Picture by Marc Brueneke
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Neelix from Hamburg in an interview with Goazin.de
I was very excited about getting the opportunity to interview a live act & producer like Neelix at such an early stage of my little hobby magazine and about an insight from behind the scenes. Not because of his fanbase, his popularity, or his glasses. But because of his music and his own world-wide known sound, which has shaped the Psytrance and Progressive Trance in and out of Hamburg. And because he is not afraid of political statements and messages. Sometimes seriously, sometimes ironically. A little anecdote: when he plays the track „You Can Change The World„ live he always turns out the bassline until the vocal part „we could stop eating animals“. Then he turns bass back in, hoping that it maybe works like some kind of Trigger which turns the audience into vegetarians ;). I also like the fact that he measures success, as well as the value of his own art, not by filled floors only. Although he definetly could.
Latest Neelix Release „On My Own“
So I went to the studio which is located in Hamburg, close to artists like Kularis, Fabio & Day.Din. He simply belongs to a magazine which also has it’s desire to bring the different sub-genre groups closer together.
Because Henrik and his acoustic worlds, the well-known „Neelix Sound“, which is a very successful hybrid of Progressive Trance, Psy and a large portion of Electro & Creativity, brings them closer together, too. For Henrik, producing music is also some kind of therapy. Many persons process bad or good experiences by painting pictures or talking. He does it with his music. That’s why he chose the glasses as his trademark, for which he was teased as a child.
He was about to edit the cover for his upcoming release „On My Own“ when I arrived at the studio in Hamburg. That circumstance immediately revealed one of his greatest preferences; Lost Places – ruined places, abandoned by mankind. They adorn almost every of his EP designs. Once his mother told him that she was sad about this. Since that moment he hides a small daisy in almost every design. Just one of many small details. Like the brother in the punk scene whose voice he regularly uses in his productions (eg „Vök – Before – Remix by Neelix“ from 2:57 minutes, or for the outro from 8:02 minutes and also for the outro of his latest release), or like his graffiti episode in which he went outside for some „decorations“ every night.
What Neelix Sound really means
In addition to typical trance influences he also uses many house and electro elements. But technically Neelix is an absolute practitioner and creative genre freethinker without passion for theory and unconditional success. The funniest thing is that this is precisely why he had success. Paradox.
Only a few artists from Hamburg get as much attention as Henrik in the scene and far beyond. Worldwide. Even if he would like to deny this sometimes. But as an avid nerd, interested in quantum physics and Voyager, he is proud like you’d be when Dan Aykroyd, actor from the original Ghostbusters Cast, suddenly comes to the stage at the „Avalon“ in L.A. to celebrate your music. And who would blame him therefore?.
Neelix himself does not like to call his productions Psytrance or Proggy. And after a few hours in his studio I know why: it simply is no Psytrance or Proggy.
His music is free of typically self-constraints of a genre, which many artists & producers believe in. Mainfloor-proven basic patterns have become strongly established in the scene. Because some producers know that they will always work and they’re afraid of trying something which maybe won’t work on the floor. But sometimes good music is also music on which you can’t even dance. On which you don’t have to dance. Because it brings something to your soul that moves more than just your legs. But of course he can not and does not want to give up on danceable basslines and structures completely. Why should he?
Finally, „Progressive“ means „progress“ and progress means versatility and development. Not standing still until everybody likes me. Neelix does not hold on to old and well-known sound structures. There is no absolut state of mind for Neelix Sound. It’s 24 / 7 evolution. Music as a self-purpose and not as a way to success.
It is certainly not what was originally intended, if diversity and own understanding / interpretation of music lead to controversy in a scene. Triplets, bpm, Dark, Hi-Tech, Proggy, Hamburger Sound, Psy – it is and shall remain a matter of taste.
That is why styles have always been irrelevant to me and my magazine. And Henrik made the impression that he thinks the same way. It is about the music, emotions and creativity which define this scene in it’s core. That’s why I interviewed Neelix. And also that’s why he answered.
Henrik’s musical career
He made his first musical steps in 1995, with the mixing of records and CDs. But only at home. 1996 was the year of his first booking. But right before the performance he was too much afraid and had too much respect. So he simply did not come to the decks. Alex, nowdays better known as Nok, had to do it for him. And he did it – not sober at all. Very sympathetic, I think. Alex and Henrik and also Fabio (Fusco / Fabio & Moon) met each other more than 20 years ago when they were skating together at the Hamburger „Jungfernstieg“.
