Al Kassian and Hiroaki OBA are Opal Sunn. Before they started their endeavour as a hardware-only live act duo in 2015, Al and Hiroaki both had already successful solo music careers before they met in Berlin. Al released on labels suchs as Paramida’s Love On The Rocks and Utopia Records – Hiroaki was a bassist in a band in Tokyo, but went solo and joined the 2010 Red Bull Music Academy in London and released on labels like Ki Records.
Their love for machines and boundless approach to music production gave birth to two Opal Sunn EPs released on their very own Planet Sundae imprint. After gaining stamps of approval from the likes of Andrew Weatherall, DJ Sprinkles, and many artists alike, this year, Opal Sunn was signed on former Ostgut Ton mangaer Nick Höppner’s new label Touch From A Distance.
Now mainly based in Berlin, Al and Hiroaki both not only share their love for music but also their home Japan. The collection of essentials show some traditional Japanese items such as snacks and tea – a taste of home to spark ideas, motivate and remind them of their roots.
1. SYNTHESIZER (ROLAND, CHECK HERE): The Roland D50, our latest addition to the studio. We installed amazing patches we found online, all based on the legendary preset ’37 – Soundtrack’. I’m sure we’ll hear a lot of these sounds in our next releases.
2. DARUMA DOLL (READ HERE):Daruma dolls are seen as a symbol of perseverance and good luck. It definitely came through with some luck this year!
3. EFFECTS AND FILTER UNIT (JOMOX, CHECK HERE): T-Resonator. An essential piece of gear in our studio. We’ve used this in every single track we’ve produced.
4. HEADPHONES (PHONON, CHECK HERE): Some friends of ours got together and gave these headphones for Hiro’s Birthday this year. They’re made in Japan and the sound is incredible.
5. SNACKS (FIND THEM IN JAPAN): Ume Kombu and Hoshi-Ume. Sour plum snacks to munch on during our days together making music.
6. JAPANESE TEA (READ HERE): Genmaicha. We’re both pretty crazy about this green tea with roasted rice. This may be the most essential ingredient to an Opal Sunn track.
UK-based artist Max Cooper merges electronic music, visual art and science through installations, live audio-visual and immersive sound experiences. Growing up, he pursued both of his passions – music and science, earning a PhD in computational biology. His background and education seems to now influence his creative process. Cooper shares that his projects start with an abstract idea / concept first which he explores further to make them tangible as well as relatable. His label “Mesh” is an embodiment of these passions and an outlet for music which is part of wider collaborations in the arts and sciences.
Following the successful multi-media “Emergence” album and tour, this year he released his third album “One Hundred Billion Sparks” with an all new and evolved 270 immersive audio-visual shows – a light field installation of countless shimmering points, hovering overhead the audience, creating 3-dimensional moving forms in sync with music. Experience the next one at Funkhaus in Berlin.
1. FLIGHT ESSENTIALS (A PERSONAL COLLECTION): This is my flight essentials pouch to cover the travel basics I need to maintain good vibes despite nasty turbulence, screaming babies, boredom, hang over, or any of the other common travel ailments.
Firstly there’s the noise cancelling headphones which allow me to work, particularly on low frequencies, despite the engine rumble, then there’s a few really handy headphone connectors – a splitter to share if I’m with a friend, a flight adaptor for those old style headphone sockets on flights which need two inputs, and most importantly, an attenuator: you know when you’re watching a movie and dosing off on a flight and suddenly there’s an announcement from the pilot waaay too loud in comparison to your film audio?….get the attenuator in there, turn up the film audio and turn down the level with the attenuator, so that any announcements are nice and quiet and you can maintain your zen.
Also in the pouch, backup movies and music on USB, spare earbuds cut in half for sleeping on, and painkillers plus diazepam for long-haul knock outs, waking up at the other end B.A. Baracus style.
2. SNACKS (RANDOM COLLECTION):Emergency stroopwafel and gummibärchen for the moments when I’m lost in the wilderness on tour and have no sustenance. These should give me a couple of days walking energy to escape most foreseeable disaster situations.
