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Oliver Koletzki has spent the better part of two decades building his reputation as a scene leader with his label Stil Vor Talent, and cultivating melodic house and techno sounds worldwide. Over the past few years, however, he’s been on a journey of creating a stylistic change toward an even more mellowed, instrumental direction. By putting an emphasis on wooden instruments such as djembes, marimbas, and santoors, ‘Made Of Wood’ is the perfect name for Oliver Koletzki’s ninth full-length album; it’s also a culmination of this new artistic aesthetic, which began two albums ago with ‘The Arc Of Tension’.
Oliver talks to us about his latest influences and inspirations, the potential future of electronic music, post-pandemic performances, and more in a candid conversation we got to have with him ahead of his ‘Made Of Wood’ release.
Electronic Groove: Hey, Oliver, thanks for taking the time to speak with us. Curious to hear more about your sonic evolution… How does ‘Made Of Wood’ relate to your past two albums, and what are the biggest influences (aside from Burning Man) that have led to your new, ‘organic’ direction in recent years?
Oliver Koletzki: Hello there! I would say that the music has become more downtempo and more organic throughout this trilogy. While ‘The Arc Of Tension’ still had a lot of melodic techno tracks, I transitioned to Afro-house in ‘Fire In The Jungle’. On ‘Made Of Wood’, nearly all tracks are below 120 bpm and I hardly used any synthesizers.
Before this trilogy, I played techno for a few years and was just tired of this style of music. I needed a change. The pandemic had an influence as well.
Electronic Groove: A lot of this album was inspired by the nature and surroundings in Tulum. Can you tell us how some of the tracks relate to certain memories of your time there in the winter of 2019?
Oliver Koletzki: During my time in Tulum, I noticed that there are a lot of noises that aren’t here in Berlin, such as the singing of the birds and chirping of the crickets. There are also memories of the sound of the waves when I was alone at the beach at night and hearing the various animals on an expedition into the jungle.
Electronic Groove: Do you feel that the music in ‘Made Of Wood’ has a greater power as a result of implementing live instrumentation/work of musicians throughout? Why was it of particular importance for you to create a sense of ‘human touch’ inside your album?
Oliver Koletzki: On the one hand, it’s a lot of fun to work with real musicians who are masters of their instruments. On the other hand, I wanted to set a counterpoint to the techno music in our scene, which is heavily produced mechanically and on-grid.
Electronic Groove: You’ve been in the game for two decades at this point; how do you remain inspired and find ways to keep your music fresh these days, and what is your secret to success over a long period of time?
Oliver Koletzki: I hope my music is really still seen as fresh. I think part of the success is that even though I have changed my music style over the years, you can still recognize the Oliver Koletzki sound as a thread.
“We should care for more diversity of gender and skin color when it comes to signing artists to a record label, lineups, and working in the music industry in general”
Electronic Groove: As a seasoned veteran of dance music, you’ve seen many cycles and growth in the scene/culture. Where do you see electronic music going in the future, and what are some changes you’d like to see in the current status quo?
Oliver Koletzki: Musical styles are always very daring to make predictions, but I think we can change a lot in our scene: we should care for more diversity of gender and skin color when it comes to signing artists to a record label, lineups, and working in the music industry in general. We should keep clubs and festivals plastic-free and focus more on sustainability. DJs should stop playing pre-recorded sets. The guests should leave the phones at home or in their pockets.
Electronic Groove: What’s a key piece of advice that you would give to your past self at the time when you began your career in electronic music?
Oliver Koletzki: I would tell my younger self to have more self-confidence and initiative along the way. I probably could have made money with music sooner instead of after making music for 13 years.
Electronic Groove: You’ve become a little bit more involved in spiritual practices of late (like meditation), spurred by your time at transformational events like Burning Man. How has your approach toward spirituality evolved over the years and what gives you the most inner peace? And has the pandemic led to you becoming even more enmeshed in the spiritual world?
Oliver Koletzki: I do yoga and meditation every now and then, but I wouldn’t consider myself to be very spiritual. Slowing down through the pandemic has helped me understand myself and the world better, but I wouldn’t say that it made me more spiritual.
Electronic Groove: The theme of consciousness/spirituality pops up in ‘Made Of Wood’ as well, in that it’s almost like a call to action to slow down, disconnect, and appreciate our surroundings more. How do you convey this in the album? What else do you do to keep your life pace slow/balanced outside of touring and winter sabbaticals in Tulum?
Oliver Koletzki: Oh, it’s nice that you can hear that. Above all, I’ll be performing a little less in the future. I’ve played almost 120 shows a year for the last ten years and that was a bit much. The pandemic really held up a mirror and changed some priorities such as playing more sports and eating healthier.
“I developed this live act with the new album that I can bring on stage underneath real stars. That’s super exciting”
Electronic Groove: Got to ask the classic question; which gigs are you most excited to play as the world slowly makes its way out of the pandemic? And will you be performing any live sets around your LP, possibly with a band?
Oliver Koletzki: Any kinds of outdoor festivals! Yes, I’ve been working on this new live set for several months now and it’s almost done. I started to play live again 3 years ago. It was exclusively in the Planetarium in Berlin where the audience could look up and watch the stars. It was amazing and really fulfilling. Now, I developed this live act with the new album that I can bring on stage underneath real stars. That’s super exciting. I’m doing the live act together with our Stil Vor Talent sound engineer, Stefan Thomas, who plays guitar and the Moog synthesizers. I will be playing piano and all the lead sounds of the songs live on synthesizers.
Electronic Groove: Thank you for your time, Oliver! We wish you all the best going forwards!
Oliver Koletzki: Thank you! It’s been a pleasure!
Oliver Koletzki’s ‘Made Of Wood’ is out now via Stil Vor Talent. Purchase your copy here.