Nick Hoppner: Ostgut Daddy

Words by: Kristan Caryl
Posted: 10/7/12 8:33

Nick Höppner: Ostgut DaddyNick Höppner is not only an actual father, but so too is he the patriarchal figure that oversees the day-to-day running of one of techno’s foremost imprints in Ostgut Ton. He is the one responsible for honing what has become known as ‘the Berghain sound’ (though he’s not entirely comfortable with it, as you’ll learn) and the man who gets essential 12s and LPs from the likes of Steffi, Shed, Ben Klock, Marcel Dettmann and many more to market. So too does he oversee the revered Panorama Bar and Berghain mix compilation series, as well as DJing at the club – and others around Europe – on a regular basis.

Of course he produces, too. Though all said commitments mean the German only releases approximately once a year, what he does release is never short of excellent be it house techno or anything in between. On top of all this, he has also just stepped up to mix Panorama Bar 04, a technically excellent and musically far ranging mix that captures the spirit of one of his sets brilliantly. As such, we thought it the perfect time to call up Nick and chat family, VAT, time management, future studio work and much more.

How are you finding it being in the limelight whilst promoting this mix, as against being the man behind the scenes running things?
To be honest, it sometimes feels like a double edged sword: on the one hand the thing I enjoy about being a DJ the most is that usually my DJing does all the explaining. I like the music I’m selecting and mixing to speak for itself, but then again, that’s just not possible so I completely acknowledge the fact that sometimes you have to talk about things and explain things. And of course I feel privileged that people feel I am interesting enough to talk to and do an interview with. So yeah, it has two sides.

So what would you like the mix to say about you?
One of my main goals was to put a couple of tracks I have played a lot – and which mean a lot to me - over the last decade. There are a couple of tracks on there that I associate with certain experiences in the club, or with friends who gave me the record or hooked me up. The DJ Emanuel track, actually, was a present by a really good friend. He gave me it 6 years ago when he gave up being a DJ to peruse a career as a journalist.

So it’s a nostalgic mix for you, too?
Nostalgia I'm not fond of. Just things that were important to me. Of course that’s not obvious to everyone who listens to the mix without, say, reading this interview, but for me it’s a bit about looking back to what has influenced me. Not only the music itself, but also the stories connected to it.  Another thing of course was that I wanted it to reflect Panorama Bar to a certain extent - or at least PBar through my eyes – and I also had the ambition to make it work at home. I didn’t want it to be a full on club mix. I wanted it to work in the car, in day-to-day situations, not just for full-on party mode. And then of course I tried to incorporate the exclusive tracks into it that we always have on these mixes.

I’m proud of what we have built together, and I'm happy so many people acknowledge it, like it and support us, but at the same time if you look at our back catalogue, I don’t think we have catered for only one particular sound [such as ‘Berghain techno’]...As you run the label, was it a hard decision for you to step up and do a mix?
Of course there is always this little dilemma of me being a label manager and also an artist. But at the same time ever since we started the label I've released one 12” per year. With a big project like this – a mix CD or album – I always step back as I’ve felt there were other people in our circle that it made more sense to release. I discussed the mix with our artists, though, and everyone was fine with it.

You mention only doing one production a year… would you like to do more?
That’s a result of certain restrictions. I’m busy running the label, I DJ at weekends, I am a father, and so studio time is pretty precious. One 12” per year is actually the best I can do! I’d love to do more, but in order to do so I would have needed to spend more time in the studio which I’m doing again now, because now the mix is out of the way and I have an assistant at the label – I have a bit more time to focus on my own productions. I hope my schedule will get a bit busier over the next year but I haven’t got anything lined-up.

Do you like the business side of things?
I do, because I like creating stuff, working with people, putting everything together and working to deadlines. I'm lucky to work with lots of amazing DJs and producers, have a great relationship with our distributor, our art director and so I'm really fond of the core business. A lot of things surround it I'm not so fond of – you know, like having to take care of so many things I never signed up for. So many different people contact me that I have to deal with. Sometimes it gets annoying – mastering companies, promotion companies offering their help – it’s fair enough but I’d much rather not have to deal with it because it distracts me.

On a topical note – do you know anything about Prosumer leaving PBar?
I don’t have an idea if there are plans to replace him. I’ve been aware of him leaving for a week now because he told me, but it’s a management decision. His contribution to building Panorama Bar and the label is immeasurable and I'm sad to see him go, but that’s all I can say.

