If one element of Daniel Oskar Offermann’s background in hip-hop shines through in his career as house producer and label owner, it’s that genre’s relentless hustle. A relative newcomer to the 4×4 area he occupies now, the Frankfurt-born, Berlin-based producer has been nothing short of ambitious since it took hold. In 2007 he founded the cheekily named, graphically focused White label as a hub for his own productions, as well those by his friends including Edward, Nu, Martin Zadak, and Tristen. A second label followed in 2011, Rimini, which puts a premium on being vinyl-only and has offered eccentric edits from a varied crowd. But it was his tracks with an old Frankfurt pal, Moomin, that really caught our attention: Hardmood/Joe MacDaddy launched the Aim imprint in spectacular fashion and landed in our top 25 tracks of 2010. Its follow-up, “Nasty Nate,” further refined their restrained, sample-led sound to include traces of soul and was a highlight of the first Aim compilation. LWE chatted with Offermann and found that he’s on the move again, discussing his plans for his labels and his own personal sound. He’s also provided us with our 98th exclusive podcast, an hour of deeply groove-focused house music with some unexpected treats along the way.
LWE Podcast 98: Oskar Offermann (58:52)
01. Edward, “Mingus” [Giegling]
02. Andrés, “You’re Still The One” [Moods & Grooves]
03. Anonym, “I Love You” [Sushitech]
04. Basil Hardhouse, “Make Me Dance (Hard For The DJ)” [white]
05. Paul Bennett, “The Last Dance For Galaxian” [Modernista]
06. Venedikt Reyf, “Keep Right On” [Rimini]
07. Kareem, “How Low Can You Go” (Oskar Offermann Remix)
08. Keith Worthy, “Now That’s House” (K-Dub’s History Of House Mix)
09. Lerosa, “Sketch Sad Mix” [Uzuri]
10. Norm Talley, “In Yo Soul” [Third Ear Recordings]
11. Guillaume & the Coutu Dumonts ft. Dave Aju, “On the Lips” (Extended Mix) [Circus Company]
12. Snow Patrol, “Open Your Eyes” (Playgroup Dub) [white*]
* denotes tracks which, as of the time of publishing, are unreleased
You are originally from Frankfurt but currently based in Berlin. What was the house/techno scene like growing up there and how does it compare to the present day?
Oskar Offermann: Growing up in Frankfurt I listened to a lot of hip-hop. I went to Robert Johnson in Offenbach, maybe once or twice in those days. But house and techno wasn’t a big thing for me then. It wasn’t before I moved to Berlin in 2001.
When did you start producing electronic music, and what about that time inspired you to get your start?
When I was about 16 I started to mess around with a simple sequencer on a PC. I was always into music, playing drums in bands and stuff. And when I was about 18 I bought my first MPC, which I still use today. I was rapping and producing beats for my friends.
I understand your background is in hip-hop. How do you think that influences your productions now? What are some of your other musical influences your listeners might not expect?
I remember, before there was hip-hop and weed, there were skateboards and guitars. But I listen to lots of music, no genre excluded. There is only good and bad. And in terms of hip-hop, it obviously influenced my way of producing a lot. Sampling is a big issue of course. But right now I really try to focus more on instruments and songwriting with house as a main reference. I’d like to sing more and try to work more on a… let’s say “personal sound.” More innovative, not copying the past too much. That bores me.
What are some of your favorite pieces of production gear?
I am really heavy into old school digital effects these days. I love my Dynachord DRP 16 and my Ibanez DM1000. But I slowly learn to appreciate my computer as well. I started using Ableton not so long ago, and for me it was amazing to work on a sampler that fast.
What spurred you to start the White label? Where did the name come from?
Well, you start a label because you want independence. You want to be the captain and want to do things your own way, following your own vision. I think it is a very logical step for a creative person. And we always had a very strong visual background. My label partner Adam Zawadzki and I were both studying at art schools, so we wanted to do something different. We started out with the “faces” series, which was a kind of no-go back then. And we really liked the irony of calling it “the white label” at the same time.
In your blog you’ve described White as a family. What are the upsides and downsides of working with such a close-knit group of people?
It can be very difficult sometimes. Like with siblings, you are too close. But on the other end, what more could you ask for? Living your dream with your closest friends is an amazing experience. I can definitely recommend it! And it is very nice to watch everybody grow and doing their thing. That makes us even more independent.
You’ve also recently started the Rimini label. What is the guiding principle behind this new imprint? How is it different from White?
I would say, if White is a spaceship from a different galaxy, Rimini would be a fairground back on planet Earth.
Most of your productions released over the last year or so have been collaborations with Moomin. Tell us how you met and what led you two to make music together. Is there a specific aim in mind when you make tunes or are they more often the result of improvising?
We’ve met back in Frankfurt in our hip-hop days. Then we lost track for a few years until he moved to Berlin. We really liked each other’s musical background and taste And he was new in town, so I introduced him to the whole White family. He hadn’t produced tunes himself at that time. So we went into my studio and started from there. We sort of had an idea of a certain vibe we wanted to capture. So we started to work on all these samples he had collected from the originals back in the days.
Is there a division of labor between yourself and Moomin while in the studio? What do each of you bring to the table?
I was the more experienced producer, so I was the guy with the mouse in his hand. He brought the samples and we searched for some bits and pieces with a vibe we were looking for. Same with drum sounds. Then I programmed a groove and some additional melodies like bass or strings and we basically went straight from there to arranging things. He is very good at arranging a track with not too many elements. I am more like the opposite — always too many melodies and variations. And then we mixed it all down. In the beginning it all happened very fast. He crashed on my couch, we worked for two days straight and another track was done.
Looking back at your Twitter feed, I noticed links to your tracks “Hardmood” and “Nasty Nate” which date back to 2009. Is there more older material still to be released? How has your sound together changed since those tracks were written?
We basically produced all the tracks around that time. There is maybe one or two which have not been released yet. But we stopped, since we have a very different everyday life now. And I want my sound to go into a different direction these days.
Samples have been a constant feature in your work together. Samples have also been widely abused or at least poorly used in the last couple years. Do you have any guiding principles to insure that your samples and their arrangements sound fresh?
There wasn’t a master plan for it. As I said, we were looking for a certain vibe, not so much for hooks or main elements. Maybe that was somehow our guiding principle. And of course we still wanted to write our own music with samples, using them more like instruments, which should be your main intention if you are using samples at all.
What can we expect from you and your labels in the next year’s time?
In 2012 White will release Edwards debut album, Teupitz. We will continue to play together as a DJ team and I am working on my debut album as well. With the label, I’d like to bring it to a different level music-wise. I am a little bored with deep house right now.