Heiko Laux Interview. The Things That Inspire
Heiko Laux doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone. More than 20 years of career and a label which turned 20 in 2014 with more than 200 releases speak for him well enough. Despite being one of the most prominent techno artists of all times, he is still the enthusiastic musical addict.
Constantly scanning the environment and recording every moment which grabs his attention into his personal computer called brain, Laux goes through the daily life where he travels the world, plays DJ sets, watches scientific documentaries and admires good food. We talked about the things that inspire him and about his music.
Hi Heiko, how are you doing?
I am good, thank you. I have too many things to do before I go to the USA for a vacation.
So let’s start with talking about your spare time – what do you do when not travelling the USA?
I watch a lot of movies, documentaries, TV series. Both classical and modern. It’s hard to limit down to what I like, because I like a lot of things. But I mostly watch science and astronomy documentaries, Science fiction TV series.. I’m curious, I want to know what’s out there.
So do you believe in extraterrestrial?
Oh, I wonder. I believe that they will find some sort of bacteria when they look closer on the moon or mars. It is very likely. There are the necessary compounds – amino acids and stuff like that. If they can trace that on a comet, and the comets are spreading those around, then it’s very likely that there is or was life out there. I don’t think we are going to have the “Independence Day” movie kind of scenario, though.
Oh, I hope So. So you watch a lot of documentaries…
Yes, I consume a lot. I’m digging through lots of stuff in search for the right kind of feeling, so that when I make music and play it back after a while, I would see that it’s the right description of the world around me. When I watch a documentary or TV series, be they up to date or classic, I see the situations where, for instance, the main character is in trouble and someone comes and fixes it, helps him. I consume all the things and experiences and they puzzle together in my mind into my way of making the world better with those bits and pieces of ideas.
I am sure that the first step to solving any problem is communication and in my case, I communicate through music. So when I make music I talk to peop through it. I describe things which I can’t find words for. And some half a year later I realize what it was when I tried to express it, and in another half a year I may find words for that. So it echoes for a long time. And the time gives you a perspective on things you were trying to say with music.
But do you sometimes feel that you’re talking to yourself? Because there is no way to know how people will read your message. It’s like reading a book and having your own image in your head, and then someone makes a movie based on the same book and you go like: “Oh my God, what have they done!”. Does that happen to you when you hear your tracks misused by other DJs?
Exactly! First of all, I am talking to myself all the time. I drift away to a little hypothetical conversation with myself. But when I hear other DJs playing my music, it’s interesting, I don’t know. Let’s say, when a young DJ plays an old track of mine, I go “wow, he found this track!” and in this case, I would curiously wait to hear what will happen next. I would analyse and learn from this DJ. And if it’s one of the older dudes, who’ve been in business for years, it’s the best thing that can happen, because the music connects people this way. The idea and feelings I put into the track when I wrote it and then a DJ would read exactly that into it and would feel the same urge to play it out loud in front of the crowd as I would. That’s when it all comes together.
Sometimes I have a track prepared for a set and I feel that it would be too weird to put it because only I understand what it’s about. And then the promoter asks me to play an hour longer and I have to put it, as it is already there, ready for the sound system. And suddenly the crowd responds madly, I see that they understand what I am “saying” and that’s the biggest reward for a DJ or musician ever.
So now, if you go back to your 2014 album “Fernweh”, does it talk back to you as you planned it to?
Right. Now enough time passed for me to look back at it…
There’s this title track – Fernweh. It has it’s melancholic moments, the harmony resembles the Arabic scale with the way the notes are played so close to each other.
In retrospect, you can feel the friction between the Arab world and the western world when you hear it.
I don’t want to go into detail, because it is free for interpretation, though.
There is this techno frame and the atmosphere is drifted in different ways. It is dark and it drives you down, but there is this techno drive and it is obscure when you mix it all together. Then there is this very classic tststststs – like a cicada over and it’s a little bit alerting, then the strings come out and then they go into Arab scale and back and that’s how the world is drifting…
On the one hand there are a lot of possibilities and on the other hand, it’s overwhelming how many people are suffering. It’s still a hard track for me. I needed to be in a bubble to create it and at the same time to control everything – control the sound to not fuck it up. If I had put bigger hi-hats or a bigger kick drum there, I would have destroyed the moment. So it’s crazy how you go blind in your cocoon when you make a track this intense, and still have to stay technically alert.
