With the 20th anniversary of Etui Records fast approaching, we caught up with the label's founder, Oliver Hartmann, aka Insect O. Over the years Etui Records has seen 28 vinyl releases, 6 compilations as well as several digital only releases. 

In 2011 Etui Records started a new vinyl series called Etui Low Tech Dub to focus on the deep and dubby side of techno. The label is kicking off its 20th anniversary with a new instalment of the Etui Winter Camp compilation series with 11 tracks by new and old artists from all over Europe.

Congratulations on reaching 20 years, did you think that when you started you would make it this far?

Thank you! Honestly, I was 20 years old when I started the label and and had no time to think about what I will do when I'm 40. But how far I am now? Sometimes it feels like I´m still at the starting point. Ready to discover the music world.

How have things changed in terms of running a label now, as compared to when you began?

When I sent the first order of ETUI001 Insect O. - Flugzeugwerft EP to a pressing plant in Czech Republic back in 1998, there was no internet at all. I got the address from a friend and had to send a fax and the masters on a DAT tape. I started with self distribution and had to call all the stores that I knew from a phone book, which were basically Hardwax, Kompakt and some stores in East Germany. At the end I was quite happy to find a distributor for the first release. Things evolved and changed over time. Etui is now working with vinyl distributor (decks.de) and digital distributor (finetunes).

With the Internet things have changed a lot in many ways. Sending the DAT tape to a pressing plant via post took 3-4 days in 1998. Uploading a 4 track EP for mastering took 4-6 hours in 2006. Uploading our new Etui Winter Camp 11 track compilation to digital distribution via mobile LTE took 20 minutes. Technology changes the way we work, but also the way in which we explore and listen to music. And there are many advantages of new technology.

Tell me about the label’s connection with Flugzweugwerft and what inspired you to begin the label?

In the mid 90s Dresden had a big and very strong techno scene. I would say Leipzig, Berlin and Dresden were the epicentre of techno in East Germany. We had a lot of empty buildings and people just started parties. Three friends were running a record and fashion store called Hör Auf in Heidenau and had a strong connection to Detroit. Later the record store moved to Dresden and became a Hardwax store. So the Dresden sound was very influenced by Detroit Techno in the 90s.

In 1996 me and some school friends found this empty and very special building and we called it Flugzeugwerft. It was situated in the north of Dresden as the former parts of airplane plants. We had artists like Derrick May, Phuture 303, Heiko MSO, Alec Empire, Daniel Bell or Porter Ricks playing. For me and my school friends running the venue it was an amazing time. We just were 19 / 20 years old and ran parties for up to 1300 people. At that time people often called Dresden “the little Detroit from the East”.  In 1998 we had to close the doors due authority restrictions.

The time and energy of the place was still vibrating in me. For me Flugzeugwerft also was the first stage to present my music to a bigger audience and play live shows. I felt that time had a special raging spirit for me and my friends.. That´s why we decided to found the non profit organisation Ragin Spirits e.V. to run future parties and I decided to start the label to release my own music.

And tell me about the name, Etui?

Etui is like a cover for good music. We call etui the box where you put your good glasses in. I like the French accent in the name too. I talked about the idea with my old friend Fabian Leuchtmann, who started working at Hardwax Dresden and now co-runs the Fat Fenders record store. He liked the idea too.

How would you best describe the label in terms of style?

Since the start of the new vinyl series ETUILTD - Etui Low Tech Dub - the sound is more focused on Deep and Dubtechno. The idea is to bring it in an uptodate audio frame. But it always has its reference in the 90s dub techno ara.

As I grow older I really start missing the time when there was also a big ambient floor on a party (as we had at Flugzeugwerft for example). So the Etui Winter Camp compilations will also give some space for ambient explorations.

Would you say that style has changed over the years or has it largely remained the same?

