Chasing Highs

A talk with Hector Oaks.

A conversation and playlist from Héctor Oaks, label owner of OAKS & KAOS and resident at Bassiani (Tiblisi) &  Herrensauna (Berlin). As DJ, producer and label head his take on techno resonates by combining the contemporary with hand-picked tracks from the history of rave culture.

Listen to Soundscapes vol.145, curated by Hector Oaks

What are you listening to right now? In the last year, month, week, day?

Of course I’m digging techno and body music for playing every week, rather than that I’ve been listening on repeat to Yung Beef Bajo Bajo Mundo.

What music did you grow up listening to and how do you think your taste has mutated until now?

The first memory of music I have was my father playing Pink Floyd and Queen. So I guess that was the trigger after that I discovered electronic music (Techno, House and trance) from there a found punk, synth pop and body music. Although I’ve always listened to reggaeton and hip hop indirectly more or less wasn’t much of my interest until years after. I guess there is the whole spectrum.

Tell us about your next release “FUEGO UNIVERSAL”. What has inspired you for this release? What was the triggering idea?

I wanted to take all the influences that made me who I am and put them under one umbrella. Times styles peoples and places mixed and remixed. For EVERYONE.

In your track “LOFF IS ALL YOU SPEED”, Sita reminds us of those reggaeton pop divas that everyone enjoys dancing to, but with a mixture of harder techno. Miss Nina, Bad Gyal and La Zowi are some of the influences that I hear. What are other influences for you? Do you feel the need to bring your maternal language to your music?

In Spain we’ve been listening to reggaeton and other Latin musics since I have knowledge, Latin music is very popular in Spain and sounds in every corner, radio, shop or party. As you mentioned, Bad Gyal, La Zowi and some others are in my opinion very powerful and inspiring woman, embracing femininity they have brought some underground music to the highest level internationally. Spanish is such a beautiful language and when I moved to Berlin I was sort of a renegade of it, trying to talk in English and German all the time even with Spanish people! Recently I feel in love with it, specially with travelling so much to South America, studying and listening the different accents and vocabulary of each country the subtle and not so subtle differences. At the end is my mother tongue and there is one layer of expression that is hard to achieve in a foreign language although you have mastered it. I’m truly excited to explore it more in my music.

Why did you move from Madrid to Berlin, and how do the scenes differentiate themselves in each city?

Back then both cities were very different to what they are today, Berlin had this punk free spirit while Madrid was at the end of a cycle finding itself. Now Madrid is a truly exciting place with many things happening,. reminds me a lot to the Berlin I came 10 years ago.

When did you start mixing with vinyls? Why do you choose this practice over digital mixing?

I started when I was a kid back then cdjs were rare and almost impossible to find.

With the years I tried to play with cds for a while but I’m a romantic of the format and I’m totally in love with the output (the sound and performance is very different from a digital one) and it’s art form. Also I feel that I can inspire a lot of people to play records just by doing it myself. Not going to change now.

Also, when and why did you start producing? How did you realise you could make music?

For me it was a very natural step, I love to play records but was feeling the need of finding some tracks that I couldn’t find so easily so I decided to fill the gap myself. After that I got into producing and I discovered that I could express myself in the same way as I do DJ-ing.

Tell us about Tbilisi. They say your sets are legendary at Bassiani because of their length. Is this your favourite venue? How did you end up releasing your debut album with their label? What is your relationship with the Georgian audience?

For me Bassiani keeps the most special place in my heart and soul. I have a fraternal connection with the city, with the crowd with the founders. They were the ones who first trusted in me and gave me the freedom to develop myself. Bassiani is one of the best places in the world to rave, is so pure, raw and full of power. Every time I go is a transcendental experience. Im indeed half-Georgian already.

What is the best place for record digging in Berlin? Or anywhere in the world maybe?

Depends on the style I guess, Berlin have some great places to dig but the demand is so high people are literally cueing when “Audio-In” drops the new items on Friday morning. I’d say if you are into digging for 90’s/2000s techno, “Trance” and “House” in Spain are the best places. Madrid and Barcelona have some serious shops “La Palma 39”, “Ater Cosmo” and “Discos Paradiso” to name a few.

I am interested in your different pseudonyms. How do you differentiate the sets that you play as Hector Oaks with those of Cadency or DJKAOS11? How do you choose the different music that goes into each particular set?

With this pseudonyms I explored part of the music that I loved that didn’t make much sense at that time to play under Héctor Oaks, with Cadency I went through the ghetto house, Latin rhythms and tribal techno. With DJKAOS11 I explored the harder spectrum of techno and trance. In the past I used to focus sets under those concepts and perform them always with great variety under those shades. With the time I incorporated some of the sounds to my set as Héctor Oaks till the point that now under my name I perform all that and much more. The industry with the popularity increase of digital streaming platforms also sorts of stopped the aliases and makes you keep everything under the same name if you want to reach your audience.
At the end I think that listeners and ravers are more open to what to expect from a musician and this makes it easier for everyone.

How is your production process? What sparks your creativity these days?

At the moment I didn’t have the studio at home so every time I was going there I was doing it with a clear purpose. I start the tracks with a title so I get the inspiration for the message and the emotion, then I would go to the studio and let it flow on that mindset until is fulfilled. For Fuego Universal there are mostly collabs so I wanted to share the track name or a hint of it with the artist so they feed me back and we build something together from there.

You founded your own label “OAKS” in 2016 to release your own music, how did it all come about at the time?
I was feeling the need to create a platform where I could put out my stuff with no filter but mine at my own pace. Then it was a natural step, as soon as I started releasing music I connected with people and got tons of amazing music that I felt I could use in my DJ sets so I started releasing it after that I created KAOS with a way more broad musical spectrum. Now both labels are working quite well and I enjoy quite a lot the process of choosing, presenting and releasing music. Is great fun!

Is there anything I haven’t asked you about and you would like to discuss?

This year, I had the opportunity to present my new live show at Sonar Barcelona and Lisbon. We’ve invested a lot of time and effort into this project with a great team, and our plan is to take this live show to more festivals next year.
Of course, playing records is what I love the most, so that’s always on the agenda. I will also work on creating new music, as it’s something that can’t stop doing. On top of that we have just released a collaboration OAKS / KAOS X Carhartt WIP. May be the beginning of something…

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