ART:CAST #103 & INTERVIEW Will Hofbauer

Not certain if the ominous Third Place is down in the basement but surely it must be somewhere deep in the London underground, otherwise it’s unexplainably how Will Hofbauer can release music with such a vibe – from deep to dub(step) – on labels like Homage, Yusoul or his own and beforementioned imprint Third Place. Will’s last EP Where Did All The Hay Go? on the latter left quite an impression in the scene and on virtual dance floors gaining the support from Ben U.F.O. Now the infamous sandwich-maker is working on new material without rushing things but keeping them easy and chill, a preference or rather tendency the artist has discovered, especially over the months of living in a pandemic habitus. As versatile as Will seems to be – at least when it comes to music – he not only compiled the latest edition of the art:cast series, but also shares his covid-favorites, speaks about the Co-Select concept and is livin’ it up like Ja Rule in the early 2000s – the best song for a Friday night. However, we are two days early for that and happy to prick up our ears to music from Shackleton to Missy over to rRoxymore and Off The Meds.

I wonder if in 20 or 30 years time people will dig through stuff that came out in 2020 and notice a theme.

Torture the Artist: Hello Will, tell us something about your day.

Will Hofbauer: Hello Holger! Today I had some peanut butter on toast for breakfast.

Torture the Artist: What’s key for you during the lockdown/ pandemic to stay sane?

Will Hofbauer: Having stuff to focus on and keep busy with in general I guess. Hobbies and projects have helped, tinkering with music is always good to kill some time and feel productive. I think it’s been very key to count my blessings – super fortunate and grateful that all my family and loved ones are safe and healthy, so it could be a lot worse!

Torture the Artist: Your last EP Where Did All The Hay Go was pretty much designed for dance floors. Now that those have been closed for almost a year, do you think that 2020 will go down into Electronic Music’s history as a year to rediscover its music at a later point, or will all this music be looked over as people continue living in a musical present?

Will Hofbauer: Hmmm.. I reckon eventually the best music from 2020 will shine through – time is the best filter really, isn’t it? Might not all make it to dance floors though. I wonder if in 20 or 30 years time people will dig through stuff that came out in 2020 and notice a theme… be interesting to see.

Torture the Artist: How has your taste in music changed over the past months as the inspiration you draw from club-nights seemingly were absent in your life?

Will Hofbauer: I’m not sure if my taste in music has changed too much, although I definitely found myself listening to more delicate music in the first lockdown, reaching for more dub, ambient, etc. Maybe I turned towards more ‘headphone music’, you know, gloopy sounds, textures, bubbly stuff. Yum.

Torture the Artist: Does the pandemic also influence the music you produce, and if so, how?

Will Hofbauer: Not really, well maybe. I find it quite hard to evaluate my own output, so I can’t really say. I think in all honestly it’s probably quite hard for it to have not affected my production in some way, given the impact it’s had on everything. So maybe I’ve slightly moved away from straightforward ’bangers’ (with a few exceptions) but I think that shift was happening anyway.

Torture the Artist: Even though it does not seem that you sit in the studio with other producers, if you could share the studio with someone, who would it be, and why?

Will Hofbauer: Ah ha! It’s funny you say this. I’ve actually recently finished an EP with my good pal Sangre Voss, which should be coming out on Control Freak some time this year and I’m really excited about it! Been a pleasure making these tracks together, so I’d pick Mr. Voss to share the studio (basement) with. <smiles>

Torture the Artist: What are your 3 of your favorite musical findings over the past months?

Will Hofbauer: Oh this is a fun one…

Sound Rodeo

Big up the rodeo! Sharin’ rips, tips, & tricks. I joined this fab group of people around September last year. Best way to spend a free evening and you’re pretty much guaranteed to find something amazing you’ve never heard of before.

Odd Ned – Rushes

This came out in 2019 but I was snoozing so I missed it. Picked it up late last year and have been rinsing it since, such a great collection of music! Very delicate and introspective and I really love it.

Getting a lot of airtime over here. <laughs> Possibly the best Friday song??? Happy to debate this.

It’s hard to tell between the sound of crunching sandwiches.

Torture the Artist: What skills have you developed over the past months?

