I first encountered Oracy one morning in Panorama Bar, the house-oriented top floor of everyone's favourite monolithic temple of techno. The first track he dropped was a particularly demanding 90s-sounding rave number, as if to present a challenge: accept it and dance, or disappear. And some did - maybe 30 percent of the floor emptied out, but the brave ones who stayed were subject to something stunning: his set was diverse, soulful and utterly ballsy. Behind the moniker stands German Thomas Wendel, who you may be familiar with as techno connoisseur Don Williams, or the man behind the imprints Mojuba, a.r.t.less and Wandering. On the 25th of October we’ll be bringing this bold Berliner to Jolene Bar, Copenhagen, for our Dunkel Radio party. We decided to catch up with him before his visit, for a chat about where his journey with electronic music started and how he developed his esthetic on DJing. We even managed to uncover some very promising news about a future Convextion release on a.r.t.less...
Dunkel Radio: How did you get into electronic music in the first place?
Oracy: Techno was really big in Germany back then. As a young kid watching music television you couldn't avoid it, because it was everywhere, even on normal television. There were commercial spots for techno compilations during the normal programming, so when you were watching some series or something, you were always confronted with techno music. And then I thought: ‘okay, this sounds kind of interesting, I might check it out’. That was pre-internet, so you would go to the supermarket, and you could see some of the CDs you had just seen on the TV commercial.
Dunkel Radio: You remember the first compilation you bought?
Oracy: I think it was Mayday Rave Olympia, that was in ‘94.
Dunkel Radio: How old were you back then?
Dunkel Radio: I know you have this passion for late 90s house. Did you just grow into that period and stay there, or where did that start?
Oracy: It was a bit of a journey until I discovered house actually. I started with this rave techno and hardcore thing, house came into the picture when I started going out to clubs in ‘95-’96.
Dunkel Radio: Where were you living at the time?
Oracy: In this district called Brandenburg, it’s like one hour from Berlin by car. Back then we still had a very healthy club culture, back then it was actually fairly common, even in small towns, to have pretty decent bookings. There was a very good club in Jüterbog, next to my neighbourhood. It was called ‘Sperrgebiet’ which is like the German word for ‘restricted area’. It was an old military facility built by Bismarck before WWI, so it was all these big red brick wall buildings, really impressive architecture. There was a guy who was working for the real estate company and was also into techno music, so he started running parties inside the facilities.
Dunkel Radio: Do you remember any of the names you heard there?
Oracy: One person who totally changed my mind on DJing was actually Claude Young. He was playing there in January ‘97 and I never saw a techno DJ before who had these hip hop skills. Previously I was only really listening to DJs who were just making fades, blending the tunes into each other. I never saw a DJ who was scratching, or making rough cuts or echo effects with double copies. I mean it’s also rare to see someone doing that nowadays, but back then it was really jaw-dropping.
I was so happy they booked him to play in the countryside, that was really special to us, having someone from Detroit playing in a small town like that. It was incredible because he was scratching with his elbow, operating the crossfader with his mouth… really crazy stuff.
Dunkel Radio: So you had this awakening as a DJ from seeing Claude Young, how did you go from that to having a passion for late 90s house?
Oracy: In that club there were actually two floors. That was the techno floor, on the other side there was this house floor, and that is where I first discovered house, or found the love for it. There was this resident DJ Nick, that was his name back then, but now he is better known as Nick Solé, he is also one of my artists on Mojuba Records now. He still is a great house DJ, and back then he had a real following with the party people. He was creating his own hits actually - he played records maybe no one else was playing, but people would freak out because they knew it, maybe it was not an international hit, but he made it into a [local] hit. He was working on his own purpose in a way, because he also owned a record shop. He would order a record 50 times, so he was really keen to play that particular record at the parties pretty often so that people would recognise it, and would come up to the DJ booth and ask what it was, and he would answer: ‘I’m not going to tell you, but if you come to my record store on Monday you’ll get it’.
Dunkel Radio: So this was when you found your love for house music - what did you think and feel when you heard it?
