Andre Winter began his career many moons ago, just as the German scene was beginning to form. Signed to a number of great labels under a bewildering array of aliases, his music soon caught the attention of a certain Oliver Huntemann, with whom Andre worked for many years. Now back to the solo career, Andre’s inimitable stye forged from his love of the original House sounds of Chicago and Detroit are climbing the charts and playlists of the great and good.
A&R Simon Huxtable sat down with Andre to discuss his life, the music and the future.
Hi Andre, so glad we can finally get together. How are you today?
I’m fine, thank you!
Lets start right at the beginning. You’ve already had a fantastic career in electronic music, but where did it all start for you?
I started in my room with some equipment when I was 18. One day a friend of mine showed me an ad in a music magazine: Record label looking for new artists. We called the number a couple of times but only got the answering machine. So, next time we called we played music on the answering machine for 30 seconds, two days later we had a record contract!
Throughout your career, you’ve adopted different project names. From Freakazoid to D-Saw, Gate 28 and more, what inspired you musically in the early days of the German scene?
At that time everything was new and exciting, music you never heard before. I was engaged with electronic music before, but techno revolutionised everything. All day I tried to figure out how to produce these new futuristic sounds.
How difficult was it getting signed to labels like Superstition and Bush back in the day? Do you think the role that A&Rs play now is easier, or different?
It was not easy then. However, by previous releases I had a foot in the door and I met people who opened other doors for me. On the one hand, I think it is easier today to release music simply because there are more possibilities and platforms. On the other hand, it is as difficult as it ever was for music to catch on, as there are so many releases nowadays and you simply cannot listen to all of it.
Do you miss the 90s? I see so many retro and vinyl only nights these days; they were unique times for many of us..
No, I don’t miss the 90s and I don’t miss the 80s. These times bring back good memories but there was also, like in any other decade, a lot of terrible music. I don’t want to go back in time and I always preferred to look ahead. Maybe that is why I got involved with electronic music because to me it has always been the sound of the future.
Have you always lived in Hamberg? What have been the main developments over time to the city both generally, and musically?
I moved to Hamburg 15 years ago. Naturally its has changed over the years. Once it was a stronghold of House, now there is a much wider variety music wise. Other than that, things are like in any other big town, clubs come and go. Today, this is hot and tomorrow it is that. Anyways, I really like living in Hamburg. Berlin might have a bigger variety, but I like the congeniality of the city.
As a tourist on a clubbing holiday, where would you advise me to go for the best food, drinks and non dance experiences?
For me the perfect hotspot is my couch, while playing GTA and having delivery pizza…. But something else I really enjoy too is the maritime ambiance of the city. I like sitting in cafés facing the Elbe and the harbour. Close to my apartment there is a beautiful little Sardinian restaurant where I like to go to have dinner.
Lets tackle that topic of ghost production. It was the norm in the 90s for a DJ to have a team around them. One of the members of that team might be a studio engineer who could translate the noises in the artists head, into the tracks they would later sell, and use as promotional material for tours and shows. But somewhere along the line, those lines became blurred, and it was asked of the DJ to do more. How did things change for you? How did those changes make you feel?
Honestly, I am not sure if there has been a big change. Surely, the new generation has learnt how to produce music without having a studio, but all the work around it hasn’t become lesser. And you can’t do these things single-handedly. Production, artwork, PR, tour management, booking, the works, there isn’t enough time. Therefore, you need a good team to support you, and that was so in the past and this is so in the present day.
Tell us about working with Oliver. How did you guys meet and do you and Oliver and Ali still get together at all?
I’ve known Oliver for a long time. We grew up in the same small town. We’ve worked together in the studio for more than 10 years, and apart from that we are good friends and do stuff outside the “4 to the floor”. At Dubfire, we are two teams. Oliver and I work in Hamburg. We send the sessions to Washington, and Washington sends them back to us.
You’re be no means alone in starting a solo career from the point of producer first. Countryman Martin Buttrich has also succeeded after working for Timo Maas for number of years. How was it to begin with? Did you look for representation straight away?
Actually, I started as a live act, and released only my stuff under various aliases, but due to stage fright, I retired to the studio and produced other DJs and bands. A couple of years ago I felt like the time is right to release my own works again and performing live as a DJ.