At that time Psytrance was no popular topic to them at all. Like music which was made by a Computer. Techno was not cool. Rock music was the topic of the day. But they have always wanted to be creative. Whether as a painter, with a few own graffitis, or later as a DJ and finally with own music productions. At least the last one went pretty well. And Psytrance had just been offered as suitable for this purpose in 1996. New, immaculate and creative. And most important: Improvable!After he did not want to work with other music he just started producing his own. Luckily. In 1998 the whole music thing began to take off slowly. In 2002 there was Neelix first official release on the sampler „Maverixx“ by NOVA TEKK.
Since then he has experienced a lot, from a booking on Tomorrowland to a forest in Mexico, which suddenly began to burn behind the stage. And when the audience ran away from the floor and looked frightened he thought it was his music which made them behave like that. Until he saw the burning forest behind the stage.
For 12 years now, Henrik has brought his home but also the continents to the dancefloor. Whether it’s Los Angeles, New York, Melbourne, an event in Hamburg, Universo Paralello, or EDC in Las Vegas – the playful symbiosis of Progressive Trance, House, Electro and Psytrance is unique and touches people all around the world. One of his signature sounds, which is also often discussed in producer communities, is the clear and „full“ „Neelix-Bassline“. How you can make your bassline sound like that you’ll learn by that tutorial.
The musically know-how of Neelix catched me with the new release again, the „Mosquito“ EP, after my interest turned to more dark and „stomping“ music.
His career has been booming since 2005 and his release „No Way To Leave“. He got first international bookings at that time. Over the last decade Neelix‘ music has inspired numerous producers around the world, found place in the collections of countless DJs, movie productions and the catalogs of well-known labels. At the moment he is releasing Tracks at Spin Twist Records.
He says that there are two main reasons for producing music; The emotional versatility & the dancefloor. Unfortunately these two are often difficult to connect and to combine. As every other producer Neelix focused on the floor and it’s euphoria at first, because you always get direct feedback on your productions. But over the years his focus on emotion and art has become more and more important to himself. Maybe it’s a question of age? Of course I din’t ask him this,
Why Psytrance is bothering him a little bit today, what equipment and tips he recommends to new and upcoming producers, what is really going on in Brazil and how everything started back in the 90s – Neelix will answer all of this questions in a new, exclusive and pleasant interview with Goazin.de.
A secret daisy on each cover – can you find it?
Interview with Neelix
„For good sound yes, definitely, but honestly I’m just about to break down my tents here and simply start producing at home or wherever I will find a nice place to sit or lay down for a few hours.“
Why is that?
„A bunker always reminds me of unsightly things. Somehow you can feel the fear that the thousands of people have had here during the world wars and that does not really inspire me. I’d rather sit at the kitchen table, drink a tea and look at a tree. Home production again, like in the first years.“
Because you were speaking of your beginnings; you’ve been playing music for more than 20 years now. How do you see the whole thing and scene at the moment?
„A bit monotonous and too much focused on the floor, but that is not bad at all and no topic that has not been discussed often enough. I also like to produce tracks which are not suitable for the worldwide mainfloors, even if some of that tracks will never be released. I need this to balance myself. Basically I want to say that when Offbeat came along, many producers have made Offbeat tracks, as triplets came along, they switched to triplets. It’s ok but the innovation and creativity get’s lost like that. Nowdays you won’t find any popular new release without indian or ethno voice samples. I just showed you something I produced without any concept or something like that. Maybe you can not stomp the ground to this track, but it’s nice and different. I think it’s important to continue developing as a musician and producer and not always to return to established basic structures just to make no mistake. In art, there are no mistakes. But if more and more people want to get „famous and successful“ and not making music for the sake of music itself, then there will be no evolution of sound anymore.“
But as someone who has also played at Tomorrowland and Airbeat One, you also know how to produce very danceable stuff. Do you see yourself as a sellout?
„Yes, that’s true, of course there are also tracks of mine that are going well on the dancefloor. Like many producers I focused on it at the beginning because there are not many ways to get such a direct feedback whether your new track is working or not. A crowd that is going crazy on a festival is a great indicator, especially when you’re just starting to make music. It’s always a great experience but not the only purpose of my music anymore. It should not become empty and soulless only for beeing always danceable. And defining your ego through the dancefloor is very dangerous.“
Do you think that many artists are „addicted“ to this ego feedback on the dancefloor?
„Yes, I have met people who have lost their relationship to reality a little bit. But it is not just the ego after which one can become addicted. This is simply human. Much in everyday life is only designed on demand and not on utility. Food for example. We always eat things that taste good. We do not ask if it is really good for us or the environment. Sweets here, Cola there. Burger for lunch, meatballs for dinner.
