The German producer talks us through his second album, explaining some of his production techniques and revealing the influence of new age music.
When Frankfurt-born, Berlin-based producer Oskar Offermann set out to make his second album, his aim was to create a “meditative” collection of tracks, inspired by new age music.
That original plan, for “music which can be be used for nothing, which can work in the background without being meaningless or cheap” eventually gave way to a broader approach, taking in hints of electro as well as more obvious house and techno reference points.
The whole album is tied together by a distinct vintage aesthetic, with most of the album’s delicate synth parts tied together using a particular piece of equipment. As Offermann explains: “I was looking for a more psychedelic, 70s kind of sound for the album, so I decided to buy myself an original Leslie speaker. I was looking for months on eBay and finally found a beauty, but I totally underestimated the size – it’s like a washing machine. I used it on almost every track to layer the pad sounds. I don’t know if you can hear it in the result, but you might feel it.”
The album, Le Grand To Do, is out now via Tokyo’s Mule Musiq label. Oskar offered us an insight into his production process, talking us through the making of the LP and explaining how each track came about.
When I started working on this album, this was one of the first skits. It outlined the core idea for the album really nicely for me. I wanted to create a more meditative vibe for the whole album: music which doesn’t wanna inflict you with messages all the time, music which can be also be used for nothing, which can also work in the background without being meaningless or cheap. I was very heavily into new age music at the time, and tried to find the good stuff (which is a bit rare).
The main vocal sample is actually my ex-girlfriend singing another song, pitched differently. It was a song which Edward and I played in our DJ sets and she wanted to know what it was, so I had her voice message on my phone for a while and found it much later and played around with it. The other vocal is me. I like the idea of this sort of dialogue between the two of us.
In the early drafts there was even more drumming in the last third, because the original intention was to make it a full-length track.
This was also one of the very early skits, where I formed the idea of making a more new-agey album. Probably the first two tracks were the ones which gave me the direction, the main tone for the album. I also had this one lying around for a long, long time – probably also for around two years in total. I kinda have this fear sometimes of touching something beautiful, because it is so fragile, a gentle little thing. You can break it so easily, and I’m always scared of that. It happened so often to me when I was a more inexperienced producer. It’s also so hard sometimes because it’s complicated to recreate the vibe you were in when you started working on it. Today I really try to finish a track once I start working on it.
But, back to the production: I had the main thing laying around for a few years, having this writer’s block to get it all finished. I clearly remember listening to it on a train ride through France, and thinking to myself: “Gosh, I really like this. Why the hell am I not able to finish it?” And at some point I just had to let it go, so I started working on other stuff – not for the album, just dancefloor stuff again. And then the album sort of happened by itself. Once I let go of the basic idea just to produce a meditation album, I could finish it.
What changed the sound of the track dramatically was the investment in a new audio interface, which is an RME Fireface 800 now. And then at some point I was touring in Japan, and I knew I wanted a original Roland Space Echo so badly. It’s a very nice unit – it really does add magic to pretty much every signal – so I started to use it heavily on this production. This is first track were I really was using it probably, I guess. You can hear it on all these little variations in the background.
Same period here: about two years ago. I was bored with standard drum sounds at that time, so I tried to focus more on the sound design for my drums. Also I wanted the groove to be a little off. When I listen to it today, it brings back lots of memories from that time.
It’s actually a punk rock track – at least it is in the spirit of how it was produced by me. I tried to polish it when I was finishing the album, but the later versions never captured the vibe so awesomely. I tried many different mixdowns – probably around 30 versions of the mix – but I pretty much came back to the original, where the cymbals are a bit too loud. Like most samples on the basic stuff came from old new ages records. I spent weeks and weeks just digging this kind of music for interesting tunes.
