Today we welcome Matt from Berlin Bass Collective to DMC mag for a few words. This guy is up to a lot of stuff in and around Berlin. A true collective of artists all pulling the ship on with fantastic records, nights at the legendary Watergate club and a burgeoning series of streams from their HQ. A busy man indeed.
Welcome, lets start with an easy one. What makes Berlin Bass Collective so special? what are you trying to achieve?
BBC has literally one goal, to spread positivity through music – that is (hopefully) a goal that a lot of labels and collectives share. What makes BBC special is that we are all about achieving this goal, building up a scene, and providing a platform for artists to get their music heard through inclusivity instead of exclusivity. This can be seen in our releases, our nights, and by looking at the artists who call themselves a part of our family.
Something that really struck me as extremely strange and got me down when I was getting things started, was seeing how closed off different crews/labels/scenes were within the house community (both in and out of Berlin). Crews and parties would preach that they created a “safe space” or a supportive vibe but that was limited to include only people who listened to the same sub-genre of house or had the same gender/sexual preference/identity/aesthetic that they had. It reeked of hypocrisy! How can you claim that you are embodying the spirit of house when you are telling people that they can only come to your party if they think/dress/act just like you do? House was created by outcasts with the specific goal of inclusion and facilitating interaction and understanding between people from all different backgrounds.
To be honest sometimes I feel a bit uncomfortable “preaching” this principle as a white cis-male, but if it that’s what it takes to get remind people about the “meaning of house” then I guess you could just say that things have come “full circle”. House evolved from disco in the LGBT Latin and black community in NYC and then Chicago (spreading to London and Paris) always keeping in mind that parties and the scene should welcome everyone but nowadays parties and even labels are judged on how “exclusive” they are or how much “better than others” they are – this is totally losing the spirit of the music!
When you come to a BBC night, look at our catalogue of releases, and listen through sets from our previous nights on our soundcloud I hope the one takeaway people have is that BBC has love for and represents for everyone within the house community.
You are soon to release your first longer compilation, that’s a big undertaking for any label. Whats the idea behind “Shades of House”?
“Shades of House” is 12 tracks created by 15 producers from 5 different, countries showcasing talent across the spectrum of different house genres. The tracks were selected to embody the idea that house music is all about welcoming people of all shades and walks of life together to dance together. My goal with “Shades of House” is to catch the attention of someone who might be familiar with the sound of one of the producers and then give them the chance to check out a genre that they might not have been introduced to yet. For example, someone who is familiar with the rising lofi superstar Etur Usheo’s killer releases and is normally listening strictly to releases from Lobster Theremin, Shall Not Fade, or Esouh could check out the VA and then discover that they love the dreamy intense floating feeling they get from the spacey “dream house” sound that Thermal brings on “Loose” and then start digging a whole new genre. Similarly, disco heads who normally dig Rush Hour, Jolly Jams, or Razor-N-Tape releases will be loving Danny Russell & Ronald Christoph’s “Rolling Jazz” but because they checked out our VA all of a sudden they hear the preview for Mystigrix’s “Need Somebody” and then they realize they miss the 90s rave sound they grew up with and connect with the new generation of rave sounds and start digging UTTN stuff!
“Shades of House” is meant to be the “gateway drug” of releases – I want people to hear one track, then go to the producer’s Soundcloud page and listen through more of their stuff, and go further to start exploring a genre they might have totally overlooked!
There is a lot of variety in the producers you release on the label. What is the thing that ties them together, what do you look for when singing a record?
Super glad you brought that up! I’m really proud to have a variety of house sounds represented on the label and in the tracks I sign. Here are the exact things I look for when signing a track for BBC:
- The track makes me feel a strong positive emotion (ranging from high energy wanting to dance to feeling like I’m floating in a warm pool watching clouds pass in the sky).
- The track is unique – it could remind me of the “vibe” of another track or producer’s sound, but I don’t feel like I’ve heard it before.
- The producer is a genuinely good person who is making music because they love it and I would want to hang out with them or have them play at one of our nights.
