Our guest for episode 123 of the When We Dip mix series is Stil vor Talent label head Oliver Koletzki! To celebrate the upcoming release of his album ‘Made of Wood’, his ninth studio album since 2007, the berlin-based artist pleases us with an hour set that will definitely put you in the mood of the project. On top of that, Oliver has accepted to answer our questions regarding his creative process, pushing his boundaries and his artistic philosophy. Enjoy!
WWD: Hello Oliver, it’s a pleasure to have you with us to answer our questions! Where are you right now and what have you been up to lately?
Hello and thank you. I’m just on my way from Leipzig to Prague to play my first gigs after the pandemic. At the moment I have a lot to do with the promotion of my new album. Also, I’m in the rehearsal room practicing my new live act.
WWD: Your ninth (!) full-length studio album since 2007, ‘Made of Wood’ is being released Friday July 16th. Congrats! It’s been playing at my place ever since I got it, I deeply enjoyed it. A question that’s been bugging me from the first seconds of the record all the way until the end though is… What is it about all the birds singing?
Thanks a lot, I’m glad you like the album. On my travels, I always make recordings with my phone when I hear a particularly beautiful sonic atmosphere. Also, I have quite good sound libraries with nature sounds. It’s a simple but very effective tool to put the listener in a certain mood or situation. In this case, jungle.
WWD: You began writing this album in Tulum, Mexico before the pandemic, only to finish it in the past two years in your studio in Berlin. How were those two completely creative spaces impactful in the final product that got to our ears?
I have been using this way of writing albums for many years now. When I’m in inspiring places, I make sketches on the laptop with headphones. Mainly melodies. Of course I have to do final touches and mix the tracks in a professional studio room and I prefer to do that in my studio in Berlin anyway.
WWD: Did you have a set idea or vision of what you wanted the album to feel like when you started writing it? Or did it evolve as you went for it? For someone as seasoned as you are, do you find you get a clearer idea of what the tracks are going to sound like earlier, or does it more so come as you write it?
Made of Wood’ is the conclusion of a trilogy with the albums ‘Arc of Tension’ and ‘Fire in the Jungle’. Through all these albums there is a common thread: Jungle, mysticism and organic music. From there the basic sound aesthetics was fixed. Nevertheless, there are always outliers. And during the creative process, a lot still happens spontaneously and by chance.
WWD: I wanna talk about the name of the album, which seems perfectly fitting with all the percussion and organic instruments. Did you set yourself that goal of using as many of them from the start or did it just pan out that way as you went?
That was the plan from the beginning. I wanted to write an album mainly without any synthetic sounds, and instead use real instruments from different cultures. And of course a lot of percussions and shakers, as you can clearly hear.
WWD: On the album, there’s also two tracks, ‘Picture’ and ‘Agitation’ made with long-time collaborator Niko Schwind. They are pretty different from one another too, how do you approach making such different records with the same studio partner? I got to say I already loved ‘Agitation’ (which was released on a collaborative EP of the same name with Niko Schwind in May 2020) before hearing the rest of the album, but I got to say in the context of the whole, it’s taken to another level! Really feels like a crescendo doesn’t it?
Yes it really fits perfectly into the album context. ‘Agitation’ was created 1.5 years ago and ‘Pictures’ is brand new.
On ‘Pictures’ Niko did the drum programming alone. Thats why it sounds different. In addition, we both have been making music for a long time and don’t want to do the same thing all the time.
WWD: And followed right after by ‘A Starseed’s Journey’, which feels so spacious, a chilled-out landing so to speak! What was the thought process behind putting those pieces back to back?
‘A Starseed’s Journey’ is my first attempt to produce music especially for yoga and meditation. Some older tracks of mine like ‘A tribe called Kotori’ or ‘Tankwa Town’ are quite famous in these scenes but that wasn’t my intention when I wrote them. So this is my 15 minutes long idea for a short session. There is no reason for these tracks to come one after the other, but it should slowly prepare the listener for the end of the album.
WWD: As we get the opportunities to go back to clubs and festivals, do you have a specific idea of how you wish to be touring this album, in a live-show for example?
Yes I will present this album live! I’ve been working on this new live set for some months now and it’s almost done. I started to play live again 3 years ago but exclusively in the Planetarium in Berlin for 300 people sitting in the dark watching the stars. That was amazing and really fulfilling. Now I developed this live act with the new album to bring it on stage underneath real stars. That’s super exciting. I’m doing the live act together with our Stil vor Talent sound engineer Stefan Thomas who plays guitar and the Moog synthesizers. I will be playing piano and all the lead sounds of the songs live on synthesizers. I hope the pandemic will let us play some shows this year.
WWD: I also want to talk to you about your label, ‘Stil Vor Talent’, (which for non-german speakers, roughly translates to ‘Style before talent’). To me this is such a powerful ethos, simple yet it speaks deeply to your values as a label. How did you craft this philosophy? For how long you’d say it’s been your way of looking at things?
The story behind it is that when I was young, I was often told by my parents and teachers that I was not talented. I had to come to terms with that, but I enjoyed music so much that I said to myself: I’ll just do it as best I can with my own style.
Of course, a little talent can’t hurt in principle and I can proudly say that we have many very talented artists on Stil vor Talent.
WWD: You’re almost at the huge SVT300 release mark, with your album being SVT296 how do you see the next 300 releases? What are some things you think you really got better at with the experience of working with some many influential artists?
Sorry but I really don’t think that far ahead. But I’m quite sure we will make it that far! We will definitely care for more diversity of gender and skin colour when it comes to signing artist or creating line ups. Also all our upcoming open-airs and festivals will be plastic free and we will focus on more sustainability.
WWD: You’ve said in the past that discovering new places and meeting new people were your biggest source of inspiration. Was it something you really missed in your creative process in the past year and a half? And did you find new ways to trigger it in the inevitability of tailoring your lifestyle to the pandemic?
I definitely missed traveling. But it was definitely a good thing to have a break from all the touring. Since the creative work on this album was done, it didn’t have such a big effect. And of course the pandemic itself was also kind of an inspiration.
WWD: It’s a pleasure to have you on board for WWD123! What can you tell us about the set you’ve prepared for us?
This mix is a bit more melodic techno than organic house and contains some unreleased tracks of my labels ‘Stil vor Talent’ and ‘A tribe called Kotori’. And music of my upcoming album of course.
WWD: Thank you again for answering our questions Oliver! What’s on your radar for the coming months? Got anything exciting lined up?
I am looking forward to playing many great festivals this summer. Also 2 US tours in September and December. In the fall there will be a remix EP for ‘Made of Wood’. Thanks for this lovely interview.
- Oliver Koletzki – Cryptozoology
- Sarkis Mikael & Epstein – Antares
- CIOZ & Boy Oh Boy – Focus Pocus
- Oliver Koletzki feat. Elih – Serpiente Del Ritmo (CIOZ remix)
- Doorly & Dino Lenny – The Magic Room (Dino Lenny & Seth Troxler re-edit)
- Kellerkind – Hope
- Parra for Cuva – Her Entrance (Innellea’s Interstellar remix)
- Daniele de Martino & Tony Casanova – Achat
- Jimi Jules – Don’t Take it Personal
- Oliver Koletzki & Niko Schwind – Agitation (Affkt remix)
- Oliver Koletzki – Made of Cashmere
- Benotmane – Sunqueen (Oliver Koletzki remix)