Raw techno from a rising star.
Héctor Oaks is one of the new stars of Berlin techno. Raw and energetic, his sound was shaped by years behind the counter at The Record Loft, a place Oaks calls it the "best shop in the history of electronic music." Originally from Madrid, he's affiliated with a few of the world's leading techno institutions. One is Herrensauna, a monthly rave that's among the best gay parties in a city full of them. The other is Bassiani, the Tbilisi nightclub central to the city's thriving techno scene. Put simply, Oaks regularly plays to some of the best dance floors in the world.
His sound as a DJ is well matched to these situations. Drawing from techno new and old, he mixes the tough, loop-driven beats of the '90s with psychedelic modern tools, resulting in an aesthetic that feeds the mind and body. That sound also feeds into his productions, which have appeared on his own OAKS label and, more recently, on an album through Bassiani's label.
But as we hear in RA.675, the odd jacking house track—like, say, a Dance Mania classic—is never far away for Oaks. This balance of sounds—sometimes tough, sometimes smooth—helps explain his popularity. If you're in the mood to trip out, he has you covered. And if you just want to jack your body? He's got that covered, too.
What have you been up to recently?
Honestly, I'm having the greatest time. I'm going hard touring, so I'm continuously meeting people, getting to know new places, coming back to others, digging the most I can and learning about the culture in first person. Performing for people is what I love most, and getting the chance to do it this way is amazing.
Last December I released my first album on Bassiani Records and this year I've been busy scheduling my labels OAKS and KAOS. Reissuing some industrial techno milestones like Takaaki Itoh's Killing All Anarchists and hyper techno from the Fast Forward crew from Copenhagen.
How and where was the mix recorded?
It was recorded at my home studio which is basically my living room in Berlin. I did it with two 1210s, an Allen & Heath Xone:92 and an Eventide H9 for adding some more variety to the mixes. I packed a bag as if I would have done for a gig and recorded it one take.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
I wanted to provide this as a document of my style, taste and attitude playing music. Like when I perform in a club, I use records as only. Although it may sound too romantic, a lot of the music in those 12-inches played a really important role in my life. Some helped me to grow. Others connect me to a person, or bring me back to a time or a place. Some of them even make me feel what I was doing back when I got them.
I think that playing music that you're emotionally connected with through a big soundsystem for a crowd can cause a great impact on the dancers, ravers and listeners, like it once did with me.
You're a resident at Herrensana, widely considered one of Berlin's best techno parties. What makes it so special?
In my opinion, there was never something like this in Berlin. First of all, it's a completely safe space, as many in Berlin, but the music is really important to this. The guests and the residents are always trying to push the limits and give the perfect soundtrack to that utopic scenario of freedom and hedonism.
The ravers are there to have the best time possible. I have the feeling that every time is better. I can only recommend to go and live it by yourself.
You play at lot of techno from the '90s and '00s in your sets. What is about techno from that era that excites you?
Everything started years ago. I was already deep into digging techno, then I started to work in what it was probably the best shop in the history of electronic music, The Record Loft. There I had the chance to discover other styles, Chicago house, proto-techno, EBM, electro and got in touch with music that I otherwise would have never found.
All that music was so exciting that I needed to play it all together. So I came across the conclusion of not categorizing the music that I play by age but by style, intention and sound.
Every era has amazing music the 80's, the 90's the 00's… I was not conscious when this stuff came out and nowadays for me, and most of listeners, sounds fresh. I still play a lot of new music though, a good balance is the key.
What are you up to next?
I can't wait for this summer, where I'll be playing for the first time in some big festivals like Dekmantel, Neopop, Voltage and Pollerwiesen. My agent Levan from Bassiani and I are scheduling a North American tour before that, and I will be joining other Bassiani residents for some showcases around the world.
I've been setting up my studio getting some new machines, getting back into the mood of making music. I'm also working on some collaborations. I'm very excited about the future.