cone magazine

Interview: Denzel + Huhn

Denzel + Huhn, Brom, Berlin, Interview on Cone Magazine

Decades have passed, and yet Denzel + Huhn still continue to show us the sheer complexity of their creative partnership.

Last year saw Berlin based electronic duo Denzel + Huhn return from an eight year gap with a long awaited 14-track album released on Oktaf records. Bertram Denzel and Erik Huhn´s ‘Brom’ is a great example of the pairs obsessive relationship with sound. The intricate nuances, carefully crafted compositions and attention to detail, can in part be the reason to why in two decades the pair have only made four releases.

“Erik is born in Berlin, Bertram arrived in 1988. The wall came down, that was a good start”

Before Denzel + Huhn began their collaboration, the pair were also working together in the highly lauded open project Ornament & Verbrechen, but after a series of events – including a stolen Kurzweil sampler, Denzel + Huhn focussed on their collaborative partnership instead. Having also produced film scores and audiobooks, their work is as much extensive as it is varied.

Having fallen in deep adoration of the pairs musical outings over the years, it is a truly great honour to be able to interview them both, and even more so for them to provide Cone with an exclusive hour long Cone Cast – which you can listen to below.

“To us, making music is like making love. Yeah. You make it, but not 24 hours a day, and certainly not always with a great result”.

Pete: During the early 90’s you both formed the highly revered Ornament & Verbrechen collaboration – charting multiple releases. 

d+h: O&V is a Lippok-bro`s trademark. They’ve performed music since the mid 80`s. Erik was part of it almost from the beginning and during the last 33 years many other musicians have added their sounds, with some playful and seriously great ideas. So most of the time O&V wasn’t a band in a traditional sense, but an open project and artistic synthesis. Bertram joined a more band-wise period in the 90s.

Pete: What made you decide to then form Denzel + Huhn?

d+h: We had a few other musical projects, together and separately. We even tried to play Acid Jazz for a while. Fortunately Erik got in touch with a Kurzweil sampler and started his own musical experiments, while the Lippok bro`s founded To Rococco Rot and were pretty busy and successful with that. So O&V went out of service for a few years. Erik, Bertram and the Ex-O&V-member Brad Hwang founded the trio Triplum and got wild and lost in mostly poorly paid dub music performances all over the world – until the Kurzweil was stolen in Chicago.

Pete: As Denzel+Huhn you then produced three releases throughout the 2000’s on City Centre Offices recordsWhat was this period like for you both?

d+h: This period was a very productive one for us. We finally created our own sound and working style. We started the whole serious music business thing in a concentrated way. Releases, tours, PR-work…

Pete: Your third release in 2007, came after a five year break from its predecessor. What were you both doing during that break?

d+h: We were working on our next release.  As you may know the mentioned predecessor was titled “time is a good thing“.

Pete: And so your latest release last year ‘Brom’ has come after an eight year hiatus.

d+h: We don’t call it hiatus, but another 8 years of relaxed working. (..) Well, to be honest, we took a short time-off too. After our sales partners collapsed directly after “Paraport” we had to rethink a few things before we restarted to work on d+h. And we also worked on a few film scores.

Pete: These long breaks between your releases seem to be a running trend (even back to the days of Ornament & Verbrechen). Why do you guys sit on your releases for so long?

d+h: To us, making music is like making love. Yeah. You make it, but not 24 hours a day, and certainly not always with a great result… And again – time is a good thing… We don’t think that we sit on our releases for so long. Whatever that means. Some artists or bands put out music like robots or machines and some don’t. We also never had  contracts with companies who forced us to hurry up with releases.

Pete: Your productions show such a fine attention to detail. How do you both approach the production process? Can you explain how your tracks start, and how they are finalised. Who does what?

d+h: d+h tracks usually start with a good whiskey. Ha ha. No, seriously, we used to listen to our tracks many, many times. We prefer the champagne method – which famously takes time. Years, if necessary.

OK. We usually start collecting material and sampling stuff – kind of creating a little universe of sound and instruments. Then we play around with it. At the beginning of d+h, we sampled more vinyl-stuff, but not phrases in the hip-hop-sense. Nothing directly recognisable, but just tiny parts and fragments… Now we do recording-sessions with friends or by ourselves.

Pete: What is your working relationship like?

d+h: Old. Funny. Such a long way. Ups and downs. Friends.

Pete: What influences you both?

d+h: Puh.. So many things. We both listen to all kinds of things, from Country to new classical stuff.. But all the rest, too..  Life in general ?

Pete: Denzel+Huhn has a very distinct sound. Can you explain what it is.

d+h: Thank you. No, we can’t explain it. But we stay away from digital effects devices / plug-ins and do recordings with the finest microphones.

Pete: And what are your aims with the tracks you make?

d+h: Erik once said we would even bang on cans without the technical stuff around. We consider our stuff as a basis for the peoples imagination. More like a sketchpad. Elaborated, sure, but in a very open way – like landscapes to walk in. Not like fully and tightly composed pop-music.

Pete: You’ve mentioned in the past that sampling plays a big part in your productions. Can you give us three of your favourite tracks right now.

d+h: Sorry, we cannot. It’s illegal ; ) ! We sample little things, short snippets, failure-stuff, crackling, as we said, not the hip-hop-way of sampling. No favourites.

Pete: Over the decades, how has your working relationship changed. And with the stages in both your lives (family, work, housing etc), how does your working relationship adapt?

d+h: It’s not easy, meeting between all those obligations, that´s right. A lot of evenings whilst everybody is sleeping already.

We’ve known each other for such a long time now, and sometimes that speeding things up. Sometimes it doesn’t. You mentioned the hiatus before. So it’s probably more about human deceleration than anything else.

Pete: What is your favourite studio equipment to work with?

d+h: Bertram: Maracas, Erik: Jingle bells. The computer in general, since the Kurzweil has passed away.

Pete: And one synthesizer you couldn’t live without?

d+h: Erik: Well, I wouldn’t get very far if the Waldorf Attack didn’t exist anymore. That would be sad.

Bertram: I never had THE ONE, and presets mostly bore me. I love the sound of a Hammond Organ. But i’ve never owned one. In fact, Native Instruments is a good company nowadays.

Pete: What changes have you seen, living in the city of Berlin?

d+h: Ooohhh and ayayayay …. Erik is born in Berlin, Bertram arrived in 1988. The wall came down, that was a good start.

Pete: Whats’s next for you both?

d+h: Marriage? Oh no, rather the next release. We count on you in 2022!



Photography by ©Friederike von Rauch


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