I realize point 3 definitely could (and has) definitely led me to pass on some releases that might have been “economically sound” for the label or could have got us a bit of “hype” in the moment but at the end of the day BBC is my passion project. I used my life’s savings to fund BBC through the first two years and I take full responsibility for the image and “vibe” our artists, parties, and releases put out in the world so if someone is super negative, treats others disrespectfully, acts like they are “better than” others, or is generally “not a nice person” then I will never sign their track. If that means I lose out on potential monetary gain then oh well, at least I’ll have some nice people around at the parties to hang out with!
Your originally from the States, now living happily in the thick of it in Berlin. What motivated the move? have you had to adjust to the different culture?
I moved to Berlin with the explicit goal of founding a record label. Berlin was the right choice because it is a city full of extremely creative, talented, and open-minded people. I also felt that the house scene in Berlin was full of opportunity because so many people come here and focus solely on techno, totally ignoring that there are literally hundreds of thousands of house heads – producers, djs, diggers, and dancers who want to hear music that is arguably a bit “happier” than what you hear on a normal night in the big techno-tourist traps.
I spent my first 18 months here going to German classes 5 days a week for 4 hours a day. This immediately gave me a “leg-up” when approaching venue owners, bookers, record stores, other promoters, and building up our little support base. While it is definitely possible for people to come to Berlin and live for years speaking only English, at the end of the day I think it’s super rude to the Germans who live here and to their culture in general. Don’t get me wrong, Berlin is, by no means, representative of German culture as a whole (it really is a bubble), but I just feel my heart drop when I hear people in clubs/bars/restaurants/banks/etc getting angry at people working there who don’t speak perfect English and answer a request in German. If you want to come here and actually contribute to the scene and reap all of the many, many benefits of living in the strongest economy in the world with an amazing social network that takes care of everyone, the least people can do is make an effort to speak the language here.
You have your fingers in many pies with BBC, its great to see this model of doing things and creating a real community around the collective. Was this a conscious thing you are are trying to grow?
100% – My goal from the start was to build up a respectable label and I knew that this relied on my ability to establish a reputation and introduce people to the vibe that they could expect from our releases. This was my main motivation for doing the parties. Since August 2016 we have now done over 50 nights with a combined total of more than 28,000 guests coming out to hear DJs and producers who are part of the BBC family playing at 8 different venues in Berlin. Our parties Disco Kiez, SHADES, House of Love, and Listening Sessions have provided opportunities for people from around the world to discover producers who have released on BBC who they would never have otherwise had the chance to learn about. Our parties have brought people together from completely different scenes and united them through music, this is the vibe that I want people to associate with our label!
Who do you look up to in the scene? do you have any peers you admire and why? Which artists are killing it for you and maybe tell us who you would like to get on the label in the future?
Within the Berlin scene there are three people I look up to in a major way:
- Johannes Albert – this guy epitomizes the stereotype that people from around the world have of Germans (that they work super hard and are always trying to master their craft). He is an insanely talented producer whose sound is always evolving, from deep house to garage house, to italo then onto trance and now to EBM – this guy can not only do it all but he does it all super well! He runs Fine with Tillman and then has Frank Music on his own and everything they put out is extremely high quality. Oh yeah, he’s also an insanely good dj who can easily play banging sets across genres per the demand of the party and even came up with different characters (HNS-X, Moon) to produce and play at the highest level within completely different genres. “Giovanni Frizzante” remains one of my favorite tracks to hear, play, and dance to anywhere, anytime.
I was lucky enough to get Johannes to do a remix of The Checkup & Deeleegenz killer “All Night” on their EP “My Salvation” (BBC-006) but I would love to release a full EP of just Johannes Albert or HNS-X tracks.
- Sabine Hoffman – one of the hardest working promoters, djs, and curators in Berlin. She built up Frauengedeck, the all-female collective, booking agency, and extremely sick party that happens regularly in Salon Zur Wilden Renate. In addition to playing out, organizing parties and providing a platform for female DJs and producers to get exposure and get booked, she also works at the legendary Oye Records (in the Kreuzkoelln location). She has dealt with a lot of bs from a lot of people (as have many of the amazing female djs I know in Berlin) but she keeps grinding, creating opportunities for others, putting on great parties, and guiding the sounds that you hear in the big techno parties in Berlin (via her monthly picks at Oye). If BBC ever did a techno party, she would be the first DJ I would book!
