After growing up in Madrid and later moving to Berlin, Oaks set foot in the ever thriving nightlife of the German capital. With his impelling sets that tend to push BPM counters all the way up, he by now internationally established himself as a go-to for any bookers seeking a hard yet playful sound for their lineups. He currently is a residentof the infamous Herrensauna parties and holds a regular slot in Tbilisi’s Bassiani. Together with the label of the latter he recently released this LP called As We Were Saying. Heavily inspired by the communal and political spirit of Georgian ravers following club raids and a general attack on the local nightlife last May, he created this 11 track strong prodcution. We chatted about the post-soviet country as a place of greater interest, creating an alias in order to become the whole package and electronic music as a possibility to form secular communities. An Interview by Julius Pristauz.
What were your first experiences and junctures with electronic music?
My very first experience with electronic music probably was at home. I remember my father playing Pink Floyd LP’s, especially Wish You Were Here or The Wall which I still conserve and play quite often in my gigs. He also had some other records like The Police, Supertramp or Queen but I remember very well how Pink Floyd was different to all of them. After that, with around 15 years, a friend of mine from school was a DJ at parties for people under 18. I’ve always been very curious about technology, so I just felt attracted to it. The first time I listened to Techno was with 18 years in Madrid. I went to this club called Danzoo from which I ended up being a resident for some events, until it closed. It was Mark Broom and Len Faki playing and I didn’t understand anything about that music but the whole atmosphere, the big sound system, how the people were dressing, dancing on their own. That whole scenario just blew my mind.
You are a trained sound engineer and as stated above, first started out as a DJ in your hometown Madrid. What changed after moving to Berlin?
I can say that moving to Berlin changed everything. I got deep into the rave culture and lifestyle, the ambience that you can breathe in this city still is something very special. Also, the cheap prices back then - still compared to other euro capitals - enabled me to survive with not much for a while. There was a whole learning process developing which is still taking part - tons of artists, record shops, this city is still more techno than Detroit ever was.
When did you start to produce and what was the learning process like?
I started making music a while after playing records. When I discovered techno, armed with just my laptop, I spent hours making pure trash. However, I’m very tough and after years the music started to sound better and I learned more about music in general. And yes, I’m a sound engineer, which helps. Also Berlin is a really inspiring place. Every corner can embrace the mood to a proper techno track. Now that I’m used to it anyhow I still find it quite inspiring.
For a while now you do not only play as Hector Oaks but created a second alias called Cadency: I wanted to know where Hector ends and Cadency starts and what made you separate the two?
I am still playing - more than ever - as Héctor Oaks. In fact, I only play as Cadency once per year in Horoom (Bassiani’s second room) and for my Herrensauna residency. At the beginning the distinction was more clear, Cadency was just a producing alias to make a different kind of techno. After that, I started DJing with it and the main difference was that it was freestyle. The people didn’t expect much and I could experiment swapping moods and playing other styles etc. I had so much fun doing it that nowadays my sets as Héctor Oaks are half Cadency and the other way around. It’s the whole package.
You hold a residency at Bassiani in Tbilisi and are very closely connected to the club which finally led to this major release. How did you first establish this relation among each other?
I was booked for Tbilisi a couple of years before Bassiani existed. The people running the club and I are more or less the same age, we have the same interests and we grew together. After coming to play a couple of times and meeting them in Berlin when they visited we became friends. A couple of years after I played several times, they asked me to become resident.
Where and when was the decision, to do the first LP together, made? This album apparently is heavily inspired by the club’s perseverance and its function as a force for change. What are other things that eventually inspired the whole record and manifested in the tracks?
In 2017, I played 3 very long sets in Bassiani and through them I learned a lot, taking tons of energy and inspiration back with me. The space itself has always been special to me because of its distinct energy, regardless of the fact that I had no tangible way of proving why exactly that is. I simply knew that I wanted to create an album, with tunes and an atmosphere which would perfectly fit Bassiani and its space. In May 2018, however, the government raid against Bassiani happened — an overall attack on safe and queer clubbing spaces — and the entire community showed me the particular reason why I’m so drawn to that place: for people there, raving is important to a point where they will fight the government if it threatens to take away that freedom of expression from them. And at that moment, it all felt like a full circle for me: the writing of the album, its sound, the space and the political happenings there.
The title of it and an eponymous song are called As we were saying. Can you tell us about the meaning behind that name?
This is one of my favorite track titles ever. Basically, it is about taking a look into the present and reaffirming ourselves in what we are doing. The phrase is giving some kind of force to keep it strong and make it happen, it’s turning into a sort of statement or confirmation. Like this is nothing new but this is what we do.
The happenings in Tbilisi around the 11th of May caused reactions worldwide. Do you have the feeling that these events, in all their cruelty, brought the scene even closer together?
They definitively did, after these events, all the clubs had a common fight and I think that nobody in Tbilisi cared about to which club you go or work for, but for their common right to rave.
In the last year, Georgia and mainly its capital shifted to become a location of great attention, especially in the techno scene. What are changes that you could witness from an »outside« or western European point of view?
During the years I have seen several changes happening, the main one is the number of people that are into techno music and club culture. When I first came, there were just a few ravers, second time there were hundred and especially after Bassiani opening, this grew exponentially. The reasons for this, in my opinion, are clear. Bassiani, Khidi and Drama Bar are world-class clubs. I mean, they would be the best probably in any other city in the world. The promoters and bookers of these clubs also made an excellent job from the beginning. Bringing cutting edge underground artists mixed with some well-known ones. This great labor summed up with the way the people are in Tbilisi (at least most of those I met who go to these clubs), really cultured, open-minded and wanting to learn, mixed with the struggle of being a growing post-soviet country - makes nowadays’ Tbilisi hold one of the healthiest most vibrant scenes in the world. And I strongly recommend to anybody into rave culture to go there to live it themselves.
I think it is clear that electronic music has the potential to form secular communities. We start to see societal development originating from the inner circles of dancefloors. What, from your point of view, is something that has yet to change in order to continue building up these sustainable and even political movements?
I think that this movement or similar ones are not a fact but a consequence. They come from the need of the people, from the inside. They are happening, they literally pop up and that’s why they are so strong. These are people claiming their freedom, fighting for their rights. Dancing and raving, like DJing, are pure forms of expression and should be tolerated and supported by governments. Even more in those countries where people are still in severe need of expressing themselves as a result of years of oppression. This cannot and should not be preprogrammed. Stay punk and keep the rave.