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Meet NHOAH, a german DJ, producer and composer on the Berlin-Vienna circuit

Check this exclusive interview for Mixmag Brazil

  • Mixmag Team
  • 8 October 2021

NHOAH is a German DJ, producer and composer on the Berlin x Vienna circuit. Dedicated to the creative culture and its multiple faces, he has already won recognition from the world’s leading publications such as Resident Advisor, Quietus, TRAX Mag, Clash Magazine, PopMatters, Magnetic Magazine, Data Transmission, The Arts Desk, MTV London, Electronic Groove and of course ... Mixmag. Nhoah has also been featured on BBC 6’s Electric Ladyland, by British DJ Nemone. We talked with the artist for the newest cover of Mixmag Brazil. Check it out below!

Tell us about the early days, childhood, family and love for music

I always wanted to make music as far back as I can remember. Back when I was a kid, there were no computers and keyboards were unaffordable. I also liked drums but I lived in a two room flat with my parents and my sister. A basic, new building with lots of neighbours. Totally impossible to play drums there. And where would the money for a drum set even come from?

One day my best friend told me that he still had the money from his confirmation laying around in his hallway (in Berlin there is a kind of Protestant church inauguration for children who turn 13 where you get money presents from relatives. I myself never had a celebration of this kind). He offered it to me with great pomposity. haha ... I didn’t hesitate for a second and took the money. I bought a used drum kit for 650 German Mark. That was an immense amount of money for a thirteen year old.

I had to hide the drum set, of course, somewhere in some rehearsal room belonging to much older musicians. Then I went on holiday with my parents. Right after I returned, the doorbell rang. I looked through the peephole and immediately went to hide in my room. It was my best friend’s mother, holding him crying on her hand.

She loudly explained to my mother that she wanted the money back right away! Damn… I thought I was in big shit. But to my surprise my mother just peacefully asked how I was planning on paying back the money. I told her my plan was to work during summer break and that was that. My mother is great, I mean, we come from simple backgrounds. And without my brave little friend, things may have turned out differently for me.

How was the first gigs & tours?

I remember a great story with one of my first electronic bands. I wrote the story on the inner sleeve of my first NHOAH album ‘West-Berlin’. Here it goes: At that point my band had already played a mini-performance which worked out very well. But to be honest, we only had three songs. Although they were already recorded (on a four-track cassette recorder). Sem, a friend of ours, and later our manager, asked me if we wanted to play a show in Antwerp together with Bronski Beat. To play with Bronski Beat and another band at a huge hall in Antwerp -that was a blockbuster!

We started rehearsing but after a while we had to conclude that we cannot convert our demo recordings into live versions. With heavy hearts, we decided to make a full playback, mimic everything and let the music come from the tape. The alternative solution would have been to cancel the gig which was entirely out of question.

Every day we would secretly rehearse in the mornings because no one was supposed to be aware that we wouldn’t be playing live. If they would bust us, we would have been done. There was nothing more embarrassing for a band. Then, we were off to Antwerp. The hall with 800 people was completely packed and sold out.

Beside our electronic instruments, we also had some gadgets, including a small hand circular saw. We planned to do a little sawing on the stand of the microphone during the show. In Germany, especially in West Berlin, there was a trend to create sounds with industrial tools thanks to Einstürzende Neubauten.

We were fairly tense due to the playback situation. Already after our first song, someone from the audience called out: “PLAYBACK!”. This was the harshest diss you can imagine. Fortunately, I overheard it, but none of my companions did. From the corner of my eye l noticed them suddenly acting stiff and robotic. The second song was the one with the circular saw. Jan, our singer, planned to saw at the microphone stand during the middle part of the song and if we were lucky, he would also manage to produce some sparks.

But somehow he collided with a metal column that was standing in the middle of the stage instead, chopping into it full force. We were lucky the tool didn’t jump right out of his hands and fly past our ears. He succeeded, however, in producing a 15-meter-long shower of sparks which swept barely inches over the heads of our audience. If it had gone only a few inches lower, some people would have been at risk of going blind. After the song, there was the roaring applause we had hoped for. That was West Berlin, fuck the fact we played from playback! This was the primal power from the city they hungered for. Two guys and a girl on stage who almost had their faces torn up, totally hot.

