But two years ago, Buttrich had something of a change of heart – he decided to strike out on his own, releasing records on high profile labels such as Planet E, Cocoon and Four:Twenty, as well as putting together a live show. Even a humble person like Buttrich, it seems, has to look after number one sometimes. “All this years I did projects under various aliases and I never really got any proper recognition for my work,” Buttrich explained recently to the website Different Grooves. “When you’re doing something for someone else it just helps that artist, not to yourself. So I decided to start releasing stuff under my own name.”
The result was a string of big records including ‘Full Clip’ (RA’s top track of 2006), his remix of Tracey Thorn’s ‘It’s All True’ and most recently ‘Stoned Autopilot’ for Carl Craig’s Planet E label, and now Buttrich has to deal with the unnerving phenomenon of journalists knocking on his door and asking him all sorts of nosy questions. “It's strange,” he laughs. "They want to know all of these different things and I don't know why."
The less you say, the more people want to know, it seems. There really is a bit of mystery around Martin Buttrich. Just how much of those Loco Dice and Timo Maas records are his work? Is he really just a studio head? Martin Buttrich explains:
Tell us a little more about why you decided to step out of the shadows and start putting your name on records.
I just felt like it was time for it. I had a lot of tracks just laying on my hard drive from over the years and I was simply ready to release them. In the last few years, I had had a lot of project names and it never made it possible for me to really focus on anything, so it just seemed like the time to do that.
For years before that, I had simply felt comfortable just staying in my studio, working just on music and being a total nerd. I really enjoyed my hometown and my friends so I always had this very quiet thing going on. I didn't have to do interviews or anything.
The music that you make for other artists is quite different from what you're doing under your own name. How does the creative process work with those guys? Do you share the workload 50/50?
It depends. Sometimes, for example, with Dice I'm having a bad day and I don't have any ideas, so then he tries to put me in a better mood by playing some melodies or whatever. Sometimes he's kind of laying down on the sofa, really exhausted, and I'm the one who's trying to put together ideas. I mean it's always a balance really.
Tell us about your studio in Hannover.
We have a couple of people with studios actually. We rented out this building in the city. There's a hip-hop studio, there's rock and pop. Guys do a lot of different things in the building.
It seems like you aren't afraid to try your hand at different genres either. I saw that you'd been credited on a Sugababes record for example.
I like to try different things out. As long as music means something to me or makes me happy or whatever, I'm interested in trying it out. I try to go in many directions so that I can learn about music, to try things out like rock or easy-listening stuff or even classical or whatever. Whatever is interesting, I try out.
I read an interview in which you talked about when you are producing, you try to keep in mind that people aren't always going to be listening to music in a production studio. That they might have bad speakers or a cheap stereo.
Yeah, I definitely keep this in mind. In this world now how many people are there who are just listening to music on their iPod or from their computer? Of course there are a lot of DJs and stuff, but that's just a small percentage. I don't think that many people have a really huge, perfect speaker system at home.
What was the first piece of gear that you ever bought?
An Akai S-1000. It had eight memory cells and two seconds of sample memory.
What's the most surprising piece of gear that you still use?
Two things: Neve EQs – they still sound great! – and the SP-12 sampler. I use the SP-12 more or less once every two months. It does great drum sounds, but it’s a lot of work to fill it with sounds.
Which piece of gear couldn't you live without? And why?
I could live without any piece of my equipment. But I guess it would be hardest to live without a computer, because it makes life so much easier.
Tell us how you made the bass sound on 'Full Clip'.
It’s a Minimoog—a simple square bass. I compressed the sound pretty hard and with a little bit of EQing, that was it!
In the early days, I was going through every speaker and stereo that I could find. Now, though, I know my whole studio and my system so when I have a listen on my three speakers and on headphones, I can be pretty sure that it'll work everywhere. But also, you know, everyone can have a bad day. So... [laughs] It's never a guarantee.
I get the sense that you're a bit of perfectionist. Are you the type of guy that will go back and say, "I know no one is going to hear this mistake when they listen to it, but I have to fix it anyway"?
[laughs] I have spent a lot of hours doing stuff like that, actually. For example, Dice might be next to me and he'll say, "Yo, we're finished". And I'm like, "Nope, there's still this and this…" So I'll be sitting there for half an hour or an hour and I know that nobody is going to give a shit about a bass drum hitting exactly at a certain moment, but I gotta do it because I know about it. [laughs]
Have you lived in Hannover all of your life?
There was a six month period when I was in New York with Loco Dice working on his new album in 2006 and 2007. But aside from that, yeah, it's been Hannover.
Is there a scene there? Do you go out and see people?
There's a little scene. But I don't go out much because most of the time I'm out playing somewhere myself on the weekends. There are a few clubs, but I'm a little out of it. If I'm in Hannover, I'm usually spending time in the studio.
What do you do for fun?
Most of the time I'm just hanging out with friends. I used to skateboard, but I haven't touched it in almost two years. I may try to pick it up again this summer, as long as we have no rain here or I don't feel a panic that I might break my leg or something.
So what can we we expect from the new Loco Dice record?
Well, you can expect a piece of music I'm really proud of. [laughs] It's definitely different, though, because we made it over there. You can hear that, I think. But, you know, every track has a story behind it. Overall, I'd say it's a bit deeper.
Does the record have a New York feeling to it?
Well, maybe in sounds. But when you're in a city like New York, where there is so much information and you're getting so much influence from the outside world, I had the feeling that the music we were making got a little bit more relaxed. There's not that much information in the music, because I felt like we were already getting so much from the outside. I just think it sounds a little bit different from Dice's usual stuff. I mean, it's still Loco Dice. There are going to be people that love it, but there are going to be people that will maybe be disappointed that it's not like 'Seeing Through Shadows'.
Each track has a story, you said?
Yeah. An example of one of them is where we were recording we had a pretty big ceiling, which always had some drops coming out of it. So we called this one track, 'I've Got Leaks in My Roof'. [laughs] All throughout the sessions we were totally panicked that the roof may come down. When it started to really rain, we had to put plastic over the equipment to make sure it wouldn't get damaged. It was like a little adventure.
Recently you’ve also released a new record on Planet E. How do you feel it differs from 'Full Clip' and 'Programmer'?
It's definitely much more laid back. I would also say that it's getting more in the direction of house, rather than techno. But I felt like when I made it that it definitely fits really well with this 'Full Clip / Programmer' thing. I felt like there is a line of connection between the two.
You’re also running your label Desolat. It seems like the label has been a fun thing for you. That there is no real business plan or anything like that.
Sure. In the beginning, we decided that it should be just for fun. We don't have a release plan, we don't feel like we have to release something every month or anything like that. It's simply to be fun and to be creative. To bring out music that lands on our tables or we're getting from friends or whatever. It's really just from the heart. Even if we had something like a sound collage, if we feel it should be on vinyl, we're definitely going to put it out.