Samuel Thalmann aka Okain is rightly revered as one of France’s foremost house music exports. A native of Paris, he now resides in Berlin where he launched his Talman Records imprint a few years back. To date, the label has proved an essential conduit for Okain’s always on-point jams, with the label’s releases comprising solely of the boss man’s solo efforts. For the label’s latest release, Okain opened the doors to a number of his producer friends, with Alix Alvarez, stevn.aint.leavn and Paolo Rocco among those who’ve joined him on the quite brilliant VA, Retro Future Chapter One. We nabbed the man himself for a quick chinwag recently, as he talked us through life in Berlin, the label and his plans for the next while, in addition to sharing a full premiere of his brand cut…
Hi Okain. Thanks for joining us. How was your summer? Did you get up to much?
The summer has been great. I played some really cool gigs and I just came back from the Street Parade in Zurich. It was really exiting to play in front of so many people.
Lets start by talking about Talman Records. Why did you decide to set it up and what’s been your proudest moment at the label to date?
I set it up almost two years ago now. At the time, my sound was changing a little bit. I was feeling like playing deeper again and it felt the right moment to build a new platform instead of reaching out to new labels. I am proud that the records have been selling well and that the label is supported by some of my favorite artists. It was not easy, as we started without doing a lot of promo or hiring high profile remixers but in the end we’ve got where we are because of the music.
So far it’s just hosted your own music – is there a reason behind this?
So far yes, but it is just about to change with the various artist release dropping next month. I wanted to set the vibe of the label musically with my own productions and I felt it was the right thing to do before taking care of others people’s work. There are so many parameters when you set up a label such asdistribution, mastering, promotion etc. I wanted everything to be perfect and set up properly before working with other artists.
The new V/A – why did you settle on these guys?
It came naturally actually. The three artists on this VA, I all know them personally and I also play their stuff myself. I met Alix at a gig during sonar in 2011 and we’ve stayed friends since then. Stefan I met in Berlin not long after I moved there and Paolo I met him only a year ago but we had many mutual friends and we were chatting online about music for a long time.
When you ask others to contribute music, do you ever worry there’s a danger you won’t like it?
I am very happy and grateful when people send me music but I am also very honest and I will only release music that is special to me. If not – what is the point?
Lets chat a bit about Berlin. How’s life there? And how do you find it differs from Paris?
My quality of life is much better since I move to Berlin. Paris is great but it is not easy as an artist to to live there. When I came to Berlin on holiday 10 years ago I really fell in love with the city. In some way, it’s the total opposite of Paris and that’s probably what attracted me to it.
A few years ago the scene in Paris was derided, but now it’s seriously on the up thanks to clubs like Concrete and festivals such as Weather. Would you ever consider moving back?
To be honest, probably not. Compared to Berlin, it’s a lot more stressful, especially as an artist. It is true though, that the scene has improved greatly over the past while and I am really happy to enjoy the nightlife again when I am in Paris.
What’s been the most inspiring moment for you in Berlin to date?
10 years ago when I came for a Beat Street party in an atomic bunker. During the same weekend I also discovered Club Der Visionaere, Bar25 and Berghain. You can imagine the feeling – especially considering the club scene in Paris was almost dead back then.
And how are you finding the language? Has that made the move that much more difficult?
German is difficult, but lucky for me the Germans are really good at English and you can get around everywhere with it. Then step-by-step, you can learn the language.
And aside from music what inspires and motivates you?
The people around me and art in general.
If you could work with one other producer who would it be and why?
I would like to work with Q-Tip. He is probably the producer I listened to the most and I would love to make some hip hop one day.
From that perspective, do you make yourself goals as a musician or take each day as it comes?
Of course I have some goals that keeps me motivated but I also try not to stress too much about it as it can also be unproductive for me.
So do you think musicians can ever really be satisfied with their work?
Maybe some do, but personally speaking it would be really boring if I was satisfied already.
What do you see as the future of the label?
More releases and our first showcases are coming. We are just starting.
What’s next for you that’s keeping you excited?
I have two more solo release planned before the end of the year for Dogmatik and Infuse. And of course the Various Artist release on Talman with a track for me that comes out in few weeks. I am also really looking forward to the upcoming gigs. I feel blessed that I am still touring after all this years and I am still really exited every time I play. Thanks for having me!
‘Retro Future Chapter One’ (ft. stevn.aint.leavn, Alix Alvarez, Paolo Rocco and Okain) is out this September 25 on Okain’s Talman Records label