INTERVIEW & ART:CAST #120 HDSN

Southern Germany or Munich may not be the first area or city you think about when speaking of House music, but indeed one of the scene’s most interesting artists set up shops there and keeps on delivering one classic tune after another. Michael Bihler rather known under his HDSN artist moniker only this year rolled out a range of EPs on his own project NBAST with as many quality tracks that some artist do not even manage to produce throughout their entire and fast-paced career. Mostly musically quoting or sampling from music or artists from either the early House days or the golden era of Disco Michael found a suitable if not to say unique way to express his visions clearly through music. And even if Covid kind of took the beat out of his life, he overcome the pandemic days by pouring his all into producing and satisfying his own demands for certain quality standards. In an all intimate and insightful interview Michael speaks about the ups and downs over the past months, his mother’s influence on his musical upbringing and career, his NBAST project and about the OGs of House music. Additionally he mixed and compiled the latest art:cast installment, namely the no. 120, focussing on beatless music before bringing the life beat back.

Torture the Artist: Hi Michael, thank you for chatting with us today! How’s your day going so far?

HDSN: Hey Bella! Thanks for having me. I’m doing fine. Writing this while recovering from a Covid 19 infection, so I have seen better days … I’m still in quarantine right now but things slightly turning back to normal. I hope I am down the road till the end of the week so I can be back behind them 1s and 2s as soon as possible. Hope your day’s going well so far. <smiles>

Torture the Artist: Let us jump right in and chat about your up-and-coming record, “I House You But Love”. Can you tell us about your influences and inspirations for this short and sweet release?

HDSN: I think when you give the record a spin, you can notice the classic house influences. In my music, especially the dance floor stuff that I mostly put on a record I always try to preserve the origins of house music. I aim to get as close to the old-school house sound from back in the days as possible. I want to sound like the OGs do like Chez Damier or Mood II Swing for example and put my signature on it. With “I House You But Love” I tried to create something playable on every occasion like on a big festival, but also in a small club, something functional and danceable – a timeless record that moves people whether it’s on the deejay side or the dance floor. I am pretty happy with the result. The feedback incoming so far is great.

The most important thing is that I impressed myself with my last couple of releases.

Torture the Artist: In what headspace did you install “I House You But Love” and how would you compare your cerebral state with that of your former release – “For My People”; do you see them as (a unit) preservation or progression?

HDSN: I think making music is all about progression. The day you stop learning as an artist you dead. When lockdown hit us hard last year, I locked myself in the studio with the only aim to produce every day and get better at what I do. I never really sit down to produce a new record. I usually wait until I am sitting on a bunch of songs and then I´m working on the concept and curation of the records. “For My People” for example was the result of some intense months in the studio throughout the first half of 2020. I think on every HDSN record you´ll hear a certain progression hopefully. <smiles> We are all work in progress, right? I think “I House You But Love” is another step in the right direction for me in terms of what I want to do in the studio and how I want to sound. The most important thing is that I impressed myself with my last couple of releases. As a deejay and producer, you always want to make music that can compete with the stuff that you play, and if you listen to all these amazing songs from back in the days the stakes are high. When you start making beats you do not get even close to these productions and that sucks big time. You come down to earth very quickly if you play your tune in a set and it’s downgrading your whole mix. I always wanted to come up with something that can keep up with all the stuff I play. Now most of my releases have the potential but especially “I House You But Love” definitely sticks out in every set I’m rinsing it and that makes me very happy.

Torture the Artist: With club doors squeaking farther open, have you been traveling and playing more frequently? Away from the booth, can you tell us about your choice to push releases more now so than before?

HDSN: I’m tellin’ you lockdown took away so much joy in my life; I couldn’t do what I love most … playing records to people. I didn’t realize it to the point I started juggling beats again when we kind of got back to normal in early June. Since then, I have nearly played every weekend over the last past few months, mostly here in Munich where I am currently based. We did host a couple of events here in town and also a lot of other promoters which mostly are all friends kept putting together a couple of limited nights where I got to play regularly. Two weeks ago, we hosted our first NBAST label night in Heidelberg (shout out to my man Philip Habel right here) followed by my first appearance at a small festival called Traegertal in Passau. I also had my annual stop at Moments Festival which is always a highlight on the schedule.

