Marcel Dettmann, SCB, Tama Sumo and others all contribute tracks to the Berlin label's new compilation.
Over the past five years, Ostgut-Ton has risen steadily to become one of house and techno's most respected imprints, thanks in no small part to its association with the famed Berghain/Panorama Bar. The label was first conceived by Nick Hoppner in 2003, following the closure of Berghain's predecessor, Ostgut, which was torn down to make room for Berlin's o2 Arena. Hoppner had been a resident DJ at Ostgut, and when he heard about plans to open a new location, he offered to run the club's record label. Two years later, Ostgut Ton ("Ostgut Sound") released its first CD: Berghain 01 mixed by Andre Galluzzi.
The relationship between Berghain and Ostgut Ton is brought to new heights on Fünf, which uses field recordings from within the club as source material for new productions. Spanning two unmixed CDs, the compilation boasts 24 previously unreleased tracks by most of Berghain and Panorama Bar's residents, plus new tunes by Emika, recent signing Ryan Elliott and Murat Tepeli with Elif Bicer. Reached at his office within Berghain itself, Hoppner gave us the rest of the scoop on Funf:
What can you tell me about the concept behind the compilation?Fünf will also be available as a pack of seven 12-inches, though some tracks are exclusive to the CD release. Naturally, the compilation will be launched with a weekend-long bash at Berghain and Panorama Bar, featuring many of the label's core artists, including Shed, Marcel Dettmann, Steffi, Prosumer, Tama Sumo and more.
Well, it wasn't really my idea. I was thinking about our five-year anniversary compilation already a year ago. I didn't like the thought of doing it like everyone else–maybe a mix through the back catalog and a few exclusive new tracks by some key artists... I wanted something more special. Then a while ago I met Emika, she’s making music herself on Ninja Tune. We sat together one day last summer and she told me about her last visit to Berghain. It was a regular Sunday morning and she noticed how everything in the building was resonating and vibrating and swinging and humming–she realized that there were lot of sounds coming from the building itself. That led to the idea of doing field recordings within the building while it's not open to the public. She had access to everything, the cooling rooms, storage rooms, the PA rooms... Our in-house technicians helped her mic the lighting rigs, they recorded the strobelight flashing, the fridges humming... They recorded impulse responses in the space of Berghain and built a reverb plug-in from that. It took about two or three weeks, then she took home tons of rough field recordings and edited them down to a library which she organized into different groups: downstairs, cloakroom, toilets, water, glasses, swings... whatever she has recorded... It was a four gigabyte library.
How strictly did the artists stick to that sound-bank when they were producing their tracks?
Some more, some less. We’ve got a few tracks where you can hardly tell, but every track contains a sound from the club one way or another. The tracks by Marcel Dettmann and Magaret Dygas, for example, rely on the sounds to a very big extend and it really shows. Then you’ve got other tracks where they have just put some hums in the sampler and tuned it and pitched it and copied so it's kind of turned into a pad that sounds like a regular synthesizer. We didn’t place any restrictions on the use of it, we just said "take these sounds and do something with it."
Why was that concept important for the compilation?
People always talk about how the club influences the music, so it was interesting to see what kind of music you can actually make with sounds from the club, you know ? It’s kind of a play on the relationship between the architecture and the label and the really close relationship of the label and the club itself.
Berghain and Ostgut Ton have both become a lot more popular over the past two or three years. How has that affected the label?
I don't think it's really affected the content of the label. It's up to our artist completely. Whatever they wanna do, they do, I hardly ever intervene, I was never in a situation where I had to say "Sorry you can’t do that." Basically our concept is more of a social one than an aesthetic one. The idea was to set up the label as a platform for our resident artists, and that's what we’re still doing... Of course what has changed is that we are putting out a lot more music these days and there is a lot more work and responsibility and deadlines to meet. It has become more of a business. I would say that everyone is feeling some sort of pressure, but not in a negative way. It’s just there. We have to try to keep the good work and that’s basically it!
The label has been expanding out from the club a bit recently, for instance you've had label nights in Tokyo and at Space and the quarterly residency at the Bunker. Is that just an experiment something that you think will continue?
