Q + A : OPUSWERK
We had a long, intense and interesting chat with Opuswerk about his impressively rich artistic life, the techno scene in Switzerland, and his upcoming news.
Alae RAMDANI | 01st August 2017
Hi Hendrik, we are glad to host you on Paradox. What have you been up to lately?
Hey Alae, I’m very glad to be part of your project. I’ve taken the plunge to go 100% in music around the end of last year. So since then, I’ve been busy with my machines, recording as much music as possible and working on new tracks and projects.
How did you come by electronic music and how did your sound evolved since you started your career?
In my teens, Geneva used to have the most squat per inhabitants in Europe. I started going out during this special time, where you could find a little bit of everything any night of the week. My first contact with more electronic music was with dub music, as the scene here is huge. Rocking to massive sound systems in small basements is what made the beginning of my musical education. From then, I was attracted to drum and bass, which is what I learned to mix with, and slowly moved towards techno along the years, via very early 00’s Ninja Tune and Warp catalog mixed in with some minimal techno bits. Later I developed a big interest in russian electronic music of that time thanks to several trips there. So techno came really quite late in the game, and it actually took me a while to discover about the wonders of Detroit for example.
Only few artists have found their specific sound and we really think you’ve found your own... I’d describe it as tribalistic, deep and powerful at the same time. How would you describe your sound by the way? What gears/vsts are the most important to reach this specificity?
I really appreciate you find that, as it’s something I have been striving for. A few years back, I made the conscious choice to move to a more hardware based setup, and to record jams, rather than program tracks block by block in a DAW. That means that along the years I’ve been working with a limited set of gear, and learning them inside out. That’s one of the secret to develop a specific sound imo. In the early days of electronic music, everyone had their own set of synths an machines, and that’s what helped bring out each artist’s individuality. I always use the same synths which take different roles, depending on the track. My current setup is kind of hybrid. On the hardware side, the Sequentix Cirklon is at the center, driving a MachineDrum (which is everywhere and goes today through a BOSS KM60 for warming up), a Vermona MonoLancet, SH-101 and a few effect units like the Strymon El Capistan, Ensoniq DP2, SonyDPS-V55M, SDE3000 and DEP3. I’ve also recently swapped my D50 for the rack version, and have been using this a lot in recent tracks. On the computer side, I use DIVA and Tyrell a lot, and also fell in love with Modnetic and Diffuse of Surreal machines. Ableton drives all this, and I always record tracks via my ZEDR16, overdubbing things on the fly. Despite long, I really like this process, which forces you to listen to whole tracks.
What would be the most important thing that drives your creative process?
I’m pretty technically inclined, so often ideas come from trying a technique out. Other times it’s by trying to figure out a sound, and that leads to something else. Usually it’s about sitting behind the cirklon, press play, and see what comes out and not forget to press record! As time passes I realise that for me, it’s really about having a way to capture a moment and vibe, rather than try and get that perfect mix and the hi-hat just right. A lot of the upcoming stuff, is actually first takes (which I then spent days to try and make better until accepting they were already good like that.
“I’m always in favour of things moving rather than being stale”
When we think about Switzerland electronic music, first things that come to mind are the mighty label Mental groove and the Street Parade in Zurich. How far were those two entities influential for your career?
It’s funny you mention Mental Groove, as that’s where I used to shop at the very beginning, until it closed down. At the time I was into drum and bass, so never really looked at the techno section and I now regret very deeply… I’ve never been to the Street Parade, so I can’t say much about that.
How is the Techno scene in Switzerland looking like at this moment?
Switzerland kind of catches things a little bit later than the rest of Europe. A bit like it needs time to digest stuff before adopting it. At the moment techno is rising, with more and more nights and crews organizing things. There is a tendency for the more commercial or harder side of things, rather than the more hypnotic and deep sound I’m into, but I’m always in favour of things moving rather than being stale. Also those bigger events allow for smaller ones to exist next to them.
Few months ago you’ve added your contribution to the swiss techno scene with an interesting event concept called Opus. Can you tell us more about this concept and what have motivated it?
The idea behind this event came from different sides. One was from my brother and a colleague of his suggesting I should start a night, while the other one came from me playing more around the country and meeting extremely talented and good swiss DJs. It was a surprise for me to discover that there was not much awareness of each other. Switzerland is small, but distances are long due to mountains and languages barriers. The #OPUS project is my attempt at making it smaller, by connecting both the djs and the public across several cities and clubs. The party is itinerant and hosted in selected clubs across the country that have a great sound system, and offer a more intimate setting. Currently, there are nights planned at Folklor and le Zoo while the last one was during the extraordinary Montreux Jazz Festival with Iori, Agonis, Ockham and myself.
Few weeks ago the second opus was held in the context of The Montreux Jazz festival with Japanese artist Iori. How was the experience like? Have you sorted a special selection for that gig?
That gig was really a blast. I’ve been a fan of Iori for a long time, so it was a pleasure to get him for his first time in Switzerland. The Strobe Klub at MJF is the after party place for when concerts are over. It’s actually pretty big and I can only thank the programmer for taking the risk of offering this kind of music on the first saturday. It was a gamble that totally paid off. Every DJ played the right music at the right time (with a special mention to Agonis’s selection), and that made it so the crowd totally fell in the spiral, despite not being especially sensible to that music.