Panorama Bar 04Taking about the brand as you mention it – how do you feel about the fact it is known over the world?
I feel ambiguous of it. I’m proud of what we have built together, and I'm happy so many people acknowledge it, like it and support us, but at the same time if you look at our back catalogue, I don’t think we have catered for only one particular sound [such as ‘Berghain techno’].

We have released from proper stripped down serious dark techno to light and friendly vocal house, we have dubstep remixes, ambient work. The range of music is much wider than some people seem to want to notice. From the outside the label stands for a certain sound and aesthetic, but people mix things up you know – a lot of different things go into this motion. Maybe the most sticking aesthetic is this kind of heads down, serious, no frills techno, that’s stands out the most, but it’s only part of the story.

Ah, the stories… one hears so many about Berghain – how true are they vs just myths made up by people do you think?
I think there is defiantly a truth to it, but you know how it goes when things goes mouth to mouth they get less true, blow out of proportion and that’s it. There’s a truth to where those stories start, but the more those things travel, the more exciting and unbelievable they get in a way.

What’s the deal with VAT changes in Berlin? And charging freelancers to work freelance?
There are two types in Germany – one is 7%, which is for artistic deliveries like bands or dancers, and there is another one for 19%, which applies to all sorts of other transactions. There is a discussion whether DJing is an art form or not. I'm not sure if ill have to invoice in Germany with 7 or 19% VAT. Of course for running a club that makes a huge difference.

Also, the federal government is considering making freelancers pay into the state pension fund. At the moment it’s optional, but it might be compulsory soon. That applies to anyone though, not just musicians and DJs.

If that came in would you leave or…?
I’m not sure; I have a private pension. But I could be considered an artist, which means the rules would be slightly different for me. It’s something I have to look into.

Will these things change Berlin in club-terms?
It’s still undecided so I think for certain people it will be hard. You’ll have to hustle harder, but I’m not sure it’s a very real threat. It’s really going beyond my knowledge of things. I'm just guessing!

OK, enough politics. You’ve said before you’re a dubstep fan. Now that dubstep doesn’t really exist anymore, I wonder what you make of it all?
I think its still quite a fresh breath of air. Although I like the fact its not down to genres anymore, its hard to find a term for what’s going on. A lot of underground stuff from the UK is really inspiring, even if its not necessarily what I would DJ. I just like the fact there is a fresh approach to music and a sense of community, in general it’s a very positive development.

A lot of underground stuff from the UK is really inspiring, even if its not necessarily what I would DJ. I just like the fact there is a fresh approach to music and a sense of community, in general it’s a very positive development...
Things are growing more defined, there are formulas forming and some people stick to them too much already, but it ill will all change again. I like how much in flux it is and how much it cross-pollinates. It’s definitely an inspiration.

Are you alone in that, or do many of your peers like the underground UK sound?
To be honest I hardly go out in Berlin – I’m away most weekends and if I'm not I spend it with family and friends. But I think this kind of music has definitely taken root in Berlin – a couple of places cater to it and I exchange music with some of our residents.

When the club turned five last year, did you take stock or is it more organically run than that?
Exactly, what goes around comes around – we have our roster and release their stuff. If our guys and girls have nothing, we don’t release anything!

You say our guys and girls – is the family aspect important?
For sure. Some new people have come in recently, but we already had strong friendships ties with people like  Tobias and Steffi. The friendship comes first. We release what we are happy with and don’t just do things to sell units.

It must be hard to switch off from all this sometimes?
My kids help me do it. I take them a couple fo times a week to give my wife a rest. They switch me round within ten seconds. My head is filled with them, not what I’ve been doing before.

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So what can we expect soon from the family?
We have an album from Barker & Baumecker in September, which will be amazing; I'm blown away by it. It’s very versatile and will be a good step for them and anyone who buys it and enjoys it. I'm trying to get back into a studio routine too. Hopefully I’ll finish a 12” before the end of this year. Plus I have a remix to do for Dauwd on Picture Music in the UK but Steffi has redone the entire studio we share. Having had some time off it’s taking me a while to get back into it, but I have plenty of ideas flowing that just come to me naturally.

Also we have Norman Nodge doing Berghain 06 later in the year, a new Steffi 12” due in September, in August we have a new Tobias 12” and some more bits. I have a lot to do all the time, but I’m used to juggling these things. I’ve learnt how to concentrate and like to do things step by step. I would lose the plot if I tried to do everything at once. One-step after the other is completely manageable.

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