Rødhåd: Layer by Layer
Ahead of his first trip to the Scottish capital, the German producer discusses his dystopian sound and how a background in architecture may have informed his approach to techno
By now, given the interminable flow of electronic music from the city of Berlin, you could be forgiven for not always believing the hype on encountering another hotly tipped talent emerging from Germany’s sprawling techno Mecca. Yet, if you’ve followed the career of Dystopian label boss Rødhåd over the past few years, it’s more than likely you’ve reasoned that he is no passing fad – his tenebrous and penetrating tracks, as well as those he releases through his label, round off a solid résumé on which his reputation as a DJ is perhaps the crowning achievement. Having thrown popular parties across his native city in the late 90s, crafting a sound heavily centred on moody dub techno and pulsing dancefloor rhythms, he has continued to build up steam and is now increasingly in demand in clubs around the world.
Apparently committed to keeping up the work rate with which he has raised his profile in the last couple of years, Rødhåd seems on particularly industrious form as he speaks to us ahead of his appearance for Substance and Pulse in Edinburgh this month. “My year started like the last one ended,” he reveals. “[I’ve been] sitting in the studio busy and working on new music. I also had to finish a remix for The Howling which comes out soon. Besides that, I took some weeks off after new year to reset myself and get ready for 2015.”
It would be hard to imagine how Rødhåd could possibly eclipse his work rate up until now – his position at number nine in the most recent Resident Advisor DJ Poll has been the result of considerable hard graft and unquestionable talent, while the growing recognition of Dystopian has been another significant achievement. Asked about the ethos of the label, Rødhåd explains his commitment to a particular vision, though he clearly isn’t entirely inflexible in his scope. “We still try to release music which fits in the context of our idea of a dystopic sound – darker, maybe melancholic. It doesn’t always need to be four to the floor though. We are also still looking for some nice house tunes, because Dystopian doesn’t always need to be techno, as long it has the right atmosphere to it.”
Thus far, that Dystopian theme has been shaped by releases by the likes of Recondite, Alex.Do and Distant Echoes who in their own different ways complement the glowering productions produced by Rødhåd himself. “As the idea was always to keep it in the family, and involving friends and artists we respect, while still focusing on our Dystopian vision, we don’t want it to grow more. But, from time to time, we try to surprise ourselves and the listeners and release stuff from artists you wouldn’t have on your map.”
The producer, who hails from the Hohenschönhausen district on the eastern outskirts of Berlin, appears in Edinburgh this month thanks to the collaboration between promoters Substance and Pulse, both long-serving and worthy ambassadors of the capital’s ever-evolving techno scene. Substance, in particular, have gone from strength to strength over the years, with their recent addition to the line-up for this year’s Bloc Weekender confirming their reputation beyond the Scottish clubbing scene. “I haven’t been to Scotland that often, only Glasgow so far,” says Rødhåd. “But I can say I had one of the best sets in the UK there – so I am prepared for a night full of energy and a wet room!”
While the rampant enthusiasm of Scottish crowds is well known, it’s also true to say that we don’t reduce our clubs to sweat-coated tinderboxes for any old set. Thankfully, Rødhåd’s approach to working a room should be tailor made for the first event in what we hear will be a double bill from Pulse and Substance. The German’s knack for expertly shifting the gears throughout his sets is one of his most recognisable traits. Last year’s Resident Advisor mix, though in no way a solitary example, is a particularly good showcase for his exquisite sense of structure and pacing.
Given he originally plied his trade in the architecture business, is it too much of a stretch to suggest that Rødhåd may have honed certain transferable skills which lend themselves well to his chosen form of techno? “To be more detailed, I worked as an architectural draftsman,” he clarifies. “But yes, I think it affected me, in my way of thinking and in the way I work.
“When I'm producing tracks I'm starting with the fundamentals of a track and adding layer by layer to it. When I was drawing, I was also trying to add on the paper more details and layers. You can also hear that in my sets – I really like to have three or four tracks running at the same time, always adding one sound to another.”
When asked about the year ahead, it’s pleasing to learn that Rødhåd is considering embarking on an album project of his own, potentially including more “non-dancefloor” material, as well as releasing more work from label mates at Dystopian, including the upcoming release from debut artist Daribow. Most pleasing of all, his touring calendar remains packed with shows across Europe, making it all the more satisfying that an Edinburgh crowd are finally getting to sample a contemporary techno behemoth at the top of his game.