Tell us more also about the production side, the collabs and labels you released on

I was very lucky or maybe I did the right thing in the beginning. Right out of highschool, I played in Romy Haag’s band as a drummer. She’s a world famous artist and I played daily at her nightclub in West Berlin. Fredy Mercury, Brian Ferry and David Bowie were regular guests. David Bowie became her boyfriend.

Romy injected the rules of show life into my body, so to speak. Very quickly I wanted to write my own music and then got a major deal with one of my own bands. I produced it with Larry Steinbacheck. from Bronski Beat and Gareth Jones, then sound engineer of Depeche Mode. A wonderful flop. haha. We were instantly fired by our record company.

Around that time came 4-track cassette recorders from tascam. A friend and I produced our first club tracks on them. I remember, Westbam contacted us once and asked if he could do a remix of our track „The police can’t stop us“. That was amazing. He was the absolute shit back then, at the end of the 80s, and we were just 2 unknown guys in a basement.

But we didn’t send him anything because we couldn’t. You had to keep bouncing and erasing single tracks to record more on these 4 track recorders, delete three tracks to keep multi-recording. So we didn’t have all the single tracks he needed for a remix. We were so embarrassed about working with such bad equipment that we didn’t answer the phone for weeks.

Do you have hobbies?

My hobbies are my profession. There is always music, clubs, dancing. I mean, I go out dancing. And nowadays, in times of only fleeting but overwhelming impressions, books have become important to me once again. I only get truly relevant, profound thoughts through books. It’s funny, when I mention this to others and they will tell me „I don’t read, but I watch lots of films“ and then look at me expectantly as if this is the highest level of education ... Maybe try a book after all? haha

We watched the set in a storm you filmed in a Vienna skyscraper. That video got not only great music but also surreal visuals. How did you manage that?

I had already discovered this skyscraper a year before we made the video. It featured all my longings for an underground gig: cool look, high up, dangerous. But I thought no one would allow us to play there, and if we did, the police would come anyway. Then a very cool guy made contact with the owner and surprisingly, he agreed to the gig. I love Austria for that.

They are open to things. I mean, there were no fences on the outside. Everything was open!
On the day of the shoot we carried all the equipment upstairs. Have you ever carried anything up to the 12th floor? haha ... The helpers didn’t show up and everyone you see dancing in the video carried some piece of the equipment up the stairs.

Around noon, it suddenly got extremely windy and around 3 pm, the man from the lightning said we have to leave the high-rise immediately because a storm was coming up. I thought to myself: „No, I’ll stay here, even if I have to chain myself to something. This can never be repeated. A year’s worth of work and now a storm? Fuck!“. We had to cancel quite a few guests. It was just too dangerous.

We then called the airport nearby and they said it was going to be a very strong wind but not 100 kilometers per hour as first expected. But the rain was sure to come. That’s when I decided we would stay. I started playing around 6 pm. It was unbelievable. By the third song I had to hold onto the keyboard stand, otherwise I would have been literally blown away. But the music system was loud enough and the 30 party guests were dancing, freezing, screaming... What else could you do?

I was grinning so much from all the stress that I thought I’d spoil the video by grinning like a fool throughout. At the end, when it was dark already, the water flew horizontally through the ground ... An unbelievable experience. Everyone who was there experienced something that will never happen again. You can watch the whole video on my youtube channel.

You play a pretty cool type of hybrid style for both DJ sets x live sets. How did you create these energetic presentations?

My main reason for developing the hybrid set was that I love DJs as much as bands. I sometimes miss the fact that DJ performances are rarely visible on big stages and the fact that traditional instruments bore me. Of course, there are already other great hybrid sets, such as WhoMadeWho or Stephan Bodzin and some others.

But I’m a drummer and I work with synthesizers. Also, everything should be kept easily transportable and not add any costs. The CDJs and mixer can be found in every club anyway. I bring the drum pad and the synth with me. That way everything fits between two backpacks.

