Established by the Cologne-based DJ and producer Damiano von Erckert in 2011, the label's roster consists of artists such as Christopher Rau, Ugly Drums, Andy Vaz, and Tito Wun aka Twit One (one half of Testiculo Y Uno that brought you the Carhartt WIP Radio Show from August 2013). The multicoloured ava. catalogue also includes musicians as L.A-based, neo-soul vocalist, Georgia Anne Muldrow. Last year head honcho von Erckert released his second album Love Based Music - a multicoloured LP that mirrors the different styles of his label on one hard to resist album. For Carhartt WIP Radio, Damiano von Erckert now mixed a selection of old and new ava. records, special remixes, tracks from his latest EP Giant Pandas And Other Nice Things In Life, along with other rarities that will make hip hop heads just as happy as club music devotees. To find out what drives this young dedicated music lover to release records with hand printed covers and music of such a stylistic variety we talked to him about his aims, his early days as a DJ, and his current hometown Cologne.
(Damiano von Erckert)
Hey Damiano – can you introduce yourself for us a bit? Where are you coming from, what is your occupation?
Damiano von Erckert: I’m a producer and DJ and also running my label ava. which I’ve founded in 2011 in my hometown Cologne. I was born in an area which is called Ruhrgebiet. A very industrial area with a lot of workers back in the days. Currently I’m living in Cologne, Germany.
How did you first get into music and performing and when did you decide you wanted to make music your career?
Damiano von Erckert: Well I think everything started in my childhood. I was around seven or eight I guess. My father used to be a DJ for black and house music so I listened to a lot of music of the 70’s up to 90’s Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and New York based music. Stuff like Strictly Rhythm, Nu Groove, Philly Soul International, Motown, Atlantic etc. But it took some more years until I‘ve decided to start producing music and launch a label. I‘ve met Funkycan aka AM KNM when I was 17 years old. We used to live in the same little town 50 km away from Cologne. He was the first guy in my age I‘ve met who had a pair of Technics record players and some house records. This reminded me on the time I‘ve spent at my fathers place and was the beginning of my career I guess.
What does the labels name stand for?
Damiano von Erckert: „ava“ has some meanings or translations. It‘s a female forename but it is also translated from persian language as „sound/noise“.
What musical qualities do you look for as a "curator" of music? And what does a track or an artist need to have for you in order to work with him/her or to release it?
Damiano von Erckert: Well for me it‘s important to work with people who are nice and friendly. For me music is very important. It feels like a kind of second heart to me. So I‘m looking for people who are feeling the same. Also I‘m looking for people who are not scared about doing crazy stuff, having nerves and playing around like children sometimes. I think this is necessary to produce creative and unique music and records.
Can you name us an artist or track from the past you wish you would have signed to your label?
Damiano von Erckert: Oh there‘re a lot of producers. I think people like Madlib, Mood II Swing, Aaron Carl... difficult question! But I already signed so much good artists to my label like Tito Wun aka Twit One, Funkycan aka AM KNM and some other good guys will follow.
What do you do for ava. on a day-to-day basis?
Damiano von Erckert: I‘m doing the A&R part, record layouts, distribution. But my girlfriend Victoria and Pete are a big help as well. They‘re doing a lot of financial stuff and helping me out with distribution, too.
How did you select the tracks for your Carhartt Radio show?
Damiano von Erckert: Well there was not a real concept. It was the first time I had to mix only ava. tracks which was tough, but I choose tracks that I really like and that represent ava. in my opinion.
What are your biggest musical influences?
Damiano von Erckert: Soul music I guess. The biggest record collection I have besides house and techno is soul. But I‘m also influenced by afro music, disco, hip hop, Brazil, Turkish music etc.
What do you want to accomplish with music?
Damiano von Erckert: To make people happy and to open a door to good music.
What was your biggest ava. hit so far?
Can you give some advice to someone who is interested in starting his or her own label?
Damiano von Erckert: Yeah. Be real and do whatever you think is the right thing. Don‘t listen to much to other people and their sayings. It‘s important to be straight, disciplined and patient.
What is your creative process like? How do you usually start to produce a new piece of work?
Damiano von Erckert: There‘s not really a system. Sometimes I start with a sample, sometimes with my machines or recordings I‘ve made somewhere. But usually I need to feel the work after maximum one hour otherwise it‘s not good. I‘ve hundreds of unfinished ideas on my computer...
Your tracks are built around samples. What do you like about sampling and how do you select them? Any specific mode of operation?
Damiano von Erckert: I always try to find samples which allow me to renew it. What I mean is to put it in another context. I don‘t want to use disco samples because this is already made for the dancefloor. And most of the time it‘s nearly impossible to make an edit which is the same quality or better than the original track. I rather use samples which I transform into a track for the dancefloor. Like a cheesy soul or R&B song on 98 bpm. There are a few people who were or are able to interpret and sample disco tracks in a new way like Ron Hardy, Larry Levan, Danny Krivit... But most of the producers are just doing crap like filtering this, delaying that and make it more pumpy with digital plugins. These people don‘t understand what it means to do an edit. I think it‘s important to keep the feeling of the original sample alive. But in general it depends on the sample so it‘s not easy to answer this question in a 100% way. You could discuss this topic for ages. It‘s like DJing with vinyl or Laptop. Everybody has his own opinion...
How do you keep your work fresh and continue to evolve?
Damiano von Erckert: I‘m always trying to discover new music and getting inspired of it. Currently I would like to go deeper in oriental music.. Turkish stuff for example. Also to work with other people, starting new projects and asking my friends for critics.
Can you remember where you first started DJing and the kind of music you were playing?
Damiano von Erckert: Yeah! It was in my old hometown. There was a club (to be honest more a bar) called Black Box which was a place where people meet to get pissed and do crazy, sometimes unbelievable things. There were two rooms and Funkycan aka AM KNM and me played sometimes in the smaller room which used to be a bowling track back in the days. The bigger room was completely full. People were freaking out while they were listening to DJ Teddy's music. He played stuff like German Schlager music, mixed with Summer of 69 and Drop it like it's hot. It was fun to play in front of ten people (most of the times it was like eight friends and two really fucked guys who were sleeping).
What are three albums that you'll absolutely never get tired of listening to?
Damiano von Erckert:
What can music do which all other art forms can not?
Damiano von Erckert: Music is probably the only art form which is a part of every humans life. Not everybody goes to a museum or in the theatre. But everybody is listening to music.. It‘s the language of the world!
What kind of music would you make in a world without electricity?
Damiano von Erckert: Any type of Folk.
If you could be in any band, living or dead, for a day which band would it be?
Damiano von Erckert: Maybe Azymuth.
What superpower would you like to have?
Damiano von Erckert: Stopping the time.
What was the last record you bought?
What are your favorite places to play/hang out in?
You are located in Cologne. What are your favourite spots and secrets in your town that you would recommend to somebody that comes around for a visit?
Damiano von Erckert: I‘ll tell you some nice spots but not my secrets.