Oliver Koletzki Interview

One of Berlin's glittering stars tells us about his new release and how techno is changing in Germany....
Oliver Koletzki
After dialling an unfeasibly long number we're through to Berlin and talking to former hip-hop head and Sven Väth discovery, Oliver Koletzki. Identified as 'one to watch' in the prolific city, Oliver has steadily been building a career and driving a philosophy of new opportunities for start-up artists.

DJing since he was 18 in his hometown of Braunschweig, Oliver moved to the creative hub that is Berlin in 2000 to study music and build a career, and within seven years he released the full length album (and subtly titled) Get Wasted. It began when Oliver pressed 500 white label copies of his debut single Der Mückenschwarm in 2005; the legendary - and possibly immortal - Sven Väth soon picked it up, slipped it into sets and sent the crowds wild. A subsequent signing to Cocoon set the wheels in motion for a growing career in electronic music, a debut album, and releases across Flash Recordings, Trapez and Great Stuff.

What is your relationship with Sven now, has he been a kind of mentor? "A little bit yes, a little bit no - of course he's the guy who pushed me to the position where I am; he's the guy who discovered me and made the release and organised the gigs for me," he explains. "I was not actually into techno in the 90s when Sven was really big and global - I didn't even know him because I was into hip-hop, 2 Step and big beat. When Sven picked me up people were telling me 'oh wow, Sven called you? He's famous isn't he?'! He's not really a mentor, but I have all the respect for him for bringing me to where I am... More like a business mentor!"

Now in 2009 Oliver is releasing double AA side, 'Yes We Can' feat. Roland Clark / 'Nascita Of The Monsters' on Italian label Hell Yeah, but the tracks take a side-step from the minimal techno he has largely been associated. They move into a different territory of rich layered strings, bouncing emotives and a deeper side of techno - a departure from his instantly recognisable electronics and stripped beats: "Both tracks are more melodic because right now it's spring time and everybody is in a good mood." So the seasons play an influence? He laughs in agreement: "Yeh, a little bit - the flip-side is more like the autumn and the A-side is more like the spring. Yes We Can is really dramatic with a lot of melodics, including strings, an organ and vocal sample from an 90s track called Resist. The reason why it's called Yes We Can is that the dramatic vocals lean on Obama and his powerful message."

So, influenced by the seasons and partly political? "In the end it's not really a political statement", he says. "When I heard the sample I suddenly thought 'wow, this is like Obama, his message and words have influence all over the emotions of people all over the world'. We took the name because the track sounds like an emotional and powerful feeling." And what was the process for putting it all together? "I wrote the instrumentals for the strings and I thought something was missing. I asked a friend to do vocals by himself in the studio but it wasn't really what I wanted - then I found the Roland Clark (Defected) sample and it all fixed together really well."

On the flipside, Nascita of the Monsters offers something of a more electro bearing, with the kind of arpeggiated keys Modeselektor are prone to employing. Are you moving completely away from the minimal sound, and is that reflected in your surroundings? "Right now here in Berlin the minimal topic is really going to end - two years ago it was really big, and maybe last year, but now music is more melodic and house influenced. I've had enough of techno and minimal because it's all I've played for the last two years, so I'm going with this new wave."

With Austrian label-mate Florian Meindl, Oliver put together Flash Recordings in 2006 and was originally launched as a specific platform for releasing their music - described as 'New German Techno'. What differentiated 'new German techno' in the first place, and are you still working with it any way? "Eh, yeh, new German techno", he cautiously laughs. "In the past it was a trademark of Florian and I, but now that the music is getting relaxed I would change the title to 'new german house'!"

He goes on to explain that he sees techno becoming a lot warmer, integrating more 'organic' sounds like real organs, claps, strings, and cow bells - transposing the acoustic to the electronic. Oliver comes from a varied musical background, starting with hip-hop production for a band in the 90s, graduating to house around the millennium before developing a growing affinity for techno: "I'm not really one of those historical guys who can tell you something about the past of techno, but in the end it is always repeating - people who were doing darker minimal techno now want house and lighter stuff, and I think everything is going in circles. I think every music style will get more mixed up in a development of all the years. The people in Germany are getting more tolerant; they were just listening to hip-hop or indie or brit-pop but more and more are now also listening to electronic music."

At this stage we should mention Oliver's other label, Stil vor Talent. Following the success of Der Mückenschwarm, Oliver put his strange ideas of earning money with music into action and set up the label as an opportunity for quality new artists to get a footing in the industry. Coming up for its fourth year this September the label has racked up over 30 releases and given many their first start: "I picked up some newcomers like Sven did with me, for example Florian Meindl - who is really big now - had his first record on Stil vor Talent. Format B and Channel X also started at the label and have great tracks. We're growing quite well and we have our own fashion label too. That's what I do, that's what I love. Everyday I'm working a lot of hours for the label - it's sort of my baby - I love to work!"

Releases do not have to fit a certain category - Oliver works on the ideal that if they're good tracks then he is willing to sign DJs straight from behind the decks at a gig, which of course he has done. It is not a large roster, featuring less than 20 artists, but Stil vor Talent take a measured approach and concentrate on a small group rather than forcing a boom and bust of one release in the limelight. The label even has a residency for artist showcases at the now infamous Watergate club.

Does the label still take up a lot of your time at the moment? "Yeh, but I'm not listening to every promo because I get tonnes from myspace - it would be absolutely impossible to take the time to listen to everything: it's so easy for artists to send their material", says Oliver. "I'm quite a party animal and I'm going out a lot in Berlin; underground parties and afterparties, always with an open ear for newcomers and picking out the good ones! When I'm getting too old to play more gigs then I can still say I have my label; I'd really like to do office work, just answering emails and stuff, so if I get too old and broken I can still do my label work from home!"

Any label mates you'd like to mention right now? "Definitely Channel X and Format B - Format made a fantastic album and Channel X are getting quite big now, also Florian Meindl will be huge next year!" And for yourself? "In September there's a new album out on my own label - really more melodic, an almost pop album with a lot of vocals singing about friends and living in Berlin. I'm looking forward to a big summer!"

‘Yes We Can / Nascita Of The Monsters’ is released on 15th June 2009 on Hell Yeah Recordings.

Visit Oliver Koletzki's MySpace page at http://www.myspace.com/koletzki

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