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Thomas Helmich [Interview]

21 min read

The German producer and DJ Thomas Helmich is a multifaceted musician who works to train himself in very different facets. He leans mainly towards electronic music, creating unique landscapes, where electronic music is transformed into a purely cinematic environment. A music full of nuances and multiple artists that give fruit to a work that, above all, is defined by his great personality.

His creations are composed with creative freedom, letting himself be carried away by the music that he loves and that defines him as an artist. After working on numerous productions for film, television and different artists, and producing under another alias, he decides to embark on his own path, the most sincere and honest, signing with his name. After several releases on his own label luft&liebe, Thomas released his track “Hoax” on the legendary HARTHOUSE label, as well as contributing his track OFF Grid to the 2023 compilation Dance with the robots on HARTHOUSE.

His particular and sincere way of fusing emotion, dance synthesis and melody has allowed him to carve out a niche in the market. Limiting his sound with some label would be insufficient. His tendency to dance and reflect combines, depending on the moment, a multitude of genres with coherence and enjoyment, in equal parts. No one like him has also dissected electronic music with as much rigor and passion as he has, to the point of professionalizing it, of turning it into a serious job.

His song Innuendo appeared on David Guetta's Playlist and Radio and was also presented by Paul van Dyk on his Vonyc show, in addition to other planned releases that predict an electronic project on which he still has a lot to dance about. This week finds Thomas returning to his Luft & Liebe imprint with a new single entitled 'Dogma'.

Progressive Astronaut caught up with Thomas to learn more about the release of 'Dogma', his background, DJing, future plans, and more. Enjoy.

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

-Thank you for having me. I am doing great. Just listened to the new Pryda track -The Return

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

-My summer was extremely busy, but not with live appearances but with finishing and working on a couple of projects in the studio. I decided to take a lockdown this summer and return 2024 to the stage.

Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your production work and otherwise, please.

-First coffee… that is the main routine of the day, checking emails and watching news to know what happened in our world. I start my studio day to listen to 2-3 tracks to calibrate my ears .-) Then I start working on a track. The working day ends hopefully with something I can take home and listen next day again.

Tell us about growing up and living in Germany, how did that contribute to your path into electronic music? And who were some German artists you looked up to when you first discovered electronic music?

-Germany is known for electronic Music. I was growing up to listen to Kraftwerk, Depeche Mode and Nitzer Ebb. The techno scene really took off in Germany. I would like to mention Chris Liebing, Klaus Jankuhn, Paul van Dyk and for sure Sven Väth.

If you were a tour-guide for nightlife in Germany, what would be the clubs you’d take the people to see and what local DJs do they need to hear?

-Sure Shot Tresor, Berlin or Robert Johnson, Offenbach. My friend and label mates Plasmatique and Alex Hall, Anna Reusch and for sure Boris Brejcha.

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

-Probably on the Tennis court. I love that game, it clears my mind and ears.

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 am completely self taught which was on one hand side good, as I have to really get into the machines. Today I think it is fast forward due to all the tutorials on YT which helps to get faster to results.

After well over a decade of writing music under other aliases you recently decided to use your given name for your productions, why did the last few years feel like the right time to do that?

-I was doing a lot of projects and never wanted to be an artist. Working just in the studio, as I feel great in the studio. That is my terrain. Then I started playing shows and it also felt good, so I decided to give it a shot to focus also on an artist career.

You have a new single ‘Dogma’ out now via luft&liebe, tell us about the track and how it showcases your current sound.

-The track has a lot of energy. I came up with the main synth first and when I put a kick under it, I knew I had something. As everyone is getting pretty fast BPM wise, I wanted to achieve it in sound, energy is what makes people dance in my opinion.

Let our readers inside your studio, what is your current setup, and what tools are featured heavily in the writing of ‘Dogma’?

-I used the new Massive X quite a bit. I am a huge fan of the NI massive synth, and this is the logical follow up. Sounds great that Plug. I also used my Sequential Pro 3 SE for all the arps.

You’ve released quite a few projects with luft&liebe already, what makes the label such a comfortable home for your music?

-It´s my own imprint. In covid time I eventually decided to launch a label for electronic music. The Name came quite handy as my grandfather always told me, what you are going to live from, Luft und Liebe? Which is a common expression in Germany that art is not feeding you.

You’ve also released some projects on Harthouse which has such an amazing history dating back to the infamous Omen club nights in Frankfurt during the early nineties. Were Harthouse or Eye Q labels you discovered early on in your formative years?

-Definitely, I had a lot of vinyls from HARTHOUSE or EYE Q. Still one of my favourite tracks of all time has been Zyon-No Fate(Project of Sven Väth). That track changed my world and is still mind blowing to me.

Let’s look a bit more at production, once a piece is finished, how important is it for you to let it lie and evaluate it later on? How much improvement and refinement do you personally allow until you’re satisfied with a piece? What does this process look like in practice?

-When I finished a track I do my own Master and first take it to the car. If it sounds good in the car, which is not all the time the case .-) I listen on different devices and send it to DJ friends if they want to test it. Sometimes I have a couple of revisions sometimes none. I let the track sometimes for 1-3 month alone and then listen again and maybe change things I do not like anymore.

What is the task you enjoy the most when producing and what would you prefer someone else to do?

-Creating and writing is my most favourite. You have a blank page you can fill with whatever suits you. What I don´t like is to Master…for me it is boring.

Now let’s talk about DJing for a moment, 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 think you have to put your own vibe to it, create something fresh to give the audience something unique.

Can you tell me a bit about how your work as a DJ has influenced your view of music, your way of listening to tracks, and also, your work as a producer?

-Some of my clients told me lately that my kick is getting louder…:) To be honest when I am creating a new track my approach is not, what will other Dj`s think, how can I create the track more set friendly. I don´t think that this is the approach you should have while creating something as it sets boundaries and maybe cuts your creativity at that moment.

How much prep do you put into the tracks you choose to play?

-A lot. I am more old skool not checking all the record box features and hints for me. It has to have a flow, energy and musically it has to fit.

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

-Sometimes I thought I should have studied law. That would be something that I find really interesting, to help people to get their respective rights.

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?

Eric Prydz (3 hours)
Boris Brejcha (2 Hours)
Massano (1,5 Hours)
Anna Reusch (1,5 hours)
Plasmatique (1,5 Hours)

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

Inception. The concept is unbelievable and the music is outstanding.

Current Top five tracks in your sets?

1) Plasmatique – Obsidian
2) Massano -Ghosts Again
3) Boris Brejcha- Space X
4) Zyon-No Fate (Adam Beyer Remix)
5) Thomas Helmich-Dogma

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

I will move soon and build a new studio. This is quite time consuming and will last till the end of the year, but for 2024 I have a fresh start with a lot of releases.

'Dogma' is available now via Luft & Liebe: https://shorturl.at/iEHQ8

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