Berlin artist Marlon Hoffstadt first launched his imprint Retrograde alongside fellow head-honcho Natureboy Gold in 2015, and so far the label has been moving from strength to strength, with this September marking the fifth release on the imprint with a various artist EP entitled ‘In Reverse Part.1’, featuring 4 tracks from the two label heads, Matteo Luis and Terron.
I actually started Retrograde together with Natureboy Gold & Matteo Luis to give ourselves a platform that we can release on whenever & whatever we want to release... Since bursting onto the scene in 2014, Marlon Hoffstadt’s music style has dramatically developed and changed, and has shaped Marlon Hoffstadt as an artist exploring a more profound, emotive side of house music – this time round favouring ethereal yet energetic moods tinged with 80’s stylish, retro influences and compelling, raw grooves.
We caught up with Marlon Hoffstadt to learn a bit more about the forthcoming EP and to learn more about the Retrograde label.
Thank you for joining us today! Can you begin by telling us a bit more about the forthcoming EP? What made you choose Matteo Luis and Terron to feature on the EP? What do they each bring to the release?
Hey, thanks for having me! I actually started Retrograde together with Natureboy Gold and Matteo Luis to give ourselves a platform that we can release on whenever and whatever we want to release. We're only releasing music from ourselves and with this 5th release we're also introducing a new act to the label: Terron. These two been close friends of Matteo for a few years now, and we're all totally in love with their productions. All their recent Whities releases were super on point and we're very happy to have them on this release.
“In Reverse PT. 1” is the first of many Various artists records that we're going to release in the next years. As we're all friends we thought it would be a cool thing to all contribute music for one record. The plan is to release this Various Artists series every five releases.
Retrograde has been going since 2015, congratulations! What’s it been like running the label? What first prompted you to start Retrograde in the first place?
As I already mentioned we started Retrograde to just do our own thing. I've released my own music on some other labels before and from the experience I’ve made over the last couple of years I learned that it’s a good thing to have the control over the music, remixer, artworks, promotion and everything else that comes along with a release.
I really liked that Idea of not doing what everyone expects from you... I also really believe in Natureboy Gold and Matteo Luis as artists and for me it would be a dream come true to all grow, release, produce and run this label together. Obviously it’s a tough thing as label work is not always just easy and chilled.
Mostly its paperwork, writing mails, planning things and a lot waiting; we've scheduled everything for the next month and so it’s mostly waiting for things to happen.
Sometimes you just don't go with the flow and hype, but it's OK because you’re doing your own thing...You’ve said that Retrograde is a platform for music for ‘moving backwards to escape the flow’; do you think this idea of escapism is important when releasing music? How important do you think it is for the releases on the label to be atmospheric and emotive?
I really liked that Idea of not doing what everyone expects from you. Sometimes you just don't go with the flow and hype, but it's OK because you’re doing your own thing and at some point people will accept that. Retrograde gives us the possibility to really do that, and that’s so important to me.
Over the past couple of years I found out that I’m way happier when I do my own thing, instead of delivering what labels or promoters expects from me. But coming back to your question, I don't think it’s necessary or important for everyone, but we want to give each artist, releasing on Retrograde, the opportunity to express himself however he wants. Also searching for new, different or uncommon ways of producing and releasing music is really something that helped me to develop in the last two years.
The label’s aesthetic is very art-focused, with the visuals being particularly colourful and striking – do you think that art has been a big inspiration for you and your music? Or do you think that the cover and label art comes to you after you have produced a track?
First of all I think we're very lucky to use these paintings from my stepfather for our artworks. They are all incredibly beautiful and interesting and I can already promise this was just the very beginning of many eye-catching artworks. I really think these artworks also influence the final product and everyone who buys the record. It rounds up each individual release and makes it very unique. And yes, the art is a big inspiration for me but not really for my production. We never know which artwork we're going to use for the next four releases, we just collect the tracks and then look for a artwork that fits best to the music.
