To get to the level of excellence that Hannes Bieger has reached takes years and years of perfecting your craft to its absolute peak.
In his case over a decade of cultivating your art, and creating a stellar client portfolio that reads some of the biggest names in Progressive House & Techno.
One of those clients, also a forerunner in its field, is John Digweed’s Bedrock imprint. The very fact Bieger has multiple releases on this famed label is testimony in itself. It is his return with a new EP ‘Burn Your Love’ that has refocused the spotlight on Hannes’ work.
The track itself is a sure fire dance floor destroyer. It is immaculately constructed of lush synths (a Bieger hallmark) driving harmonies and a beautiful vocal supplied by Juan Hansen. Juan himself is no stranger to Bedrock’s catalogue having collaborated with Jimmy Van M on the ‘Kobalt EP’ and with Hannes (for the first time) on “Stars” in 2018.
This is your third release on John’s label, what is it about Bedrock (do you think) that makes it one of the best outfits in this scene?
I think it’s a mixture of several factors that come into play here: the long history, the quality, the consistency, the ability to evolve and still remain true to the legacy. I am not a DJ, but I have the utmost respect for anyone who has been able to remain relevant as a selector for well over two decades in this industry. Bedrock is electronic, it’s cutting edge, and it really is one of my favourite labels. And, it’s a huge thing for me to contribute to the catalogue. John has supported me from the very beginning, when I released my first EP after my long production break on Poker Flat in 2017. He played ‘Strato’ in his radio show back then, and I am very grateful and happy that I could eventually become a part of the Bedrock family.
When you’re in the initial process of creating a track for Bedrock, for example, what guidelines (if any) do you use, or, are they already set out by the label?
I have never been told any guidelines per se. I always picked some tracks I made which I thought would fit and sent them to John and, luckily, he accepted most of them! I believe this is also what makes it interesting – that artists develop their vision of what might fit into a label’s concept, maybe even challenging their boundaries a bit. That said, I usually have a very fruitful decision-making process with John, and he is always spot on with his feedback. I never received a comment from him on my tracks that I could not understand, not even on the material he didn’t like so much.
Sometimes, I just start working on a track and after a while it develops into something that is, at least to my ears, clearly a Bedrock piece. And ‘Burn Your Love’ I conceived as a Bedrock track from the very beginning. I knew I wanted to return to the label with a new EP, after last year’s super successful ‘A Million Souls’. My plan was to do something powerful yet trippy, but not quite as dark as ‘A Million Souls’, and I think it worked out beautifully. A common thread between ‘Stars’, ‘A Million Souls’ and now ‘Burn Your Love’, is that they all feature the Roland TB-303 very prominently. But this is not a guideline issued by John at all, it pretty much establishes my own take on the Bedrock sound, and luckily he seems to agree with that!
You are credited with being one of the finest exponents in the field of music production, alongside the likes of Nick Muir. Who do you credit as having an influence on your career, someone like Nick for example?
Ultimately, there are too many to mention, I guess. Where does it start? Where does it end? I always loved how the great rock bands paired an incredible singer with an equally powerful lead guitarist. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, the list goes on… You can hear this concept in all of my vocal tracks. All my aforementioned Bedrock a-side tracks are great examples for this – they don’t just rely on the vocals, they juxtapose them with strong melodies in the instrumental part. Dave Gilmour and Pink Floyd have been a huge influence for me, and Adrian Utley from Portishead, too. His minimalistic guitar playing changed my musical thinking forever, and he is a huge synth expert, too. Then there are Kruder & Dorfmeister, AIR, Metro Area, St. Germain, Carl Craig, Stephan Bodzin… and Nick is an extremely capable producer, too!
Other than listening to the many genres of electronic music that your work demands, what other forms of music do you listen to, and do those other forms influence whatever project you’re working on?
I also love to listen to the sound of wind on the water… and since it’s spring right now, I always fall in love again with the nightingales at this time of the year. Nothing better than to fall asleep to the sound of three or four of these birds singing together! I love many different musical genres. I have a nice vinyl collection of mainly soul, jazz, bossa nova, rare groove and the likes… I love roots reggae, and much more.
However, when I work on my own music I try not to be influenced by any music I’ve been listening to. I try to be as original as possible, and my music is the result of my dialogue with the machines. But of course ultimately every piece I have been listening to and enjoying has become a small part of my musical DNA, one way or another. You can’t avoid that, and you don’t even have to.
But, I never create a new track as some sort of direct response to an already existing track by someone else. Only very rarely there would be an exception: ‘Pluton’, the closing track of my album, which I released on Awesome Soundwave in May, contains a reference to Carl Craig’s ‘Sandstorms’. But this was just for the fun of it, and of course also to pay some respect.