I have so many ideas on my mind, I just love to create and NBAST is my hub to do that.

Torture the Artist: Let’s back up a little, and cover a bit on your label, NBAST. Where would you like to see NBAST — and newfound sub-label “We Must Protect This House”— escalate to in the next few years? What qualities in this community do you want to create or add to?

HDSN: An important aspect of the label is the preservation of the true essence of House & Techno culture and to place the music back in the frontline cause everything else is just accessories in my opinion. I always try to add value and give back to this world that I call my home for more than ten years now. It’s also my way of bringing new joints to my people. I founded NBAST out of the need for a platform that makes it possible to share my music with the world after being turned down by a lot of labels. Now I am independent and can showcase not only my art but also other up-and-coming talent and give them the stage they deserve. Right now, our roster includes artists from around the globe from Ecuador to London over Paris and Perth +++ we nearly sold ten thousand records and I think there’s a lot more to come in the future. At the moment, I am just trying to keep up with everything as I am running the labels all by myself from doing the graphics, curating the releases, and everything beyond – this is a full-time job. I think the imprint has a lot of potential and I want to expand on that in every way. I have so many ideas on my mind, I just love to create and NBAST is my hub to do that. Today I want to do music, but tomorrow I am into a cool video project and then I want to do some graphic design or fashion, it’s all in my head. It’s hard to realize all these projects though as I simply can’t handle all that work alone anymore. I see the potential in NBAST as a future Defected Records in ten + years. <smiles> let’s see in the end. I am just happy to be independent and have a platform to express myself, it was a game-changer for me.

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Torture the Artist: Your label NBAST is an acronym standing for “Nuthin But A Soul Thing”. What is the story behind this twist-off (James Brown’s) Nothing But Soul? What was the intention —sentimental or otherwise — to use this slogan?

HDSN: NBAST is a project that’s not only about music, but also about art, culture, and social coexistence; everything that really matters. It’s a home for everybody that wants to be part of, without any guidelines or barriers because at the end of the day it is nuthin’ but a soul thing. I think everything but your soul is irreplaceable. Your soul is what makes you who you are as a human but also as an artist. Music is an emotion that can be traced back to your soul and that emotion can be stored – physically on a record for example. It can be a diary guiding you through the highs and lows of your life. Every good piece of art is born out of emotion. All of my tracks are little autobiographies. Making music is a practice that taught me to freely bear my soul to the world. Where others are banging the last piece of soul out of the music, I want to put it back into it cause soul is at the heart of what makes music so special. To pick that name just seemed natural to me – it’s a statement.

Torture the Artist: While we’re on the topic of overanalyzing and uncovering acronyms, what does the HDSN acronym stand for? (Respectably, monikers were more popular at a different time, but why did you choose this as your identity rather than Michael Bihler?)

HDSN: When I left my hometown to follow the path of music, I wanted to start a new project. I was already deejaying for quite some time under my real name, but I never really felt Michael Bihler as my artist name and was convinced it’s best to think about something else. I was producing a lot of new material to find my style and when I was sending out the first demos I still hadn’t had a name for the project. Labels urged me that they want to put out some of the music, so I had to find a new artist name quickly and that’s when I came up with HDSN (Hudson). It’s the name of a song that has been on heavy rotation since I was fifteen years old. It’s from Plastic Surgeon and always pulled me out of the ditches when I was down, lacked motivation, or simply wanted to hype myself up. I still dig it; It’s simple, it’s clean and I like the looks. I designed a logo and that was it.

Torture the Artist: Soul music is characterized by its rhythm, roots in blues, and is influenced by gospel music. What elements of soul music — whether it be repetition, call, and response, etc. — do you reflect most into your soundscape?

HDSN: For me the most important thing is to transport the essence of this music – the uplifting vibe that makes you feel good that´s what I love the most – the feeling. I can be down as hell but if you play me “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” no matter how hard life hit me over the head this song will always make me feel good and put a smile on my face. That’s exactly what I want to give people with my music; the feeling that everything´s gonna be alright no matter what´s going on in your life cause that´s real, that’s bloody beautiful. I want to make music that can make people dance but have the ability to make them feel much longer just like all these amazing songs from the soul era that´s my mission.

