heard Public Enemy’s sound, truly amazing and still fresh today. Jan Jelinek, Drexciya, Isolee, Sutekh, Thomas Brinkmann to name a few techno influences too.

Are you still living in Düsseldorf? Is this where you started out with music? What is the musical community like there for you?

The scene here has always been very segregated, much more so than in other cities. And it appears quite ignorant at first sight, bring the (as per media/booking situation) hottest act here on a Friday night in a Funktion One equipped club and people will just not come. Do a rave in a dump with two locals on a shitty soundsystem and you’ll gasp for oxygen in there at 2am. There are many versatile, knowledgeable and highly passionate local DJs here, many of which are little known outside the city. People here are quite spoiled with good music. To be fair I want to add that a few also just like to enjoy the same shit in the same places played by familiar guys every weekend. On my events I bring together six, seven, eight people from different musical backgrounds and have us all play back to back. That’s a demanding and inspiring way to play records, and usually it turns out very colorful and dynamic, both the music and the crowd.

Can you tell us a bit about your creative process and how your studio setup reflects what you do?

Once I had the gear I wanted, I stopped being a gear head. I like a simple setup. I have an E-Mu sampler, a Supernova, some drum machine, a VariOS, a multi effect, a Drawmer Compressor and a mixer plugged into an RME sound card. That is all I need next to a computer with highly outdated Cubase and Samplitude installs. I tried a lot of other gear over the years but sold off each piece after a while because it brought me no benefit. Gear I’d still like to add is an Eventide H8000 and a Joemeek SC 2.2.

The scope of your mix you’ve done for us is quite broad. How long have you been DJing for? Is this set typical for what you like to play out at a club?

I think the mixes you feature are often quite broad and colorful! I started out DJing before I even had two decks at home because some guy who heard my first records wanted me to organize events at his club. Must have been around 2002. I learned my first lessons in DJing and event organization/promotion there. And yes, this should reflect what I also like to play out at a club.

What have you been working on lately? How has your approach to making music changed over the years? What can we expect from Oliver Hacke over the next year?

Since summer I am doing “something” but it may take some time before this is finalized. I always felt that the advantage of electronic music over “band music” is the more immediate connection between one single person’s imagination and the actual production work and for long I had the opinion that collaborating with others eliminated this. But I started to think differently about it due to the experiences I made with collaboration as a DJ. So you can expect some teamwork definitely but that won’t be before 2014.

Jesse  on September 17, 2013 at 7:49 AM

wHere’s the mix? can’t download or browse to it

littlewhiteearbuds  on September 17, 2013 at 9:45 AM

Hi Jesse, we were having some technical issues which have now been ironed out. Download away!

A.  on October 25, 2013 at 10:27 AM

Thanks for great interview! No doubt, Oliver Hacke’s music symbolizes the best on TRAPEZ and TRAUM in early 2000’s. Remember “Polar”, “Der Vampir von Düsseldorf” “Subject Carrier”, all those TRAPEZ LTD and BACKGROUND no-name masterpieces?
It was a pleasant thing for me to learn that Oliver is going to release “something” in future. Can’t wait to hear it! Way to go Oliver!

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