Today, it’s a pleasure for us to receive Hannes Bieger to chat about his recent Balance Presents compilation! The Berlin-based producer, mixing engineer and live-act kindly answered our questions about the process which led to the release, the stories behind a couple of the collaborations and the way he’s able to make juggle between different roles as a musician. Enjoy!
WWD: Hey Hannes, thanks for speaking with us! Congratulations on your new ‘Balance Presents…’ compilation. How did this release with Balance come about, what was your relationship with the label prior to this release?
Hey – thank you, and pleasure to talk to you! I’m friends with a few of the artists who have done Balance Series release so far, and I have worked with some of my predecessors as an engineer, so I was aware of the label and the concept for a long time, although we’ve never been in touch, until they invited me to do my own Balance Series release. I consider this a huge honour, given the number of amazing artists who have made their own Balance Series so far – huge shoes to fill with this one!
WWD: You’re a live artist in your own right but also have a wealth of experience engineering for a lot of other artists and have been part of some really special releases. I guess this means you had a wealth of material at your fingertips. How did you choose which music to include?
This project was uncharted territory for me to begin with. I am a producer and live artist, not a DJ, so I have never really created a DJ mix before, at least not in the field of electronic club music. So I knew this was going to be a special one. Most of the Balance Series artists are DJs, and I guess then it’s easier to pull off such a project, especially when you’re running a label as well and you have a lot of material to pick from. I didn’t take this lightly at all, in fact it was a huge challenge. I didn’t want this to be “just” a DJ mix with music licensed from third parties, rather I wanted to do something that honours the compilation character of the Balance Series, but which also kind of works as an artist album as well – so it was imperative that all music on the project would be new, previously unreleased material. I ended up with the concept that I would include some original tracks by myself, and also some collaborations with other artists.
Some of these were already in the works, and others long overdue, and this was a welcome opportunity to finally get to it. Even though I’m neither a DJ nor a label owner, I realized I have access to a lot of fantastic unsigned music through my studio work as an engineer. I could have asked some well known artists for contributions to the release, but instead I wanted to also make it a showcase for a number of up and coming artists whom I’ve been working with at the studio. With some of these I have a history that goes back a couple years, and it’s so lovely for me to see them sharpening their skills and really getting ready for prime time. I’m very happy about all these contributions and proud of every one of them on the release. Even though I haven’t been involved in their production processes, I have done the final mixdowns for all the tracks on my Balance Series. As a result I have the feeling it shows a very nice variety, but it also has a very fluid, cohesive sound.
WWD: How did you structure it when you were in the initial phase of putting it together? Did you make a big folder with a shortlist, then see how you could make them flow, or what was your approach? You changed the BPM of various tracks didn’t you so you could fit things in that you loved?
Yes, I had a short list that was probably twice as long as the final mix. In part the process was really easy, and in other aspects totally difficult, and I had to make some tough decisions. Ultimately I had to exclude some real gems, which just didn’t really blend well with the overall flow of the mix. Some cornerstones were finished quite early, and other tracks later filled up some gaps. Overall the mix ranges from 120 BPM to 128 in the end. I try to not change the tempo of a track later in the process, but I did so with the Gui Boratto collab for example. Originally it was 123 BPM, and it didn’t fit into this section of the mix at all, but musically it works so well together with my own track “Embers”, so I sped it up to 126 as well, and I think the track by itself also works even better at this tempo. I really took great care of the transitions, too. Since I have mixed all the tracks I had access to the multitracks of each one, and I could rearrange all intro and outro parts so that the transitions would be as smooth and fluid as possible – something you can’t even really do when you’re a DJ blending “just” the stereo masters.
WWD: We saw that you had been contemplating an artist album, but then decided to put the material into this release – are there any tracks in particular that you had been saving for a larger LP project?
I didn’t really have so much material yet, it was more like I was getting ready into the mood of creating a new album. During the height of the pandemic in 2020 I had to build a new studio, so I didn’t really have much time back then to work on new music. But the new studio gave me a huge push. Some of the tracks like the Gui Boratto collab, and “Embers” as well, were a bit older already, but I could never really fit them into one of the previous releases. But as a part of the mix they are working beautifully now.