Torture the Artist: Namely “a soul thing”, will tend to filter off the dance floor, do you have any other interests outside of your musical repository?

HDSN: My musical influences are nearly endless I love Jazz & Soul but also everything beyond next to House & Techno. Hip Hop always played a major role in my life. One of the albums that completely blew my mind lately is Yussef Dayes’ & Tom Misch’s – What Kinda Music. I simply love music so much that sometimes it’s even hard to focus on what I want to do like one day I´m into this broken beat type of vibe and the next day I´m into dance music and then I´m into ambient or other stuff. Theo Parrish once said: “There are no genres; it´s just good music” I really feel that. When you look up my discography you will find different styles of music. I dropped three Neo-Soul/Hip Hop inspired samplers (To Create Is To Destroy/Organic Music For A Digital Era & the latest “There Must Be More To Life Than This”) and the range of dance music includes heavy sample-based house to more underground-ish productions … on my upcoming record, you even will experience a glimpse of Techno perhaps. I aim to be the best musician I can personally be, and I want to explore every corner of this huge universe of sound.

I am more of a DIY kind of guy you know as I realized that nobody will ever see my vision as clear as I do.

Torture the Artist: To our knowledge, you finished your first music video(s) recently! Do you have a background in the film; how and with whom did you create this premiere?

HDSN: Yeah, that’s right. I released two music videos this year both shot and directed by my friends and me. The first one was to my first single of 2021 called “Isolated Love” released in the middle of lockdown and the second one was to the single of the sampler “There Must Be More To Life Than This”. As I already told you I got a lot of things happening in my mind and when I got some idea stuck in my head, I want to realize it as quickly as possible. I have no background in film, but I taught myself how to use Final Cut over the years and if the vision is there I am dedicated. I am more of a DIY kind of guy you know as I realized that nobody will ever see my vision as clear as I do. What makes it even harder is that most people simply are not as passionate about your vision as you are so oftentimes you end up losing money and time. When the whole pandemic started a friend of mine (shout out to Clara right here) posted a picture with the caption “Isolated Love”. I thought it would be a cool thing to name one of my upcoming tracks like that and visualize the current situation that we all were trapped in. I wanted to turn all the negativity into something positive, something fun to watch that everybody can rely on. So, I went out and started filming with a bunch of friends (Shout out to Kim, James, and Larissa for helping to realize the vision without you guys it wouldn’t have been possible.) Both videos were shot with my iPhone 8 and edited in Final Cut afterward all by myself. The “Isolated Love” video took round about two weeks to complete. We shot every day, and I edited the footage at night for ten days straight – intense two weeks that definitely brought a lot of experience to the table.

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Torture the Artist: Just to clarify, were you born in Detroit? Where did you spend those early impressionable years and what is the backstory of your “illegal” parties?

HDSN: No, I wasn’t but my heart beats for the D! All my heroes are coming out of the Motor City like Moodymann, Theo Parrish, Omar S, and Mike Huckaby. This is where I feel at home at least music-wise. My origins are German though … I was born in a small village called “Halblech” 1.5h away from Munich near the Austrian border. From there I moved to Munich, right before decamping to my adopted home – Manchester – for two years. After that, I made my way to Berlin. I left the German capital after two years and moved back to Munich. This is where I am currently living. Illegal parties?! Shhhh… <smiles> no just kidding. You know back where I grew up there was no electronic dance music scene. It was the older generation like the older brothers from friends that introduced us to Trance and stuff but it eventually really clicked when my friends and I visited our first big festival somewhere in Germany. We really loved that whole new world we tapped into but at home, it didn’t exist and so we decided to do these parties. We bought a sound system and a generator and went into the middle of nowhere. We build a bar and a DJ booth and threw these epic raves with up to 500 people – scenes that I love reminiscing that was mad fun these parties got very popular; it was crazy. We did that for quite some time but one day we got busted by a local ranger who was just one of the people we really pissed off in the local community with these parties back then. I will never forget that face when he drove by the rave and people were still going off the rails at nine o’clock in the morning ha. In order to not getting reported to the police, we needed to help him caring little trees out of the forest with our bare hands every Friday for two months.

