Henrik Schwarz was once a graphic designer making music casually around his work – so casually, in fact, that he only ever worked in the studio on Sundays.
Over the past decade though, things have changed markedly for the German producer. After such a gradual beginning – “I was doing music as a hobby for 15 years before I released a record,” Schwarz admits – he is now among the most vaunted European electronic producers, with an eclectic yet distinct sound that combines funk, soul hip hop and more exotic global elements with a house and techno sensibility.
“The first records I was trying to get were hip hop and rap records from artists like A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul. These records were really hard to get in Europe at that time,” he recalls. “From there I wanted to find what the samples were so I went into jazz and funk and soul records and started DJing that kind of music. A bit later I heard Jeff Mills playing and that opened the whole electronic world for me. From that point I was totally into Detroit techno and that’s also when I really started DJing myself.”
Mills’ audacious method of DJing was to have a profound influence on Schwarz, who was immediately taken by the seminal Detroit producer’s fluid approach to a genre that is ostensibly so regimented. “The way Mills played was totally improvised from my point of view,” Schwarz affirms. “He’d throw these records on the turntable and play them for 45-seconds and then play the next one – he was improvising these patterns in a way. That was for me very much a jazz attitude.”
Schwarz’s eclectic and exuberant approach to dance music was first collected on his acclaimed DJ Kicks compilation – widely recognized as one of the best mixes of the series – which pitted staples from D’Angelo and Marvin Gaye alongside cuts from Arthur Russell and Drexiya. It was one of those rare, immediately recognisable mixes that captured the public’s imagination and united people of vastly different sonic persuasions.
For his part though, Schwarz has never been bound by the constraints of genre. “From my point of view I think it’s all just dance music, that’s how I put it together, it’s just another form,” he says. “What comes from Detroit can be Motown or it can be Underground Resistance; each has a similar affect, and touches my heart in a similar way.”
For the full article, pick up this week’s Brag…
Who: Henrik Schwarz
When: December 11 / 13
Where: Future Classics’ 5th Birthday, The Civic / Meredith