Oracy: I felt pretty excited because it reminded me a bit of my pop roots. Before I was listening to techno I listened to that trashy eurodance stuff as well, you know, as a little kid. So house was much more about incorporating this whole song structure thing. House was a better way to enjoy music again, because when I was listening to techno I was already analyzing stuff, and when you start analyzing music you don’t dance anymore, and you don’t let yourself go. When I hear other techno DJs I instantly start to analyze what they are doing, and how they made the track . Initially I was a raver, and I was just going to parties to dance, so I was always longing for that innocent naive feeling of a dancer. But I couldn't find the switch to turn off the ‘analyze’ mode. House music was kind of new to me, so I could let myself go and dance again. My first steps towards producing house music were really five or six years later.
Dunkel Radio: And when did the techno producing start?
Oracy: My first experiments were in ‘95.
Dunkel Radio: When did Oracy appear?
Oracy: Actually, is was not my intention to do a project like this, but I made this track ‘Family Day’ that came out 2006. I was already producing stuff as Don Williams, but I was more focused on Detroit techno, and when I made this tune, I thought, well, because of the speech I used in it I was a bit afraid to use my other artist name.
Dunkel Radio: Why?
Oracy: Because I sampled this Afro-American speech, so I thought, okay it would be cool to use a pseudonym, maybe that’s a bit safer. I used this different artist name, and I thought, okay, it's actually a good opportunity to do something different under this name, so I decided to use it for my housier projects.
Dunkel Radio: Was it a vinyl-only release?
Oracy: Actually there are two versions of the track, one version is just the instrumental and one version with the speech, and the one with the speech is vinyl only. The instrumental one you can purchase on Beatport or whatever.
Dunkel Radio: And what about DJing?
Oracy: That is a different story. I used to DJ a lot of different styles, since I was introduced to different music by other DJs from the 90s, I always try to incorporate them in my DJ sets, but I felt that recently, people need to have, it sounds a bit silly, but - a certain genre or music style. For example, I played as Don Williams upstairs and downstairs at Berghain Panorama Bar, and people always got confused because they couldn't label me as a techno DJ, because the next time I was playing upstairs, they thought, okay, he is a house DJ. For me that was not a problem at all, because in the 90s it was much more common for a DJ to play different genres during a set. One of the best DJ mixes I can point to for that reference is the Derrick May Mix Up. That mix shows pretty much what directions you can go in as a DJ, he played disco-infused house, Chicago house, and hard techno stuff like Basic Channel and Chain Reaction all in 60 minutes, and it totally made sense, and nobody was questioning it.
Dunkel Radio: How would you describe your DJ style as Oracy?
Oracy: It’s definitely more focused on the housier side of things, but I wouldn't say that it’s just narrowed down to house. Actually, I had a very nice experience two weeks ago in Holland, because the promoter booked me to play the whole night, which is something I really like, because I can show all the kinds of music I like [in one set]. I can start really slow with like 110 bpm disco stuff and then go over to dub techno and transform that into Chicago house or NYC kind of house, and end up with techno, then going back via UK garage to electro. I could really express myself in many different ways.
Dunkel Radio: Do you have one record that you always try to sneak in?
Oracy: I always try to incorporate something from Convextion, because I am a really big fan of his, and he has become a good friend of mine over the last 6 years. He also uses some other names, for example E.R.P - I refer to his music as ‘romantic techno’.
Dunkel Radio: What is it about his sound that you like?
Oracy: It’s very original, he’s a very good sound designer, and he has his own trademark sound. Its always very soulful, and groovy as well. He really has his own kind of funk and I think that his music is very organic, its actually like a living thing, especially when you listen to the old Convextion records from the mid 90s, there is so much happening, although it’s pretty narrowed down to a certain idea, but the sound is evolving all the time and for me, never gets boring. He has been more active under the E.R.P pseudonym lately, but I am actually working together with him retrospectively for the Convextion stuff. I think it is very important that this great music is made available again, especially for the next generation of techno lovers, which can be difficult because those tracks are pretty rare, and if you want to get a hold of the records you have to spend a lot of money.
Dunkel Radio: So you are talking about doing some re-releases?
Oracy: We will be doing stuff from the same period of time, but tracks that were previously unreleased. I found out he had a still some of the old DAT tapes lying around, and I said to him immediately that it would be cool if we can do a reissue of the older stuff, but it would also be nice to add something people didn't know from around the same time. That’s basically the plan, we have been talking about it for the last 5 years actually, but now it looks like its going to happen very soon.
Words: Najaaraq Vestbirk
LISTEN TO A DJ MIX BY ORACY:
And check him out at The Dunkel Radio party on the 25th of October.