3. EARPLUGS (NO BRAND): Spare earplugs for noisy raves when I lose my proper moulded plugs. Earplugs are so easy to lose, drop them once in a dark club and they’re gone. So backups are very useful to save my already battered ear drums. Also I often end up giving them to my friends who come out unprepared for the audio barrage, when we’re lucky enough to get it in the places that aren’t so tight on their decibel monitoring.
4. BOOK (A BEAUTIFUL QUESTION, CHECK HERE): I have to admit I’ve been carrying this book around for some time, as you can see by the weathered cover. Over the past couple of years I’ve discovered that science audiobooks are perfect for travelling, allowing me to still learn something when I’m too tired to read on tour, and their narratives are forgiving to the odd doze off too. But this book is something special, and wasn’t available on audiobook format, so I’ve persevered. It’s about whether nature, fundamentally, embodies beauty.
Researchers often talk about using beauty and aesthetic judgements in guiding their paths towards discovering laws of nature. And that’s more or less the focus of my approach to music videos and live AV shows in the opposite direction, where I try to use nature and its embodiment in natural laws to provide something beautiful for us to look at.
So a great book to read, written by a Nobel prize winner no less. Other recent books of note would be Antonio Damasio’s “The Strange Order of Things”, and Peter Hoffman’s “Life’s Ratchet”.
5. ELECTRICAL TAPE (SCAPA, CHECK HERE): Boring yeah, but this can save me from all the music going off mid-set and everyone staring at me like I’m a massive moron who can’t figure out how to press play on a CDJ. Clubs generally have a lot of bass, and bass shakes things, and likes to shake cables out of their sockets. So I stick electrical tape on all the socket-cable connections. Generally only needed for USB connections, RCA/phono connections are fine.
6. MAGAZINE (NEW SCIENTIST, CHECK HERE): Great for the science news, properly explained and referenced. It doesn’t go into as much depth as I’d like, but many a good project idea has started with an article or book review in here which I’ve gone on to read about more deeply.
Indira Force is an artist from New Zealand. Her deep relationship with music is expressed in many different ways: composing film soundtracks, dance scores and even music for political campaigns as well as producing music under “indi”. The tracks on her first solo album Precipice are performed with saxophonists, trombonists and a violin to bring Force’s dreamy and delicate but concrete vision to life. Her collection of items are surprisingly functional and practial but essential to create the “indi” sound.
1. LAPTOP (GIGABYTE, CHECK HERE): I actually bought this earlier this year when I moved to Berlin from NZ. It has been essential to my on-the-go media-scoring lifestyle. It is really sturdy and can run huge projects without any problems.
2. EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE (SEAGATE, CHECK NEXT PARTY HERE):This is a boring one but I cannot emphasize how important it is to back up your stuff. I lost a whole EP of music projects once because my computer died and it was devastating. Honestly if you can afford it get like 2 hard drives and back everything up twice as well as uploading to the cloud. This holds a very precious part of my life.
3. SNACK (FRECHE FREUNDE, CHECK HERE): I think the translation is like ‘cheeky friend’ haha. They are freeze-dried strawberries and I just eat these almost every day because they are light and yum and natural.
4. HEADPHONES (HOUSE OF MARLEY, CHECK HERE): I use these constantly. They were a gift and I am so proud to own them as they are made from 100% sustainable and recycled materials. I go to sleep every night listening to the Harry Potter audoobooks by Stephen Fry which i know is a bit childish but so soothing.
5. YOGA MAT (NO BRAND): I have been practicing Ashtanga yoga since I was about 11. My family is pretty into it, especially my mum, so when I do yoga it reminds me of home and family. I’m not hardcore really- some weeks I may not do much depending on what is happening, but when things get intense and crazy I always know I can figure things out and breathe through it on this mat.
