Latin Grammys 2018

Dubfire & Oliver Huntemann Talk 'Retrospectivo' Comp, 'Leaving the Door Open' for Future Collaborations

Julian Erksmeyer
Dubfire & Oliver Huntemann

Dubfire and Oliver Huntemann have released music together periodically over the last eight years, but they suggest their precise, bare-bones, slow-burn techno is the result of a happy accident. "We never really had a master plan," Dubfire says. "We turned on the machines and let whatever we were feeling come out."

On Friday (Oct. 28), the pair released a compilation, Retrospectivo​, that collects all their work and serves as an endpoint (maybe) for this phase of their work together. In addition to the original tracks, Retrospectivo contains a set of remixes from big names like Carl Craig and Joseph Capriati. Huntemann and Dubfire took a moment away from "the middle of ADE madness" last week to discuss their initial meeting, the reason behind the retrospective, and what the next iteration of their collaboration might look like. Read excerpts from the conversation below.

How did you guys originally meet?

Dubfire: I think I was responsible for that. This was back when Myspace was like the No. 1 social media vehicle for a lot of people. I was a big fan of Oliver's work; I was following everything he was doing from productions to remixes. Just on the off chance, I decided to send him a message on Myspace, and then he responded. First it was just talking about respect for one another's work, and then it turned into, if you're a fan of my work and I'm a fan of your work, it just seems logical for us to work on something together.

We weren't sure how it was going to turn out. We just wanted to give it a go. The whole point of the collaboration was to bring his production style and his influences in with mine and then try to create something new for both of us.

Huntemann: We don't put too much pressure on each other. 

Dubfire: Exactly -- there was never a deadline. Sometimes he'd send something to me and I'd sit on it for months and months and months. I wasn't hounding him; he wasn't hounding me. It was, let's work on something and see how it sounds. The first track we did was "Diablo," and the reactions were amazing. We felt like it really captured the essence of our individual sounds at the time. 

Did you expect that strong positive response?

Huntemann: You can never expect anything about the success of a track. You do it by heart and then it works, it doesn't work, or la la. But we had a good vibe together, and it's important to us that we started producing in a different way -- we never went into the studio together. It was just sending samples and sessions back and forth. At that time, that was something completely new. 

Dubfire: When you think of a collaboration, you think about people being in the same space. But Oliver being in Hamburg, and me being between Washington and Barcelona and Los Angeles -- and also we have crazy DJ schedules -- that was going to be difficult to coordinate. I remember having a conversation with Oliver about it where we both agreed we feel comfortable in our own studio environments, so why not create a session and bounce it back and forth between us. Cloud-based file sharing was not really around. Then later on, once we were able to use Dropbox, then it became really really easy to just keep that master session in the cloud. Whenever he had time in his schedule or he had time in his schedule, we would just go into the studio with our individual engineers and just work. 

When you started a new session, did you agree on parameters or themes beforehand?

Huntemann: We start with some beats and sequences and then just send it back and forth. 

Dubfire: Sometimes Oliver took the lead; sometimes I took the lead. I would send Oliver a session because I wouldn't know what to do, he would be inspired by one or more elements and take it in a new direction that I hadn't thought of. 

Huntemann: With the Elements series [the duo named tracks after earth, air, fire, and water] there was a bit more of a plan behind it: we talked about how to realize something like this -- "Agua" has to sound different than "Fuego" for example. We are very picky and very critical with our own stuff. Not everything that we start has to come out. It needs to be special, at least for us. 

Dubfire: We began with "Diablo," which is a very evil sounding track, there's a very sinister vibe to it. I had videos of Sven Väth on YouTube -- at Ibiza and other parties with his crazy antics -- in the background while I was working. Sven is a very inspiring character. We kind of wanted to do something reflective of the yin and yang that exists with Sven as a person and a DJ. The track reflected that, and we decided to call it "Diablo," and then we decided to keep the Latin name thing going. With exploring the four elements of life, we tried to make each track representative of that particular element. Then we decided to bring it full circle with "Humano" and finish the saga there.

Why did you decide to put together a retrospective now? 

Dubfire: Every concept should have a beginning, middle and end. Both of us felt like we needed to find an endpoint. Once you do that, you're able to reflect on what you've done together musically over the years -- and maybe find a new path forward.

How did you pick the remixers?

Dubfire: It's a group of artists that we're friends with who we knew would maybe find new musical direction for a remix of those tracks. Every artist has a very particular sound and style, and we tried to connect that particular artist with a song that we had done that reflected some sort of a musical challenge to them. 

Huntemann: We like music in all genres, and that's what we tried to do for the remixes as well. 

What's next for you guys?

Dubfire: What we're trying to do now is do one gig that reflects each of the themes. We're trying to find the right venues and the places around the world. That's going to be our challenge -- a loose, sporadic tour that will closely tie in with each concept name. 

We had a recent conversation where we were talking about The Fifth Element film, and the fifth element in that movie is love. So now, maybe, we'll finish the complete story with love -- maybe that will come out this summer as a single. Maybe we'll begin a new chapter.

We always knew in finishing this saga that we were leaving the door open for future collaborations. Those may have a completely different concept and sound to it. Symbolically it was nice to bring this to an end somehow. I guess love would be "Amor?" Or maybe we'd use the English term. Or another language -- maybe German? Maybe we then explore a German theme, then we go back to what influenced us when we were young as far as German artists. Maybe we'll do an ambient album with a hint of rhythm. Who knows?