Thursday, Sep 19 2002 | 19:23

With Needs you have released some outstanding 12″s that stunned the deep house world as well as the jazz community. What’s the philosophy behind the Needs sound? How would you define your musical style?

“Basically we just consider it as soulful music. A term like ‘deep house’ almost seems to have a bad meaning nowadays due to the tons of crap that are released under that label. However, we love the harmonic and euphoric aspects of the classic deep house/garage sound, but for ourselves would never define it as a particular style. We like to work with a great variety of musical forms in a respectful and creative way. And we try to integrate all those influences and experiences on an emotional level. The fact that a lot of our music is based on certain ‘house traditions’ doesn’t mean that we want to limit or reduce ourselves musically. For us house music is the perfect medium with all its rhythms, sounds and vibes. We combine influences like soul, funk or soulful techno with modern jazz elements, without trying to create a self-declared variety or being ‘open minded’ just for the sake of it. It happens more naturally, just to satisfy our own musical ‘needs’…”

Are you satisfied with your early works then? Many people think that Needs has created some sort of new style. Do you consider your sound as a unique one?

“We definitely believe that our sound is special due to the great variety of musical influences as well as our three different characters. We took out quite a long time until we decided to release our music and start the label – so we are satisfied with our early stuff as a musical statement. Basically we try to create music with longevity and not something that is trendy or fashionable. Even though we’ve learned production-wise and the Needs sound has developed over the last couple of years, musically we are definitely very happy with our early tunes.”

What do you think when you read reviews decribing your sound as very close to the likes of Ron Trent, Blaze or Kerri Chandler? Are you happy to be pidgeonholed like this.

“Well, people always tend to put you in certain categories, we don’t really care. The references could be worse. Even though the above mentioned artists have always been a major inspiration, we think we have pretty much emancipated from just sounding like any obvious house legends. In fact we’re more happy when a Needs tune, especially one that is very pure, gets played by Jazz DJs as well as some Techno DJs and not only by the hardcore New Jersey fans. We truly consider the grooves and emotions in our music as some kind of… universal.”

Would you anyway see yourself as part of a so called ‘German Deep House movement’?

“Where did you hear about this? No, not at all. There is no such thing as a ‘German Deep House Movement’. And we don’t think there’s a need for a trademark like this. There might be lots of exciting music of all styles coming out of Germany these days. But when it comes to house… it’s obviously a different vibe than ours. There’s a few usual suspects you can count on, but actually we don’t like the idea to be part of any kind of ‘movement’. No matter if it’s called Nu Jazz or Old House or whatever…”

Your latest single “Worlds” has been played by many top DJs like Masters At Work, Timmy Regisford or even David Morales. Have you been surprised by the impact of the record? What’s the deal with Passion Dance Orchestra anyway, is it Lars Bartkuhn’s solo project?

“Although “Worlds” was co-produced by his brother Marek, Passion Dance Orchestra is some kind of solo thing of Lars. It’s definitely his creation and a very special project to him. The Passion Dance Orchestra sound turned out to be a bit more atmospheric and, eeeh… ‘epic’ so to speak. Even though “Worlds” pretty much leaves out the functional aspect of club music with its 15 minutes and different parts, we always believed in its power as a dance record. It took a while until the tune was recognized, but we’re happy that so many DJs played it then.”

Some Needs tracks have been produced by all three of yours, some by two of you, some by Lars Bartkuhn on his own – how do you work? Can you guys make a living on the music or do you have any additional jobs?

“As long as a certain track has the Needs vibe and spirit, it often doesn’t really make a difference to us whether it was completed by all three of us, by the Bartkuhn brothers (like with the Boobjazz project on Stir 15) or by Lars on his own. It happens more or less naturally due to the different talents and ambitions we have in terms of production. Basically Needs is kind of a collective, hence the name Lamaya Productions behind it. Lars as a musician plays a major role in the whole process of composition. Nevertheless there will be a variety of different projects or solo joints in the not too far future…
Making a living on the music? Although the music is our life, we never considered the label as a straight business. Actually we wanted to avoid to depend too much on the label itself in order not to make any artistic compromise. So we tried to let the whole thing grow organically and see what happens. No masterplan, only creativity. It works out somehow as we DJ here and there, and have several additional (music related) jobs.”

Some of your remixes have caused quite a stir on the global music scene. Can you give us a short list of the remixes that you have done so far? Do you turn down remixes? Do you think the remixes have helped you building a reputation for Needs?

“Remixes can definitely help to put you on the map. If it’s a good label or artist you’re remixing it will give you some additional exposure. There are always people who might hear your music for the first time and then get hooked on the label or become fans.
We’d rather turn down a remix offer instead of doing something just for the sake of it. We like to take out some time to do a mix and create something special. We’ve turned down a few things recently. Many people just don’t consider the fact how much time and effort we would put into a remix.
Most recently we have done two mixes for Francois K (Wave) that should be out in fall. There have been remixes for Kimra (Mantis), Ian Pooley (V2), Noiseshaper (PalmPictures/Quango), Marschmellows (Audiopharm), Taxi (Infracom), KemeticJust (Silver Network), Playin’ 4 The City (Density) and Nine Yards Orchestra (Groove Attack). Lars has also just completed a remix for Russ Gabriel (Out Of The Loop/UK).”

What’s the deal with your Needs parties at the Robert Johnson club? Please tell us a bit about it.

“There’s a regular Needs night at Robert Johnson in Offenbach (very close to Frankfurt) for about two years now. It’s called ‘Needs (Not Wants)’ and sometimes we have the chance to invite guests such as Osunlade, Alex From Tokyo or local friends. Although the venue has it’s ups and downs, Robert Johnson is currently the best place in Germany for the more soulful house sound. Great sound system, a Rane mixing desk, wooden floor, a terrace near the river and of course a very passionate crowd!”

What’s next on the label? Will there be a Needs album soon?

“Next up is the “Talkative Minds EP” (NE 007), due out for release in early october. Then we’ll have a limited edition 12″ entitled “Lost Tracks Vol.1” (NE 008) and the exciting new project Laurentius with a track called “Over The Sea” (NE 009). There’s also a 12″ called “Reminiscence” which is supposed to be the next single on Clairaudience, when they relaunch the label.
There will also be a Needs CD Compilation early 2003 featuring tracks from the first few releases. A very special CD project will follow soon after, which will definitely add a new flavour to the Needs sound…
A Needs artist album will certainly not happen in the near future. We’d like to come up with a real album, that should rather be a true musical journey than just a nice collection of some tracks. Hopefully an album we would be proud of in 10 years…”

* NEEDS’ ‘Talkative Minds EP’ (NE 007) will finally hit the streets october 14th. On the decks of Osunlade, Dego, Patrick Forge, Ron Trent, Cosmo, Fabrice Lig, Phil Asher, MKL, Dixon, Les Gammas, DJ Deep…

* PASSION DANCE ORCHESTRA’s ‘WORLDS’ (NE 006) is still receiving great support in NY from the likes of MAW, Timmy Regisford and Joe Claussell. Check out Louie Vega’s latest DJ mix:
rtsp://gtarch.groovetech.com/data2-1/maw/LVMixAug2002.rm

Words & interview: Paul Owomoyela (Roots, Amsterdam)

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