This was actually the first track I produced once I let the album idea go. I started with the beat, which is the MFB 522 triggered by the Akai MPC 2000XL. I just wanted to do a proper electro beat kinda thing, so that was the reason why I chose this machine. Then the bassline was next, which is out of a Waldorf Rocket (probably also triggered by the MPC). I got this last year from my friends as a birthday gift – it’s a nice little beast, really nice for basslines.
I remember how much fun I had producing this track – it was actually done in a day from scratch. I wanted it to sound a bit imperfect so I decided on this noisy kinda sound, because I wanted you to feel some madness, which nightlife always has.
And I just finished it before my ‘Gipfel Der Gönnung’ birthday party at ://about blank. I do this party each year there and it’s always a very nice get together of all my DJ friends and my loved ones. This track became kind of the official soundtrack of the party in 2015. We listened to it on repeat during the afterparty.
I’ve gotta give some credit to Lenny Posso from Thema here. At some point I had already forgotten about this gem. It was probably produced in 2011, and for some reason I kinda forgot about it. The only time I came across again was when Edward dropped it at Kim Jim Tim in Stuttgart years ago. We shared lots of tunes in the early stages. I didn’t like the track so much with a healthy distance to it, so I kinda forgot about it. But he dropped it a few months later and there it was again in my mind, so when Lenny asked me for a tune for the next Thema compilation I just added it to a package of unreleased stuff and he loved it so much that I started to think differently about it. The original plan was to include it on a Thema 12-inch, then Edward played it at our Boiler Room session and people kept asking us for so long that it just seemed to make more sense to include it on the album.
Embrace The Condition
This is actually the youngest track on the album. I remember being really free with all sorts of forms because I wasn’t planning any release or anything. I wasn’t focusing on the album again, I just wanted to produce a track which I could use for DJing. The track was actually called ‘Only An Idea’ as an original working title.
I’d just bought this Boss 660 and I was fucking around with it, and suddenly it had this experimental approach which just happened without planning anything. I just felt comfortable with my whole surroundings and very happy with the result.
All my friends from Hardworksoftdrink and Traffic probably had a massive influence on me as well for this track. We did many sessions where we just sat around listening to music for hours and hours.
This track is based around the choir sample. It’s sampled from some new age record which I was really into at that time. I pitched it higher and lower, layered those different pitches with different loop sizes and starting points, all in Ableton, which is great for that. The drums are programmed inside the MFB 503, which is a wonderful machine for the money. The vocal is actually me saying: “I wonder will it get better. I wonder will we get better at some point? Maybe tomorrow, maybe someday.” A reflection of my feelings in those days.
The only track which I produced completely in the box. I think it actually happened somewhere on the road, but I can’t remember precisely. I had a phase where I produced these diary tracks, just sitting in the airport, recording the surroundings with the built-in mic, chopping and pitching. Again, this was a result of being bored with regular drum sounds and retro house.
The main samples are, of course, again, some new age stuff I listened to – I probably sampled it directly from the internet somewhere. When I played it out for the first time at a club, I was surprised how good it sounded, because I was sure it needed a new mixdown (like most of the times when I produce music).
Koleu was one of the few tracks which kept its original title. I tend to name all my tracks just some stupid shit during the working process. The groove is a classic Korg groove if you ask me. So many people go for the Roland stuff, but for the grooves I prefer Korg much more. This is an Electribe triggering a MFB 522, I think. For this one I spend lots of time finishing it. The whole strings part in the end was finished later. And played by my private strings ensemble from the Korg M1. It has a very district futuristic sound, very early 90s. The whistle on the X-Files theme came out of this synth. This guitar-like sound is from the same synth but this time into the Roland Space Echo again, to give it a stronger Dave Gilmore feeling.
This is an old one, from the same time as ‘Banunanas’. It was already finished like this, but the vocals were added later, using the same procedure as above: chopping, playing around with them and then putting them into the Roland Space Echo again.
The track is centered around the piano sample. I remember producing it after a very long weekend, hungover, with my ears still ringing. That’s probably the reason for putting it on the album as a last track.