Ernestus is best known for his groundbreaking work with Moritz von Oswald as Basic Channel and latterly Rhythm & Sound. He is also founder and proprietor of Berlin’s legendary record store and distributor, Hard Wax, which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary.
Talking to The Wire‘s Derek Walmsley about the anonymity which characterised Basic Channel, Ernestus reflects,”[…] [I’d] rather be invisible. I realise that I really loved the idea to have my genetic code in the genetic code of the music.”
On the topic of Hard Wax and its role as arbiter of good taste in dance music circles, Ernestus (pictured above right, with von Oswald) suggests that the critical faculties of customers are expressed in their buying habits, and seems to delight in the cut-and-thrust immediacy of the business at large.
“Somebody makes a killer record, [we sell] 150 copies. The next record is total shit and we won’t sell even three copies. There’s a seriousness about…the producers, but also the audience, it either works or it doesn’t.”
The idea of “seriousness” crops up again when Ernestus talks about the dancehall DJ sets that have been his main creative outlet in recent years.
“My main focus is on the production, the rhythm, the groove, the overall sound.
“[…] There is a seriousness about the reggae that I’m talking about, or the dub. It’s not a trial and error thing, it’s not something you do to get famous or rich. You know your audience, you’re on a level with the audience, and that I would see as the same in serious club music…Probably the best term is seriousness, but that’s also a bit misleading , because sometimes, especially in reggae, some of the greatest things are very silly and still have what I would consider the seriousness.”
Ernestus also talks about the early days of house and techno in Berlin, his current obsession with the Senegalese and Gambian pop form mbalax, and his general feelings about creative process. He remains undecided, or at least guarded, on what his next recording project will be, concluding, “When the time is right, I will do something.”
Be sure to read the full interview in the February 2010 edition of The Wire, available now.