Photo: Esteban Studio (Lennart Wiehe)
Lennart Wiehe belongs to a generation for which techno has always been there and for whom it is difficult to add something to the rich history of the genre. Born in the mid 90s, the German OOST resident’s mix for our Groove podcast however showcases a fresh approach to old and new material – edits of Kraftwerk or Le Syndicat Électronique sit comfortably next to cuts from Adiel or Gian. That’s not the only way in which Wiehe is contributing to scene: having discontinued his Schleifen label where he released music under the Ravechild moniker, the Marcel Dettmann protegé is currently readying his first solo EP under his proper name as well as his new project, the platform Kuratorium. Listen to Lennart Wiehe’s mix and read our interview below.
You have a deep connection with Groningen’s OOST club, where you have been a resident since 2016. How did the residency come about and what makes this club special to you from a DJ’s perspective?
I moved to Groningen in the Netherlands in 2014 to study there. Two years later, in 2016 when the club opened, four of my friends and me already had a small party concept going. Basically, what we did back then was renting off-locations, doing small bookings, and playing ourselves. Around the time of their opening, the OOST founders approached us to move our concept over to their place. From then on we had our monthly thing there — playing regular but different kind of slots, booking artists we could not have afforded before. I was 21 at the time and they offered us kind of a safe space to learn about all kinds of clubbing aspects, not only DJing. For me it felt pretty much perfect. I even wrote my bachelor thesis about artist booking at OOST. All of our little group moved to Berlin at one point or another but I still return to play the club as often as possible. It is my homebase as a DJ after all; not the first club I played at but the place where I became good at it, I would say. I think much of my aesthetic when playing is derived from my OOST socialization with an intimate crowd of maybe three-hundred people. Also the owners Bram, Rob and Jorn, as well as many other people connected to club are my friends now, so coming back really is coming home.
OOST is mostly characterised by its booking, however the musical side is being complemented by a decidedly LGBTQ+-friendly appearance and moderate admission fees. How important do you think are the social aspects of a club?
I think the original and most basic purpose of clubs is and always has been to have some kind of positive social impact. This can come in many shapes and forms. One thing that is often deprecatory referred to as hedonism is an important social capacity, too. For many people clubs are our society’s best-working tools to feel positive or, to put it more fundamentally, free. This is even more true for people who feel different in any of countless ways. I do think that having the possibility to escape from reality for a while or just meet friends in a utopically casual setting plays an integral role in many working people’s stress relief system and thus contributes to the functioning of a society that, for some, is only endurable this way. Apart from that, it is great to see that inclusiveness regained stronger public focus over the last few years and younger institutions like OOST live it as a core value from their start. Miss Jay and Fafi Abdel Nour, two fellow OOST residents manifested this with their great Homoost party, which is a lovingly put-together, dedicated and holistic LGBTQ+ concept.
You ran the label Schleifen, but after two releases under your Ravechild pseudonym as well as an EP by His Master’s Voice however discontinued the imprint in 2018. Why?
There are many reasons why there are only three releases on Schleifen, the most prominent and decisive one being my own persistent doubt if its concept is right for me at this moment. Schleifen started at a time when I was even less experienced than now and learned basically everything about running a label from scratch by just doing it. At the time it came natural to just go with the flow and release music that felt right to put on vinyl. It was a really fun experiment but there are so many labels with a similar concept doing this in a much better and more regular fashion. Take LACKRec. from Berlin for example: cool people releasing good music, as simple as that. It is authentic and in a way organic for them to release from their relatively fixed group because they always have something fitting lined up, a coherent sound and great art direction. For me it does not work like this, at least for now. If I would ever continue Schleifen or start something new like it, I would want to also be able to provide a reliable and permanent creative outlet to the people releasing on the label. I wanted to do something rather different for some time already and am very happy to take the steps in this direction now.
Now, you are launching Kuratorium – not a label in the strict sense of the word, but a platform. What is the concept behind it?
Kuratorium is going to be a collection of projects with a different curator in charge for each one. The basic idea is to have a gallery-like outlet for music curation: There is an infrastructure in the background that holds everything together but content-wise two different projects could be miles apart. For most projects my role will be to choose a curator and help this person to put together their release and everything connected to it. In both curation and operation, there are no set boundaries or rules for what has to or cannot be done. The one fundamental question that will stand in the beginning of each project, no matter who the curator is will be “what do I stand for as part of this whole (music) scene?” My ideal – but so far imaginary – scenario right now is that each curator will this way be able to manifest their own artistic or curational vision by distilling its most basic underlying values. This might sound quite abstract and maybe it all goes in a completely different direction than I expect now. However, in the end I just want to try out this new idea, have fun with it, give some great and very different curators without an own stage the possibility to showcase what they are all about. Also, I am sure that Kuratorium will only run for a limited time — I am not really expecting any outcome other than seeing what will happen.
