A conversation with Germany’s finest groove shapers and dynamic house double act – Session Victim
When it comes to the dynamic duo Session Victim, it’s pretty hard to argue against their track record as one of Germany’s most prolific and equally accomplished house music production outfits of the last decade. Their music and discography speaks for itself.
Coming from the small town of Lüneburg, Hauke Freer and Matthias Reiling have been building an unrivalled body of work over the last 10+ years, which has seen them lay down 4 expertly crafted LPs since 2012. The first 3 of which were released courtesy of Jimpster’s Delusions of Grandeur imprint, before their most recent and highly acclaimed album ‘Needledrop’ took shape on Late Night Tales/Night Time Stories in 2020.
Not ones for being content and idly sitting around, they do not stray far from the comfort zone that is their studio. Having made and released over twenty EPs for imprints such as Retreat, XK, Pen & Paper, Toytonics and Bradley Zero’s Rhythm Section and penning remixes for likeminded creatives such as Kink, Midnight Magic, Folamour and the mighty Khruangbin.
A pair of self-confessed vinyl/sampling obsessives, the lifeblood that sparked their initial acquaintance and subsequently cemented an enduring friendship: the pair met over two decades ago thanks to a party fuelled meeting in their hometown that snowballed into a raucous rave up, and into a long standing partnership.
By their own admission, Djing is and always has been the main pillar in Hauke and Matthias’ musical relationship. Their energy is joy to behold and when it’s not their turn to play, the chances are you’ll find one or both of them on the other side of the booth, leaping around like lunatics and egging on the Dj for the next tune. The same can be said for their energetic live show. Where others strut behind banks of prize synthesizers and complex mesh of modular patches, Hauke and Matthias are perfectly content to beat the hell out of cheap USB controllers, a half-dead drum machine – all to the bump of a trusty bass guitar. There’s an authentic devotion engrained at every level of this two person house band and their quest for enchanting everyone into “the zone”.
With a fresh EP ‘Basic Instinct’ dropping on Rhythm Section, we got the opportunity to put some questions to them about their small town beginnings, longstanding friendship and how they make things work.
How did you two actually first meet?
M: We met for the first time in 1997, in the small northern German town Lüneburg where we both grew up. A common friend had the idea of throwing a party with turntables and beatmatching – a thing nobody we knew had ever done there. Neither Hauke nor me had a turntable at that time, but we both wanted to be part of the operation.
H: This first very party went so well that we kept running events for a 4-5 years. At some point we were both living in Hamburg/Berlin, so it became hard to organize from afar and we eventually stopped.
What was growing up in a small / regionally town like for you both?
M: Well, you don’t really have anything to compare it to, do you? I guess it was good, but I do remember that we started to go to Hamburg every weekend as soon as the first of our friends had their driving licences.
Mojo Club was the place to go to for us at that time, I remember seeing DJ Krust & DJ Die, Doc Scott and Storm of Khemistry & Storm as some of my earliest dancefloor euphoriamoments.
H: We grew up before you could really listen to music on the internet.
My older brother was living in Berlin and supplied me with music and I skipped many classes to listen to every new record at the only record store. I am not sure if I had become a DJ myself when there would have been a cool club in town. The isolation forced us become active ourselves.
Did you bond over any music in particular back then?
M: When we started to learn mixing records, Hauke was mostly into Techno and Electro while it was Drum n’ Bass and Hip Hop for me. That was no problem though, as our own parties were always Techno for half of the night and DnB for the other. The first track that I remember we both had on record was the Irresistible Force ‘Napalese Bliss’, particularly the Jimpster remix. Who would have thought that Jimpster would be the one releasing the majority of our records over 10 years later?
When did you decide to start throwing parties and DJ together?
M: As I said earlier, we met the first time to throw a party – which we did.
Djing together would take another 10 years or so, as Hauke had a partner and so did I. Over time, Hauke moved more towards House while I was playing a lot of Soul – therefore, Disco was the thing where we actually met musically.
H: NYD 2007 we were hanging out and toying around with the sequencer and suddenly we had something that sounded promising, so we kept meeting up to make music which lead our first EP called ‘No Friends’ and then DJ opportunities came.
You both chose to move to different cities: Hauke to Berlin and Matthias to Hamburg – why did you go your separate ways?
M: We both graduated school in 1999. A year later, Hauke moved to Berlin to start working for Kanzleramt, while my Metal band at the time had just scored a little record contract with a label in Hamburg – so that’s where my whole band moved to. By the time the Session Victim idea took on form, we had already lived in Berlin and Hamburg for 7 years or so.
How have you managed to sustain your relationship and find the time to make music together since those early days?
M: We just visit each other on the weekends – which we already did to go out, both in Hamburg and Berlin. At some point, we just started sequencing the day after, hahaha.
Who were your biggest influences in terms of developing your sound then?
M: There’s lots of influences obviously. Somebody who was and still is a huge inspiration for me (but got too little credit for that in the past is DJ Muggs. Cypress Hill and Funkdoobiest. They were the first groups that got me into HipHop, and Muggs’ production is probably the biggest reason for that. And after all these years, he still releases music constantly and I still love the majority of it.
H: Oh so many. Very early the tapes from my brother with lots of DnB like Goldie and Photek, Acid Jazz / Talking Loud and 90s Hip Hop.
