Young and brimming with attitude, Vienna-based label Neubau is one of the freshest labels to have emerged from electronic music’s recent contemporary-wave and dark-groove spheres. Founded by Florian Stöffelbauer, aka Heap, and Simon Heidemann in 2015, the label has so far released nine EPs by artists from around the world, such as Aufgang B, Karamika, Sheila Fleurator, MR TC and Alexander Arpeggio. Collectively, they are distinct yet cohesive, each record shares a certain aesthetic and catchy oddness. It’s four-to-the-floor – and beyond – music full of syncopated kick drums, dissonant tones, punk-attitude, and devilish techno moments. There’s eruptive bass lines and nervous percussion, rattling electro and arpeggiating synths. "Brutalism In Music." is the motto of the label, which is affiliated with the online record shop Discus Throwers. A slogan that reads harder than it sounds, all Neubau records so far have also a handsome minimal wave touch.
In 2017, Neubau also launched its sub-label, Wiener Brut, with two LPs by the 1980s acts Poligam and In-Seit, with both records delivering bold new wave pop.
But sometimes, it’s better to listen to, rather than read about, it. Here, we present Heap’s Carhartt WIP Radio Show, which introduces Neubau’s work, and includes a selection of unreleased music. We also hit up the boy from Vienna for a chat, and delved further into the Neubau world. It’s not as brutal as you’d think.
Heap, your label is called Neubau, which is also the name of the seventh district of Vienna. Is there a link? And if so, what is it?
Heap: Back when we started the label, Simon and me, we were both living in Neubau. But the main intention behind the label’s name was the possibility to link it with architecture.
What is your musical background? And what was the thinking behind the start up of the label?
Heap: My life has been all about music since I started playing my drums when I was seven years old. I played in an orchestra back in my hometown and went to a couple of contests. Moving to Vienna was difficult for me because it meant I couldn’t bring my drums, so I decided to start collecting records to compensate and stay musically active. The idea to start the label was a typical Schnapsidee after a wild night out DJing with Simon. I played a couple of demos he gave me before, which we both really enjoyed. While still playing b2b I told Simon that we should release the tracks on our own new label. After me officially asking Detlef (Tolouse Low Trax) for a remix on my way home from the venue the same night/morning, there was no way back.
What do you find most challenging about the work you do?
Heap: For the label work, it’s definitely to avoid hype.
What’s your favourite Neubau rumour?
Heap: I’ve heard from a few different people that there will be another Neubau sub-label soon, focussing on wrongspeeder trance edits. But at the moment we have so much exciting, original, contemporary music coming up on the parent label that we don’t wanna jump on the edits train. There are also rumours about who Sheila Fleurator is. A lot of guesses, but nobody has guessed correctly yet.
If you could describe Neubau in one sentence, what would it be?
Heap: “Brutalism in music.” Most of the people misunderstand the meaning of “brutalism,” though. They think it has something to do with brutality, but that’s just not the case. It should display our vision of music released on Neubau – being honest, functional, uncompromising.
Do you have a "wish list" of musicians you'd like to see on Neubau?
Heap: Any producers I don’t know yet who would blow my mind with their sound.
How does living in Vienna shape the work at Neubau?
Heap: The people I’m surrounded with make me feel safe and feel free in making decisions. That’s probably most important for what I do with Neubau.
What future projects is the label working on right now?
Heap: We just signed the album of the year – the first ever LP released on Neubau and it’s gonna be huge. We are waiting for the pressing plant to send us the finished copies and then it will hopefully be out early November.
What was the biggest Neubau hit so far?
Heap: I don’t know and I honestly don’t care. For me they are all equally good in their range of facets. Each release has its own flavour and its own “hit”, if you want to use that particular term.
You’ve released music from newcomer artists such as Aufgang B, Bocksrucker, Gil.Barte, Alexander Arpeggio or Sheila Fleurator. How did you find them and what makes their music special?
Heap: Sometimes they find us and sometimes we find them. All of them have this distinctive sound, something you wouldn’t find so easy on a different label.
Neubau runs the sub-label Wiener Brut, which is described on Discogs as a label "focussing on releasing experimental electronic music from Austria's 80s DIY scene.” What makes this scene special and what is coming next on Wiener Brut?
Heap: I think what makes it special is that nobody really cared about the scene for a long time after its time was allegedly over. Everybody was talking about the “Kassettentäter” of Germany and the Netherlands, but nobody looked to Austria – until now. If you want to find out more about this scene I recommend checking out “Cassette Culture Node.Linz” which was initiated by one of the main protagonists of that time, Wolfgang “Fadi” Dorninger, who also runs the great SRA Archive in Vienna.
So far Wiener Brut has released a record by Poligam and by In-Seit. How did you find these bands from the past and how did you manage to get hold of exclusive, never-been-released material from them?
Heap: I discovered Poligam after watching Hans Fädler’s queer b-movie “Wiener Brut,” from which the sub-label derived its name. Apparently the cult label GiG Records put out a movie soundtrack 12” with the only Poligam track that ever appeared on vinyl (produced and remixed by Richard Österreicher Jr., with whom I will be working on the next Wiener Brut release). I was so into that track that I instantly wanted to find out more about the band and I managed to find Artur Singer from the band.
In-Seit I discovered through infamous Austrian hardcore digger Luziprak. He knew about demo cassettes of the band. He owned two of them which he let me listen to. I wanted to know if there were still more demo cassettes available so I contacted Philipp Wagenhofer from the band, who later invited me to go through his archive.
One thing about Wiener Brut is that we want to keep a certain standard, or mostly to release music that’s never really, or officially, been out before. We don’t do “traditional” reissues, finding some record that’s super rare, contacting the musicians and putting out an identical reissue of the original release. We want to offer new-old music to the people out there.
Heap: I let things happen. If I feel like trying to do my own tracks I will keep on doing it as long as it makes me happy. Same with edits. I never feel a certain pressure to create my own stuff, it mostly just happens.
When you do an edit, do like to review the original carefully, or are you more into doing your own tunes while just using some parts of an original tune?
Heap: It depends on the original of course, but I always try to respect the idea of the initial track I’m working on.
Any new stuff coming out soon?
Heap: I’m just working on two tracks that will be out on Neubau, alongside a remix by Die Wilde Jagd.
How did you select the tracks for your Carhartt Radio Show?
Heap: I tried to choose the tracks in a way that the mix makes sense musically as a whole.
Apart from “feeling,” what are aspects or musical elements that draw you to a record or track?
Heap: The beat is really important to me, probably due to my connection to drums and percussion instruments. I always appreciate a funky groove, but also a simple meditative, hypnotic and repetitive beat can do it for me.
Do you prepare your sets and know exactly what tracks you will play and in what particular order? Or do you just improvise in the moment according to the vibe and the crowd?
Heap: Most of the times I prepare the first two or three tracks and then I will see where the audience and the setting will take me.
How do you think your generation is going to leave its mark on music?
Heap: This century will be remembered as the one that mostly looked back instead of ahead. Music-wise we are almost only reimagining what’s already been here (80s and 90s).
If you could be in any band, living or dead, for a day, which band would it be?