posted: 10-26-04
interview : tadah
Okay, please introduce yourself.
My name is H-Peh, hip-hop-Producer from Germany.
Any crew affiliations we should know about?
I started out as a rapper in the Hip-hop-Crew Die Erstausgabe. We were active from 1991 until 1996. After that period I decided to change the mic against the sampler.
What had you change put down the mic and pick up the sampler?
First of all I never felt comfortable on the stage; I am not so outgoing and so I preferred to do my thing in the background. Plus my skills as an emcee did not progress: it was ok for that time, but by the mid/end of the 90s there were so much talented MCs on the mic, I could not compete. (smile)
So where exactly are you from?
I am from Hamburg, Germany.
Europe? Wait a minute, there's no real rap coming from Europe, is there?
Real rap? What does it mean for you? The fact is that we got talented artists here!
Yeah, but all they do is basically copy US people, right?
You really think so? Honestly don't share this opinion. The MCs here talk about their problems, their lives and their experience. For me this is real. Sure you always got MCs who pretend to be something different as they are, but you also find MCs like that in the States. So for me 'real-rap' is not a matter of the country.
How successful is rap in Germany?
If you mean sales - yes, hip hop-music constantly enters the official German charts. I think it is also the most popular youth-culture in Germany. So you can say that rap is big over here!
What styles of rap do German people do?
Basically we got everything. Storytelling, conscious styles, and we also have a large number of gangstar-rappers at the moment. Mostly they are from Berlin and are very successful right now. That's not really my preferred style though.
How does someone in Europe get into rap?
Europe is not off the world… We are not living behind a curtain. Already back in the early '80s we had a strong breakdance hype here in Germany and I felt it from the beginning. But I only really got into hip-hop in the early 90s.
What had you start participating, rather than just watching and listening?
In school I was sitting next to a guy called Flummi; he already did his first rap recordings over some soul tracks. I liked it and I also wanted to try it out. So we built up the rap-duo MC Flummi & Der Graf. We had very many musicians in our school so after a while we decided to compile a whole live-band and from there on we called the crew Die Erstausgabe. Later we began to use the first samples. This was the time when Flashmaster Ray - our former DJ - joined the group.
How do you see the German and how do you see the European rap 'scene'?
I am not such much into the whole European rap scene. I know a few artists from France and they have definitely talents there! French productions sound really cool.
In Germany, we definitely got very good MCs and producers here. Plus we are still more concerned about the whole hip-hop culture including breakdance and graffiti which is cool. I think in the US it mostly focuses on the music. Maybe it's going to be the same here in five or ten years.
You have a record out, please tell us a little about it.
My present release is "Diplomacy". It's a producer album. I released it on my own label Entire Volume Records. I recently signed a distribution-deal with Groove Attack for the label. Featured MCs on the album are S-Mode of Teamsport, Captain Gips, Cadence of Raw Produce, O.U.O, Bukue One & EMC, Kohndo, Lootchiano and of course DJ Flashmaster Ray is also part of the project. Some beats are live-played, cause I still play guitar and keyboards from time to time. Or they are sampled or a combination of both. The beats are funky and the artists got something to say - so I am really confident with the result.
To get distribution from GrooveAttack is quite a big deal. So how did that happen?
A few years ago I sent them my first releases. It was my instrumental vinyl "H-Peh Beats Vol.1" and my remix-tape "H-Peh Remixes Vol.1". They liked it and told me to keep them updated about my plans and productions. So a few years later I did the album and sent them the rough mixes. I asked them if they are willing to distribute it and they even offered me a distribution deal for my whole label. We negotiated a bit and then I signed it.
So what does it boil down to then to get a deal? Good music?
Yes, I think so. Good music is always subjective though…
Will they also distribute it outside of Germany, maybe even the US?
It is also available in other European countries and I already saw it in an US online store. As far as I know Groove Attack offered it to their US distribution partners, but I don't think that it will be available there in huge amounts.
Why "Diplomacy"?
During the production process the "Diplomacy" beat was one of my favourites. When the track was completed with the lyrics, I was very happy about the direction it took. I really loved the track. In addition I was looking for an album-title that fit to my personality; and so picked "Diplomacy" (smile).
Now, you have a combination of artists on there, how and why did you pick 'em?