Taiwanese – American musician, producer and DJ Robert Yang AKA Bézier is one of the key figures in the San Francisco queer music scene. As one of the founding members and residents of the city’s Honey Soundsystem crew alongside Jason Kendig, Josh Cheon and Jacob Sperber (AKA, Jackie House), he is part of a new electronic music movement which is receiving recognition and a great following around the world today.
This year, Yang released his long-awaited debut album “Parler Musique” on Dark Entries, the label founded by Josh Cheon who believed in the “Bézier” sound from the beginning as a friend and as a collective member. With “Parler Musique” (French for “Talk About Music”) Yang also reveals his talent for creating romantic narratives around his prodcutions for it to be more relatable and tangible for his audience. The “Bézier” sound is complex and rich in musical influences – so is his background as a multi-instrumentalist inspired by a wide spectrum of music genres from punk, synth pop, industrial to new wave and house.
Yang enjoys finding clear order in creative chaos. The photo shoot took place at an apartment he had rented outside the city center on purpose to create a safe home base to create and rest. This genuine and focused character is also reflected in his essentials: gifts from close friends, self-care items and music gear – the true source of strength and inspiration on the road and a reminder of his roots.
1. MATCHA KIT KAT (NESTLE, CHECK HERE): It’s really a special thing to have a Kit Kat bar taste like matcha green tea (and strawberry as well). My friend Moritz gave this to me to snack before a show and today I’m a better person because of this.
2. WALLET (GIFT): A wallet that my friend Jordan gave to me while in Hanoi. It’s made of cotton with natural dyes from the region of Sapa. It has never left my side as I use it as a protective sleeve for all my important travel documents.
3. REMOTE SHUTTER (CAMKIX, CHECK HERE): A remote bluetooth shutter when I need to go handsfree and take a photo of myself with my phone.
4. INHALER (MENTHOLATUM): A little menthol inhaler when I get headaches on the road or nausea. It’s a panacea for what ails me.
5. SYNTHESIZER (VERMONA, CHECK HERE): I try to travel light for shows but toggling between live and DJ sets I can only carry what I can hold. This Vermona mono lancet is my replacement for a Moog Miniature that fell apart in my initial travels. It’s been road tested for three years now and will stay with me until she stops functioning.
6. STYLING WAX (GATSBY, CHECKHERE): The Gatsby styling wax is some kind of witchcraft for my hair. I’ve been using this paste since my Japanese cousin left it at my parent’s house when I was 19. It’s amazing and turn my fine hair into locks. I’d be lost without it.
7. FRAGRANCE (DIPTYQUE, CHECKHERE): I decided I needed a new fragrance for when I’m at shows. After touring through Asia and just having all my clothes smell like stale smoke I thought a lil scent would help me stomach the travels and perhaps more approachable. I didn’t want to get something that was too strong, like the cheap, strong (yet aggressively, luxury branded) alcohol smell a lot of Europeans and Brits fancy. I didn’t want people to smell me coming miles away so I needed something lighter, more vivacious. After consulting with my friend Aaron Choe at the duty free section at Incheon airport I stuck with Diptyque.
One of Denmark’s most famous musical exports is, of course, Kasper Bjørke. Known for his disco-inspired releases and DJ sets, “Kasper Bjørke” has become brand for good club and dance music. When he is not touring around the globe, he is either working on new music or humbly writing soundtracks for brands like Nike Jordan, Prada and various other art and fashion magazines. Listening to these and his latest albums on hfn music , it becomes apparent that the Kasper Bjørke sound reaches new territory outside the club music raum. He is now gearing up for the new album release which will be out on the legendary record label Kompakt this October. Besides being a full-time artist on stage and in the studio, he is also working as a passionate music manager behind the scenes – which started around 10 years ago from the pure wish to help and support his friends with their career.
Constantly exploring and pushing his artistic boundaries with collaborations with other creatives, Kasper is a full-time professional who knows what works for him as the brand – balancing both being an artist and a manager – and as an art director giving us suggestions on how to layout his essentials. Thank you, Kasper! It was a pleasure working together 🙂
1. GUM (STIMOROL, CHECKHERE): I chew this particular gum when taking off and landing, because I always have issues with my ears.. and because Im really, really afraid of flying, it also helps me relax somehow.