I think we're very lucky to use these paintings from my stepfather for our artworks.
They are all incredibly beautiful & interesting...My personal inspiration comes more from other music or mostly special moments in a club. I've heard many good DJ's play over the last years and had a lot great ideas for upcoming tracks while dancing to their sets.
The track that really kicked things off for you was ‘Shake That’ in 2014, which was a Top 10 track in clubs for a long time– this is very different to your more recent productions which definitely have had more of an underground, intricate vibe - is this the kind of music you prefer producing? Did you notice your style develop dramatically in the last couple of years?
When I first released “Shake That” I just started working with Ableton for maybe one year, I never went digging and had a pretty small library of music to play in my sets. I was really stuck in that genre and never looked around at maybe the more housy, underground or even techno type of music. So it came that at some point I played a show in club and then realized that I don't even like to play this kind of music anymore. By that time I was also struggling to produce a follow up release and it all ended in a long term of not producing music and of being very uncreative.
I learned that it's not only about the music, it’s also about the community and movements in the underground scene.. Then at some point, Gerrit moved to Berlin and lived with me for one month. I never really had contact with him before, he was just a friend of my flatmate, but I turned out that we both became good friends during this time. We also both share the love for music and good club nights and so it came that I started to listen to completely new styles and Djed with him. With Gerrit and Matteo I also went digging in record shops for the first time and during this period I really found out about my love for “underground” house and techno music. Also I learned that it's not only about the music, it’s also about the community and movements in the underground scene and that were something that I’ve never experienced before, but that I totally enjoy.
Being a fairly new label, can you comment on what sets Retrograde apart from other labels in Berlin? Is the music scene in Berlin very competitive for labels, DJs and producers?
Obviously there is a lot competition in Berlin, but I think this also has its good sides. Having so many DJ's, Producers and Labels here, also means that you always have direct access to good music and a lot inspiration. And in the end all comes together anyway.
I think the idea is not to work against each other, it’s about working together...I think the idea is not to work against each other, it’s about working together, so I also guess that it doesn't mean there is no space for you to grow in this scene just because there are already successful other labels around you. It's about us, our crew and our music, and about being respectful.
Can you tell us a bit about how you got started producing music? Can you remember some of your first experiences with electronic music?
To make a long story short, I would say it all started with clubbing. I went out in an early stage of my life. It's such a fascinating thing to dance & be connected to everyone else around you without really knowing each other. So As soon as I realised that I also want to connect people somehow, I started to watch YouTube tutorials of how to produce with Ableton and how to DJ. I just recovered some early productions on my old hard drive some weeks ago, and listening to that really had me in tears from laughing so hard. It's just crap :) But anyway, I guess every track that I've produced so far is important for me development and I don't regret a single one of them.
Thanks! Finally, are there any artists you’d like to see involved with Retrograde, or any exciting forthcoming releases on the label after the various artists EP? What’s next from you?
There are actually plenty artists that I’d like to see involved with Retrograde:
Al Kassian: Alex recently started his own label and is such a talented producer and also down to earth guy. I met him at Panorama Bar some weeks ago when I went out to listen to Massimiliano Pagliara set there. I turned out that we both had a remix from Massi.
After that night we started to meet each other from time to time and now we're exchanging music frequently. Having him on Retrograde at some point would superb! BTW. Check out his latest release on his own imprint Planet Sundae:
Mathis Ruffing: Also a friend of ours who’s about to drop his debut EP on Banlieu later this month. Talented producer and DJ and hopefully someday, contributor for Retrograde.
Coming back to me, there is another Single coming up on DJ Haus's imprint HOT HAUS later this year together with Paris Brightledge. We both also just finished a new EP for Retrograde that might come end of this year as well. And I’m working on a lot new material for 2017, so I guess, stay tuned and hopefully talk again very soon. Thanks for having me :)