Yes of course. The label started with a very 90's influenced style. After releasing mostly my own music, I made a break until I met Soren Matschiste in 2006. From 2006 till 2010 we ran the label together and discovered new very talented artists in Dresden like Alec Tronic or Mentalic. We also built a little network with artists like Gunja & DJ Stachy aka End Of Tape or Alex Carbo. The sound became more melodic and Etui became distributed by Kompakt.

The sound was very influenced by the sound of Cologne, so to speak. Everything got better and better and more professional. Around 2010 there was a point when the sales came back and we felt a bit lost about the musical future of the label. At this point Soren Matschiste found a new homebase with another label and I met Monomood. When I listened to his first demo “Oktrosis” I totally felt in love with that dub techno sound again. That was starting point of the new vinyl series.

Now that the label has been running for 20 years, can you name some of your favourite releases and explain why?

A favourite release is hard to pick. ETUI003 Insect O. & Pro.Ton “Connection Music” from 2001 was an important step because it brought the connection with Kompakt. But the most impact for the label brought “ETUILTD002 Insect O. - Birds Over Hong Kong”. It opened the doors in many ways.

Personally I love travelling and I met many great people on my trips. Thanks to Emilie and Ocean Lam I had the opportunity to play in Hong Kong. They also invited dub techno mastermind Marko Fürstenberg some years ago. So I asked him to do a remix and we invited him to play on an Etui label session at Sabotage Club in Dresden. Later on his remix was played by Lance Harrison and Mark Baumann aka Echo Inspectors in a DJ set on Soundcloud. We started chatting and I visited them in Melbourne ending up playing DJ sets and producing and releasing some music on Etui as well as their Primary Colours label. And of course they introduced me to Dave Stuart and Renae Traeck aka Trinity in Sydney. In 2015 Etui released  Trinity’s “The Wind Up” alongside tracks by Sydney´s  Simon Mann, Silver Ash and Squerpeg. That´s the beginning of the story I would tell on every campfire.

With the fall and rebirth of vinyl over the last decade or so – has it been challenging to remain largely a vinyl only label?

Etui is not a vinyl only label. You also get our music in digital download stores and for me this is a good thing. All the people in Hong Kong for example don´t have space for a record shelf nor two turntables. And even if they had, it would be massive expensive due customs and shipping costs. And I guess there are many people more around the world in the same situation. So I´m very happy that people can listen and buy digital downloads.

Regarding vinyl sales I guess dub techno is still a little bit special and strong. It always is different from release to release. Our vinyl releases are still good. From what I heard vinyl sales of Dub Techno are generally a bit better than straight techno or deep house. So fingers crossed that this will last for all dub techno labels a bit longer. And also a big thanks to bandcamp and decks.de for being such great places for people to discover music!

Do you have any good stories about the label from over the years?

Oh more good stories? 

How things have changed in Dresden since the last 20 years?

The face of the city have changed quite a lot. But not the people. We have still a strong spirit for club culture and finding new ways to celebrate techno. A lot of venues and clubs had to close. This year also creative hub Koe25 will be demolished to build new luxury flats. It was the working space for around 400 - 500 people.

On the other hand it´s amazing to see that there was and hopefully always will be a new place for techno. Culture is the heartbeat of a society, the flagship of a city. Now we have great venues like objekt klein a or TBA and a great community of artists, DJs and promoters. Since 2014 we also have DAVE festival, which stands for Dresden Audio Visual Experience. It´s 10 days full of a/v shows, concerts, parties, cinema and workshops. This year we will celebrate five years in October. If you ever wanted to visit Dresden, October is the best time to come!

And what can we expect in terms of releases coming in 2018?

I´m working on a video for my track “Forest Of The Monkeys”. When I´m travelling I always have my camera with me for filming. So I took some shots at the monkey forest in Ubud (Indonesia).

Next release will be my Album “Atacama”. It´s is a 10 track full length which I started working on after visiting Bolivia and Chile in 2014. It took a while to finish. But that’s what travelling is all about … the way. My album is music for travelling.

Will you be planning any label showcase events?

I will sort a out a tour for the album release. You can also send a message to info@etui-records.de for label showcase requests.