Regarding my selection, I had played there last year right before Nina Kraviz, so I kind of had an idea of what to expect from the crowd. You really get a big mix of people there, who might have absolutely no inclination towards electronic music. BUT the magic about MJF is that everyone loves Music. So as long as it’s good they will follow. This year's edition I took a mixed selection like i always do, I’m always ready to play any kind of set. I really believe in the fact that DJing is about having people have fun on the dancefloor, and getting them to be just here. So I have a tendency to trick the crowd by playing really deep stuff mixed in with more accessible stuff and a few anthem here and there to suck them in. Technically I play with 3 decks all the time, so that allows me to blend in more stuff, and use different parts of tracks to achieve different effects. That night the hardest bit was to get in a different groove of the gig the day before where I closed after Robert Hood as Floorplan. The journey had to start a different way :)
Any label project on the pipeline?
You’re not the first one to ask, and I do have a lot of music that I want to share with the world...
From your artistic choice we can see you are close to both the ambient/deep techno scene and the club-oriented one. What attracts you in each one of those two genres?
I’ve got to generalize somehow to answer this properly. I really love music, whichever it is as long as it moves me, so I dig as deep as possible into what i stumbleupon, artists, labels, mix series, etc. As I can’t listen to much techno at home and also to educate myself and my family’s ear, I end up digging different genres and styles. Along the years, I’ve come to realize the common thread in what I like in sound, no matter the genre. I need to get sucked into sound, which happens for me when a phrase gets repeated over and over, evolving slowly along time. Somehow through that process evolution can become revolution. This has the effect of taking me deeper into myself. It also forces the listener to be only here and now, sucking them into a spiral of nowness. I also found that oddly enough, this is when the musician have to expose most of themselves, as it’s music that has to be played and recorded, whereas programming it, seems extremely difficult to me.
This is the link in my selections, no matter the style or genre. It’s also what I am searching for when producing, this effect can be found independently of the amount of intensity in a track.
Let’s talk about Hiss : 1292, your duo project with François X. How did this collaboration started and what does the name refer to?
François-Xavier used to live in Geneva for a while, he hit me up over the internet, we met up, and it was the beginning of a great friendship. We ended up doing jams with my home studio, when Julien heard them he said we should do something about it, which I’m happy we did. He’s an encyclopedia of house and techno music, so it’s a pleasure to learn from him.
Is there any new releases coming up for this project?
There’s new music ready and imo something neither FX nor me could’ve come up with on our own. I want to think it’s really good music. Hopefully it’ll be out soon.
How did you came out with this mix for Paradox?
Fighting the gods of the podcast, working on a tracklist, tossing it aside and going with the flow. The main idea being that I wanted it to be something you can listen to while taking a break from daily life.
What kind of non electronic music do you listen to usually?
Loads of different stuff actually. And most of the time, it’s non electronic music that gets played at home. From Turkish funk to japanese minimalist music and folk and balearics. I’ve actually got a side project called Jimmy El Lungo where I play this kind of selection ;) I already spend my days making techno, so when I’m not doing it, I like to listen to music from outside that spectrum.
Any special venue you recommend in Switzerland?
Elysia in Basel has the best sound-system ever. It sounds like a huge studio room, it’s clean could be too clean, but wow. Good recordings sound mind-blowing there. And that bass… Shout out to Le Zoo too, as this is like home.
What new artists/labels would you recommend to check out at the moment?
That might end up longer than I want it to, but here goes: I recently stumbled upon Ryogo Amamori’s music which I love, and for whom I’ve just finished a remix for a track he did with Emkia Elena. It’s coming out on Human Lessons.
On the swiss side of things, the Amenthia record crew, Agonis & Garçon. Gomorra also released a fantastic album. Mod21 is also one to keep an eye on.
Out of Russia, Nikita Zabelin, Vladimir Dubyushkin and Erofeev are all artists you should keep an eye on. They have some mind blowing stuff coming.
Ben Buijtendijk is also doing some fantastic music and job with his Oblique Music label.
Härdstedt is doing some very interesting music too.
Gotta give a shout to François X, as he’s the boss too. His album is superb coming out soon on Dement3d, plus he’s the only DJ I know that can make some Abdulla Rashim sound like house music.
Inland’s latest EP is quite something as well I’m looking forward to his upcoming music already.
Label-wise, i’ve been digging stuff coming out on Under Molnet, GrassWaxx, Hypnus, Rawax, Semantica, ARTS, Spazio Disponibile, Enfants Terrible, Nous Klaer, Music From Memories, WeReleaseWhateverTheFuckWeWant, ТРИП, Tikita, The Bunker New York, Mind
Can you give us a glimpse about your future projects?
The end of 2017 is going to see more music of mine coming out, if there are no press delays and the like. There’s an 12” for ARTS that is wrapped with a Keith Carnal remix; a track of mine that’ll be featured on the upcoming Nonnative on Semantica records which Peter van Hoesen has been playing a lot for the past year; an EP on Geneva based Bipolar Disorder label, with cool remixers. Last but not least, I’m currently finishing an EP for Dement3d, which is almost there. There’s some more, but we’ll see how it goes :)
Next to this techno dance music production, I’ve also recently started working on some sound design projects with Benjamin Muzzin, which prove to be very exciting. And I’ve also gotten involved with the great soundsystem makers Lambda Labs.