Your studio in Berlin is a treasure trove of electronic hardware, expertly put together by yourself over the years. Do you have a favourite piece of kit, and if so, why?
The great thing is that, at least to some degree, this changes over time. When you have some variety at hand, you can focus on a certain piece for a while, then go to the next one, and finally return to the first one after a while. Everything has its time, and it’s fun to watch things evolve! That said, my desert island synth is probably the Minimoog, but I’d have a hard time to let go of the other ones.
My latest addition was the Memorymoog, which I bought from Gordon Raphael, the Strokes producer, so right now I am very much focused on that one. I am in awe how powerful it sounds – the textures are not from this world! It has such a presence – it’s unreal! There is a very Pink Floyd sounding lead synth on ‘Ashes’, the second track on my new Bedrock EP, and that’s the Memorymoog. I have also used it, together with an OTO delay, for the glitchy riser sounds in ‘Burn Your Love’.
In your field you must be aware of changing musical trends over the last ten years. How do you see the current scene today as opposed to how it was say a decade ago?
The great thing is that so many things are happening in parallel. Is there such a thing as “the” scene? Through my studio work I am in touch with so many different parts of the spectrum. The raw, gritty, banging techno from Ellen Allien; then the epic melodies of Tale Of Us; Steve Bug’s bone-dry minimalism; then, suddenly, a group like FJAAK pops up – it’s endless… I am still discovering new artists or even whole labels that have been in the game for a long time, and I never found out about them earlier. Of course, there are certain things that are more mainstream than others.
Many of the aspiring, unsigned artists I am working with still dream to become a part of the Afterlife universe. Their impeccably coherent musical and visual world still seems to have a powerful pull on so many people. It is great that underground electronic music has become such a universal language all across the globe. But at the same time we need to be careful to not focus on huge festivals and huge headliners too much. These mechanisms definitely have their rightful place in all of this, but we must not lose the diversity; the middle ground; the artists with the potential to become tomorrow’s superstars.
How this all will evolve in light of the current situation remains to be seen… I am worried that many of the smaller players in all fields: DJs, promoters, clubs, the creative and more special stuff on the fringes (especially in more vulnerable parts of the world) may have a hard time to survive, if this goes on for much longer. It would be sad to lose so much underground, so much creative potential!
It’s taken ten years and a break from the scene for you to, in your words, “finally arrive again” and create that unique Bieger sound. What opportunities do you see for artists in today’s climate, as opposed to those when you started your career? What should a budding new producer look for if they are to achieve the levels you have?
Today’s scene is very different from how it used to be 10, 15 maybe, even 20 years ago – and that is a good thing and a bad thing at the same time. Nowadays, there is a YouTube tutorial for everything, and that means you can become very tech savvy very quickly, and with, comparatively, not so much effort. There is so much technology, so much knowledge available at your fingertips.
On one side, this is very cool, because you can develop your career very fast. On the other side, I strongly believe that an artist needs to struggle a bit, needs to overcome some obstacles in order to grow creatively, to develop their own personality. You need to be forced to make creative decisions, and that means you need to decide for something, but also against something else. And in my experience you learn the most when you have limited means, but when you have to make it work regardless. That’s when you have to develop new paths, think outside the box, abuse a certain piece of equipment, push the envelope.
This is real creative growth, and unfortunately our age of abundance doesn’t really force you to think along these lines. I always tell the aspiring producers to deliberately create obstacles for themselves, try and make a new track with just one synth and one drum machine, for example. In the end, with very few exceptions, the gear never does the job for you. It’s about what you create with it. The goal is to always challenge yourself, but not so much that you lose the fun and are always frustrated.
What projects or plans are you currently working on that we should be getting excited about for the future, and talking of the future, what do you think the scene needs to do to stay alive given this year’s difficult and testing times?
I have decided to move on with my release schedule regardless of the Covid-19 pandemic, so there will be quite a few more releases out over the next months. I have three EPs already lined up after ‘Burn Your Love’, and all of them will be released on labels I haven’t worked with so far, so this is supremely exciting for me.
I am also in the process of building a new studio, I will move in August. Probably this is the worst moment for such an endeavour, but it was long planned, and needs to be done regardless of corona. It’s definitely exciting to plan and build a new workspace for the next 10 or more years!
Other than that, I’m trying to move on the best way I can and ultimately this is what we all will have to do. I love music way too much to stop now, and I believe we will all have to pull together, try to somehow stay alive and keep ourselves ready for when things will finally improve. I can’t wait to play all the new tracks live again, can’t wait to hear them on a big sound system. I don’t know where and when my first live show will take place when this is all over, but I know it’s going to be a truly fantastic moment – and the thought of it is one of the things that keeps me afloat, mentally and emotionally.
Hannes Bieger – Burn Your Love EP is out now: https://ingroov.es/burn-your-love