As one of Europe’s most in-demand mixing engineers Hannes Bieger has built an untouchable reputation, with an exhaustive client list that includes some of the biggest names in contemporary house and techno. In 2017 Hannes decided to step back into the foreground and start making his own music again after an extended break. Buoyed by years of experience, a renewed zest for production and a lifelong romance with electronic music he has been touring the world with his ambitious live show, producing a series of acclaimed releases and a stunning album. Determined, driven and downright talented Hannes Bieger is a mixing and production powerhouse with a live show that will blow your socks off...
For 11 years, Hannes occupied a lofty position in the world of mixing and mastering, his magic touch making him a popular choice for a variety of respected producers. However, since 2017 he has been focusing his energy on producing his own music and building an unforgettable live show. Hannes returned to making his own music with his debut EP on Poker Flat in 2017 inspired by the purchase of a coveted Moog modular synth in 2016, which reinvigorated his passion for production.
Placing great importance on this reductive, timeless method for his music, the results have been impressive, with releases on a range of influential labels including Poker Flat, Bedrock, Flying Circus and This And That. His latest studio endeavour has been to produce a full-length LP. ‘Pele’ - named after the Hawaiian Volcano Goddess - has been signed to Awesome Soundwave. It includes a dream collaboration with Ursula Rucker, the infamous spoken-word artist, who Hannes has admired for a long time. ‘Poem For The Planet’ is a timely, heartfelt lament for the plight of Mother Earth which stands alongside the rest of the productions to create a stunning body of work that marks a new level of artistry for Hannes.
Parallel to his production exploits, Hannes has been investing his time and energy into creating his own live show. Signed to the Analog Live agency, Hannes has traversed the globe since returning to the scene with his live show debut in 2018, picking up bookings at some of the world’s best-known festivals and clubs including Awakenings ADE. Over the years he has poured his earnings into collecting a mouthwatering selection of synths. His set up includes a Moog Sub 37, DSI Prophet-6 and a UA Apollo 8 all played through an SSL board, reinforcing Hannes’ belief that there should be no cutting corners when it comes to live shows.
Proof that dedication to one’s craft and an uncompromising focus on quality over quantity can provide the perfect foundation to a lifetime of success. Hannes Bieger is an artist who is reaping the rewards from a lifelong commitment to music, sharing his gift with the world every step of the way…
Hi Hannes! How and where are you right now?
Hey! I’m good… right now I’m at the airport in Ibiza, heading back to Berlin. I had a fantastic show at DC-10 together with Carl Cox and Awesome Soundwave the other night, and now I’m on the way back to get some studio work done.
So, let’s start at the beginning…. Where did you grow up? What kind of music did your parents listen and do you see their musical influences reflected in your music today and if so, how?
It’s a long story... my father’s record collection actually had a huge influence on my musical upbringing. I guess I’m lucky that he let me listen to them at a very young age, even though some of the vinyl was really badly scratched. I grew up in Hamburg and by at the age of 6 years old you could already find me sitting near the stereo system, wearing headphones and flipping Sgt. Peppers over and over again for the whole afternoon. It really all developed from there. I started playing guitar at the age of 10 and since then I knew all I wanted to do was music.
When did you first come about the dance music scene? Tell us a little about going from a raver on the dance floor to a live artist/producer and how it all happened?
I have a bit of a different background I guess – I’m not the proverbial raver turned DJ. I first played guitar in rock n roll bands when I was still in school. In the 90s we gradually moved from rock to funk and acid jazz, and later edged closer towards trip hop and other more electronic genres. The Mojo Club in Hamburg was my favourite club back then. On Saturdays they played what they called “Dance Floor Jazz” – a blend of jazz, funk, soul, bossa nova, latin jazz and the likes. On Fridays they had a very UK centric electronic night with all kinds of breakbeats, Drum & Bass and so on. This is more or less what I had been revolving around musically in the late 90s. I also DJ'ed a lot back then but it was never really electronic music, more along that “Dance Floor Jazz” line. I moved to Berlin at the end of the 90s and then the straight bass drum [inevitably] came into my life, at first in the form of deep house. Of course I also went out partying and dancing, but I definitely come from a more musician type background than say that typical raver who at some point started making techno.
Obviously when any artist starts out they are influenced by their mentors and the people they look up to etc… How would you describe your journey and development towards finding your own style or voice so to speak?