Without my mom though I would never have been able to follow my passion, so I owe it all to her who I am today.

Torture the Artist: Speaking of your upbringing, what other genres did your parents/family expose you to in those formative 90s years? How did the people around you that you lived in proximity with, help develop your musical library?

HDSN: I grew up with a lot of classics at a young age so actually very mixed. I remember dancing to Mojo´s “Lady” with my grandma a lot but also Mark Morrison’s “Return Of Mack”, Simply Red or Tracy Chapman stuck on my mind to this day. I grew up in a very traditional Bavarian culture, so I consider myself lucky that I have been exposed to these songs as my village and the adjacent region isn’t what I call a stronghold in terms of music. I think it’s just honest to say that my musical education really started to develop when I got into music myself especially when I started making music. Without my mom though I would never have been able to follow my passion, so I owe it all to her who I am today.

Torture the Artist: Breaks are great, but smoothie breaks are better! What is your go-to smoothie?

HDSN: Ha, this is definitely my fav question right here, but it’s a tough one. You know I really like healthy food, so I am always up for a good smoothie. Currently, my fav one’s called “Immune Booster” and contains avocado, beetroot, strawberries, and almond milk. (Shout out to my man Lucas and Tini right here for keeping me healthy daily).

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Torture the Artist: Your enthusiasm and deep affection toward music are both apparent and bright, do you ever need to remind yourself of anything to maintain your excitement?

HDSN: Music is a life thing for me. It’s my orphan, my savior, my guidance if you want to call it like that. It plays a crucial part in my life, I’m very into it so it’s not so often that I got to remind myself why I love music. My bond with music is so much stronger than this career, I walk music, cause music is my healing force and that’s what makes it so special. Sometimes I have to remind myself why I love the game though. The music industry is often very frustrating in many terms. I just want to make music and play records to people to make them happy cause it makes me happy but you gotta do what you gotta do and all the hustle can never be as much as the dream is worth it.

When you listen to songs from the golden era of Soul you can really hear and feel all these emotions people were going through and that’s different from listening to a Cardi B song or something that’s in the Billboard Top 100 today.

Torture the Artist: Admittedly, the expression “things change” is not the most remarkable maxim. Nonetheless, when the music changes, so does the nostalgia that surrounds it; the two compose a power-coupled timestamp. Generally, as such change progresses, what do you find most nostalgic in your past musical tastes?

HDSN: I feel like music from back in the days has had way more substance. The content was very different from the music today. May it be a political message or personal stories, people really told stories with their music back then and I really miss that. Let’s take soul music for example. It was the music of the black community. Separation, exploitation, and exclusion of this community were still in full swing when soul music got popular (unfortunately we still kind of deal with these problems today but I think you’ll get my point) but they had music, and this was their thing and nobody could take this away from them. These people put everything in their music cause they didn’t have something else to express their feelings. When you listen to songs from the golden era of Soul you can really hear and feel all these emotions people were going through and that’s different from listening to a Cardi B song or something that’s in the Billboard Top 100 today. Same with House music. When Chicago was blooming, House music was represented by mostly black artists. House and Techno music was a sign of resistance against the system. People that mostly had been excluded from society came together for a couple of hours leaving all their day-by-day problems at the door to come along to dance and sing the songs. Just listen to Joey Smooth´s “Promised Land” and tell me what you feel? I would love to hear more music like this again instead of all the stuff that´s coming out on Beatport on a weekly basis but yeah these were different times. Kids nowadays just want to have fun and Techno & House music is just a gimmick for them.

Torture the Artist: What moment(s), unique to this setting summer, can you see yourself reminiscing?

HDSN: There have been a couple of moments to remember over the last months when I got back to play records again. We started to do these “community” events here in Munich and the first one was pretty special. Everyone wanted to contribute the very best they could come up with that night, the energy was different as people craved for a good night out, they didn’t take it for granted. It was a celebration of being with people from all different walks of life connected through the lowest common denominator in the room the music… it really felt like church and somehow like a glimpse from back in the days I really loved that.

Words by Isabella Gadinis