Home Featured Feature: Henri Bergmann [Interview + Premiere]

Feature: Henri Bergmann [Interview + Premiere]

33 min read

credits: Eva K. Salvi

Hi Henri, thanks for talking to us today. How are you and what was the last piece of music you listened to?

I’m good. Currently listening to the last Royksopp album and of course my upcoming VA as have so much promo around that coming up.

How was your summer and what gigs have stood out for you these last few months?

Summer has been really busy, a mix of festivals and clubs. DJing festivals is always unique, you get random encounters, make new fans who come across your stage because they happen to be walking by, and discover other artists yourself which is especially nice when it’s unexpected. I loved playing this festival in Germany called Bucht der Träume, got to hang out with Just Lauren who played after me, just lovely people and really enjoyed my set. Also, playing the Wild Corner at Hï in Ibiza was really special. It’s so small and intimate and the crowd there goes wild just like it promises to. Also an extra bonus is that you’re about 2 meters from the loo during those longer sets.

Take us through a typical day when you’re not travelling, what does a day in the life of Henri Bergmann look like?

I’m usually in my pajamas and go between sitting on my laptop in bed and wondering over to my studio next door.

When you were first getting started in production did you have someone help you or are you completely self-taught? And what would you recommend new producers do to help with the learning curve of production?

I had a friend teach me the basics on Logic and then I’m constantly picking up tips from other producers. I learn as I go along, listening to music and watching tutorials. It’s a lot of trial and error to see what works when you’re playing your music live but it’s also a real luxury to be able to test out your music before releasing it. Most new producers probably don’t get that many opportunities to keep road testing their tracks and improving them, well I definitely didn’t when I was starting out. I would recommend: keep asking questions, get other people’s opinions, and collaborate, as that’s a great way to pick up production tricks.

‘Higher Dimension’ was considered by many to be a breakout track for you, how did your career trajectory change going forward?

I think I had a few breakout tracks. Creature and the Dodi Palese remix of Protection also got a lot of attention, as well as developing my label Automatik and somehow managing to get some of the best remixers and collaborators in the scene to be a part of it. It’s all about momentum, you have to keep pushing from all angles.

You’ve accomplished a lot across your career with releases via Watergate and Stil Vor Talent, along with a well established DJ career and record label. What goals do you have going forward? Or a better question might be do you think about the future?

I’m going to start doing label events with Automatik starting in December, releasing on bigger labels, doing bigger shows, releasing more other artists. Also I’m going to incorporate a live element; it only makes sense as my husband Wennink sings on a lot of my tracks and we’re going to eventually perform together for one-off live shows.

How important is it as an artist to try and follow along with current music trends? Is this something you’re conscious of at all?

Yes I mean I try not to follow trends or I’d be changing my style every 5 seconds but it’s hard to listen to your contemporaries on a daily basis without getting slightly influenced.

You have a new release ‘Interstellar VA’ out soon via your Automatik imprint. Tell us about the release and how it showcases the label’s current sound?

There are a lot of melodic sounds on there but I didn’t want to just copy other labels. Automatik’s sound is always evolving just like the music I play. Yet More’s ‘What You Heard’ is unique like most of his releases, Sahar’s ‘Ascension’ is a nod to my former Krautrock obsession, Cenkk’s operatic voice isn’t something you hear in dance music every day. I approached Underspreche because I worked with them before on our collaboration ‘Creature’ and I really respect them as artists so it was especially important for me to have them be a part of this and I’ve been playing their track ‘Il Canto Delle Fate’ in almost every set, I even made an edit of it with Fred Again’s ‘Baby Again’ that I like to mix in sometimes as they work well as a mashup. Betical and Monophase have both done remixes for Automatik’s previous releases so I really wanted them to be a part of it too. It’s nice to build a family of people you respect and vibe with. Sometimes I play a crowd-pleasing Afterlife set, sometimes more classic house or indie, sometimes edits and nu-disco, I don’t mind taking risks and I want that to reflect on the label.

This is the label’s first VA compilation, how did you go about sourcing music for it and how difficult was it finalizing the flow of the album from a listener’s perspective?

I’m really proud of this VA, I’ve been working on it for so long, listening to demos, following leads, reaching out to artists I’m a fan of almost begging them to give me their tracks, working with some of the artists to adapt their songs to the label’s sound and what I think works almost as an executive producer role. Some artists sent me dozens of tracks before I found one I thought fitted with the rest of the VA. I haven’t curated the tracks according to how I would play them in a set or how you would have heard an album from start to finish in the old days because that’s not how streaming and people’s attention span works in our current climate, but I’m going to do a DJ mix for iTunes where I take that more old school approach. It was hard to decide the order of the tracks because I also wanted the VA to have some sort of coherancy, so it’s not like all my favourite tracks or the biggest names are at the top.

We’re thrilled to have premiered your ‘Vision’ track which leads the release off, tell us about the track, who’s been playing it and why it was a good fit to open the collection? 

I found it really hard to decide on the track because I had a few options but even my own tracks didn’t necessarily fit on the VA. ‘Vision’ was the only one that made sense. Korolova has been playing it a lot recently and I’ve been playing it in my sets since last year. I also have another collaboration with Hardt Antoine on the VA so I wanted to spread them out.

Let’s talk a bit more about your label Automatik which has been running since 2019. What led you to start the label initially? Was this your first foray into running a record label?

It started as a way to release my own music and not be dictated by someone else’s taste or schedule. I was finding it already takes me so long to finish a track and then to have to wait as long as a year from finishing it to releasing it was too frustrating. It would feel old and anticlimactic by the time it came out so I decided to put my music out myself. I had already started a label before that for my previous band so I knew how to set it up quickly and now I can get a track out in as fast as 3 weeks. It’s so liberating.