It’s a journey indeed! I think it’s a trip that never ends! A huge early influence was Pink Floyd, and later Portishead. Both guitarists, Dave Gilmour and Adrian Utley, have a few things in common… They are both able to say so much with only a handful of notes, they have a unique, exceptional sound and they are not “just” guitarists, but also producers and songwriters. They were really profoundly important to me. They taught me very early on that what you play it’s not only extremely important but it's also how you play it, how it sounds, and in what kind of context it happens that really makes the magic happen. I still can’t really put my finger on how to develop your own sound. I think it just happens over time, the more stuff you do, the more you understand what you like and what you don’t like. Trying too hard isn’t a good idea though. These days everything goes so fast and I think it’s important to give yourself the time that you need.
Watching you play live is truly mind blowing! What is it about playing live that attracted you to performing in this style? Is anything pre-recorded or is it all done ‘on the fly’?
As I said, I never really DJ'ed electronic music, so when I picked up my producer/artist career again after over a decade of only doing studio work, it was natural to me that I would perform as a live artist. It wasn’t a choice. My live set does contain quite a few pre-recorded elements though. I know a few live acts who don’t work with any prerecorded bits [and sometimes not even with a computer] but to my understanding this is really only possible within certain musical genres and with certain musical concepts. Some of these guys largely improvise their own sets, and it’s mostly faster, more minimalistic techno, or they can split duties between two or even three people. I am only one person though, playing my already existing tracks, and my concept is quite “musical”, my tracks have a “composed” nature with longer musical arcs which can’t really be broken down in small loops that I can shuffle around while on stage. Playing a Moog through a nice big sound system never gets old for me though!
Speaking of ‘flying’… Surely travelling to gigs with so much equipment is somewhat stressful? Has there ever been a disaster tour where say your equipment didn’t arrive on time and if so, what are the contingency plans you have in place?
Yes, it’s stressful indeed! I have Apple AirTags in my flight cases and they are a game changer, as it’s much easier for me to understand where and when some problems may be occurring and allows me time to fix any issues. I’ve had situations where baggage didn’t arrive. Playing live is about being prepared with a bunch of contingency plans for different situations – I always have a small setup with a laptop, interface and controller in my hand luggage, so I can always play, although I've only had to do this only once so far. A bigger problem is that sometimes equipment breaks because of poor baggage handling. Just two days ago, for my DC-10 show, I had to open up my Moog during soundcheck and fix a ribbon cable connector inside which had come loose. I always travel with a Leatherman in my baggage so I always have tools at hand, and I’m not shy or afraid to open up my equipment to try and fix it on the fly. I guess, ultimately, playing live is not for the faint hearted but the rewards are sooo good!
Congratulations on your new ‘Balance Presents’ compilation. How have you found the feedback of this has been? Being not only a live artist but also an experienced engineer, how do you choose which music to include?
Thank you! So far the feedback has been nothing but wonderful. I’ve gotten fantastic reviews, and a ton of feedback from both listeners and colleagues. I’m not a DJ, and this is the first ever continuous mix of this type I have created and released. I decided that all of the material should be new and previously unreleased, and I took the opportunity to not only include originals by myself, but I also did a bunch of collaborations with other artists to broaden the spectrum. I also included some tracks by up and coming artists who’ve been working with me as engineers for a while, because this was such a wonderful chance to provide them with a platform to reach a wider audience. Some of them have been picked up by other labels in the meantime, so it did really work well in that sense also. Even though I wasn’t involved in the production of all tracks, I did the final mixdown for all of them, and I could create the actual continuous DJ mix using the individual stems for all tracks, which helped a lot with shaping and refining the transitions between the tracks – and it’s something a DJ who has only access to the stereo masters could never do.
Your studio is one of the world’s most coveted I’m sure ;) How long did it take to acquire all your gear and what are your most treasured pieces? Do you think buying new equipment is like an addiction? I mean, can you ever have enough synths right?
I bought my oldest piece of equipment in 1994 so it's taken me a while to collect everything indeed. My most treasured pieces? There are a few for sure! My vintage Minimoog, my big Moog Modular including the Model 10, my vintage Tonus Arp 2600 whose first owner was Ken Bichel who played it on Aretha Franklin classics, the Kinfonium, my TB-303 which was clinically dead [twice!], some studio gear like a vintage 1176, rare and special pieces like the Rockruepel Comp.One and Amtec 099 compressors, both of which had very small production runs and are not being made anymore, my vintage Neumann microphones including a U76 with a two digit serial number, a 1962 Fender Jazzmaster and a 1971 Fender Precision Bass… the list is quite long! However, my studio is full, so whenever I get something new these days something else has to go. That helps to put things into perspective. Plus, a lot of that equipment is nice to have, and not plain necessities. I also offer studio services, and that means it’s good to be able to offer some options. It’s important to note though, that I didn’t put this studio together overnight, so I've spent a lot of time to really understand every single piece. It’s equally important to stress that it’s never a good idea to rely on equipment for inspiration. Ultimately it’s the musician making the music, and equipment or not having certain equipment should never slow you down or be used as an excuse to not get certain things done.
