Crossing boss AVION delivers the label’s debut album with ten atmospheric techno cuts including a collaboration alongside Ninja Tune favourite Emika.
Berlin based producer AVION’s structured techno has found home on respected labels like Index Marcel Fengler, District 66, Stress Research and Pure. However, his own label Crossing – launched in 2013 – has hosted the majority of his work when not releasing music by Pfirter, Doka, The Automatic Message and Milton Bradley (as Doomsday Device). It only makes sense then that AVION’s debut longplayer sees him return to his imprint.
Opening with the ominous heartbeat and metallic drones of ‘New Day’, AVION’s album quickly takes things into a murky analog direction with crackling ‘Errata’ and its twisted effects before ‘Stones’ follows with its offbeat drums as sanguine chords begin to shine through. Syncopated percussion follows with ‘Adamant’ as twisted synths continually sweep, leading into ‘Untrod’ and its scintillating chimes and mesmerising textures.
Squelchy acid licks join otherworldly pads in ‘Scan’ until the dystopian ‘Evasion’ builds in tension as lo-fi drums join oscillating bass. Pitter-patter drums and pulsating stabs are next in ‘Firebox’, making way for the harrowing ‘Street Lights’ that utilizes the ethereal voice of Emika. Finally, ‘Nebul’ provides a shadowy finale with a crystalline aesthetic complete with a cacophony of intricate details.
6AM sat down with AVION to talk about the landmark album and dig deeper into his musical projects, that of the label and, of course, a few personal things!
Hi AVION, it’s great to have you at 6AM. How are you and what have you been up-to lately?
Hi good to be here at 6AM, thank you. I’m really fine and happy.
I had the pleasure to celebrate the 2nd night and 5th birthday of my Label Crossing at UKW Kraftwerk in my hometown Rostock. Thomas Hessler and me did an almost 11 hours b2b session in this outstanding location.
I am still flashed from that night and in recovery mood.
We’ve heard your musical journey started early, becoming a ‘music nerd’ at 11, followed by your first gig at just 15. Would you start by telling us about your early influences that shaped your tastes?
My main early influence was definitely my older brother. He started to bring Bonzai, Mokum and Depeche Mode records at home.
Needless to say that this opened Pandora’s Box for me. We also always recorded the stream of the Mayday and VIVA’s famous Housefrau (later House TV) on Video Tape. These videos were on loop at our home for both of us. There were video clips from Aphex Twin, Jeff Mills and Carl Craig. For me it was a different world and I wanted to be part of that.
I was not old enough to go out at this time but this was the entry for me to find out there is something different. As I was 14 years old I lived in a small village near Rostock and very close to the beach of the baltic sea. We had a youthclub there. A meeting point to play table tennis etc. My brother and me started to do small parties for electronic music there. It was due to lucky circumstances that I had the doorkey for that youth club and we did over night some absorbing acoustic treatment (which to be honest made no real effect).
We invited some friends of my brother who already were local DJs placed 2 belt driven turntables plus mixer and just opened the doors.
After the 3rd party it ended as the mayor ’not amused’ closed our little event series. For me it was a start for more followed by visits at Tresor or Gerberei Club Schwerin which had a severe effect.
Would you explain to anyone who’s unfamiliar, the ethos of your own Crossing imprint?
Crossing stands for my musical view and thinking out of the box.
It not follows a recipe for success and I am still trying to keep that feeling of underground. It is a platform for me and other artists I really like and who inspire me to do sound creation for the sound and the feeling and not only to sell out the next Technobomb.
All of my artists on Crossing are hand selected and I never released more than 3 records a year. For me and my label it is always Quality and not Quantity.
To be honest I am still super proud that all these artists on my beloved label trusted me to take care and release their music to shape that special Crossing sound.
Crossing is always to expect the unexpected.
You launched the label in 2013. Did you have any experience in the business side of music previously? Has it been smooth sailing or have you encountered issues on the way? Do you have any tips for others looking to do the same?
Yes in 2013, therefore we celebrated two parties for the five years anniversary. One at the Golzheim Club in Düsseldorf and one at the UKW Kraftwerk Rostock. Both parties were much fun and after five years of hard working on the label it was great to get these possibilities.
As I started I had no clue how to do and manage but I had a musical vision of how Crossing should sound. Initially, it was an idea which came up while I was sitting in the Berlin S-Bahn between Treptower Park and Ostkreuz.
I always wanted to do my own music thing and it was time to do. But maybe a bit too early!
This idea made many headaches to me in the following years. Far away from smooth sailing. When nobody knows you it’s hard to sell records to stay alive for a label. That’s the only truth. It took me years to get Crossing noticed by people, artists, promoter and media.
It was never the goal to get famous. What I wanted was to work with other artists and creating something different which is simply not only following the hype.
For those who wanna do the same, think about what you’re really looking for and keep in mind that you sometimes need a very long breath.
You’ve just released your debut full length album on Crossing. As this is your first album, how did you gather the ten tracks together creatively?
