An interview with the legendary Oliver Huntemann about his successful career and the Ideal Audio imprint

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He is without a doubt one of the most influential artists in the modern techno scene, and has been around in this tough scene for decades now. With releases on Sven Vath’s Cocoon imprint, his own label Confused Recordings, Anthony Rother’s Datapunk and a more than successful collaboration with Dubfire, it is safe to say that the from Hamburg originating Oliver Huntemann is one of the biggest names out there.

Oliver also owns the label Ideal Audio, which he founded in 2008, and celebrated its five years existence a couple of months ago with a striking compilation which contained both new as former released tracks. We were thrilled to ask Oliver a few questions about his successful career, his Ideal Audio imprint and the ‘5ünf’ compilation.

Oliver, you were born in 1968, and your youth was mainly filled with hip-hop, rap and break-dance music. Techno music did not really exist at that time. Your biography explains that you started organising acid house events during the 80’s. How did your interest shift to electronic music such as techno and (acid) house?

I’ve been very deep into the electro funk and break-dance scene in the early 80s, not so much into hip-hop and rap. I have always loved the electronic beats more than the vocals. First, electro funk emerged, with tracks and artists such as Hashim’s ‘Al Naafiysh’ and the American producer Egyptian Lover. Shortly after that, disco influences developed quickly, for example ‘High Energy’ by Evelyn Thomas and Shannon’s ‘Let The Music Play’. The road from these styles to the early acid house wasn’t as far as it seems nowadays.”

Shannon – Let The Music Play

How did the scene in Hamburg develop during those years? And how did that influence you?

I grew up in the small city of Oldenburg in the north of Germany, and moved to Hamburg only ten years ago. I know the old Hamburg techno scene just from the many times I visited the city. Besides Frankfurt and Berlin, Hamburg was the most important city for house music in the 90’s. Some of Germany’s most influential clubs such as the legendary Front and Unit were based in Hamburg.”

“The city has a long history of music culture. Especially in the red light district, ‘The Reeperbahn’, there are countless small clubs for everyone’s taste. For example, The Beatles have also been discovered here and I saw The Gossips rocking the club Hafenklang in front of 150 people approximately one year before they became superstars. Hamburg definitely influenced me a lot during the early years of techno, much more than any other city, with its open-minded mentality and understatement at the same time.”

Nowadays techno is a well-known genre with many big events and festivals. Back in the day, things were relatively small and uncontrolled. Can you still find the vibe that you used to experience during the first years of techno/house?

Yes, I do! Believe it or not, but I still feel this excitement almost every weekend, especially when I have a gig anywhere in the world where I haven’t been before. It still gives me a kick, and I always ask myself the same question: what’s going on tonight?”

“I love the young ‘decksharks’, staying in front of the DJ-booth the entire night just to check the DJ and the music. After all, I used to be one too. When I see them, I see myself back then. The same counts for the music. After all these years I’m always able to find something new, like tracks that touch me immediately or tracks which surprise me with its vibe during a DJ-set.”

You are appreciated by many big names out there, as you are a self-professed expert in techno music. This is mainly the result of your excellent producing skills. How did you start producing, and at what age?

I started DJ-ing when I was about fourteen years old, and started producing a few years later. I think I was around nineteen then, equipped with nothing more than a horrible Yamaha D5 synthesizer. Later on I met Gerret Frerichs at one of my first self-organised techno parties, who already owned a recording studio. We were immediately on the same wave and started working together.”

“Additionally, Jazz musician H.G. Schmidt joined us and together we created our first demo CD, which we sent to MFS in Berlin. That’s how the story of Humate has started. Our second single, ‘Love Stimulation’, released on MFS in 1992 included a remix by a young – at that time unknown – DJ from Berlin, called Paul van Dyk. At that moment, we didn’t anticipate that it would become a worldwide crossover hit.

Humate – Love Stimulation (Paul van Dyk remix)

Recently, you released a new EP, called “Licht & Schatten”, on your own label Ideal Audio. The tracks also include some very nice music videos! Can you tell us something about projects or collaborations you’re currently working on?

“I have bigger projects in the pipeline, but unfortunately I can’t talk about everything yet. First, Dubfire and me will bring our last episode of the Elements series. It will be called ‘Agua’, and should be finished in the next couple of weeks. We’ve already tested some pre-release versions. It’s developing nicely, and we hope we can release it before the summer, including some nice surprises. In addition I will record my PLAY! #05 live mix compilation somewhere during the summer.”

Can you tell us something about the past 5 years of Ideal Audio, for instance, what did it take to create respect and loyalty towards the label? What specific releases do you cherish the most and how do you feel when you look back on the past 5 years?

In my opinion, if you do what you like, the respect will come anyway.

“We were lucky we could release ‘Dios’ by Dubfire and me as the first single on Ideal. It spawned a massive start, which we didn’t expect. I really like the mixture of young and experienced artists on the label. For example, André Winter possesses unbelievably high-level production skills and Dubspeeka is as rough as you can only imagine. Rob Hes adds naive freshness, whilst Andreas Henneberg rocks with his reduced, on-point arrangements. These are just a few examples from the bunch.”

Oliver Huntemann & Dubfire – Dios

Ideal Audio celebrated its birthday with a massive compilation. Can you tell us more about the compilation and maybe share some interesting stories about the production of some of the tracks on the compilation?

“I’ve been working on the selection of the 5ünf compilation since February 2013. It always takes a long time from the point where you ask artists for new tracks, until the point where you actually get them. CD number one – ‘The future’ – includes only new exclusive material of our artists and some close friends. CD two – ‘The past’ – contains the most successful Ideal tracks of the last five years. Unfortunately none of the artists told me a funny or exciting story, no studio burned down because of the hot sound.”

One of tracks on the compilation is produced by Dutch ‘newcomer’ Joran van Pol. Are you keeping an eye out for new talents for your label, and what note would you like to give to them?

I’m always looking for fresh, young talent. They mostly use a very different workflow because they don’t think, they just do. I like this attitude but it’s not easy to maintain, as you get older. The combination of both; the young freshness and the experience of the veterans, create a great balance on Ideal. I can only recommend to just do what you really like, which will guide you to the right path. Don’t follow trends too much because then you’re in danger to be always behind.”

It’s important that you get inspired by new things, but creating something personal should be the aim.

Picture credits: Katja Ruge and Angels Ghosts

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Casper Rijnsdorp

Casper who originates from the Dutch Countryside has had a profound connection with music since his younger years. After an experimental period and playing with various instruments Casper developed his interest for electronic music such as deep house, tech-house and techno. Casper is blessed with creative writings skills which make him an excellent reporter for House Cult. He essentially writes about anything which come to mind when you're thinking about electronic music. Casper recently started his study in Amsterdam and spends his remaining free time with producing music and spinning records.