Part of it is an experiment I would say, but I’m not so familiar with the thought behind the booking policy. I don't think that we would expand to a huge extent. But the relationship with the Bunker for example is something that will go on. It’s a very nice working relationship with the people promoting it and everyone who has played there really really enjoyed it. So I don't see why this should stop any time soon. And the rest... yeah I don’t know. I’m sure people from the club and the label will continue to travel to Japan but I don’t know about regular residencies or label nights. At the moment it’s kind of a new phase where a lot of possibilities open up, but we’re aware of the traps of it.
So even though you're expanding, Berghain the resident DJs will always be the foundation of the label?
Oh totally. You know, I could have found so many great artists already because people give me amazing music all the time, but we have to turn it down because we have so many in-house artists and it’s hard to meet everyone’s needs. More of our residents are producing their own music now, like nd_Baumecker is about to release a collaboration with with Sam Barker, AKA Voltek, and he wants to continue to do music for us, so that's another artist we have in our family now. Tama Sumo is starting to do her own stuff--so far she only did music with Prosumer, but she has her first solo track on the compilation. Boris also has his first solo track on the compilation and I guess sooner or later they will do their own 12-inches for the label. So yeah, I think it will always stay within the family. And of course, I mean, even if everyone of us enjoys playing parties abroad in different cities I think all agree that playing here in Panorama Bar and Berghain is still one of the best thing that ever happened to us. There is no place like home (laughs). I don’t see what that should change.
A lot of clubs and labels have been suffering in the past few years, due partly to the economy and the state of the vinyl market. Have Berghain and Ostgut Ton felt any effects from this at all?
I’m not the right person to talk about the economics behind the club, but just from what I’m feeling I don’t think so to be honest. The place is full most of the time, but I'm not sure... Speaking for the label, I can say that vinyl sales for us are still a bit higher than for other labels I’m aware of, but it’s constantly going down. It’s not getting better. It’s slowly but surely getting worst, and the digital doesn’t really make up for it. We’re not losing money, but we’re not making a lot of money either.
Are there any other releases in the pipeline that you can reveal at this time?
Yes. We've got the debut of nd_Baumecker with Sam Barker coming up in three weeks. At the end of September there will be a new Marcel Fengler 12-inch, then in November it's a Ben Klock 12-inch. At the end of January, early February probably we’ll do Steffi's debut album. And new Panorama Bar mix by Prosumer next year, then a Marcel Fengler Berghain mix CD. Probably a new album with Luke Slater at the end of 2011 and the rest is still to be thought about.
Five years on, what are the label's long term ambitions?
I think the long term ambition is to stay interesting and relevant with the concept we are following. People are very picky and choosy and their music. Everyone has his tastes and a very high standard of quality. Just maintaining this level of quality is our ambition I guess. Keep it interesting, and whatever that might actually mean remains to be seen. I don't know where we'll actually be in 10 years. Of course I hope we will be here but whatever happens in between in the meantime… I don’t know. We’ll try our best, that’s for sure.
01. Emika - Cooling Room
02. Marcel Fengler - Shiraz
03. Prosumer - Daybreak
04. Substance - Gestalts
05. Ryan Elliott - Abatis
06. Nick Höppner - ISP
07. Marcel Dettmann - Shelter
08. Fiedel - Doors To Manual
09. Shed - Boom Room
10. Steffi - My Room
11. Dinky - Twelve To Four
12. Len Faki - Kraft Und Licht
01. Barker & Baumecker - Drin
02. Marcel Dettmann - Scourer
03. SCB – Down Moment
04. Tama Sumo – Iron Glance
05. Murat Tepeli feat. Elif Biçer – Hold On
06. Soundstream – Wenn Meine Mutti Wüsste
07. Cassy – Never Give Up On A Mood Swing
08. Ben Klock – Bear
09. Norman Nodge – Start Up
10. Luke Slater – Boom Tang Shwuck
11. Boris - Rem
12. Margaret Dygas – Qunitet
Ostgut Ton will release Fünf on October 25th, 2010.