Interview with Ostgut Ton Head Honcho Nick Höppner

Nowadays, there are numerous pubs, which run their own label. It’s thus hardly surprising that the Berlin institution Berghain, which is deemed by many as the best club in the world, also runs his own label. Ostgut Ton exists since five years, and has over this period of time gone through a metamorphosis from compilation label to artist label. Consisting of a small circle of chosen ones, the artist roster remains close to home, and is largely made up of resident DJs in Berghain and the Panorama bar. Family values play a core role within the establishment.

Interview with Ostgut Ton Head Honcho Nick Höppner

Ostgut Ton is the label of Berghain and Pnaorama bar, founded in October 2005. We started with the first Berghain compilation then, made by Andre Galuzzi.  That was actually the whole idea behind the idea of the label, there was no master plan of how we would continue from that point on. A couple of months later, Marcel Dittmann and Ben Klock came in with a few tracks, and that’s how we got our first release on vinyl. Even after that, the thing continued rather sporadically, it took a few months for the next release to come out, which was by Paul Brtschitsch. Then there was Marcel Dettmann Solo and the first Len Faki, and then it started being a more regular ting.

From my point of view, it’s quite obvious – if you run a club, which has a certain standing, of course you find yourself within a network of people – although we started from a different angle, we always wanted Ostgut Ton to be just for our small circle of resident DJs. We’re still doing it that way, although we started releasing two 12-inches for our mix compilations a little while ago, which included some exclusive tracks, and naturally, those came from the “outside”, so to speak. I think that makes sense since you get the opportunity to open the whole thing up a little and also to show, what the label stands for, what you’re interested in.

I’d say you can’t reduce Ostgut Ton to a certain specific sound, even though people try to, of course. But if you look at all the people releasing here, you realize that the bandwidth is enormous. Even if you just look at the Techno producers, from Marcel Fengler to Ben Klock, Marcel Dettmann, Norman Nodge, Len Faki, they’re all really different. And then there’s the more House-oriented side with Prosumer, Steffi, Tama Sumo, me, and we all add quite diverse variations. If you listen to everything we’ve released so far, I guess, you can call that quite a wide musical range.

Since we mostly work with our residents only, it doesn’t make any sense to send us demos. Of course, I get a lot of those, but I always have to politely reject them, because it doesn’t really fit with our concept.

I guess founding the label was probably a little easier for us than it is for others, who have an idea for a label, but don’t have a club as ours as the basis. They definitely cross-fertilized each other, and public relations stuff was probably a little easier. But now, I think the label has emancipated itself from the club, even though there is an inseparable connection between the two. But if you took the label and put it somewhere else, it would be strong enough and pay for itself. The label’s musical identity doesn’t need the club anymore, even though it’s still a great thing.

On our label, we have three kinds of formats. There is the 12-inch series with one or two releases per month, then the mix CDs, with which we started the whole thing, here is the Berghain series, which is more techno based, and the Panorama bar series, which is on the house side, where Cassy and Tama Sumo had their mixes released. In January we added Sub:Stance by Scuba, who organizes his Dubstep parties here four times a year on Fridays. That was just an interesting cooperation which just had to lead to a release. Apart from that, we also had a few artist albums over the years. It all started with Prosumer and Murat Tepli, continued with the Shed album, then we did Ben Klock and Planetary Assault Systems, and last April Marcel Dettmann’s debut album was released. The second Shed album will come out in August. These artist albums are definitely an important part of the label and for me the most exciting part, because it allows all the participants to express themselves in a different way – and they all did a great job so far, in my opinion. Yeah, that’s it.

Interview with Ostgut Ton Head Honcho Nick Höppner

The label image, that’s its visual identity, so to speak, which lies in the hands of Michael, one of the owners, and our graphic designer Yusi Etiman, and also Sven Marquardt, who takes most of the artist photographs. The image was always based on what happened here at the club, be it the flyers, or what the club was like, what it looks like. The direction was always more reduced, a little industrial and dark, although I wouldn’t say that’s our only theme.

If you look at the covers – of which we have quite a few now – you can see that first of all, they always relate to the music. There are some really friendly covers, like the first Tama Sumo and Prosumer one, which was made by Harthorst, for example, which was more funny and playful and a little kinky, and then there are the black-and-white ones, which rather fit the sound of Marcel Dettmann and the likes. But I think there is definitely some variation.

Interview with Ostgut Ton Head Honcho Nick Höppner

I think it’s very important to maintain a certain recognition value. It’s just not that easy anymore to attract people’s attention in a record store. So you need stringent graphical and layout ideas. For us, that was always full covers, rough-side-out. There’s a certain layout, a photograph and a graphic element, and in most cases no E.P. name, just the artist’s name. It’s always the same font, and the same font sizes in most cases. So, even if one release was really colorful, and the next one is black and white, you can see straight away, that it’s ours. And that has always been important to us.

The whole thing is definitely satisfying, because we really started from scratch and we just said, let’s see what happens. Surely we hoped for a certain development, and the club having a certain standing at the time definitely played a part in that. But apart from that, Ben Klock was the only one who had released something at the time. He had done some stuff on BPitch Control, and Len Faki had his stuff going on, before he got to Berlin, but he kind of made a cut from his past and started something new. So we actually created something great with “no-names”, relatively speaking.

Interview with Ostgut Ton Head Honcho Nick Höppner

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