Interview: 5 minutes with NHOAH

NHOAH is a Berlin-based electronic artist, producer and musician. He is the owner of the record label and art collective, R.O.T (Respect or Tolerate). NHOAH has worked with artists and musicians like Romy Haag, Larry Steinbachek of Bronsky Beat, Gareth Jones of Depeche Mode, David Hasselhoff, The Pogues, Mia., Peacock Palace, Wayne County & The Electric Chairs, to name a few.

NHOAH’s previous album Tangowerk was nominated for the German Record Critics’ Award “Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik”. And in 2017, NHOAH will release a new album titled West Berlin. In tandem with the release, NHOAH is cultivating a live show, including bespoke visuals and a live performance.

We speak with NHOAH about song-writing, the music industry and essential equipment:

Set the tone for us. Why the arts?

There was a time i was thinking about being a scientist or a politician. But i am not patient enough for the science and not cunning enough to fight for success at all costs. Honestly I am a nice guy, haha. If you would put me on a beach with nothing but sun, after a while I would draw lines into the sand, would hit shells to check out their tuning and would sketch a story in my mind on how to bring this to everybody because it is so special. Haha, I’m completely lost in arts.

Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?

Always the idea. I am composing in my head very often, influenced by the headlines of the daily news, the glimpse of an idea or by the pressure of my emotions. To work on my instruments with a goal is challenging and satisfying at the same time. When all of my emotions get well expressed and they sound like my initial idea, I end up in front of my speakers in the studio with goosebumps or tears in my eyes.

Does your material feature any collaborations?

The last album I made included many international collaborations. This time I only worked with my closest friends. Great artists. Lulu Schmidt and Ina Viola on the vocals, and Hajo Rehm for the visualization.

What’s on your current playlist?

Rone, Kölsch, Nils Frahm, Stockhausen, Stephan Bodzin and early german synth-music like Klaus Schulze when he went rhythmic or D.A.F.

Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.

I bring my world of music with me and I am always surprised how easy it is to share feelings on that basis. Music is a universal language, the most honest language you can use. You always will get a true answer. Every Dj knows what I’m talking about, haha. When you lose the crowd on the dance floor, you know you did something wrong. The situation for the musicians changed a lot in this direction. The people react very instantly. For my shows I bring my modular system on stage, a little version of what I use in the studio, and also strange equipment I like to work with. Tools for Craftmen for example. It will be tough and danceable. I am touring in different forms. It will be shows with a band as well as a solo live act, or DJ Set. This could happen for an hour or for three. I am really looking forward to this way of touring.

What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?

I mainly work with a modular synthesizer system and a Prophet. And I use up-to-date software which allows me to control and shape my ideas in unconventional ways. This has only been possible for a short time! Let me say… maybe three years?! I’ve been making music for a long time – more than 30 years. I often had special wishes and, because of that, I’ve spoken to several developers of instruments. They mostly denied working on my suggestions because of the complexity of my visions. Now, they are coming up a lot of software resolutions which fulfill many of these ideas (still some left behind). It’s a good time for producers like me. For a long time, I did things the old fashioned way and I know a lot about frequencies and the possibilities of making things audible. Haha, I could talk for hours about that, maybe I should teach that when I’m too old to hit the road…

Take us through a day in the recording studio.

It’s all about not losing the vibe! The first thing is to build it. If i am working alone it can take days. When i work with other musicians, I start, let me name it as, an “emotional conversation“, which bring us to that level. The rest is just experience and handy craft. I remember days in studios where producers pushed too much, very expensive studios which were filled with stress. This only felt like WORK, WORK, WORK … When the flow is right everything can be done real quick and the music sounds much better. I remember a song I tried to record with a group of very good musicians in a hired-out studio. There was all that expensive gear but the session already went for hours and the recordings didn`t sound perfect. So I suggested to have a dinner break. While the food was delivered to the kitchen and everybody enjoyed the meal, I installed some microphones and nobody noticed. Then, during a coffee break I told them to get their instruments and we recorded right there in between the plates and cups, and did the perfect take of the song in only one go.

Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?

I don’t remember that moment. But I am very aware of that feeling every day, as I live a life I always dreamed of when I was young.

What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?

The thought, “Don’t take it too seriously”

Any emerging artists on your radar?

Two years ago, our artist collective, R.O.T decided to let go some of our famous artists to focus on new and emerging artists, mainly based in Berlin. We were always attracting the underground, and we are good in spotting great talent very early. Vienna is also a great place to find emerging artists. That’s why we are going to open up a dependance of R.O.T. in Vienna.

What gets your creative juices flowing?

My friends, new impressions I mostly get while i am traveling, or new instruments. It happens very often that I need to take a break and go to a coffee shop, sit down and try to relax. In the first moments my brain eases off, I hear the music, the people talking and see the headlines of news lying around. Often I can’t even drink my coffee because I have to return to the studio quickly to scribble down the new ideas. Haha, it’s more challenging to stop the creative flow as to keep the juice flowing.

Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.

I am working with a modular synthesizer filled with sounds by different companies. The ones i like most are from Doepfer, Erica Synth and Cwejman. The combination of analog synth and my computer filled with amazing software is fantastic. I like Soundradix, Ozone and Universal Audio, although the centrum of it all is Ableton. To be able to work live as well as in the studio easily and intuitively, i use controllers like the Beatssteppro or Keystep from Arturia, or the Seq1 from Polyend.
I have a huge studio in Berlin with a lot of outside gear. Fantastic equipment but at the moment I enjoy traveling very much. When I’m touring, I’m happy to have a miniature studio only in my backpack.

Any side projects you’re working on?

I am always in exchange with other artists. Mainly the ones I produce. Our company is shaped as an artist collective. People with many different ideas working separately and in variations together. We are freely exchanging all ideas and knowledge. This forms an amazing flow of inspiration. Also in other fields of artistic work like film, photography, theatre, meditation, even sculpturing artists are working in our factory space. I am really happy to be part of this family.

How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?

Nowadays I collaborate with independent companies more intensively, as before I worked together mostly with major companies. The business changed a lot since streaming. Streaming supports “one-hit-wonders” and not the sustainability of artists. But tell me,  what artist wants to have a hit and then disappear? It’s annoying … The music-business became satisfying for business people and lost a lot of its attraction for artists. In a countermovement a lot of very interesting music is coming up. Music which ignores the conventional behaviour in the music-business completely. That’s great, really great. There are so many inspiring tunes out there that don’t give a shit about the usual length of a song, the words you “should“ use, the sounds which are expected to fit together, or the style we all got used to. More and more the music gets really independent from the learned steps of being successful in the music-business. This is cool but it’s not easy to make a living out of it. I think the more courage you have the better the music gets and the more people get aware of your art.

Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?

A lot of unexpected music, I hope … And more interesting collaborations with other artists I am always looking for. I will tour as often as possible and will work on a presentation which shows my history and understanding of Berlin Music. That sounds pretty much like every artist but it is different, believe me! Also I am working on a book about my experiences in Berlin, parts of the texts will be pre-released in a documentary later this year and can be found as an inlay in my Double-Vinyl which is released in October.

Visit NHOAH’s WEBSITE for more information