How has your vision for the label changed since its launch in 2019? And what would be some of your biggest takeaways from running a label over that time? 

I think I invest more than most in artwork, promotion, marketing and my own time, so eventually I’m hoping the label will start to run more efficiently. I’ve released singles and remixes and other people’s EP’s but this VA is a behemouth. I kept adding more and more tracks until somehow I ended up with 15 and it’s been SO MUCH WORK.

We’re in an age where content turns over quickly and attention spans are short; so how does this factor into how you run Automatik?

I try to spread the releases out, so with an EP I usually tease one of the tracks out two or three weeks before the general release and then build promo over that period. Once the track is out it becomes old news very quickly. With the VA I’ve released a track a week on Spotify-only for the three weeks before it’s out.

Let’s discuss artwork for a moment; much like music there are also artwork trends, particularly in melodic house & techno; how influenced are you by these trends and is it important to look the part so to speak?

The visual artist I found is actually from the fashion world. She did artwork with Sita Abellán and Kim Kardashian so I’m more influenced by that than the melodic world, although they definitely have similar attributes.

Is the importance of artwork something that has maybe gotten lost a bit as music gets more rapidly consumed?  Should labels be putting more time and thought in their artwork?

Yes for sure, like I said I probably spend more than most on artwork especially for a digital-only release but I find visuals, fashion and art at the forefront of my identity and so I don’t want to sacrifice that. At the end of the day a label is a business though, and I also don’t want to end up losing money by running it so at some point I’ll probably have to compromise.

What advice do you have for artists hoping to get signed to Automatik?

Be original and true to yourself but at the same time don’t send music that doesn’t sound anything like the existing releases. Use your intuition.

What advice would you have for new or potential label owners out there?

Invest into your label, go through all the promos, find the gem, test out the tracks to see if they work, get other artists excited about your releases, be organized and strategic and eventually everyone will want to be on your label.

Who do you see as the most talented new artists in Melodic House and Techno? Who are you liking at the moment?

Yet More, Hardt Antoine, Monophase, Betical, Skala, Elif, Argia, not new but Massano, Aether and Jonas Saalbach are always reliable, love Magit Cacoon, a fellow mother and powerhouse label owner, really excited about our Halloween B2B at Brooklyn Mirage.

Your DJ sets have become anticipated by many electronic music fans so let’s look at DJing a bit deeper, it’s a unique discipline at the border between presenting great music and creating something new with it, between composition and improvisation to an extent. How would you describe your approach to it?

I always have an idea of what I’m going to play and prepare my sets according to what time of day or night and the location but at the end of the day I feel the room and play what feel is right. I think it’s important to make and perform your own music these days as everyone is just copying each other and it’s one of the best ways to put your own unique stamp on your sets and even play some tracks that will never see the light of day. I play edits I’ve made just for DJ sets, I edit other people’s tracks too, take out sections I don’t think work, don’t only look for new unreleased tracks but drop in a few forgotten gems, don’t get lazy and repeat myself, also it’s great having my own label as it means i have lots of unreleased demos no one else has up my sleeve.

The subject of mental health is complex and nuanced, and it is an issue to which those working in electronic music are especially susceptible. It can be deeply rewarding but it is also competitive, fast-paced, unpredictable and hedonistic. Talk a bit about the pressures of what you do that fans may not be totally aware of, and as a prominent artist how important is it for you to raise awareness on subjects like ‘mental health’?

It’s so important to look after your mental and physical health as it’s a very demanding job. Sometimes you travel for 24 hours to the other side of the globe just to play for 90 minutes, and then get back on a plane to the next city or continent with no sleep and have to perform in front of thousands of people again 3 or 4 nights in a row, have a few days off to recover and do it all over again. It’s insane. I also have 2 babies and I feel guilty leaving them at home every weekend but then I spend more time than most working parents with them during the week. All I can say is saying “no” is just as powerful as saying yes and you don’t need to accept every gig you’re offered. I have a team who knows that I prioritize sleep and seeing my children over having a jam packed tour schedule and they work with me to make sure that we accomodate that.

If you could set up an event with a line-up of five artists of your choice, who would you book, and what set times would you ascribe to the artists?

This would never happen on the same lineup but dream scenario:

06-08 Adam Ten
08-10 Jean Michele Jarre
10-11:30 Beyoncé
11:30-1 Royksopp
01-04 Maceo Plex

Current Top Five tracks in your sets?

Henri Bergmann, Hardt Antoine - Can’t Escape

Birdy - Paradise Calling (Henri Bergmann Remix)

Royksopp - Like An Old Dog (Maceo Plex Remix)

Grigoré - Polifonia

Depeche Mode - Ghosts Again (Massano Remix)

Also get such a kick every time I play ALPHADOG’s Aladin

And obviously all the tracks on my VA.

If you were not a DJ/Producer what do you think you’d be doing with your life?

Managing other DJ/producers probably or working in fashion.

If you are not DJing or socializing at clubs, where do we find you? And doing what?

Hanging out with my kids at the playground.

What’s a book you’ve read or film you watched that has left an impact on you, and why?

Haruki Murakami’s Norweigian Wood. It’s the last book I read so it’s fresh on my mind. A morbid but beautiful coming of age story.

Aside from music, what makes you happiest?


What does the remainder of 2023 hold for yourself and Automatik? Anything you can share with us?

I’m really looking fwd to DJing Zamna Tulum for New Year’s Eve I have a really special show I’m preparing for it, Brooklyn Mirage for Cityfox’s Halloween party and of course my Automatik label party in London. And aside from 2 tracks on the VA, I’ve got a remix coming out for Birdy and a few singles but can’t disclose any info on them yet.

Automatik presents: Interstellar is out on 29-09 via Automatik

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