Two weeks out from Stuttgart Electronic Music Festival 2016, new-hand techno producer Stephan Hinz is a man who seems unfazed by the December that awaits.
Hinz and his restless live shows have covered a lot of ground over the last two years, and next month sees him take up the reigns at SEMF, before heading to Amsterdam's iconic Gashouder for one of Awakenings' biggest shows of the year. Not bad going for a man who believes he's "lightyears away" from the sound he wants to make…
You’re focusing on live sets at the moment. What is it that really attracts you to that form of set?
Yes, I’ve just been playing live sets for the last two years now. What I really like about playing live is that I’m restricted to my own tracks and I have to make it work with them. If I need that big peak-time smasher, well, then I better have one in my pocket.
On the other hand, I might be restricted in terms of music selection, but I have almost every aspect of my tracks at my finger tips at that moment, and that allows me to tailor-make those tracks to that very moment. I love that and it’s so inspiring because it’s actually a bit like producing on a wicked sound system with immediate response from the audience.
That’s really cool and actually one of the most difficult things when it comes to club music… You have to gauge how the people will react to your music in a club environment while sitting in a lightened comfy studio without flashing lights and a bone-shaking sound system.
How would you describe the music that you would most love to make, and how close to that ideal do you think you have got so far?
Well, I believe that writing music is a process. I’m lightyears away from the sound I want to make and at the same time I’m the closest I can get. I don’t know if that makes sense, but in music, it’s always about finding a compromise between your imagination of a track and that track you’re actually able to pull off.
That sounds frustrating but for me it was actually very comforting to understand this. In the end it’s a run that you can’t and that you don’t want to win. From the moment you pull off the perfect track you can only do worse, so why should you do music then anymore? The fun is to constantly reach out for the things you have in mind and then get surprised by the things you do and let them carry you to a totally different result. At least for me, I’m like a little child discovering what’s possible.
Your latest release Outreach on MOOD has just dropped this month. This is the first time you released on the label, how has the reaction been?
The reactions have been very good so far. The release has received a lot of love from heavyweights like Adam Beyer, Richie Hawtin, Dubfire, Joris Voorn, Hot Since 82, Sam Paganini and countless more…and I’m very very proud Nicole picked me up for this. I’ve been a fan of her music since ages and the album she did together with Skin was unbelievable.
Tell us about your journey from tech house to techno. It sounds as if the track DOCH was quite significant in that…
DOCH changed everything for me. Before I was mostly doing tech house and didn't have much of a clue about techno. The day I went to the studio with my buddy Philipp Ruhmhardt, we just wanted to do a techno track. I think part of the magic was that I didn’t really know what to do and came up with what I thought could be techno. Turned out I’m not that bad at it and for me it was an epiphany because I realized that, in techno, I can bring together the elements that are most important to me in music: Energy. Melody. Emotionality.
I tried it for years with tech house but everybody always told me it’s too energetic, or it had too much melody or this or that. I don’t know if there are less rules in techno or if I can better adapt to them… actually I stopped thinking about them. Tassilo and Thomas (Pan-Pot) and Second State gave me the freedom of just writing music from the very beginning. Actually, they encourage all of us to follow our ideas of electronic music and trust ourselves. That maybe sounds like nothing big, but when it comes to writing music you’re lost without self-confidence.
You’ll be at SEMF in Stuttgart on 10 December. Have you developed to a point where you now feel totally at home in that kind of strong techno environment?
I did from the very first time I played in a club… I’m just playing as a live act for two years now, but I played as a DJ for over a decade. So it’s not really new for me and I love to be on stage.
Actually I had one little moment of stage fright when I played the first time live at ADE in 2013. That was my live show debut and I had no idea if it would work or not. It was a Second State showcase and I was playing after Pan-Pot. Thomas sensed that I was a bit nervous the minute before I had to start. He came to me and said something like 'just enjoy it' and jumped on the DJ table and started dancing. And that was it… since that I’m calm like a rock and just enjoy it. It’s a privilege to play in front of so many people, I know what I’m doing and I really want to breathe in every single bit of that atmosphere.
How do you approach playing at a party like that? Huge venue, lots of history, and a crowd that knows what it is going to get from SEMF…
I’m really excited about it, but I’m not really approaching it different than all my other gigs. Every single gig deserves me being on top of my game and I set up my live set in terms of flexibility like a DJ set. I’m able to go with the flow, everything is almost completely open.
Reading the crowd and giving them what they want, and sometimes what they need, is where the magic is happening. I’m not in a band so don’t need to stick to a formal structure previously agreed on. I’m a one man band and have the privilege to do whatever I want to do at that very moment.
When you think about the years ahead, do you reflect more on the music you want to make, or on the parties you’d like to be part of? If the latter, which would they be?
Yes and no. I believe it’s very important to have an idea where you want to go and it’s even more important to not be too dogmatic about it. It sounds worn out, but in the end the journey is the reward, the journey should be fun and I want to enjoy every second of it.
Of course, I’m very ambitious and I’d love to play all those super cool clubs and festivals like Into The Valley for example, and maybe I will have the chance to someday. We will see… Who would have thought two years back I’d play SEMF and Awakenings one day. I do both in December and that’s incredible.
And do you have any weird or wonderful stories you can tell from life on the road?
The insight that there are more good than bad people out there. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like that, but the majority of people out there just want to live peacefully with each other just like you and me.
Thanks for talking to us, Stephan.
Thank you for having me.
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