These days many high profile DJs use ghost producers, but you never hear about them. Theres a sense that a ghost producer is a bad thing: like the artist ought to be able to do it all themselves, and yet so many of my full time producer buddies do it to pay the bills. Why do you think there has been this shift in public opinion, is it just the media becoming elitist again?
Well, I think the idea of a ghost producer is that you don’t hear about him. Personally, I don’t see myself as a ghost producer. If I got that right you ask for a certain sound and two days later you got a track in your mail. That is a very anonymous process in my opinion.
For me, the face-to-face contact in the studio is essential. I try to create something new for the artist, I don’t just adopt a style. Apart from that, it is very important for me to be credited. In the present day, the artists are expected to do everything themselves, even an external sound mixer is considered a weakness. That’s why it’s hard for acts to admit that they don’t do everything themselves.
When your engineering for someone, how much of an influence can you put on their creativity?
I don’t see myself in any way as an engineer, who is just, as I see it a gofer in the studio; someone to wire or adjust a compressor. I don’t function as a tool in the studio. I am a creative producer or an executive producer if you want to call it that.
Moreover, I am very choosy in terms of projects and people. So if they suck, I don’t work with them and if they are interesting I’m their man. The collaboration with other artists in the studio is an intimate thing, and has to do with responsibility. To start a creative process you have to make sure that everyone involved feels comfortable. I can’t work with anyone, and if there is no chemistry I have to be honest and say sorry, it just doesn’t work with us.
If you could, would you ever want to go back to just making music, and leave the circus of DJ gigs, shows, social media, interviews(!) etc to someone else?
Taking pictures of my meals, selfies with my buddies while detoxing, dealing with taxes, contracts, photo shoots and such things feel unnatural for me, and they distract me from my actual work. Nevertheless, they are part of the job nowadays. However, I have grown to love the gigs, because they are the complete contrast to my studio work.
With your roots in the early sounds of Detroit and Chicago very clearly still shining through in your tracks, do you think dance music is in a healthy place right now?
First off, it’s true, that old Plus8, Underground Resistance, Transmat records influenced me, however, I wasn’t aware that you can still hear that influence, but I got no problem with that. Concerning your question, I do think that dance music is in a healthy place right now. Many people are able to live on it and there is a fan base all over the world. It is very cool to travel to the remotest place and still find someone who shares your musical interests.
And next year… what can we expect release wise?
At the beginning of next year there will be a remix EP on Senso Sounds, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of my release D-Saw – Track 10:30. The remixes are from H.O.S.H., Re.You, Dubspeeka and myself. Right now I am working on a new collaboration with Hatzler, who is also long time music companion of mine, which is also due at the beginning of 2016.
As Christmas draws closer, how do Germans typically celebrate the holiday season? In England we eat too much, get drunk and argue with our relatives!
We do pretty much the same, only that we start one day earlier and we need the rest of the year to recover from listening to Wham’s Last Christmas! haha
Hahaha, Do you have the holiday period off, or is it gigs gigs gigs!?
For the first time in many years I am going on vacation between Christmas and New Years Eve. And I’m really looking forward to it.
Andre, its been a wonder chat, I’ve learned so much today, thank you for being so open and honest. Decoded wishes you the best of luck for 2016 and beyond, is there anything you’d like to say to finish on?
Thank you for the interview and I would like to thank my family and friends for their support in the last year. All the best for 2016!
Photo credits : Foto Franz
01// Ron Costa – Gez Uri [Potobolo Recs]
02// David Mayer – Helios [Gruuv]
03// André Winter – Decreased [Senso Sounds]
04// Oliver Huntemann- Pech [Senso Sounds]
05// Patrick Chardronnet – Wobbler [Audiomatique]
06// Simon Garcia – Ataraxia [Poker Flat]
07// Tale of Us & Mind Against – Astral [Life and Death]
08// Hot Since 82 – Damage [Truesoul]
09// Oliver Koletzki – Iyewaye (Hatzler Remix) [Stil vor Talent]
10// Dense & Pika – Delta System [Kneaded Pains]
11// Mandigo- Universe I [Rekids]