Are there any other studios in the world that you would love to have a look around in? Abbey Road maybe?
There are actually only a handful of legendary studios in the world that I haven’t visited so far! I started doing photo reports about classic studios for a German magazine in 2006, and for Sound On Sound in 2012. So it’s not a lie when I say that I have seen almost all of them, including some legendary studios which sadly don’t exist anymore such as Olympic in London or Compass Point in the Bahamas. Some of these experiences were mind blowing, like playing a few notes on the Penny Lane piano at Abbey Road studio two, visiting Les Paul’s original echo chambers at Capitol in Hollywood, or holding the Neumann U67s in my hands which Mick and Keith used for the Exile On Main Street overdubs at Sunset Sound, and which can be seen in all these famous photos from these sessions. I hope one day I can put together a nice book from my photo archives.
Being one of the scenes finest engineers and have mixed tracks for the likes of Tale of Us, Ame and Dixon. So, what do you prefer the most? Arrangement, Sound design, Melodic structure, Mixing, Mastering?
I think what I prefer the most is a combination of all of these tasks except perhaps mastering. I haven't done any masters since 2006 or so. I've been wearing all these different hats in my career which means that I have adopted a sort of 'holistic view' on music production. It all kind of belongs together. For example, someone might identify a problem as a mixing issues but it can be fixed better within the fields of sound design and arrangement. For my studio clients I can not offer the service to turn knobs on EQs and reverbs and the like... I can offer them advice, feedback and consulting based on a pretty solid understanding of all aspects of music production. And I think this is what counts in the end and what can really make a difference.
You’ve worked with so many top artists, especially in the techno industry. What’s the best and the worst part of working for someone else and what have you learnt as a producer from them?
That’s a tough question, as the answer could potentially be very, very long. I wouldn’t say there’s a “worst” part, but sometimes it’s difficult to navigate a field of high expectations and unforeseen issues, psychology definitely comes into play, and all within very tight schedules. But I don’t complain at all – getting something meaningful done under these conditions can be tough sometimes, but it feels so good when the results are great in the end. A very important aspect of offering a service is finding solutions and that’s what I’m here for after all. The great part is that there is something important to learn from all of these situations, the good and the more difficult ones.
A little off topic here but I’ve heard you are quite the chef! As a food stylist [and avid foody] I'm curious…. If you were hosting a dinner party what would you be serving up for your guests? What’s your signature dish?
Another question with a potentially long answer! I do have a focus on Italian cuisine though. Some of my signature dishes include tagliata di manzo, risotto salsicchia e funghi porcini, fiori di zuccha ripieni, and some of my latest favourites would be tagliatelle pesto di pistacchio or spaghetti datterini e burrata con parmigiano verde, a very simple and nice dish with a sauce made from sauteed datterini tomatoes and burrata. It looks fantastic and it tastes phenomenally and it’s made with only a small handful of ingredients. I like this clarity! But I also enjoy making a Korean barbecue beef, a veal stew with rose wine and herbs and polenta which is a specialty of Corsica, a branzino baked in a salt crust, and many other things. I have been a vegetarian for 12 years or so, so it doesn’t always have to be meat for me.
What advice would you give to upcoming music producers?
It’s difficult to get confused sometimes with all the tasks and responsibilities that need to be taken care of. And then you look left and right and you see all these other successful or seemingly successful artists, so it’s very easy to compare yourself to them and possibly get frustrated. Sometimes it’s good to take a step back and not try too hard. Inspiration exists but it has to find you working. Give yourself time to develop your music and your artist persona, work on offering something that really forms a unique identity – yours!Then [sometimes] the next step comes from a direction you never expected. At some point the ball may land right in front of your feet, 3 meters away from the goal. These are the situations where you need to be prepared, don’t get nervous and make the goal. The rest will follow. Also, a good and sustainable career is built step by step. It takes time, but then you will have something solid that will also carry you in more difficult moments.
In closing today Hannes, what about gigs, what coming dates have you most excited?
I’m really looking forward to a busy August with a bunch of shows across Europe and I'm heading back to the US again in September! I am also super excited about my first ever tours to Australia and New Zealand with Balance and Ripple Presents! I hope I see you there!
Thanks so much for your time today Hannes.
Links to all things HANNES BIEGER below:
Tickets for the Melbourne gig here: https://www.facebook.com/events/2265505516944962/
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Our next interview will be published on Friday the 2nd of September at 7:30pm (AEST)