You are curating the first release yourself with the intention to meet a “need for sublety and hiss,” as you put it in a press release. What exactly does this entail?
As stated before, the basic approach for each project is to create a definition of what the curator stands for. When I first introduced the topic I chose for my own release to other people, one of the reactions was that it is formulated artsy and thus a bit too pretentious for the content being club music. This is not at all the intention though. When I break down what my taste as a music collector, selector, lover, or whatever you might call it and my vision as an artist are all about, it comes down to this: subtlety and hiss — a certain kind of roughness, groove and warmth. Many people, including me, have this growing need for subtlety and hiss because much of the club music in general and techno in specific has become so clean, cold, reverberating, harsh. Curating this project, I was not searching for something that can specifically be labeled “techno” or fulfills some other kind of definable criteria but rather for this feeling you get when you hear the music, which I summarise as subtlety and hiss. Subtlety in the sense that you cannot name what exact element tickles your emotional response at the first listen. And hiss in the sense that something sounds organically grown instead of produced for maximum club effectivity only. In the best case a listener can hear or feel what I mean. Let’s see, the first project will be released early next year.
You have labelled your mix for our Groove podcast as “small room techno” – “warm, rough and a little bit hissy.” What was the idea behind it?
Of course, the term “small-room-techno” is not an entirely serious one. Just as in my own Kuratorium project, this mix is all about the manifestation of the sound or feeling behind it that I am chasing. There are exceptions but most of the time this means staying away from big drops or trancey leads and more on the grooving and driving side of techno, electro, house, or whatever you want to call the genres I put together here. To me, most of the music I play sounds like it was made to be played in packed and sweaty clubs rather than on big and well-lit festival stages — which is not to say the music would sound in any way worse in those huge places, it is only what I associate with it. Female’s “Surrounded By Enemies” for example represents the kind of tracks I mean, which might be kind of ironic because the record is from a time and place where techno was mostly happening in warehouses. Still, it just has this certain kind of roughness and seeming imperfection that gets me. To push this further, I started doing edits of other people’s music more, which you can find some of in this mix as well. These edits are not meant as creative works but rather adjustments to make some music fit my overall sound. Take my edit of “Process 5” by LSD for example: The original is a really big-roomish tune but the first minute of it is one of the most driving pieces of new techno I have heard in a long time, so I cut and extended it and put a vocal sample of Black Merlin’s “Machine” on top of it. This way it gets a different overall feeling and is suitable for completely different playing situations, too.
Last but not least: Where can we see you behind the decks in the next weeks and what are your plan as a producer?
Next Saturday, I am playing Nazomeren Festival in the Netherlands. The day after, I’ll be back at Berghain to play downstairs instead of Panorama Bar for the first time. Another highlight of mine in the weeks after is our first and very low-key Kuratorium opening party at my favorite bar in my hometown Hanover, called Bronco’s. For this year’s Amsterdam Dance Event, Marcel Dettmann invited me to play his new-label-celebrations together with an extended Bad Manners travel group at Shelter featuring a totally insane line up. About my plans as a producer — it took me some time but I now have the first EP under my real name finished and it should come out in a few months. Next to this, my Kuratorium project is going to include a bit of my own work, too. It was not intended initially but all the music that is credited under my name now features some fragment of my voice or breath, which is easily recognizable at some times and very subtle or hidden at others.
Stream: Lennart Wiehe – Groove Podcast 223
01. Leo Anibaldi — Fusion I (LW Edit)
02. VC-118A — Hiss
03. The Exaltics — The Others
04. Rivet — Shards Will Shine
05. Kraftwerk — Musique Non Stop (LW Edit)
06. Adiel — In Tokyo
07. Aderall — XR50 (Demo Version)
08. Exterminador — Bleeding From Inside
09. Gladio — Gladio Is Free (MD Edit)
10. Lennart Wiehe — Rausch
11. Luke Slater — Love (Marcel Dettmann Black Gloves Remix)
12. Female — Surrounded By Enemies
13. Barker — Gradients Of Bliss
14. Foreign — Split
15. Jamie Bissmire — The Old Straight Track (Part 6)
16. Objekt — Lost and Found (Found Mix)
17. LSD — Process 5 (LW Machine Edit)
18. Gian — Oxyrin
19. Le Syndicat Électronique — Aux Morts (LW Edit)
20. Ausgang — Sudden Impact
21. His Master’s Voice — Taurus
22. Tafkamp — Towards The End
23. Hell + Jonzon — Lifeform
24. Strange Birds — Birdshit 3
25. Bambounou — VVVVV
26. De Ambassade — Geen Genade