That was a long process. If you do something like that personal thing for the very first time it will cost you some sleepless nights, especially the track selection.
I did in the last years a lot of tracks and sound sketches. I have several folders with tracks and ideas inside which are called ’Potential’. To do the selection out of it was really hard. There was no conceptual idea behind.
What I did was to hear the tracks several times over a period of time and I needed to have the same feeling as I had at that time I created the sound. I did this procedure again and again.
If the feeling was still to capture for me the track passed that longterm test. That’s the main reason why it took more than 3,5 years to get finalized.
Additional the sound of the album was built for the floor or wherever you are. It was never the intention to only have it for home-listening, doing some kind of cinematic sound experience or any other conceptual approach.
I wanted to create something that completely shows me, my musical view and make people dance.
How long did it take from the album’s inception?
The album inception made the last track ’Nebul’. It was only a sketch with that sluggish beat (that was approx. 4 years ago) but I always thought that one can only be on an album. So the idea and the process grew up to the final result.
What were the essential bits of studio gear used in the creation of this album?
I am not that gear nerd and I do not have a lot of studio gear. But my Roland TR8 is always in the middle of everything. I mainly start with the drum producing which is my creative kick off.
I am using some old plug-ins from Rob Papen or XILS but also doing a lot of sampling from my environment.
This sampling is really essential for me as these are sounds and noises you (or maybe only me) cannot create.
I love to work more haptic using controllers and very often I record my tracks in one take. To only work with my mouse is not really creative for me.
The most essential bit in my studio was the studio itself and its acoustic treatment I did last year with some absorber, bass traps and diffusors. Before that I was producing at home doing the absorber by disassembling my bed and couch everyday. Good workout so far but with that treatment it was much better to get the results I was looking for.
The album contains a wonderful feature with Ninja Tune artist Emika. How did this come about?
Emika is a wonderful singer and composer. I am a big fan of her works. She always has an experimental approach in her songs and I wanted to work with her since a long time but I never had that perfect sound, that one track which fits for me and her to collaborate until the beginning of 2018.
I sent her the first sketch of ’Streetlights’ and she replied very fast that she likes the sound and is touched of that idea, so she confirmed to work on that together and the result is very special to me. Therefore I included it into my album.
You mentioned in conversation with Technomotz back in 2017 the excessive oversupply of music in the digital and vinyl market. Has your opinion evolved since?
Not really. I think in that game nothing has changed. New labels sprout like mushrooms from the ground. Sure most of them especially vinyl labels are only temporary because the market is hard but if you have a look to the weekly news of music on the digital market it is still an oversupply. Compilations with 20 to 30 Tracks on it and nearly every track sounds like the other does not give any evolution here. I think nearly everyone agrees that the reinvention of the wheel must and cannot happen everytime but for me on many labels diversity in their policy and ethos is missing. It is too often quantity over quality to run after the hype.
You were brought up in Rostock before venturing out to live in the bustle of Berlin. What are the pros and cons of each?
I think it can’t be generalized. The pros and cons are what you make out of it.
I moved out of Berlin and now live in the woods. My studio is still in Berlin at first to still have a connection to the city and because my neighbor was not amused about how I used my drum machine. For sure in Berlin it was much easier to ignore the hard-knocking of my neighbor so it is a pro.
Berlin is still a meeting point for artists of every genre and I love this city. It is definitely easier to meet people from the scene here which is an absolute pro.
In Rostock the scene was always much smaller but also intensive. It was not so anonymous as it sometimes is in Berlin. Both cities and its culture were and are still very important for me.
1How do you manage to juggle the roles of running, crossing, DJing, full-time engineering, and producing your own studio work?
At the moment this is really tough for me. I am very often struggling with my time management to bring everything under one wing. Especially time for the studio is missing at the moment.
Everything should be in balance but I am working on that to get back to normal.
Where do you take inspiration from outside the world of music?
Inspiration is what you get and make out of it.
Everything happening around me is an inspiration. As mentioned before I now live in the woods which brings nature much closer to me and sometimes to my sound. I am an observer of my environment and I am trying to keep the moments and taking inspiration out of it.
Also my engineering side and the noises of that industry is still impressive for me.
What can we expect from you from now until the end of year?
Oh, there are some highlights coming this year.
I am currently working on a project together with some other artists who will see its light in October 2019. This is very special and I had this idea approx. one year ago and we are still working on this to get the premiere to infoshappen in a wonderful location. So I will share my studio in summer for collaboration and work for this project.
It is the biggest and challenging project I ever did and infowill come soon.
Later this year I am super-happy that I will be part of a release for my friends from Ressort Imprint.
So far my 2019 planning including some DJ gigs I am really looking forward this summer.
What is next up on Crossing for release?
Following my Album will be Remixes from two of my favourite artists. I was waiting for that possibility for a very long time and I am a bit nervous and super excited to share the news.
The release will be mid of May but more info very soon.
Is there anything else you would like to tell us before we conclude the interview?
I would like to thank you for having that conversation. Was a pleasure.