Then later, I dove into soul and disco and working for a techno label in Berlin in the 2000s was definitively influential.
What sort of set up did you first use?
M: My very first setup was a Commodore Amiga 500 with Protracker and the Techno Sound Turbo Sampling Cartridge. As for Session Victim, I guess it was a PC with either Sonic Foundry Acid or Cubase.
H: In 1994 my 286 PC with Cubase and a cheap general midi expander.
Your first EP was signed to Real Soon in 2008, how did the link up come about?
M: Hauke made it happen. Tell them Hauke.
H: One day I showed my Friend Rüdi a demo track and he told me that he was tired of his friends making music and not sending it to labels. So, he wouldn’t listen to my stuff until I did it.
So, that evening I sent my track “My Beat” to three labels and Real Soon picked it up for my first record. Mind blowing! Hopefully, Rüdi has since had enough free drinks from me. This established the connection with Paul from Real Soon and we send him our first SVM demo.
You certainly haven’t looked back since, 4 albums and almost 30 EPs later… what’s been your proudest achievement to date?
M: Haha, well it’s not exactly thirty EPs – it looks like that on discogs, as we released the three triple albums as Ep’s too – in case DJ’s just want one song!
I myself am very proud of the whole body of work we are still building. Of course there are sometimes favorite songs and records, but that does change all the time for me really.
H: For me, “Contribute” on Retreat 001 and getting the label started with Quarion was really a big milestone. The production approach has developed further on all the edits we’ve done since.
More recently, I would say our cover version of “The City” by Mark-Almond is also a real biggie. Working together with such excellent musicians, Erobique and Jamie Lloyd, was a challenge and joy to work with – to accomplish the cover we had in mind for a long time.
M: Hmm, okay – I pick Light Scent Of Decay, Tomorrow Night, Eo’s Place, Finderlohn,Pass The Diesel and Mourn.
All the newer stuff has to sit a bit longer before getting a chance to be induced into my inner Hall Of Fame.
Looking back, what could you have done a bit differently?
M: I could have bought a Rhodes Chroma when someone offered it to me for 600 Euros 8 years ago. Also, I could have started to really learn the Ensoniq ASR earlier.
H: Nothing really, I feel like we never compromise on our music or how to perform it, and that is most important to me. More fame or money are not a priority on the agenda.
At what point did you choose to go out and start playing as a LIVE act?
M: Pretty early really. Nobody told us how to do it so we kind of just came up with it. Let me think, our first EP came out in 2008 and our first live act was in 2009 then, opening up for the Junior Boys in Hamburg.
And what has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced on that front?
H: Meeting our own expectations, the longer you play live the more room for error and improvisations need to be included, so it always gets harder to play the set. But there is no alternative, because if you are bored how could you connect with the audience?
Nearly 15 years on, how do you keep ideas flowing and things fresh for yourselves?
M: Good question. I think we learned to embrace the fact that writer’s blocks and creative outbursts come and go as they please. If you don’t get down and start playing, you give neither of them a fair chance though.
H: For some reason, the excitement of finding and chopping that great sample you just heard, never gets old for me! Also growing as a musician by tackling tasks out of our comfortzone, renew the hunger for more music. Like playing as 3 man Band with Erobique, working with a singer or great instrumentalists.
You started the year with a residency at London’s Jazz Cafe – how do think it went and is this the sort of thing we might see more of from you?
M: It went amazing really – and the biggest credit for that has to go to the fantastic guests we had playing with us. Will this happen more often – let’s see about that. The setting has to be right and the people – like the amazing Jazz Cafe team have to be on our wavelength and vice versa.
Tell us a bit more about the scenes you’ve both been involved with locally: How would you say Hamburg and Berlin differ musically and/or culturally speaking?
M: The longer I do this, the less I look at a ‘scene’ and more so just at people. I’m happy to be able to say that music has brought me in touch with a bunch of wonderful folks – and some of them became good friends over time – in Hamburg, Berlin and many other places.
That being said, huge Hamburg shout outs to Groove City, Plattenrille, Zardoz, Otterstones, Remoto and all the other Hamburg record stores, to Leafar Legov, Erobique, Basso & The Growing Bin, Max & So Glad Records, Space Drum Meditation, Ill Crew & Golden Pudel Crew.
Massive Berlin Shout outs go to Oye Records, Soultrade, Hardwax Marie Lung, Iron Curtis, Quarion, Lily Ackermann, Delfonic, and of course Woody and the Heideglühen family.
Who are the new acts/artists that are really exciting you at the moment?
M: I love the Th1rt3en project by Pharoahe Monch. Fantastic debut album, excited to hear what else they will come up with.
H: The EP on Rhythm Section by Mmyykk is really nice. Fred Quest made a dope EP for holding Hands Submerged and Tx, who released on my label Save The Books.
How do you see 2022 panning out for you and what projects have you got on the go?
H: We done some remixes that will be out this year. We’re always working on music but there’s nothing we can announce yet. I’m very excited to be back spinning records and playing live to real people, it’s clearer than ever that we love doing this and are grateful that this our job!
M: Right now, we’re stoked to have the “Basic Instinct EP” on Rhythm Section coming out.
Emily, Mali, Bradley and the crew are just great people to be around, both musically and personally, and realizing a record together is something we all wanted to do for quite a while now. It was great fun making it, and I could not be more happy with how it turned out, hope y’all can hear that!