Hauke Freer and Matthias Reiling met in 1997, but it wasn’t until ten years later that they formed Session Victim – a name that has come to be associated with a consistently solid output of rugged, organic house music.
2012 in particular was a big year for Session Victim, with their first full-length album dropping on Delusions of Grandeur – a sample-heavy, colourful exercise in deep house, typically drawing on their obsession with vintage soul, funk and jazz.
Duncan Pelham caught up with the pair for a quick Q&A over email.
How did Session Victim come about?
Matthias Reiling: It started the week after christmas 2006, when Hauke was at my flat and we made our first two tracks together. It was so much fun that we started to meet every week sequencing and listening to records.
So many labels’ quality control diminishes as time goes on. How have you managed to keep Retreat’s output so fresh?
Hauke Freer: Retreat is run by Quarion and me and includes a very small circle of artists like Iron Curtis, Quarion and Session Victim. We only release a record when we are totally convinced that it’s as good as it gets. That also means that releases are rather infrequent, but we aim to improve on that this year.
There’s a certain hip hop aesthetic to your productions. Can you tell us about those influences?
H: We both grew up listening to 90’s hip hop and got sucked into the sampling aesthetics. Digging records in dusty shops is our favourite occupation. Often we start out jamming with a sample that we’ve found from on one of those old records.
What about modern hip hop – is there anything current that’s taken your liking?
H: Not too many things right now – if you’re talking about the US stuff with euro-dance sounds. I really enjoyed the Figub Brazlevic LP from 2012, but that sounds as if it could’ve been made in the 90’s…
It’s great to watch you guys DJ. You bring a real party spirit to the decks. Do you think this is an important part of any DJ’s performance?
M: DJs should aim to play their best records in the best order and present that in their own best possible way, but they should first of all feel it. If they don’t, why should a crowd? It’s sometimes easier for us because there’s two of us. We try to try to get each other in the zone, because that way we DJ much better and enjoy it more.
I sense your tracks are heavily influenced by your experiences behind the decks? There’s a party spirit that shines through your productions – is this something you are always conscience of ?
M: No, definitely not always. Crafting a one-loop DJ tool can be as exciting as writing and arranging a song. If we try to plan what to do too much, it doesn’t work out that well. The secret is to preserve a certain naivety combined with enthusiasm.
You are known as avid crate diggers. Do you ever get protective about those gems you unearth?
M: Sometimes, but not really, you know. Plus no one stumbles into real gems that often, and that’s a necessary part of the magic.
H: I know if I find a real gem I am often a little reluctant to let it go.. haha!
You spend a lot of time in record stores and no doubt have a burgeoning collection. What do you think lies ahead for vinyl? There’s been a revival lately for sure, but will it last in say 20 years time?
M: Our collections aren’t that impressive yet, but we keep building… Right now, especially the younger DJs we meet tend to play all vinyl. Many people look at laptops all day, at work, while shopping – some of them don’t want to watch a dude with a Macbook when they go out to dance. If you’re 16, how many of your classmates have some sort of Traktor program at home? It feels random, and I don’t think that’s a revival issue.
I hear you have day jobs?
M: Yes, and it’s a good feeling to have them. The problem is that we have reached a point where it’s really hard to fit it all into seven days a week.
Have you got a favourite release of yours? And can you tell us what you like about it?
H: One of my favourite Session Victim tracks is ‘Time To Let You Down’. When I listen to it, it doesn’t feel like I was involved in making it. It’s like the song is detached from us and on its own now. I remember the time when we were jamming on this after a Delusions of Grandeur label night in Hamburg on a late Sunday afternoon. Suddenly the loops just came together and it was pure magic. These moments are the reason we are doing all this, you get addicted to it, but it gets harder to achieve this after every track…
Can you tell us a bit about your live set?
M: Well, we play with a computer, drum machine and bass. We try to be as live as we can with that setup; to be able to build up songs in different ways and react to each other, which can lead to quite chaotic situations sometimes, but we have great, thrilling moments with crowds when we’re playing – and that makes it all worth it.
Finally, what’s next in way of release?
H: We will contribute a track to an EP by our friends from Wolf Music and you can expect 12”s on Delusions of Grandeur and Retreat as well as some remixes.