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Helena Hauff: In Conversation Before Her Upcoming 'fabric presents' Launch

photography RIYA HOLLINGS
30 September 2023

Helena Hauff is a name that resonates powerfully within the electronic music realm. In a digital age dominated by the latest gadgets, her mobile phone—devoid of a camera—stands as a testament to her aversion to mainstream digital culture. Choosing to remain disconnected, Helena lets her music communicate, steering clear of social media's incessant noise.

As we settled into our chat, the recent buzz from her 'fabric presents' mix and compilation released on fabric Records was still very much alive. This collection of tracks, showcasing her impeccable skill as a selector, is set to be celebrated with a launch party this weekend.

The mix is fierce, featuring high-tempo, punchy electro, breakbeat, and techno tracks, full of hammering percussion and squelchy acidic synths. It feels mature and unpredictable. Masterfully weaving between structure and chaos, marrying her new single with classic tracks like Radioactive Man's “Night Bus To Nowhere” and unreleased gems like Magda Rot's - Alter Simus. Helena once more offers listeners an entrancing ticket to a dystopian, yet intoxicatingly euphoric dancefloor.

In this interview, Helena shares insights into her inspirations, challenges, and collaborative ventures. A rare peek into the psyche of an eminent electro selector and producer.

photography Riya Hollings

Hugh Barton: Helena! How has the summer been for you?

Helena Hauff: Summer’s been a whirlwind of emotions. On one hand, it’s been this incredible journey where I've found a renewed passion for DJing. I'm so in love with it again. I've truly felt reconnected with my art. On the flip side, it’s also been physically taxing. Balancing gigs and personal rest, especially sleep, has been a challenge. I'm actively looking to adjust my schedule to find that harmony, maybe no more morning sets for me.

HB: I notice you’re still wearing a wristband. Did you play this morning?

HH: Actually, I didn’t! The wristband is from a gig in Philadelphia a few days back, it's the wrong way around, but I prefer it this way. It wasn’t planned, but I felt it blended well with my outfit. Almost like they created the wristband for it. It’s these little spontaneous decisions and keepsakes that often add colour to my life. If they're ugly, I'm going to take them off immediately. But if they're nice, I'm like “Oh, come on, I've got a little accessory here.”

HB: The music scene keeps evolving. How do you perceive these shifts?

HH: It's a mixed bag. The integration of music with mainstream social media platforms sometimes dilutes the essence. However, while the sound may evolve, becoming faster or harder, I believe the soul of music largely remains untouched. The essence, the heart of it, persists. Music sees trends. We've witnessed various phases - minimal, and now, hard and fast ‘TikTok’ techno. It's the rhythm of the industry. These trends mark periods but don’t necessarily define the entirety of music.

HB: On that note – you have remained largely absent from mainstream social media platforms. Yet, there’s an active Helena Hauff fan page? Do you think this decision has affected your connection with your fans and the industry?

HH: It's a conscious choice on my end to remain disconnected. It's fascinating that the fan page is so active. It surprises me at times when I see where I've been and what I've done. I've learned it's run by someone from France, a regular guy with a family, which is intriguing. My absence from social media has given me a different perspective, and I do sometimes feel the pull, wishing I could share moments. You see something, you want to take a picture, and my phone doesn't even take pictures. And no, I didn't put this here to show you, that’s my phone. But overall, the peace I get from staying offline is invaluable.

HB: What do you think is a good metric for success in the music industry?

HH: Success isn’t quantifiable by followers or likes. It's deeply personal and subjective. To me, it's about finding joy in my work, ensuring financial stability, being happy with what you're putting out and feeling a connection to my audience. If those align, that's my success metric. If you don't enjoy playing three shows a week, but you're playing three shows a week, then how is that in any way successful?

HB: Your fabric mix launch is this weekend, could you talk about the process of curating this mix and the launch?

HH: It’s exciting. I’m just happy to just be a part of this and I’m thrilled that Autechre agreed to have their remix on the compilation, so that means a lot. I've been such a humongous Autechre fan for all my life, so that’s cool to release something that has some connection to them. The upcoming release party, with its stellar line-up including a live set from Radioactive Man, is just insane to me.

HB: IMOGEN’s collaboration story with you is quite the tale too, with one of her tracks featuring on this mix following your appearance on her show. How does this play into the music scene’s evolution?

HH: Collaborations like this are heart-warming and showcase the organic ties in the music community. It's pure joy to witness new talent rise, playing music I love. And I think you can learn so much from each other. It's exhilarating and a source of mutual growth. New artists, with their fresh perspectives and enthusiasm, bring a much-needed liveliness. This synergy between the old and new is what keeps the music landscape vibrant and ever-evolving. To also see how much it means to them to be part of a mix like this is just incredible.

photography Riya Hollings

HB: Your continued collaboration with one of our favourite local DJs from Melbourne Moopie. Where did you meet and how did you align in music and on the stage?