2. GLASSES (NO BRAND): I originally bought these as sunglasses but then had prescription lenses in them because Im pretty blind. I just got some gold sunglasses clip-ons for them, which is amazing. I somehow feel like a 70 year old man when I wear them though.
3. VITAMINES (NO BRAND): All my vitamines, herbal medicine and herbal sleep aids in a metal container that looks like a giant pill. I take so many different supplements that I would probably need to check in a piece of luggage to bring all the original packages if I didn’t have this one!
4. NECKLACE (WHEN SAINTS GO MACHINE, CHECKHERE): I got this necklace from my neighbour who is in the band When Saints Go Machine. They had it made as a piece of merch some years ago. Love and Respect is a beautiful message and I bring it on travels and wear it for gigs as a lucky charm…
5. EARPLUGS (ELACIN, CHECKHERE): Im a extremely light sleeper so besides my natural sleep aids I take every night, I also need to wear these custom made ear plugs that are made to seal off sound completely. I cant sleep without them anymore. They help alot on the road as well, before the hotel housekeeping would also wake me up at 8 AM when vacuuming the other rooms or opening/closing doors, which is no good when you are out DJing until 5 or 6 AM.
6. CAP (NORTH FACE, CHECKHERE): I never used to wear a cap because I had long hair and thought I looked silly with it. But now, with quite short hair, I feel naked without it.
7. DEODORANT (AESOP, CHECK HERE): I really like the scent of this deodorant. I dont need to wear it but for gigs I do it just to be on the safe side. Nobody likes a stinky DJ.
8. HEADPHONES (BOSE, CHECKHERE): Another remedy to calm my neves whenever Im on an airplane are these Bose noise cancellation headphones. I always listen to ambient music during take off and landing.
9. TOTE BAG (ABLETON LOOP, CHECKHERE): My manbag. I always have a random tote bag with me for all my stuff, this particular one I got from a dear friend…
French DJ and record collector Amila is one of Berlin’s music tastemakers when it comes to all the other genres outside mainstream Techno. With Altered Soul Experiment, he was able to create a platform with multiple outlets both digitally and physically to reach his audience. The label releases only mixes on cassette tapes (like the good old days) and has an impressive roster including names such as Ge-ology, Antal or Specter – all of their mix tapes are sold out. The monthly radio show on NTS plays the finest selection of Soul, Boogie, Disco grooves and ambient Jazz by Amila himself or guest DJs. The party series in Berlin provide the space and time to bring all the fans and enthusiasts together onto one dance floor. To guarantee maximum “Altered Soul Experiment”, Amila brings his own rotary mixer and cartridges as well as recorder to the shows. The fuel to power and grow the ASE empire, Amila shared his secret essential which are, believe it or not, cookies! Apparently the French cookies are the best for inspiration and creativity, but while he is based in Berlin – the German brand Milka does the job. We understand.
1. RECORDER (TASCAM, CHECKHERE): Essential piece of gear to realise how sloppy your mixes get late in the morning ! I’m now recording everything at home or while playing out and it actually really helped me improve over time.
2. STICKER (ALTERED SOUL EXPERIMENT, CHECKHERE): I stick those out as much as possible. It doesn’t serve any purpose but I like to think that people would take the time to check what it is about.
3. COOKIES (ANY BUT FOR MILKA, CHECKHERE):I don’t think I ever worked on anything without a box of cookies in the room. I like those ones because they are good value and Milka probably put some strange chemicals to make you want to eat the whole box. I can also recommend the other ones with the melted chocolate inside the cookie …
4. CASSETTES (ANY):I’m still taking time to put out tapes on my label. I like to be able to put out mixes on a physical format and cassettes is the only media that make sense. I’m not specially into their sound but I like the limitation of a format.