Will Hofbauer: I started running towards the end of last year which was really hard at first but it’s getting a little bit easier. I managed to do 5k without stopping towards the end of last year, which doesn’t sound like a lot but I was pretty happy about it. What else… I’ve gotten pretty good at making sandwiches. Maybe I’m getting better at some music stuff too, but it’s hard to tell between the sound of crunching sandwiches.

The freedom to do whatever, work with nice people and put out great music is what’s it’s all about for me.

Torture the Artist: How difficult is it to run an independent label these days or is it rather a blessing doing so in many ways?

Will Hofbauer: Third Place is effectively a passion project for me, so in that sense it’s definitely a blessing, and I’m constantly delighted to be able to share and put out the kind of light and fun music I love. I definitely didn’t start Third Place with the thought of trying to make profit, I think anyone who runs a small label, or has thought about doing one, knows that it’s difficult to make money, particularly with physical releases. So yeah, basically the freedom to do whatever, work with nice people and put out great music is what’s it’s all about for me. <smiles>

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Torture the Artist: What have you planned for your label Third Place or have you put it on hold for a moment as you do not want to release (club) music if it cannot be played out?

Will Hofbauer: There are a couple of nice releases bubbling in the pipeline, but still in early stages for the most part. I’m not in a massive rush to keep music coming out all the time, but that’s probably more down to just waiting to get things right rather than because clubs are shut. In any case I’m really really excited about the next few 12”s coming up! I’m definitely okay with clubby music coming out at the moment. There’s been a lot of great music that’s been quite club focussed over the last year or so, so yeah keep it coming!

No more lines of blokes standing there with their USBs making the vibe all ‘macho’.

Torture the Artist: Can you tell us more about Co-Select and how it got started?

Will Hofbauer: Yes! Co-Select came about a few years back as a way of pushing back against boring, monotonous all male lineups. These were pretty much the norm at a lot of club nights kicking about at the time, and so we put on parties we wanted to see, i.e. no more lines of blokes standing there with their USBs making the vibe all ‘macho’. We also put our own stamp on it by throwing the b2b element in: basically every set is a b2b, with at least 50% non male DJs on the overall lineup.

Things have obviously been put on hold now events-wise, so I feel like we’ve all taken a bit of a step back, but we put a lovely compilation together last year for charity (https://co-select.bandcamp.com) and we’ve been having quite a lot of conversations about how we can be even better going forward.

Big shout out to the CS crew! I miss hanging out with everyone and falling asleep on the sofas at Grow at 5am <laughs>, so I’m really looking forward to it all bouncing back. <smiles>

I used to spend ages making really rubbish tracks on these things.

Torture the Artist: From a possible future to the past, what ‘historical’ event made you decide to turn to electronic music and how have you remained passionate about the music?

Will Hofbauer: Not sure there was a specific moment or anything, but I started messing around with electronic music when I was pretty young, maybe like 14. I got really into 8-bit music – there are these Gameboy cartridges that you can make music with called Nanoloop and LSDJ – I used to spend ages making really rubbish tracks on these things. <laughs>

I remember there was a big online community, like a forum where people would upload their own tracks, give feedback, organise compilations – actually the first physical record I ever owned came about from this site! I contributed to a compilation which someone bootlegged onto vinyl for some reason, presumably lost a load of money on, and then we all got some free copies haha. Super wild. The website eventually went under though and all the music that was uploaded was all lost which is quite sad – the first track I ever made was on there! Anyway, from then I flirted with all sorts of different production styles, bad noisy dubstep, hip hop beats, and eventually got here: to stupid dance music with chickens in it. Just always loved putting things together, hope it continues. <smiles>

Torture the Artist: What’s a track or maybe the track that reminds you of your early days in the electronic music scene and what do you associate or connect with it?

Will Hofbauer: My mum used to listen to Ministry of Sound mix CDs in the car all the time when I was growing up and there were two tracks that really stuck with me: Mike Dunn’s ‘God Made Me Phunky’ and Kolai Krew ‘Take It Back (Jask’s Vocal Shout Out DJ Tool)’.

These tracks just make me think of driving around, no worries at all. Bliss. We always used to find the name ‘E-Man’ really funny when it’s said in that Kolai Krew track. It would be great to say that these impacted my subconscious somehow and wormed their way into my musical mind now, but I’m sure that is definitely not true because the rest of my early teens was spent listening to some really very bad music. <laughs>

Torture the Artist: Where did all the hay go?

Will Hofbauer: Haha, beats me!

Interview by Holger Breuer