HH: He got in touch with me when I was in Melbourne and said: “Do you want to play this party…tomorrow? I was like: “Why not? Let's do it”. It was unexpected, leading to a spontaneous back-to-back set. I hadn’t usually enjoyed them before, but now I see them as a nice challenge. You discover music on your records that you never knew because sometimes you don’t know what to play. I don’t usually prepare for it, and it’s fun to do that. The chemistry with Moopie was great, and then recreating it in Berlin at Tresor only solidified our collaborative synergy. It showcased the beauty of unplanned moments, and now I’m so excited about back-to-backs.

HB: If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be?

HH: That's a challenging one. Jamming in the studio with James Stinson from Drexia would be a dream. But imagining a collaboration with a singer to sing on top of my stuff, like David Bowie or something, would be so cool. Imagine if you had Bowie sing on your boring techno tracks - I’m not sure what the hell it would sound like, and that excites me!

HB: In a world where technology constantly evolves, how do you see the future of hardware synthesizers and vintage equipment in electronic music production?

HH: First of all, I don't think it matters what you use. I think it matters more like "What do you need to be creative?". For me - sitting in front of a computer, it's like this empty screen, and you could make anything. You've got all the options, and it's just too much for me. I need to have the limitations to be creative. I like the idea of a machine that can only do one thing, and then you do that thing with it. It’s not just about the sound but the experience. Hardware offers tactile engagement, it's more the hands-on turning knobs thing that I love about the gear. There’s something invigorating about physically crafting sound. While digital platforms have merits, the allure of hands-on hardware remains timeless.

HB: Your DJ sets radiate intense energy. What’s the philosophy behind them?

HH: Most records, I mainly buy for that one track that's on there. And then it’s funny when you end up playing the flipside when you play back-to-back with Moopie. But ultimately, I envision my sets as a shared experience. It's a dance of energies between me and the audience. When two tracks align perfectly, it's magical. I love when two records go together and create a new track and a new thing, and when you feel that happening, you're like: oh my god, these fit so perfectly, and it's like this match of two things that weren't meant to be together. When that happens, it’s magical. It creates this feeling of togetherness and oneness. My favourite experiences on stage are when everything fuses - the crowd’s vibe, the ambience, and the music.

HB: Your album “Qualm” was quite a pivot. Can you delve into its conception?

HH: It’s interesting because "Qualm" reflects a dual narrative - capturing both 'smoke' in German and 'unease' in English. After my earlier melodic work, I wanted to capture something more spontaneous, and raw, and that’s what birthed “Qualm”. That’s what I felt like doing at the moment. The very first album that I made, ‘A Tape’, was like a collection of tracks that I randomly recorded in the process of figuring out how to make music. It’s probably my favourite album, actually, the very first one. When I go into the studio, the best things happen when I don't really have a plan and when I'm just in the moment and just experimenting with my machines and with sounds and see what happens and see where it leads and where it takes me.

photography Riya Hollings

HB: You mentioned before about usually buying records for the one track. Is that also a reason why, predominantly since 2018, you have released mostly singles?

HH: Good question, I think you’re right. Perhaps. I find beauty in individual tracks, which might explain my inclination towards singles. Post-2018, I collaborated on an album during the pandemic, but it remains unreleased. While albums require focused dedication, singles can be more spontaneous. The beauty of an album is in its cohesive narrative, but I relish the freedom singles offer. Every track can tell its tale, and together, they might weave an unplanned story. My approach is very DJ-esque; I let the tracks find their narrative.

HB: You have a unique collaboration in Hamburg called Electric Lights, could you talk to us about this event and what it stands for?

HH: It’s an exhilarating venture with a good friend, photographer and colleague Katja Ruge at the Planetarium. The idea of blending electro with celestial visuals feels like an exploration of music and space. I'm a massive physics enthusiast and I love stars and planets in the universe, I think Electro is possibly the best soundtrack for this. The setting, amidst the stars, while our tracks play, is an experience I’m eagerly awaiting and want to do events like this at least once a month.

HB: A piece of advice for young DJs?

HH: It’s crucial to be genuinely passionate. The world of DJing, while rewarding, demands an unwavering commitment. If it's not a burning desire, if it doesn't consume your thoughts, perhaps it's worth re-evaluating. when it comes to the creative process, just stay excited and try and look at things like it's the first time you've looked at them.

HB: Lastly, when are you gracing Australia again?

HH: I would love to come back tomorrow if I could. I want to spend my winters in Australia. I hate winter. I hate the cold. I would love to come back next year, but I think it's probably going to be the year after, to be honest.

HB: It’s been so nice chatting, good luck this weekend!

HH: You too! It’s been a highlight!

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