In an era in which a new record label launches seemingly every day, it can take a few releases for any imprint to get noticed at all while it finds its footing. Not only did Aim catch the ears of a crucial audience with its first release — by Oskar Offermann & Moomin — the label went on to serve up a fully formed aesthetic in the records that followed. Chalk that up to founder Tristen’s forethought and clarity of purpose, which privileged an intimate, homespun sound extrapolated across house and techno EPs. Despite being a producer in his own right, Tristen put the focus on a core group of artists — including Offermann, Moomin, Christopher Rau, and Oliver Deutschmann — which has expanded to include the talents of OCP (the Analogue Cops), XDB, Jacques Bon & Nicolas Villebrun, and Ron Deacon. They’ve executed his vision brilliantly; and in only seven releases Aim has quickly become one of house and techno’s most vital imprints. LWE simply had to learn more by chatting with Tristen (with input from Aim’s graphic designer, Jan Kristof Lipp), who explained the label’s conceptual framework, its visual approach, and where the new X series fits into the imprint’s aesthetic remit. Tristen also contributed Talking Shopcast 16, a deeply hypnotic hour of house which goes a long way in explaining how his taste extrapolates into Aim’s particular sound.
What inspired you to start Aim? Was starting a label something you wanted to do for a while? And what is the significance of the name Aim?
I started Aim to make an aesthetic statement, like an artist painting a picture. I chose vinyl to submit an idea. A lot of record labels were started to push somebody’s career. I want to make people really think about the ideas behind the creation of music. That’s why I called the label Aim.
In addition to running Aim you oversee production for WHITE. What does that entail?
For WHITE, I take care of production, I communicate with the distribution, look after deadlines and so on. The latest WHITE release came out on vinyl and CD. The whole CD thing was totally new to us. I was a bit nervous about the product, but in the end everything worked out very well and we are proud that we now have Edward’s album on CD in a lot of shops.
Before starting Aim you had an EP on WHITE, but since then we’ve only seen an edit of your on Oliver Deutschmann’s single. Is there more original material coming from you on Aim?
I’m not sure. At the moment I’m working on an artist EP for WHITE and different remixes. One of the remixes will be released very soon, also on WHITE. It may be a logical step to make an EP on my own label Aim. It’s difficult. We will see.
What are some labels, past and present that influence the way you run the label?
I have seen and heard a lot since I started buying records. Almost every record had an influence on me. I really love how minimalistic and pure some labels are, for example Marcel Dettmann Records, Cassy’s [eponymous] label, or Appointment. I think I like artist labels in general. The Staub series on Giegling still represents this minimalistic style in artwork and music to name. I’m not a collector but I totally fell in love with Giegling Staub. Sähkö is also a good example of a very unique label that has influenced me and many other people.
But, when it comes to decisions regarding my label I solely follow my own path. Sometimes I discuss some ideas with my graphic designer, Jan, who has a huge knowledge of music and media theory.
How have your studies as an art history major influenced your outlook on releasing pieces of art?
It definitely has an influence. The most amazing thing is to learn how far modern artists went in the last 150 years. It’s also funny to see that we are just repeating their ideas these days.
How did you start working with your graphic designer, Jan Kristof Lipp?
Jan helped me a lot especially in the phase before the label started. I had a few ideas but besides the music it was almost like a blank sheet of paper… with a stamp on it.
Tell me how you guys decided on Aim’s visual aesthetic.
Jan: After finding a name and developing the goal, from its sound and visual aesthetic, we developed a logo that wouldn’t hold a static relation to the label’s sound. Rather than literal, we wanted to create an emotional relation to the music. Music and its visual identity is a complex product which can show if you had a comprehensive cognitive experience in mind.
Tristen has very precise ideas about music and even before the first release he already had in mind what could work for the next several releases. That was very helpful. Our emotions were between intimacy and openness, warmth and melancholy, kind of a strong clarity, but with the feeling that we didn’t want to make any commitments, at least music-wise.
Recently Aim’s artwork has featured a deconstructed house. What about that image/design speaks to Aim and its aesthetic?
Jan: After releasing Aim 001 by Oskar Offermann and Moomin, we needed a flyer for the record release party; so Tristen sent over a few pictures he had found as inspiration. One was a photo of a beautiful, abandoned house in Detroit with boarded up windows, but with its garden raked. Conceptually‚ a house in Detroit is already a strong musical relation. A house is associated with warmth, intimacy, origin, family and home, a place where you come from and where you can be, but we didn’t want to restrict ourselves so we were looking for a deeper level. That’s how deconstruction came to life. Aim shouldn’t be just house or Detroit, but an open field that neither is one nor the other. It’s something open to crossing the frontiers while not forgetting it’s origin.
I noticed that Aim’s latest record features a new catalog number system, X. How is this series different from the rest, and why not just include it with the rest?
Aim has a strict concept. An EP must have a strong musical statement and it must fit into the whole concept. All releases are connected to each other. With the X series I wanted to create space for more spontaneous releases. I guess people will agree that AimX01 doesn’t really fit into label continuum. Oliver Deutschmann already had a regular release on Aim (Aim003) but this track was kind of odd. I had the track for a while and I played it several times. The reactions from people, especially in the morning hours, were crazy. I needed to release that track, there was just no other way.
What is Aim’s A&R policy? Do you bother with random demos or are you only seeking stuff out yourself?
I do not listen to demos. I’m sure I will miss a lot of great content from talented musicians but it’s just not the concept to listen to random demos.
Like a lot of today’s label owners, you work full-time as well. Are you willing to say what you do?
I’m working part time at Native Instruments in Berlin. I’m also studying and working for WHITE.
Balancing the day job and the personal passion can be tough. What keeps you driven to pursue this expensive and admirable hobby?
Sometimes I wish I would have more time with my friends and I would love to have more time to produce music of my own. I don’t know exactly why I’m doing all this stuff. It’s a struggle sometimes but it’s lot of fun, too. You meet great people and some of them become real friends.
What are your plans for Aim in 2012?
In the near future we will release the Sun Avenue Remixes. For over a year there has been another AimX in the pipeline. And hopefully we will drop another artist EP, but I won’t spoil the surprise by revealing any more details on that.
Talking Shopcast 16: Tristen (58:04)
01. Wbeeza, “Roks Dogg” [Third Ear Recordings]
02. Nicolas Villebrun & Jacques Bon, “Juno Shot” [not on label*]
03. Edward, “Getting Back” [WHITE]
04. Falke, “Undermyarms” [Kann Records]
05. Tomas Svensson, “116 Miles (Feat. Loganic)” [Vidab Records]
06. Alix Alvarez, “Fayall” [Rebirth]
07. Ben Hoo, “Right Kind Of Rain” (Oskar Offermann Remix) [Kindisch]
08. Johannes Albert, “Four Dawgs” [Frank Music*]
09. OCP, “Convoy” [Aim]
10. Stephan Hill, “Satellite-Love” [Vidab Records]
11. Christopher Rau, “For You And For Me” (Moomin Remix) [Aim*]
* denotes tracks that, as of the time of publishing, are unreleased