In Conversation: Helena Hauff

Why darkness always reigns with the techno producer...

Clash travelled to Paris recently, soaking up the merger of NFTs, modern tech, and club-leaning electronics at VISIV.

Helena Hauff caught our attention with a heavy-hitting set, undoubtedly one of the true highlights of the event. Shortly afterwards, we sat down with Helena Hauff to explore her rise, as she becomes one of the most well-known DJs in Europe; we tap into her influences and the formation of her unique sound, all while looking at women in the industry, and what’s out there in the future for techno artists.

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How did growing up in Germany inspire a love of music and a passion to pursue performing?

Honestly I have no idea because I don’t know what it’s like growing up anywhere else. However, we had techno on the television, and I remember I saw Electric Indie Girl DJ with vinyl on a channel called Viva, which they played so much techno on, and I was always really into it. Germany does have a rich history when it comes to techno – not as much in Hamburg where I grew up as opposed to Berlin – and I didn’t have many friends at school who wanted to go to raves or big techno events, so I got introduced to the club scene quite late, around 18/19.

I loved electronic music but I didn’t really come into the club scene behind it until later in life. I’m not sure growing up in Germany had a huge initial impact, it wasn’t until I went to my first club when I was 18 that I was blown away by the energy behind it, and immediately I was like “oh wow I want to be a part of this. I wanna be the cool one on stage.”

What about the raving scene inspires you most and what do you find most fascinating about that whole club culture?

When I was younger it was how dark it was, how mysterious it could be. It had this mystique about it, something about walking into this dark, mysterious club where everyone was so much older and dressed so amazingly, well probably not so much in hindsight, but at the time it was so new and exciting. That was fascinating to me – and slightly dark and slightly melancholic music had so much energy behind it, and I always liked quite rougher music as well. I think that’s why I wanted to become a DJ, it seemed like a tool to really express myself and a range of emotions. It was what I wanted to use to tell my story.

I can see there’s a lot of elements of grunge and dark industrial, gothic in your techno. I grew up going to a lot of punk shows and that weirdly brought me into the techno world. What about that niche of a genre, for you, is so cool for you?

I honestly just prefer that sound over other sounds as a personal preference. It speaks to me in a way that others doesn’t. For me, the happy-happy and more pop stuff doesn’t speak to me at all when I hear it, unlike a more darker, melancholic genre which has always stuck out to me.

How do you think you found your individual sound int he wider landscape of techno? Are there any inspirations of people who caused you to follow a certain niche of the genre?

I grew up in a club called Golden Poodle in Hamburg and it wasn’t like a normal techno club. It was very small, and there was a massive range of genres performed, from jazz to trance to 110 BPM slow industrial mixed with italo-disco – it was just so eclectic. I really loved that and it was my musical education, and what’s left of that is I don’t just play one specific sound, I like to mix a lot of things and I found my own way of doing that and gravitating towards certain sounds from this. I found my own style from this, and that’s the most important thing when DJing – to find a certain style you’re passionate about. This comes with time and dedication.

What’s the most exciting part about playing the VISIV event tonight?

Well first of all I’ve never gone B2B with Blawan, so that’s something I’m really looking forward to. Secondly it’s HUGE, frighteningly huge. It looks fantastic with the banner with our names and everything, and the production is just so cool. I’m so f*cking excited to see the NFT avatar things tonight, I’ve never seen anything like it before so it should be sick. I also have no idea what’s happening with the NFTs and what that’s gonna look like, so it’ll be exciting to see how that comes about and where it goes.

Thinking about the theme of the VISIV event with NFTs and the Metaverse, I don’t know how into it you are, but do you there’s a place for them to begin to directly benefit artists financially?

Hmm, I don’t know, probably not. There’s cool things we can do with them, but when it comes to selling a track or production as an NFT and you get the signature like that’s the original, I dunno. It’s still quite a niche thing and I’m not sure how the techno thing would fit in that, if it has to fit into that, really? I’m not sure! I am really excited to see how it’s going to look like tonight, I guess it’s about waiting and seeing.

Out of the cities you’ve played in, outside of the major hubs of Berlin or London, do you think there are any cities with exciting scenes emerging?

Well, Georgia comes to mind immediately, that’s a big one. Ukraine, yeah. That’s very sad. There was loads happening in Ukraine and a very vibrant scene that’s been very shut down.

India, actually, comes to mind. I’ve been a few times, besides the Goa Trance thing that’s been going on for a long time, they have a really interesting scene based around a very strong electro scene, so there’s a great scene emerging and they’re getting really cool talent over.

DJing is quite a massive staple of the global sound, do you have any advice to artists starting out now in such a busy genre?

Don’t do it for the fame, only do it if you’re absolutely obsessed with it. There’s a really small chance of making it, and you have to spend so much time and energy on it, that I would say do it because you really truly, deeply love it. If you don’t love it to death, then do something else or don’t get obsessed with the fame aspect of it.

Don’t follow the hype stuff or trends of music, try and find the thing that you love. Be honest to yourself in what kind of music do you really love, what do you want to make.

Work hard – obviously, haha! Socialise offline, it’s important to go to clubs and meet people and talk to them. Build a little team of like-minded friends. Create your own little scene!

We can see now that women are no longer just emerging in the field of DJing, but I would say they’re dominating now. There’s been an astronomical rise to it. Do you think the genre is becoming a bit more inviting to underrepresented groups, or do you think there’s still a long way to go?

Yeah it’s happening – we’re here. It’s a difficult question because there are a lot of women doing this now, but there’s still loads of sexism within the scene. Is this a techno specific problem? Not really. I think it’s great we’re talking about it, and how more women are becoming visible, but there’s still loads more work to do when it comes to equality in the music scene. It’s definitely not perfect, and I’m not sure what perfect would look like, but on a positive note I think it’s getting better.

I feel like we’re at an age where techno is booming, maybe due to accessibility or general interest. What do you think the future is going to look like for it, do you think it’ll keep getting bigger?

I think there will be an arm going one way where techno gets more commercial, and another arm going a different way where techno will start to diverge and get more interesting and wild. It’s definitely more accessible with DJing digitally, as opposed to vinyl (which takes a LOT of time, effort, money, and perhaps an obsessive personality). It makes the genre more easy to access, so I think it’ll be cool to see it getting. Bit more decentralised, with stuff happening all over the world outside of just the hubs of London and Berlin. I think a lot of really cool, unique scenes will pop up all around the world, which now we can all see more easily and is becoming easier to find.

What’s next!?

I’m going to release a solo EP this year, hopefully. I’m also going to release an album with two friends from Hamburg.

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Words: Ruby Carter

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