Rødhåd has a certain intensity about him. His German sensibility, punctuated by a flash of a smile when interested piqued, made for an incredibly engaging discussion on his roots in Berlin and the evolution of techno this decade. The seriousness in which he takes his craft is immediate—his technical way of thinking is unabashedly German—but beneath the thick beard and sharp eyes you can tell he’s a man that just loves music. A local hero in Berlin, Rødhåd has cast his net from Berghain to Bassiani in a reach that makes him one of the most prolific DJs of our time.
When did you realize you wanted to make your life about music?
It’s hard to say, “this is the year I realized I just wanted to make music,” because, for me, I always tried to have a normal job as long as possible. I stopped working at my office job in 2013. I already had at least two years of heavy touring as a DJ, playing almost every weekend, then working during the week in the office in Berlin. Then in the summer of that year I decided I had to stop working in the office. I was a construction drawer, working in an architecture office. Lots of interior stuff, but also industrial stuff, like 3D.
So, for me, there wasn’t an exact point. I just had to stop working. I was not the guy who was just focused on DJing. For me it was fun.
Do you have any music theory background?
No. I started on software. The first stuff I did was on Reason. My first productions I only did in Ableton. I still work with Ableton, but I use it as the main sequencer for all my hardware. I almost just use it as a multi track recorder. I’m using a Midas Venice console, which has 32 channels, linked with Ableton, and I can also send everything back to the mixer.
How many years have you been producing?
I’ve always been doing little bits here and there, but my first release came out in 2012. I had some knowledge before, but in terms of serious production I started in 2007.
When someone asks, do you say you’re a DJ or a producer?
It’s getting more and more like both. In the beginning I was just a DJ. But now it’s getting more important for me to spend time in the studio and make music. It’s fun.
It’s quite hard these days to just do DJing and get a name through DJing. For me, it was a bit the other way around because I was already quite known in Berlin, kind of like a local hero. I already had international bookings before I had my first release.
Who were your biggest inspirations when you started getting into music?
Techno-wise it was stuff like Ben Sims, Chris Liebing, and DJ Rush. Back when I started DJing in the early 2000s it was really hard stuff, so I was playing 145 bpm super crazy stuff. Ben Sims was really one of my first superheroes. Then later it got more minimalistic.
Who really inspires you these days?
I listen to every kind of music. When I’m traveling or at home I almost never listen to techno. I’m into funk, soul, hip-hop, rock, punk, I listen to a lot of ambient and modern classical stuff.
I like to listen to a lot of music because it gives me inspiration. I, for example, know Recondite really likes his music. At some point I can understand that—we often talk about stuff like this—he doesn’t want to get interrupted. It’s like he doesn’t want to have any external interferences; he just wants to make his own kind of music.
What venues do you like playing the most?
I like playing clubs more. Lately, especially this year, I’ve had really nice experiences in Eastern Europe, like Russia and Georgia and Serbia. Last weekend I played in Bulgaria. There’s a really nice club in Tbilisi, Georgia called Bassiani, which is, for me, one of the best clubs in the world. Not because it’s super fancy or anything, but because it’s underground. It’s under the national football stadium. It’s like an old swimming pool. You get in there and it’s a capacity of maybe 1,200 people. It’s quite dark. They have a good sound system. The people are really into the music. They also go to Berghain—they know this kind of music and they know what they want to hear—but they’re not quite as jaded as people in Berlin.
Has there been an album in the last year you’ve especially gotten into?
It’s funny because we’re releasing it on our label, Dystopian, on November 5th. It’s Monoloc’s new album, The Untold Way. It’s our first longplayer ever. For me, it’s one of the best techno albums in quite a while. I think it’s difficult to make a good techno album. To find the balance between listening and having club stuff in there. I really like the album; I’ve had it on my phone for a long time and I still really like it.
How often are you in the studio these days?
Actually not that often. I’m always on tour, usually in Europe, Asia and a lot in North and South America. I was back here in America in July playing for The Bunker guys at The Paper Box in Brooklyn. It was a 36-hour party. Really good. But I don’t have much time for the studio while I’m traveling.
If you were a new producer right now, what are the first few steps you’d take to try to find your sound?
I would buy Ableton, maybe a few synthesizers. I started by playing around. I really like reading manuals. Almost every synthesizer works in the same way—of course there are different kinds of syntheses—but if you know how an envelope works or how a filter envelope works you can learn. In the beginning it was trial and error, but at some point I just wanted to know how it really works. All the stuff I started with was analog. Do I prefer it over digital? Normally I don’t produce when I’m on tour. When I make music I’m in the studio. I like analog synthesizers, of course, but for me it’s a mixture. We have this modern technology, and I think it’s good to use both. To take the best from both worlds. I think it’s quite difficult to work with only analog. If you think about real analog you have to get everything through your mixer then record it to tape and bring the tape to mastering and then at the end you get a digital master. At some point you have to get digital. I think there are mastering studios that cut from tape to vinyl, but these days it’s limiting not to use digital. If you work with modular synthesizers you can get modules which also do this kind of granular synthesis, but in the ends that’s also digital.