His debut album's been nearly a decade coming, but when it comes to work rate this Hamburg producer is certainly no slouch…
DJ Emerson's micro.fon imprint has just released Open Your Eyes, the debut full-length from German techno producer Thomas Hoffknecht.
Hoffknecht's name should be familiar to techno lovers by now: over the past decade he's chalked up a string of releases on labels such as Suara, OFF Recordings, Sleaze Records and Delta Code, and DJ'd alongside some of the biggest names in the field, so it would be fair to expect his debut album to attract some considerable attention. But Open Your Eyes isn't just his debut album: it also sees him exploring new musical ground.
The Hamburg native's previous singles and EPs came mostly from the deeper, more minimal end of the techno spectrum, sometimes with a hint of tech-house thrown in for good measure - see for instance Drehmoment, which came out on OFF last year. For Open Your Eyes, however, he's taken a somewhat different tack: his new sound is pacier, darker and more driving, and there are moments on the album where the influence of early-mid 90s Belgian and German techno is writ large.
That in itself we found interesting. Then we read that he consistently knocks out as many as five tracks in a single day, and we just had to know more…
The new album seems harder/heavier than your previous output. Would you agree? And was that a conscious decision or just how the tracks ‘came out’ naturally?
"Yeah, it is a little bit heavier than my other tracks... but I’m happy with it. I guess it’s actually my mood which decides how I produce my tracks, and it’s all about how I’m feeling. All the tracks came out naturally without any mind pushing or searching for ideas. It was flowing..."
If you had to pick just one or two tracks from the album for people to listen to first, what would they be and why?
"Definitely Hurry Up because of its old school touch and rolling synths, which are based on heavy pushing kicks and basslines, and Standard Procedure because it’s like how I began the blueprint of how I produce a track, arrangement and style-wise."
There are points in the album where the intensity reminds me of early 90s techno… were you listening to a lot of stuff like that when you made it?
"Not only when I made it! I’m listening to many genres from the past. 80s, 90s, everything. I don’t focus myself on one genre, I enjoy every style of music which is touching my soul and body, but I guess influences from the 90s and early rave techno classics are definitely inside."
I read that you make three to five tracks a day! That’s an impressive work rate, but is there a philosophy or creed behind working so quickly?
"Most of the tracks are produced in the morning... I wake up at 6am (sometimes 5am!) and get in my home studio. I start blindly without any idea. I just start by testing around and producing out ideas, and then it is a short way to get it done. I don’t really have an explanation for it."
…and do you have any tips for aspiring producers who’d like to improve their own work rate?
"Don’t block yourself by pushing yourself to get a track started or finished. When an idea comes, it happens alone."
What’s in your studio at the moment?
"Gear, ha ha! Actually the Roland TR-8, Roland TB-3 and Elektron Analog Rytm Mk2 are what I use at the moment."
I know you work closely with DJ Emerson in the studio… can you roughly outline who does what, and what the benefits are of working in this way rather than doing it all yourself?
"I start building a house in the raw style, with all the construction and the machines, and then leave it dirty. DJ Emerson is finishing up the house, cleaning everything up and making it look like a real house has to look."
Apart from the album, what else have you got coming up in terms of gigs, releases or anything else iDJ readers need to know about?
"Ooh, there are a lot of releases coming out before the summer on Second State, Codex, District4, Sleaze Records, Complexed, Non Linear Systems, #STRGHT and OFF Recordings.
"I’m also playing at several gigs in the whole of Germany, like Lehmann Club in Stuttgart, PAL in Hamburg, Sektor in Dresden and at Mayday this year alongside Chris Liebing, Len Faki and Pan-Pot etc. And I've got my #STRGHT showcases going on with DJ Emerson, Drumcell, Mark Broom, Markus Suckut and many more."
Words: Russell Deeks
Open Your Eyes is out now on micro.fon. Buy it here.