26.12.2019 | Words by: JP Enfant
Rødhåd is known for his fierce, yet musical technosets and dito productions. The first time I shared a line up with the friendly red-bearded Berliner was around 2011-2012 at Tresor. It was also the first time I saw his name and my first thought was he had to be a viking and probably from Norway with a name like that. We didn’t meet that night, but I do remember I was really impressed by his set back then.
1-2 years later we played together at Trouw in 2013. It was the first Dystopian-showcase in Amsterdam and I was asked to do the opening back then for Rødhåd and Recondite. We became friends after that dinner and night. Shared gigs and some fun jams at Rødhåd's studio followed over the years. This Christmas we play the basement together, which is a good reason to ask him some questions about his music, labels and gear. Q: Dystopian turns 10 this year, which is quite a milestone. The trademark sound of the label I would describe as melancholic, gloomy and somewhat post-apocalyptic. Do you feel there has been changes over the years in the artistic vision on how these spheres are dragged out?
A: As a label we always tried to be diverse with the music we release. Of course with the name DYSTOPIAN we already set a certain mindset for the label, but I think it worked out quite well over the years. All the artists had their own developments and I think it was quite interesting to see how everybody was evolving over the time in their own way.
You also have to keep in mind that we are three peeople running the label together. This means there are always three opinions and of course this also leads to discussions here and there. In the end we always found a solution that worked out for everybody involved. We also tried to keep the roster on a level where we know all artist personally. That community feeling was and still is very important for us. Q: And how does that relate to your own artistic development, did it develop in a similar way?
A: Over the last years I was working more and more in the studio. I learned a lot of things. Technically there were some big changes and I feel like you could really hear that when you listen to my records. Although, I did not release a lot of music I spent a lot of time in the studio doing research and trying different things. I also recorded a lot new music, but there is only a really small amount which is released.
I do different kinds of music in the studio and often I find myself making music which is not intended for a dance floor. The reason is the way I’m living. I’m playing often 3 or 4 gigs on a weekend and when I get to the studio during the week I can not listen to dance music all the time. I make a lot of ambient and beatless music for example. Mostly just for my own pleasure in this very moment. So I see myself as an artist maybe in a totally different way than people from the outside who never heard all this music.
Since a few years my wish to play a live set is getting bigger and at the moment I’m woking to make this happen in 2020. I have already a few shows booked for the first half of the year and I’m really excited to explore new fields in performing as a musician. For sure this will be more focussed on dance music. Q: I’ve been to your studio a couple of times, and what I noticed straight away is that yo u are a massive gearhead. Your studio feels like a candyshop (or a synthmuseum) in that sense with one of the best soundsystems you can come across. Do you have any favourite instruments at the moment?
A: Yes, I can see a little addiction here with the synthesizers. At the moment I reached a point where I think it's enough now and I’m also thinking about getting rid off some stuff I’m not really using. One of my favs at the moment is the new Walldorf quantum synth. It’s a massive machine and I think I could spend the next 20 years with it, without getting tired of it. There are so many possibilities in synthesis and so many modulation possibilities it’s more or less like a big modular synth within one machine. At the moment they are still in beta for the new firmware update. As a addition to the already crazy possibilities they adding kernel synthesis to this machine which opens another whole dimension. I believe I also showed it to you when you where there last time. Q: Imagine you were a young producer with a a very limited budget which could only buy you one piece of gear from your current collection; What would you choose and why?
Well, I would recommend to buy a good working computer for sure. In the end that’s all what you need if you want to start making music. For me, I really like all those synthesizers and it’s really great to have them but I also think its not the most important piece of equiptment in the studio. The computer and also the DAW [Digital Audio Workstation] is the center of everything here, where all the midi and audio come together in this piece of gear. I also do a lot of editing and sound shaping in the box. I thought that I was spending most of my time on synths and outside of the box, but in the end its at least 50/50.
So get a proper computer and a DAW for the start. Get comfortable with the basics and then decide what you need. My first real synth was a vermona performer MKII and that is also one of my favourite synths in the studio. I use it almost in every track I make. It’s a bass monster. That big baseline in Target Line
for example was made with it. But it’s also very versatile and works very well for drones, lead sounds and percussion. It also forces you to get deeper into synthesis because there is no way to safe any sounds in the machine. So there are no presets for you. Q: Recently, you started a new label called WSNWG. Can you tell a bit more about the idea behind it and can you share some of the plans?
A: Well this somehow developed into a new label. In the beginning there where all these jams I did with my friends in the studio and on some point I had a good collection of tracks with Lucy. We didn’t really hadvethe space on our main imprints to put it out quickly. So we decided to do a white label. Quite soon I had another record finished with my friend Alex.Do and I decided to follow up where we started. The concept is quite easy. I will continue to release collaborations that where made in my studio in Berlin. All the tracks are named by the date they were created. For 2020 I already have a hand full releases in the pipe line which will be announced early next year.
I also want to give some big props to Speedy J who invited me to his studio in Rotterdam in 2016. That was a big honor and inspiration for me and also the first time I was working with another artist on a studio project. In the end we had 3 EPs finished in one week. They where released on his STOOR imprint.
In 2016 I also moved in to a new bigger studio and did some changes in my setup. Basically I set up everything to be able to work with other people in the studio. I really enjoy collaborating with other artists. Sharing ideas and exchanging knowledge gets you a lot of inspiration and the level of creativity is really high when you only have a certain time in the studio to spend and want to get something done. I think I’m also much faster when I’m working with somebody else because it’s easier to make decisions when you work with another person. Q: Also is there a specific reason why you release vinyl-only in times where digital formats become more and more popular?
A: In the beginning it was really spontaneous and there was no big plan behind it. So we were thinking to just put out the records and that’s it. But I also realized that the vinyl market is getting worse and if you want to reach people you also have to do a digital version. And to be honest, I do not play vinyl since a couple of years by myself. So I decided to do a small amount of vinyl for the heads and started using bandcamp for the label too. For the future releases I’m also considering working with a digital distribution. Q: As a born and raised Berliner, can you shine your light on the future of Berlin dancefloors? Where do you see it moving to?
A: Ha, that’s a question I can't really answer. I rarely go out on parties by myself in Berlin and when I go for a dance I usually go to Berghain. So I’m not really aware of what’s going on in Berlin besides that. We had a really great night at Griessmuehle earlier this year, but they are also facing closure. I'd say there is always a constant movement in Berlin, because there are always new clubs opening and others closing.
In general I would say the moment the whole techno sound is getting faster again and more aggressive. I can see a similarity to what was happening in the early 2000 when I started going out and collecting music. The sound became harder, super fast and at the end really flat. At that point I started getting interested in dub techno, ambient and also house music which opend up my musical spectrum a lot. I guess you can still hear it in my longer sets.Rødhåd and JP Enfant play our basement together tonight, tickets are still available here and at the door.