Manuel ‘Mantu‘ Overbeck has successfully crafted a niche in dance music folklore, from humble beginnings to overseeing one of the largest, and most respected house labels in the scene – Get Physical. Now, some years later, and rejuvenated by starting his own record label; With Compliments, we caught up with this dance music enigma to discuss his life, the music and his new label.
Hi Mantu, great to finally get a chance to chat. You live now in Berlin. How do you find it being around such a big collection of musical peers?
It´s one of the reasons why Berlin is probably the best city in the world. Last time I had lunch with Emanuel Satie and then we ran into Ninetoes & DJ Schowi and we met some more people from the scene at the next coffee place. A little bit like you´re the whole year at Sonar and meet everywhere just by accident. And all deejays from all around the world play here, you listen to their sets and party with them.
Talk us through the scene in Berlin now. It’s not all Berghain techno, is it?
Berghain is consistent. Always great line ups and a full techno experience. But the scene is much more then that, of course Watergate is a guarantee for a great night, but in the summer you have to check out the outdoor locations like Sisyphus, Ipse, Club der Visionäre, Kater Blau. Those hot summer nights in Berlin with open air parties will drive you crazy. I think in this moment Berlin is the best city in the world. Just go to Resident Advisor and check the daily events, they show you all techno parties from small special places to big club line ups.
Club closure have hit many cities, and their influence has been felt by many of its patrons. Given the long history of dance music in Germany, which club closures do you think dance fans felt the most and will the new crop of clubs have the same level of admiration do you think?
Club closings, openings, re-openings, locations moving is a consistent part of the Berlin scene. And I think it helps to reinvent the club scene and get new fresh inspirations. You can explore new locations and experience new parties. Berlin is the wrong place to make a lot of money but a great place to have a lot of fun experience new venues. In former times I enjoyed Cookies a lot and would love to have it back again.
Now, many will know you best from being on Get Physical, but you’ve had a pretty successful career behind the scenes as an A&R, firstly for Universal Music, Germany and then Get Physical. Talk us through how you became interested in music and decided on a life less ordinary.
I think it was a calling. I started as a surf teacher in France and DJ’d there too, but my mom told me to learn something ‘solid’. So I started in an advertisement agency and specialized on event marketing and film productions. I had the vision to become a director one day, but then Universal Music moved from Hamburg to Berlin and somebody recommend me to work there. I thought it could be interesting and it was. I stayed there for ten years. Started as a club promoter and then doing A&Ring. Philipp from M.A.N.D.Y. was a friend at this time and the company struggled at this time. I love the sound and the label already since their start and wanted to build them up again and push the whole company. Three years later and after releases with DJ T. Hot Since 82, Nôze, M.A.N.D.Y. I had the idea to start my own label and build a platform with my network and put in all my experience and contacts. Now my new label ‘With Compliments’ is running well with talented artists like Daniel Wilde, Franz Alice Stern, Piemont, Ross Evans…just to name some and I consult labels in Berlin and Ibiza for developing their business.
When you moved to Get Physical, were you given any instructions on the labels vision and direction, or were you allowed to mould the sound to what you thought best?
Get Physical had always been a complex structure with the A&Ring. Everybody from the team was invited to propose new music and we discussed it together. We had then the idea to make it more easy for the whole team and the final decision was made by M.A.N.D.Y.; after they played the track a few times on the road. They had to see and feel the energy of the track. My goal was it to keep the people and the artist together. My vision was it to have a crew like a family, which support each other. I’m happy to develop the album with Smash TV and market the album of DJ T. and Nôze. It was our goal to find music with interesting sounds and structures, not ordinary dance music and always cutting edge + with a special twist.
Let’s talk about your new label, With Compliments. What prompted the move, and how’s it been going setting up alone?
It’s great, you can decide by yourself and try out everything you like. I love this freedom. Freedom is one of my main goals and exploring new things with my friends. I see the label as a platform for me and my friends to live a lifestyle around music.
Given the many pitfalls that befall a new label venture, has your expertise averted any problems?
Planning in the future is tough working alone. That’s why I teamed up with my old colleague Martin Runge, who was my former product manager at Get Physical and Daniele Di Martino, who is specialized in social media marketing. A good team is the key to a successful label.
Tell us about the new track – Tred Benedicts’ Churning Heads EP.
Tred was one of the first people that came to me through my new network. He was recommended by Ross Evans, who had the first release on the label. And I’m still thankful for this. It´s a great EP with 2 outstanding deep and experimental grooves. We have great feedbacks from respected people all around the world and I would love to release more music from him.
For the new label, how can producers contact you with demos?
Just get in touch with us via Facebook.
Where else do you find great music these days? Is Soundcloud still the resource it once was?
Soundcloud is a little help, but mainly it’s through friends and recommendations.
For those out there wanting to start their own label, what advice would you give them in terms of business support and ancillary services like distribution companies and working with online stores?
Find people you really like to work with, you need help and support. Check out how your favorite labels are running their business, this is always a good help. (and probably do the opposite) Talk with several distributors and see how you like their offers. I recommend: Kontor, Zebralution, Wordandsound, just to name a few.
We see on Twitter, you’re very vocal with support for quality house music from other producers not affiliated to Get Physical or With Compliments. Is there enough support for dance music these days, or have we all become guilty of retreating within our own branding bubble to only push our own music?
I think socials are not to push anything, it’s to connect and that’s how you have to work with them. Get in touch with people, talk with them and build up a relationship.
2015 has been a pretty good year for dance music generally. Any stand out tracks from Ibiza and beyond you’d like to make special mention of?
Ruben Mandolini – Also! (2015 rework) is my favourite so far. Makes me always smile.
You’ve kindly put together an exclusive mix for us. Can you talk us through some of the track choices, and any interesting mix techniques you’ve employed here?
My special goal was to mix together music that was new to me. It is a reflection of tracks that I really like right now and it´s not perfect. I use Traktor and try to give the mix a flow. Sometimes there are mistakes in the mixing, but that makes it human. I like to try out new things and give me the chance to develop.
Let’s quickly cover your own productions. How did you get into studio craft, and what does your current studio look like?
I work mainly with others in their studio. Right now I do a lot of my music with my friend Dayne S. He is a genius and is doing magic in his studio. Really. We work everything in the box. Ableton is our base and the Native products our favourite tools.
If you had to pass on one studio skill, what would it be?
Having Fun!! hahaha
Do you think being an artist in your own right makes it easier to be an A&R?
Yes, because you understand how the other ones feels that you work with.
Well, it’s been really fun to chat, but I its time to bring things to a close. Is there anything else you wanted to say?
Keep supporting each other!