- Till von Sein – dope dj, dope producer, founder of Suol, genuine Berliner, and example of someone who was hard working and flexible enough to not just survive but also thrive in the music business in Berlin. You look up longevity and sustainability in the dictionary and there is a picture of this man next to both words. I would venture to say that Berlin is one of the hardest cities in the world to actually make money pursuing a career in music and this guy has maintained a strong career as a dj and producer while also bringing up countless others with him through the creation of his label(s) and booking agency. Don’t know him personally (he came to one of our in-stores to watch amazing dj Allison Swing playing) but I definitely look to him as one of the few examples of success in the scene in Berlin.
Artists who are killing it and I would love to get on the label (lucky 7):
- Lauer – another guy demonstrating the German work ethic in a major way putting out major quantity but always maintaining the highest level of quality! He’s like the BMW of synth-wave house (what I recently learned is called EBM) – he’s the ultimate synth-forward house machine. From his own works to Tough City Kids, to Hotel Lauer, to Black Spuma, to Talamanca System, and on and on – his style of house makes me feel like I’m driving down Ocean Drive in a red Ferrari Testarossa and the sun is setting in a pink sky and everything is all good. Basically, like I’m living in either the videogame Outrun, the TV show Miami Vice, or the movie Scarface (but just the disco scenes). You can always tell a Lauer production from the smooth sound.
It would be a dream come true to release a Lauer EP on BBC. He can use whatever name he wants as long as he brings the sound that “Tearsh”, “Vizzi Vazzi”, “Labyrinth”, and “Tamzarian” sound.
- Nørus – this guy is on another level with his lofi skills. “Make a Move” was so slept on in 2017. When everybody “discovering” lofi was stuck on DJ Boring, Ross From Friends, and Seinfeld, Nørus already had insane lofi bangers out. Not sure if it’s just because he’s from a different part of the world or he just didn’t get written about by the “right” media outlet but this dude makes FIRE!
- Harrison BDP – Harrison straight up flexed on everybody last year with his 3 releases on Lost Palms, absolute beauty on Piff, deep banger on Phonica, insane collaboration with Jesse Bru on Happiness Therapy, and then the fire on Enclave. This man earned his “best UK producer” that he got from DJ Mag 10 times over. Plus he met my criteria #3 from above – when I met him at IPSE last summer when he was in town to play my friends’ Radio Banda Larga Party he was a total class act, super friendly and definitely someone I would gladly get a beer with.
- Jesse Bru – sometimes when you meet someone you know you will get along super well. This happened with Jesse when I invited him to play at our first party in Farbfernseher and he showed up looking like the younger-shorter haired reincarnation of the Dude from Big Lebowski, smiling, trolly packed full of disco, house, and lofi flames, and ready to crush the packed room. I had been watching his rise since all-around good person and dope-label-founder Matthias Fiedler had sent me “How U Really Feel” (BLAQNUMBERS004) and I immediately recognized the Ghost In the Shell sample that Jesse used in “Turn U Loose” and started digging Jesse’s releases. I love his use of unique samples and his ability to take a super deep sound and introduce a disco loop on top of it that gives you the feels one second and then has you smiling and dancing the next within the same track. Was lucky enough to have him remix “Psilocybin” from Bridge Guy on the “Non-polar Compounds” (BBC-007) EP but I would love to get a ful Jesse Bru EP out soon!
- Herr Krank – not gonna lie, I’m not cool enough to have discovered Herr Krank from digging deep in a bin. The youtube algorithm brought me to “Acid Jazz” and I was loving the piano so much – so uplifting and happy! I immediately checked more of his stuff (of course “Piano Bar” and “Joy” stuck out) and I realized one thing that BBC was really missing was a piano-house release. I really we can work together to fill this major void in our catalogue and get a banging piano house release from him out on BBC soon.
- Luz1e – super deep lofi with recent moves into acid territory, her tracks evoke so much emotion. Some of her tracks, like the DJ Different remix she did (“It’s Gettin Late”), are simultaneously super floaty/dreamy/deep but also super up-tempo. She makes music that is perfect for afterparties or when the sun is coming up and you need to keep everyone going.
- Folamour – “Devoted to U” is one of my all-time favorites. Such great sample work, such amazing energy, his tracks make you smile. His productions really bridge the gap between “rare groove” or more “disco focused” energy and deeper sound IMHO!
The modern music scene can be a tricky place, what is the most important trait to have to build something in this climate? what is the most important thing for people to do?