WWD: Can you talk us through the stories behind a couple of your favourite tracks on the album?
It feels unfair to single out specific tracks, as I love all of them, and they all have been very, very carefully selected for this release. Overall, the release is a story of very pleasant surprises for me. The first versions of “Volta” were very different from the final one, and when Tripolism sent me the version with the vocal, I was blown out of the water. Also, Jason Lange had sent me a couple tracks for consideration, but I couldn’t really fit them in. I’ve been mixing a lot of stuff for him, and he mostly does faster techno, so he really had to adapt to my slower, more melodic concept. But then he sent me “Nebula”, and it was love at first sight, so to speak. I have the feeling many boundaries were pushed with this release, and that makes me happy!
WWD: The LP features collaborations with Rodriguez Jr. , Gui Boratto and Victor Ruiz – we’d love to hear how you worked on these collaborations, was it in person, or did you have to work around lockdown? What do you like about collaborating with other artists in general?
I did a session together with Victor at my studio, but it was for a different track. I wish I could collaborate more in person, but Victor is constantly on the move, and Olivier [Rodriguez Jr.] just moved to Miami, and his studio was, in parts, still in a container, so it wasn’t the ideal situation. But we’ve been talking about a collab for a long time, and we just had to make it work. For this one I sent him my backing track, and I really love what he added on top of it. I would have never thought of adding these “whale song” pitch bends, the reason why we named the track “Orca”. That’s the beauty of a good collaboration – everyone brings something to the table that otherwise wouldn’t have existed. I have a background playing in bands, and writing songs together with other people. Ideally, the whole becomes larger than the sum of its parts – and when that happens, it’s absolutely wonderful!
WWD: There are some really fresh vocalists in this release, and you’re also shining a light on some up and coming producers.. What does it mean to you to be able to provide a platform of sorts to emerging new names?
This is actually a very important aspect for me! The whole industry can be a bit of a shark tank at times, and even for very talented people it can be hard to actually get a foothold somewhere. Many Balance Series artists have made their release a showcase for their labels. I don’t have a label, but at some point it occurred to me that I still have access to so much great music through my studio work, and that it would be fantastic to invite some of these artists to the project. I could have asked well known names for exclusive tracks, but I didn’t want to squander the opportunity to provide a platform for a few emerging talents who really deserve it. And as for the vocals – that’s such an important aspect for me, and it’s always great to have a voice that is fresh and new, at least to some ears.
WWD: We’ve seen your enviable studio space… absolutely incredible! Do you go with the flow when you’re writing music, or are you more structured with your studio time, what do you find works best for you?
I wish I could! I’m often working on very tight schedules, balancing out client projects, my own productions, traveling to shows, and of course time off. I have to be very structured at times because I don’t alway have huge time windows for working on my own music, but getting lost in the music is such a beautiful feeling, and it’s a very important aspect of creating music for me. I think it really helps that I can be very fast and cold blooded when it comes to making decisions, as this comes with the experience from years of studio work. That helps to free up time and headspace for sure…
WWD: Along with this release, you’ve just dropped a remix of Stephan Bodzin’s ‘Collider’. How did this come about?
I’ve been mixing a lot of his work in the past years, including his most recent album. Over the course of working on that project he invited me to do this remix, which makes me proud and happy. He’s such an amazing artist, this meant a lot to me!
WWD: Thanks for your time! What else have you got coming up as we head into summer?
Thanks for talking to me, it’s been a pleasure! I have a busy touring schedule ahead of me. First my album release party in Berlin, then a US tour, and then a bunch of other amazing, and sometimes fairly unusual shows. I’ll play in a former volcano observatory on the island of Stromboli, with the volcano erupting behind me during my set, and I’ll open a show for the French band Indochine in a stadium in Marseille in front of 60.000 people – definitely exciting things coming up. I’ll do my Ibiza debut as Hannes Bieger, and later this year I will return to the US for another run, visit India again, and probably tour Australia and New Zealand. I can’t wait for the reactions on my new album…
‘Balance Presents Hannes Bieger’ is out now on Balance Music.
Hannes Bieger: Soundcloud // Instagram