I am on it to create an app which only has two buttons. A green and a red one. Always press the green one when you did something that’s good for you and what you and your environment really needed. Water, vegetables, fruits. And red for everything else. Chocolate, lemonade and chips etc. At the end of the day there is a table or chart with a trend line. You can transfer the functionality to all aspects of life. If you went by feed – green button. Driving by car to get cigarettes – red button. Playing at Tomorrowland for money and fame – red button. Playing at Tomorrowland to get experience and enjoy a great but different community – green button 😉
If you managed to push more green than red at the end of the day, it was a successful day. The environment is protected, your body is doing well, and so on. But most of us will probably use the red one more than the green one. Because we often forget that Cola, burgers and wieners literally mean posion and factory farming.
There is an interesting quote from Khandi which fits well here:
„The world has enough for everyone’s needs, but not enough for everyone’s greed.“
Do you think you’re in the wrong scene sometimes?
„Yes, it seems to be a bit like this *laughs*. But not always. The years in Brazil, the early days in Hamburg – it all enriched me, my art and my life. The problem is that some sort of prototype „neo-hippie“ has discovered the music for itself. And the thing with some of them is that they are not as relaxed and free as it seems or they see themselves in the mirror. Quite the opposite. Some of them are very conservative in terms of their opinions and self-righteousness. The best example is the Tomorrowland Festival for which I’ve been called a sellout. I was criticized a lot for playing for „that“ people. Of course only via facebook not personally. But for me it was one of my personal favorite festivals and the people on the Psytrance Floor were really great. And anyway – who decides who can listen to the music and who is not allowed to?“
When did you generally begin with music somehow?
„Take a look. That’s the first flyer. In 1996 I was called Dj Hennit. And Dj Alex, that’s Nok. In 1995 I started making music. It all started because of a friend who then as always has done much with music stuff and so on. At that time this had little to do with Psytrance. Nearly nothing. There are also videos on which the crowd asked us to stop playing melodies on the keyboard in addition to our live-set. That’s the way I experienced live performances at that time *laugh*. I was so scared of the first booking in 1996, so I did not dare to go on stage. At that time Alex did it for me (Nok). Thanks you Alex.“
How did you start producing Psytrance then?
„Alex, Fabio and me were often skating at the time and we just made some experiments with records and record players back then. Wanted to play at the clubs and so on. And then somebody came who said that we had to go to Psytrance. That was around 1994 / 1995. I listened to some Goatrance. Strange Sound. Bass & Melody were unimportant in most cases. At the same time the Club Goa appeared. Nothing what I wanted to play. So after some years as a DJ I had to produce the music myself. That’s how „Neelix“ was born.“
How did you get it?
„A certain basic interest in music and a classical producer self-study. But until the first official release a couple of years have already passed. At the beginning „Neelix“ was a project by both of us – Alex and me. The first release was in 2002 (here you get the track). Music just crept into my life somehow. But I always wanted to do something creative, painter or director in the early days. I’ve been working in movies before, for at least 10 years, and I’ve given up on that for the music production. But who knows the future? Maybe I will do it again in 5 – 10 years. To produce a film is definitely a great wish of mine.“
Which advices can you give to new or upcoming producers after 20 years of experience?
„Only listen to the people who are like you want to be. Not to those who are like you do not want to be. And do not be afraid to write to someone you want to know about. Not joking – I’ve already written to everyone. Daft Punk, Michael Jackson, all sorts of people. They do not always reply. But it is about the principle. Best example: my new cover. This is an officially awarded picture that usually no one is allowed to use. But I just asked the painter and he allowed it. Many thanks to Martin Stranka.“
What equipment do you recommend for beginners?
„For someone who is new to producing, do not buy a studio, do not buy expensive equipment, buy headphones, best from Audio-Technica, or Sennheiser HD 25 – any headphones that at least have a bit of good quality. Then you need Sonarworks to calibrate your headphones, and then you’re ready to start. And remember: not to be famous but for the music. And you’ll have to deal with a few questions. What is sidechaining? How do I get a good space distribution? Imagine if you have a theater. All members of the assemble stand around somewhere and build an overall picture. The theater is the space you have, like your Ableton, or the software you’re using. And now distribute. The one hi-hat to the left, the other hi-hat to the right front, the open hi-hat rather to the left front. So you get space for kick & bass in the middle. But you do not have to know everything. Recently, I just learned about the differences and meaning of an additive and a subtractive sound synthesis. Please don’t ask!“
Editor’s tip: Tutorials by deadmau5 are very helpful either.
And how do you work and produce nowdays?
„With Logic Pro, a bit more of a high-quality piece of equipment (but I still don’t understand half of the buttons and displays). But most of the time still as in the early days. And you should stay dissatisfied. Just because you created something that doesn’t mean that it’s good.„
You are just working on a new cover. What about the daisy which I should look for on the covers a few minutes ago?