Many of the "Diplomacy" artists, like O.U.O, Kohndo, Lootchiano were already featured on my remix tape "H-Peh Remixes Vol.1"; so I already knew them. For me it is important to feel what the artist is doing musically and in addition I have to get along with them personally. Sure most contacts happen via email - I just met Bukue One on his European tour this summer - but you can also tell through emails if you have a good connection.
You stayed in Germany and the US with your picks, right? Why?
No, I actually also got Kohndo from France on my album. But when I did my remix tape, I also tried to get in touch with three or four UK artists. But all they cared about was money and contracts. Really strange people.
What would you have done if the rapper came with either really wack lyrics, or content you couldn't agree with?
I would have refused it and it would not have been on my album. No doubt.
And how did you get it to work: did they all get beat cds, or how did it go?
First I produced about fifteen beats, put them on my server and gave everybody the download link. I told every artist to choose two beats they liked and I hoped that the choices were made in a way I could put it all together. Unfortunately many artists chose the same beat. Then I produced about fifteen more beats and thought for myself which beat I would give to which artist. I presented them the track individually and it all went good.
So how would you do it the next time around?
Perhaps I would produce more beats at the beginning so the artists would have a bigger choice. Don't know. In the end it is the result that counts.
What are you going to do with the beats that didn't get used?
Nothing so far. With one of the beats though, I made a track with Cadence for a Swedish compilation. It is called "9 To 5", but I don't know when it comes out.
Tell us what you hope we'll get out of this record.
You will get funky beats, but still various styles, plus dope MCs and dope lyrics.
If someone would like to get beats from you, what does he have to consider?
Nothing special; I just have to like what I hear. And I got to have time.
What do we need to know about you?
Don't know. I am more the relaxed type of guy not the gangstar type. I just try to constantly work on my productions and hope to collaborate with many interesting artists in the future.
What would you like to tell us about you, that we probably don't care to know? (smiles)
My favorite color is… (smiles)
Any other fun facts about you?
Oh, you gotta ask the people I work with. At the moment nothing funny comes to my mind, unfortunately.
You got to work with a couple of people, but who would you work with if you could pick anybody out there?
First it was cool to hear Main Flow of Mood on one of my beats. It was a collaboration track of Main Flow and Lootchiano and I did the production. I think you can still download it on hamburghiphop.de in the mp3-section.
And yeah, there of course are some MCs out there I would like to produce a beat for, like Talib Kweli or Common. In Germany I would like to work with Dendemann; one of the best German MCs.
That Main Flow song is not on the album though, is it? So what's the story of this song?
No, I produced the beat after finishing my album. Lootchiano and Main Flow already did a few tracks in the past and one day Lootchiano told me that they are looking for a beat for another collaboration. So I produced a beat, arranged it and sent it to Lootchiano. He and Main Flow liked it and that's was it.
What was the last album/showcase/experience that had you go: man, I better step up my skills before I step out with something again?
Honestly I can't remember having this experience. I mean sure there are a lot of producers that are amazing, like the Alchemist-album is dope, the Pete Rock releases are incredible and so on. But I think it is wrong to compare your own stuff to other people's stuff so much. It's about doing you own thing. You definitely need inspiration and every good song out there can be an inspiration for me. But I think I don't have to hide myself just because of the million existing dope tracks. If so I should sell my equipment immediately.
So what do you want to achieve before you retire?
No specific goals. I just want to keep doing what I do, coming up with good productions, good mixes and good masterings. Sure I also hope that my name gets more and more well known and that I can sell more and more copies of my Entire Volume-releases (smiles).
What do you really enjoy listening to right now?
The Roots "The Tipping Point". But older album-releases like Dilated People's "Expansion Team" and "Trinity" from Slum Village are still on heavy rotation in my Discman.
You must have a website, right? What is it?
Yes, my music production website is www.h-peh.de with a German and English version. The website of my label is entire-volume.de.
So, to wrap this up: Shouts and final comment?
Once again I would like to say thank you to all artists involved in "Diplomacy": Cadence of Raw Produce, Bukue One & EMC, Captain Gips, Kohndo, O.U.O, Lootchiano, S-Mode and Flashmaster Ray. It was a pleasure working with you!
And of course thank you for doing the interview.
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