This week on the Journal, we sat down to German Music Producer, Engineer and Sound Designer, Hannes Bieger. He told us about his introduction to Electronic Music, the recording process involved in his latest EP and offered some unconventional recording techniques.
Hi Hannes, can you provide our readers with some background information on yourself and how you got started creating Electronic Music?
“My history with electronic music goes back a long, long time. When I was 5 or 6 years old I would spend entire afternoons under headphones, listening to records over and over.
I’ve been fascinated with the more experimental side of Pink Floyd, The Beatles etc. Since then, tape loops, synths, sound effects, echoes, tape recorder vari-pitch, and the likes have fascinated me even before I knew what exactly they were and how they had been created. In the 90s I transitioned from rock via funk, acid jazz, breakbeats and trip-hop to deep house. The straight bass-drum took over when I moved to Berlin in the late 90s and it has been with me ever since.”
Your EP “Chemistry” which was recently released on Poker Flat Recordings is a testament to the real underground side of electronic music. How did the idea for this release come to fruition?
“I think this EP is a testament to my fascination with modular synthesizers, which came to me fairly late in life. When I started out, pre “let’s google quickly what this is about“ era, I somehow knew modular’s existed, but I never came close to them. Even when Dieter Doepfer brought them to the market which would become the Eurorack standard, I wasn’t interested in the first place, because I wanted self-contained synths I could take on stage.
I played many shows with a Minimoog and Juno-60 back then. Later as a professional mixer, I often had a hard time integrating modular sounds in the projects I was working on because many modular sounds tend to be overly complex, they are bad team players. Two and a half years ago I finally realized I can actually love modular sounds. This was when I got my big Moog Modular. It’s different than most Eurorack rigs in that it always sounds super big and it is less complex than most other systems. On this EP I also added elements from the Arp 2600 and Buchla Music Easel, and overall it’s my most abstract, electronic and techno sounding release so far.”
You’re renowned on Social Media for your love and appreciation of Analogue Gear. Can you let us know what your favourite or most used pieces of hardware are?
“First of all my analog instruments, including but not limited to the modular synths I mentioned before. I love the hands-on approach and the present sound of analog synths, and this is a huge part of my sound. On the other hand, the monitoring setup is essential. I am working with Genelec 8050, Proac Studio 100 and my beloved Audeze LCD-3 and LCD-4 headphones, a Funk Tonstudiotechnik monitor controller and a Lavry Engineering D/A converter for monitoring digital sources.
The precision and musicality I am getting from this setup is a very important aspect for me. Everything else in between isn’t so critical anymore due to the quality of digital gear these days, but of course, I love my analog setup a lot, the Pultecs, the API 2500 and many more units.”
Do you have any unconventional recording or producing techniques that you can share with our readers?
“I’m not sure how unconventional this is, but this is one thing that has been really important to me lately: when starting to work on a new track I completely avoid the initial loop so many people tend to get stuck in. As soon as I have developed an initial synth sequence, melody motif or drum beat, I spread it out into a full length 7-8 min arrangement with a break etc…
Then I’ll record all additional elements in the exact places where I need them. The bottom line is that I see clearer about the whole track from the very beginning, I don’t get stuck in the process, I stay more focused and record less unnecessary stuff. I finish the tracks faster and they become better. Of course, this method works really well with analog modular synths, but it’s possible to follow this concept with any setup, even with plugins. I can only encourage everyone to try it!”
Which Artists/Musicians originally inspired you to begin composing your own music?
“I wouldn’t necessarily say that I need other musicians to get any inspiration to work on my own stuff. I even try to avoid this a bit. A lot of electronic music is very self-referential and repetitive regarding the underlying creative ideas and I always try to think outside the box a bit. I make my music for myself, not for a certain Beatport category or drawer in the record shop and I love so much stuff beyond the realms of electronic club music.
A lot of inspiration comes from working with my synths and opening myself up to the process, and I can tap into the experience of many, many years of music making. Even when I don’t count the early experiments we made with cassette 4-track recorders when we were 11 or 12, I really started to write songs when I played in my first band when I was 14. That said, I love a lot of electronic music too, and, just as an example, I admire the sonic worlds Stephan Bodzin is creating, I love Mind Against, the clarity of Carl Craig and much more than I could mention here.”
Finally, Hannes do you have any advice for up-and-coming producers/engineers that want to make an impact irrespective of their preferred genre?
“I think the real challenge is to stay true to yourself. Find something you love and refine it until it becomes your own handwriting. Producing certain types or sub-genres or styles of music in the hope a certain label would like it only goes so far. Plus if it’s only because by the time you send it to the label they have already moved on and developed their sound so that it doesn’t fit in their concept anymore.
Also, a good balance between focusing on the production and on the communication and social media aspect is crucial. Today it’s so easy to finish something that sounds decent at first glance, and so many people tend to send out stuff before they’re really ready to offer something unique. On the other hand, it’s not a good idea to hold back stuff forever in search of perfection. Knowing when something is really good is so important, and that only comes through experience. Make music, always finish your tracks before you move on, and over time the big picture will reveal itself!“