Meanwhile, there is no laptop anymore. I really wanted to get rid of it. I play all music parts over 2-3 CDJs. Optimally, I have Lulu Schmidt and Ina Viola, the two singers i’ve been working with for years, with me. I also play alone, but live vocals, the show and energy we can transport together are very special.

Now lets talk a little about the new track ‘Wonderland feat. Komi T‘. How was the creative proccess behind this production?

This summer I only played a couple shows, still being in the twilight zone between closed clubs and underground outdoor raves. Those shows were great but I was also extremely focused on developing new sounds and songs.

After a long time trying around in the studio I found something that really interested me. And here is the result, my brand new track: WONDERLAND. Why wonderland? Alice in Wonderland? Yes, a little bit and quite a lot too. I’ll try to explain it a different way.

After the final studio session mixing the track, you ( called me and asked if I wanted to be featured on the cover page. This came as a surprise, what a great honor! And suddenly I was projected into my own ‚Wonderland‘. I had finished the track and would be talking extensively about my music in one of the best electronic music publications.

My inner world, my happiness, everything felt completely different amongst the same people. I went out, celebrated and survived the days after the comedown. Experiencing all these struggling worlds that are nevertheless connected. That’s what my new track is about. A track that shows the interplay of desire, dreams and reality. Or are there drugs involved? Or is it simply about dancing after all?

I knew it was going to be a really powerful track, so I needed a really powerful artist to make it perfect. Immediately I thought of Komi T., a multi-instrumentalist and singer from Berlin. In an inspired studio session we recorded the track. His strong performance blew me away. After that I needed something ethereal, enchantingly alluring. Lulu Schmidt and Ina Viola then sang the fairy chants.

The final thing I had to get right was the krass piece of such a story. To get rid of everything, to dance it away like a primal tribe who pays tribute to the nature of man. Just to be able let go and be crazy and release the energies.

That’s what the acid sound brought to the table. When it roared through the amplifier and my speakers bulged outwards, I knew the track was ready. ‘Wonderland‘: soft and hard, tempting and repulsive and a groove driving us through it. I hope you get the same kick out of this track as me. If possible, check it out on the dancefloor - that’s what it was made for.

We always ask every artist we interview to give advice to the new talents out there. What sort of tips & advice can you share?

Now more than ever, starting a music career has to be your true passion. Business points of view shouldn’t be the only thing driving you. You should set yourself a time limit for the projects you seeded to bloom. This last sentence only applies to those trying to make a living out of it. Network, work as closely as possible to your passion and other artists.

Be open minded. Don‘t be afraid of getting frustrated. Listen to critics but don‘t let them rule you. Don‘t listen to your friends only, they know you too well. Play live as much as possible, this shows you clearly how things truly are. You cannot yell at the crowd: “this track has a million views on youtube!“. They will leave the dancefloor if the track is shit. Stick to your ideas. The most unbelievable things bear fruit.

The Pandemics seem to be starting to get controlled with global vaccination. How are things in Germany right now and how the scenario looks for you?

The pandemic is a terrible thing. My father and his girlfriend died of covid in January, only 5 days apart. I’m still in shock ... even talking about it here in this interview makes me feel tense. I loved my father very much. I would like if people saw the pandemic as a disease that we can only fight together for the greater good. Fuck all polarisation and political advantage-seekers.

In Berlin, for example, it’s election time. A new German government will be elected at the end of the month. The measures are mostly politically motivated and not aimed at the people first. In Vienna, the city where I spend most of my time at the moment, all the clubs are open again with the so called 3G mass rule: Vaccinated, Recovered or PCR test. I think people are very responsible and there is cultural life again. Without cultural life I die like a plant without water and light.

If we all act responsibly, maybe by 2022 we could be back to the way we were before the pandemic. I also hope that by acting responsibly we will also try to stop climate change. I wrote a song that must remind all of us of this.

I’m working on myself and my environment to contribute in small but assured steps. The main line of the song is: ‘this house is our house - this house is love’. This is not some corny hippie sentiment. This should be the truth.

Follow NHOAH on Instagram | Facebook | Soundcloud

Visit NHOAH's website here

Photos: Tim Cavadini

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