Rough Cuts & Surprises—An Interview with Helena Hauff

By Sofia Luu

Hamburg-based techno artist and Golden Pudel resident Helena Hauff will be making her Toronto debut at this year’s Unsound Toronto, as part of Luminato Festival, this weekend shortly before 2am. By club standards, this is a pretty early set time (by Toronto standards, maybe not so much).

With releases on Werkdiscs and a cassette LP on Handmade Birds, “impressive” doesn’t quite cut it when it comes to describing Hauff’s talents as an artist and selector. She’s played everywhere from the gritty underground of Golden Pudel to big-name festivals such as Sonar and Vancouver’s New Forms, her style of dark yet eclectic techno is surely fitting for Unsound’s takeover of the decommissioned Hearn Generating Station.

Demo Magazine: Your interests and influences are incredibly diverse in terms of time period, genre, style, et cetera, where do you find that common ground in all these diverse sounds? How do you make an acid track flow seamlessly with a Front 242 track?

Helena Hauff: I feel like I’ve said this before, but it’s all about the energy and that can be conveyed through any kind electronic music or music in general… And it doesn’t have to flow seamlessly, I like rough cuts and surprises.

DM: How has space and time influenced the way you create music?

HH: Speaking prosaically I don’t think that the city I live in had a big influence on my music, but I think the time I live in does. Everything is so globally connected that you get to know a lot of different things from different times easily and in no particular order.

DM: You talk a lot about taking more of a punk approach to music than a traditional techno DJ, are there any significant punk bands that have impacted the way you create music in ways that aren’t so obvious?

HH: Yes, the song “La Bière” by Les Garçons Bouchers definitely influenced me!

DM: In your interview with the Quietus, you talked about being in a constant search for something new and how your interests span different categories and aren’t focused on just one like Chicago house. Given the immense amount of information on the Internet, what do you look for when you’re seeking these things out?

HH: I’m very inspired by other DJs and musicians and I love going to record shops all around the world. I go on the occasional YouTube search as well.

DM: You mentioned in an earlier interview that you would much rather read a philosophical book than the news, what sort of texts have shaped the way you create music?

HH: I don’t know if those books really shaped the way I make music, I doubt it… But I read a lot by Guy Debord, Jacques Ranciere, Slavoj Zizek and Jean Baudrillard, among others.

DM: How does playing music in a smaller space like Golden Pudel vary from, let’s say, a festival like Dekmantel or monolithic club like Berghain? What works? What doesn’t work?

HH: I have the feeling that stuff with vocals works better in smaller places, whereas hard and stripped-down techno makes more sense in bigger spaces. But at the end of the day there are no rules, really. It always depends on the atmosphere and the mood of the crowd.

DM: I get the sense that you’re obsessed with the fringes of life, being a rough around the edges, a little bit imperfect, dirty and chaotic… where does this come from?

HH: I reckon it comes from drinking too much beer.

DM: Is this something that you think is associated with having an experimental approach or is this more of a standard you aim for?

HH: I don’t see my music as experimental. I just make music that I like. And drinking beer helps me attain the standards that I strive for.

DM: Where does the machine end and Helena begin? Or do you think you and your machines are a single entity?

HH: Well, the machine is just a machine, it’s nothing without me programming it. And I make up the rules, the machine just follows them.

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