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Dance talk with Oliver Hafenbauer

Dance talk with Oliver Hafenbauer

21-05-2014 | 16.45

Oliver Hafenbauer is a Frankfurt originated and based DJ with an extraordinary job: he’s the musical curator of both the Robert Johnson club and the Live At Robert Johnson label. Besides that he recently launched his own label ‘Die Orakel’ and produces music along with Christian Beißwenger (from ex-Arto Mwambe) as B.H.F.V. From looking at this list you’d say Olivers agenda wouldn’t have gaps to be filled by interviews. But somehow he did manage to find time to answer my questions.
 
You have been going to Robert Johnson (RJ) since 1999. Is the club still running by a similar formula as 15 years ago?
“Yes, basically it's very similar to that time. The foundation for the many details in the club had already been made by then. For example: the general setting of the space, having only female selectors at the door or the collaborations with many visual artists for several projects.”
 
What is your opinion about a strict door policy?
“A good crowd is super important, alongside a proper sound system and a few other important details.”
 
Only a few years back RJ started announcing DJ’s names for clubnights. Why was this decision made? Do you (still) support it?
“At the very beginning of RJ the line-ups were already announced to the public. Then, there came a time when only big names would work to fill up the club. To counteract RJ did not announce any more names, but released anonymous mixes of the artist for the particular date. So the people could decide on the basis of the music whether they liked it or not. That was a fun time, but it only worked for about a year. Since then RJ went back to posting the artists names.”
 
I often hear artists say that RJ has kind of a family feeling surrounding it. Can you relate to that?
“Yes, we are all friends and most of the residents and artists live in or nearby Frankfurt. I wouldn't call us a family, whereupon it would be quite interesting who would take which part in a family constellation – who's grandpa, granny, mother or father? I would rather call it a big and open circle of friends.”
 
The capacity of the RJ is quite small, since it only has space for 250+ people. Do you get the feeling that you or other DJs there know the crowd better at the end of the night then elsewhere?
“The club is quite small in comparison to many others worldwide and the RJ residents know the club and it's dancers very well – it has to do with the frequency of how often they perform at RJ. But I would generally say that the crowd at RJ is very open-minded and willing to enjoy everything new.”
 
I read in an interview from two years ago that your B.H.F.V producing partner, Christian Beißwenger, sold a lot of his equipment and invested in a modular synth. Is that something you’d see yourself doing as well?
“I don't own any equipment to produce music myself. Everything we put out as B.H.F.V was created in Christian's studio. The modular-phase is still very interesting and experimental. We have collected quite some material so far, but don't have the urge to release anything quickly.”
 
How do you think about naming genres? In an interview it’s a convenient way of simplifying questions, though I notice you’re being quite cynical about it in earlier interviews.
“Did I? I think genre names make it a lot easier to talk about music. Are you familiar with the term “beton house”? I'm not sure if I made that one up myself or picked it up somewhere. I use that term to describe say, a Shed production. Fits well, doesn't it?”
 
I based the question on earlier stuff I read, this was from a previous interview, for instance: 
 
Could you describe the music you release on your label in your own words?
Dance music.
 
“Haha, yes. Dance music – that's still the best term for the LARJ stuff, I guess. “
 
Maybe this would indeed sum up the idea behind LARJ. About the 'beton house' term, I quite like it! It does fit perfectly. Though the name of his own label 'Power House' is also quite an accurate term, don't you think? 
“Yeah, the name of the label nails it!”
 
At the LARJ label, artwork is found quite important. Could you name an artist you would’ve wanted to create the artwork if he/she was still alive?
“In general, I wish Andy Warhol would have created the Banana cover for us – it is simply fantastic. Mies van der Rohe. He's not a classical artist, but it would have been great to work with him as well. Martin Kippenberger, for his amazing poster artworks. Thomas Bayrle would also be stunning. He is still alive, but I would never dare to ask him.”
 
The latest release on your new label Die Orakel is by Edward. Did you ask him to do a release, and did you work together in the past?
“We know each other for quite a while now, Gilles (Edward) originally comes from Frankfurt and we met back then. Parts of his family still live here. I follow, support and play his stuff since his very first release and I would name myself a big fan. When I launched Die Orakel I knew I would release a record with him.”
 
Is there something coming up on Die Orakel soon?
“Yes, the third release of Die Orakel will be released in late June, produced by two guys from Potsdam who call their selves 'Jaures'. It is their first release and the EP is called ‘Tsoyberbarg’.”

Text: Ruben Leter