„I really, really love Lost Places, as you might see on the book which is lying on the sofa. Because in the end we are always going to make our planet exactly like that – we’re creating a lost place. My mother is always a little bit sad about it so I just started to have a daisy for her on every cover. You can find my glasses and the tag of my brother who died long time ago, too. Of course only if you look closely, and know what it looks like.“
You can find the voice of your dead brother in many releases, too. Why?
„My brother died 20 years ago. You habe to process things like that somehow. I used to paint a lot before I started making music. Music helps a lot to get along with such things. Someday I discovered a documentary about the punk scene which my brother belonged to. I saw him in this video and for my ears he said very intelligent things. I was looking for vocals for my tracks during that time and so I used his voice. Its a nice special and a great way to remember him and his words.“
You do not set yourself so strong self-limitations for influence and genre like other artists do. What artists and what music inspires you?
„I am inspired by artists such as Daft Punk and Michael Jackson, Simon & Garfunkel. I don’t like to get my inspiration only in the gerne I produce for. Turning your head and brain off is very important. So you make sure that you not only copy things from other artists of your genre or scene. I love to get inspired by movies or commercials, too. By moods. And when you found inspiration you could not stop producing. I even can’t sleep and have to finish tracks in the middle of the night when inspiration hits me. Great feeling. Always.“
You’re playing around the globe. A lot of beautiful moments?
„The most beautiful moments are the ones I discribed in my last answer. I love it to be in the middle of the producing process. The center and purpose of my musical creation is definitely not (only) the floor. I love it if people like what I’m doing. But I don’t do it especially for pleasing people. I do it for myself and with passion and that always pleases people automatically. Even my new release is some kind of a best of. I just combined some of my best creative moments. There is no concept for 100 % success or something like that. Sometimes I use guitars and rock music, then I use the Star Trek theme and after that I try classical music or movie themes. And a combination of all of that things sometimes result in a new set. But not always.“
You stayed in Brazil for some years. What are the biggest differences to Psytrance in Europe? What do you think about the hype?
„It’s a completely different and good feeling over there and the years I spent there have also influenced me very strongly. Personally and musically. But while Psytrance has always had a bit of underground touch in Europe and the feeling of a big techno family always has been an important aspect, it is a little more mainstream in Brazil. It is more energetic but also more entertaining culture. No underground and no family.
And traveling around the world also means a lot of stress and not just fun. Especially when it comes to aspects like family and relationships. You have to like that. It was definitely an important experience and formative to have been there many times. But in Brazil everything is about hard drops, 10 seconds dancing and then waiting for the next drop. In many places in the world it’s similar. In Europe people are more in love with melodies and they’re dancing all the time. Not just during the drop. In addition trends and hypes always provide a focus on this trend and that slows down the innovation and the courage of the producers to be „different“. Some also begin to produce especially for just one music market instead of listening to their own creativity. You can hear that. But it’s just a question of taste. Would be bad if not. There is no „correct“ way to love and live psytrance„
For you everything started in a Hamburg of the 90s. What has changed since then, who is still active?
„Shiva Chandra is still active, but he is also active in other ways such as film music, while Nok and Fabio are still on the road, as always, and the locations have changed a little bit: the Traxx at the Deichtorhallen is not there anymore. Oli from ov-silence has often booked us there and we also started to play live in that location. Also in the Savoy and Atisha. But it was quiet a short time and the international bookings began. First one in Greece, with 50 people on the beach and very, very bad sound. It was awesome!“
You are also politically committed and vegetarian. Were there confrontations?
„Except demonstrations? Yes, with a very large company, which sells, among other things, genetically modified seeds, I’ve often used movies of factory farming and other unsightly pictures to background my tracks on YouTube etc. With one of that videos there were problems and I got mail from the company’s lawyer.“
What are you looking forward to in 2017?
„Mostly to the Nature One Festival.“
And what are we able to look forward to regarding Neelix in 2017?
„Well, I don’t know if you’re looking forward to it but I’lll release my new set „On my Own“. And of course I’ll play on a lot of events.“
Thank you for the sympathetic, revealing interview and for your time. How did you like it?
„I’ve got to thank you, for your human, normal treatment. Any raising of a person for it’s fame makes people think they’re special, just because they’re always treated that way. Really bad thing because nobody is special or more special than someone else. I know artists who form their ego out of unnatural environments which are only made of producers, studios and fans. That makes people act and think strange. Especially when they tour a lot. After a performance in Melbourne, one of my harshest experiences and shows, the organizer approached me and asked me how I liked the event and my performance and my answer was „good for my career, bad for my ego“. That’s why I want to thank you for your time. Was a pleasure talking to you and just keep going on with kicking peoples asses when they need to much time to finish an interview *laughs*. No matter who it is 😉 All the best, and hopefully see you soon again. And always remember; We are all nothing special.“ *Laughs*
Neelix performing in Melbourne