Remember why you are doing it (hopefully because you love the music) and surround yourself with people who make your life better. The scene, especially the business side of it, is so subjective that you really have to make a conscious effort not to take things personally. If you put in your time, effort, and hard work, you can still fail or succeed just as easily as someone who put in half the time and effort but knew the right person or had the “right sound” at the “right time”. If you get enjoyment out of making music, playing music, providing a platform for people to do those things – then you can keep going. If you stop enjoying it then there is literally no reason to keep going because there is no formula to success, profitability, or “hype” in the scene.
The constant evolution of the way we use the internet is having a massive impact on how we all live our lives. Its interesting to see you have a regular streaming session as part of what you do. How important is this online presence nowadays and what are your thoughts on the future?
Sadly, I agree with a number of the recent articles that have explored this topic, highlighting the fact that digital media presence has become the most important factor in DJ career success. Bookers and event organizers will judge a dj based on their social media presence (likes/views/followers), distributors and record shops will judge producers and labels based on their exposure and coverage (reviews/streams/plays/views). This is the world we live in – I think it’s not fair and penalizes people who don’t have the time/equipment/budget/experience to keep up with the right type of posts (right now, “stories”) who instead focus on their craft (making dope tracks or being a skilled selector and mixer). I have accepted this and just try to do the best with what I have (time/money/equipment) to try to get the word out about our artists, parties, and releases.
Having said that, I started the livestream with 2 goals:
- To give DJs a platform to showcase their sound (to potentially get booked for gigs)
- To increase our reach on a platform that was clearly penalizing us for not paying for “sponsored posts”
I can say, without a doubt, that the livestream is the most effective way to reach the biggest audience and give our djs a platform at the lowest cost.
Vinyl or Digital? Why?
To listen to at home: vinyl – nothing beats the warmth and depth of the analogue sound! Listening to a record I pressed myself makes it sound even better (I worked at Intakt – Berlin’s only vinyl pressing plant for 10 months – tell Max and Alex that Matt sent you next time and they’ll hook you up right)!
To play at a party: digital – I won’t front at all here. Playing digital is way easier than playing vinyl and the ease of having your big beautiful display (and cue-points, and auto-loops, and memory points, and the key and bpm readout, and the master pitch) and the CDJs quantizing everything and mapping it to the beat-grid gives you more time to look for the best possible next track, set a loop on one or two (or three) other decks, and really play around and make music with music. I am, by no means, on this level of mixing but I see djs every week do amazing things using CDJs that just aren’t possible with records. Digital music also allows djs to travel easier, share music more easily, and allows more people to access the music.
To buy: vinyl – like I said before, for the sound quality. If you buy through bandcamp then this is the best way to support the artist. TBH if you buy vinyl that has gone through a distro then the label and artist will get more off of your digital purchase.
What are you plans for 2019, tell us a little bit about everything you have upcoming and where we can find you?
2019 is going to continue to be a year of growth for BBC – good parties, great releases, and lots of positivity from amazing people around the world. The family continues to grow as more and more DJs and producers join in our mission to spread good vibes with music in an inclusive way! You can expect 2 or 3 vinyl this year along with 3 digital EPs. The next vinyl release, “Born to Live” from so. mind will be coming in the next months and is really going to blow up – last year his digital EP “so. candy” got great support from so many DJs and outlets around the world and there were so many requests for a vinyl so we had to give the people what they want! We had so many amazing demo submissions for “Shades of House” that you can definitely expect a second edition LP VA in Q3.
House of Love will be every month on the top of the rooftop in Hinter den Alpen at Klunkerkranich where we always have an amazing diverse crowd from around the world who might have come for the best view in Berlin but stay all night for the best house party! SHADES will continue on very special Wednesdays in Watergate where I’m super proud that we are one of the four crews who are part of the Watergate Wednesdays project. This amazing project headed up by Watergate’s head booker, Dennis Kuhl, aims at showcasing real Berlin crews and local DJs in one of the world’s most famous venues, providing a truly unbelievable opportunity for both DJs and the crowds to discover the real house sound of Berlin and to establish the title that Watergate undeniably holds as the home of house music on Wednesdays in Berlin.
House Of Love Heatup Special at Farbfernseher, Berlin on Thursday 18 April.