When I go back to hear “Fernweh”, it scares me, it could drive me crazy. I made it in summer 2014 and with all what was happening back then.
Heiko replayed the track on his laptop and said that he haven’t heard it for about two years and he got goosebumps at that very moment and had to turn it off.
… I had this feeling before with a track from the “Ornaments” album which is called “Hypnomarching”. I started working on it before 9/11 and finished after, so you can hear this dramatic change in the middle. It resembles the way it was eating me up without pointing the finger to the tragic event. I was trying to come up with an idea of remixing and re-releasing it because it was so important to me. But I can’t change it. As soon as I hear it, I feel that my hands are tied.
If you give in and if there is a certain level you allow the track to reach into you, then it grabs your guts and it’s an uncomfortable feeling I must say.
When you chose tracks to release on your label, how do you deal with the fact that everybody probably wants to release at Kanzleramt and may say: “Come on, man, we’re friends” or something? How do you filter?
I need to have a connection with the artist. And I’m here for more than 20 years, I see things. And it is always interesting to understand if the producer brought one track with this deep message and this energy and it was a coincidence that he wrote it, or he makes all his music like that; by filtering the world around him, the emotions, through himself.
Do you still enjoy making music with analogue synths or you are more into the new technologies these days?
I think it is a lot more inspiring to make music with analogue, especially if it is classically designed because you can touch all the buttons with your fingers and research the sound and the effects. But I’m a lazy guy; I like to have my music with me and to have access to it at all times. I can write a track when I’m in bed under my blanket, and it will be the perfect time and place for it. So that’s when the laptop comes to the scene. It’s also very convenient that you can save s track, then open it and edit, then save it again. So the analogue production has it’s limitations. Sometimes when I hear something happening out in the street, some metal squeaking, some rush, I think “Oh, I hope nobody got hurt, but I wish I sampled it”. That’s also work for digital instruments.
I enjoy both analogue and digital, but as I said, I am a lazy guy…
You’re a foodie, right?
Oh yes, I am very much into food. Actually, the promoters in Tel Aviv brought me to The North Abraxas, which was insane! The whole philosophy of the chef, who has a garden with a hundred sorts of tomatoes and he would divide them – this will go into salad, this goes with that, and this will go grilled with a slice of meat and hummus. He doesn’t use spices; he simply uses good products which taste amazing and he proved that it works! He brought a paper bag with a chunk of bread, sliced in the middle, where he put a quarter of an onion and left to sit for an hour or something. And I pulled off a piece of bread without realising there was an onion there and started feeling the onion and was “what, how, who, how do they do that!”. It was just bread with an onion in it, and I was fascinated with how excellently the bread transports the oniony spirit! And then there was more and more, and more! This place went to my top 10 list of food places, and I made my promoter take me back there twice.
Ok, now I’m hungry, you don’t have a problem with words when you need to talk about food!
What would be the weirdest food you tried?
Oh, you know, I love Anthony Burdain and the way he talks about food and how he loves it. It can be something like insects fried in the sun, and I would be sitting in front of the TV thinking “Give me some!”.
As for me, I’ve been to Japan and this one time on the west coast, I’ve been served a plate of sushi with a small mountain of different sorts. When eating them, I felt that it wasn’t fish, but it was so soft, gentle and melted on my tongue, that I ate a couple more before asking what it was. It was raw horse meat… I was like “oops” and choked a bit… But at the same time, I thought – “But you liked it before…”
Heiko Laux released on a few great labels and runs Kanzleramt without a shade of doubt. He says that he needs a special connection with the artist who wants to release on his label. The “belly feeling” he mentioned in one of the older interviews helps him sort the bad seeds and leave the best in his hands. That’s how the label has been running for over than 20 years and will most likely run for 20 more. As long as Heiko will treat his belly with good food.