5. CARTRIDGES (SHURE, CHECKHERE):I find that in almost every club, you have to bring your own needles. Even if everything is dodgy, you’ll know that they will do their job just fine. On the downside, if you miss a beat you won’t be able to say it’s the cartridge’s fault.
6. MIXER (DJR4000, CHECKHERE):I’m not an audiophile geek but this mixer has a lot of sentimental value. I’ve used it out in so many parties and shared it with so many great artists. I’ve always been able to enjoy myself a lot more on rotary mixers and this one is portable enough to be able to carry just about anywhere.
Pan Daijing. It’s not only the artist’s name but also stands for a singular art form because there is no genre or label that can sum up her work. Pan’s live performances take place at galleries, museums, theaters and underground venues – the space becomes a part of the experience for her and the audience to connect. Her album Lack 惊蛰 on Berlin-based label PAN is merely a teaser into her world of extremes creating an appetite for more. Pan’s work can be violent, dissonant and dark but with delicate elements, moments of relief and silence. The high contrast of her work, however, feel almost meditative and allow the artist and the audience to become more intimate. It’s a smart technique Pan has full control over because she directs and builds her shows to every detail ranging from lighting, costumes and visuals.
Born and raised in China, Pan moved to Berlin 2 years ago after receiving a sound design degree in San Francisco and starting her musical career back in China’s art and performance scene. We were able to catch her in between international tours and a trip back home to China. Dressed in black leather from head to toe, she shared with us that wearing leather gives her comfort and has become the outfit of choice on stage. Spending time with her family and eating home-cooked meals are equally essential to her creative process as the selection of items shown below. Although her work is so international, avant-garde and borderless – her roots and inspiration are in China and will always stay in China.
1. CALENDAR (FIND IN CHINA): Chinese year calendar with photos of ancient antiques. Good remind of the day.
2. CANDY (FIND IN CHINA):Sugar free throat candy made with classic throat healing recipe in china.
3. OIL (WING LONG, FIND IN CHINA):Red flower oil helps with muscle pain and wounds. Must have for frequent travellers and heavy sports life. Intense smell also refresh the brain.
4. VIBRATOR (FIND YOUR OWN):Vibrates away all the stress. Quick pleasure.
5. SYNTHESIZER (ATOMO SYNTH, CHECKHERE):Favorite piece of gear of all time.
For New Zealand born singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Noah Slee had a busy year and it will get even busier in 2018. Releasing the debut album “Otherland” on Majestic Casual Records and playing at major festivals around the world was a big step in his career. Based in Berlin 6 months out of the year, Noah has found two place he can call “home”. The life between two countries seem to reflect his character and music well: genre-bending, respectful and open. His take on soul and RnB is fresh but accessible and so is his approach to writing the lyrics which are about the depth of communication, love and honesty.
When photographing his essentials, it seemed to be an easy task for Noah to gather the items because they were simply his favorite things. Especially the collection of Converse sneakers was quite impressive. He owned the same model in multiple colors, various editions, and several worn states. Even the hummus he brought out of the fridge came in several flavors because he loved them all.
1. JOURNAL (NO BRAND): Always keep me accountable in its own weird way, which is weird cos its just a journal but I guess the therapy and outlet it gives me its more than a just a journal. Mainly concepts, ideas, poems and of course lyrics. I’m too lazy to do the everyday dear diary thing .
2. HUMMUS (CHECK YOUR LOCAL STORE):Is my new favourite food since moving to Berlin. In NZ I didn’t really try hummus but some of my besties in the city have treated me to traditional Arabic food in their homes and I seriously almost have it with everything now its ridiculous. haha
3. SNEAKERS (CONVERSE, CHECKHERE):Past few years I’ve mainly been rocking chucks, proud member of the ‘Taylor Gang’ and it goes easily with all my clothes.
4. MASCHINE (NATIVE INSTRUMENTS, BUYHERE):I use this baby live all the time and it’s never let me down.