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Ortzroka- Living The Dream (Interview) ::

Reported by Olly @ Trackitdown on October 29, 2007

From their radio friendly rocking remix of Swedish popster Robyn to their (fantastic) electro-tech smash-ups of Simian Mobile Disco’s Hustler and their own distinctly Germanic minimal techno epics, uber-eclectic London production duo Ortzroka are suddenly ubiquitous though asking whether they’re ‘living the dream’ elicits an immediate and detailed response.

“As long as you realise that all ‘dreams’ probably involve two to three years of relentless hard work, peddling your CDs to coked up/unapproachable DJs, staying in over-priced hotels in Miami and Amsterdam to meet those people and playing gigs in obscure clubs around the globe for expenses only, then yes, having a dream is important,” they say.

“And then there’s offering your remix and studio services for free, networking, sending letters, demos to everyone and their grandparents and learning your craft- so living the dream isn’t a cliché, it’s a commitment.”

And the dream, they stress, isn’t to be as big as bands like the Chemical Brothers or Underworld.

“We realise it’s hard not to make comparisons or focus on influences and so far we’ve had reviews or features that mention Orbital, Booka Shade, Kraftwerk, Aphex Twin. The truth is, however, that we never really look at it that way. Sure commercial success if great because it will ensure that financially we can avoid real work and get paid to tweak bass sounds and use words like ‘Resonance’ in a professional context,” they say,

“The way we see it our music is a direct reflection of what influences us at a particular point in time and that can be a person, an image, architecture, nature, sounds, conversations, an article in a magazine. So far it seems people connect to some of these moments we’ve created in remixes and originals and that encourages us to keep going, whether or not that will get us mentioned in the Daily Mail remains to be seen.”

Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): On the surface it seems like you've appeared overnight: when did it all begin?

Ortzroka: “We’ve been buddies since film school where we realised we shared the same passion for music and we used a very basic sampler and MIDI set up to write tracks for the documentaries and short films we worked on. We also played records at parties at the student union and that eventually progressed to dodgy warehouses in Hackney, bars in Soho and even some mental villa parties in Ibiza. Although we kept DJing and have played all over since we started, the producing and writing has subsequently taken over and that is what we are truly about and we are very serious about, it’s what we do and what we love.” 

Skrufff How important is it for Ortzroka to be a live band?

Ortzroka: “Actually playing has become our primary focus in the last few months as we have been developing our set live and we’re getting ready to start gigging soon.  It’s been an amazing learning experience and we’re quite nervous but excited about getting up on stage. This is also an opportunity for us to shed the misconception that we are just DJs, because we’re not.  We are in the sense that for a long time it was a great way to get our records heard by people and to get instant reactions to our work, but that is all it was. And it’s great to get to go to a party and impose our musical taste on everyone else. But building a 4 hour set filled with other people’s music is not what we are about.”

Skrufff: Ortzroka is both difficult to spell and tough to remember, what was the thought process that made you  decide to call yourselves that?

Ortzroka: “All the catchy names that are easy to spell were taken- like Kraftwerk, Der Dritte Raum, Nitzer Ebb and GoldFrapp so we settled on OrtzRoka.”

Skrufff: What did you want to do when you were growing up?

Ortzroka: “We’ve both always wanted to get into music, from as long as we can remember it was a big, big part of our lives, and a lot of the music we each listened to in our teens and earlier are still very important to us and rather than focus on particular bands and artists what we can say is that it included hip hop, reggae, new wave, heavy metal, rave, Detroit techno, acid house, metal, grunge, funk, acid jazz, trip hop and any other genre that features, deep, melodic timeless tracks.”

Skrufff: How did you set about getting all these high profile remixes?

Ortzroka: “It’s the nature of the business that you have to prove yourself so at first we did a few mixes on spec (without fee or commission) and then a few as swaps with other people. That is what allowed us to start getting commissions and we are now in a position where we get offered a lot of remixes, so we are in the fortunate position to be a bit choosy and work with artists and labels we admire.”

Skrufff: What do you make of London's music/ club scene right now, are you aligned with any particular circles?

Ortzroka: “No we are not part of just one scene, that would be missing the point entirely these days because what is so great is that it is finally okay to straddle loads of scenes. Creatively music is amazing these days and people are open minded, you can go to a Camden pub and hear Detroit techno and you can hang in an East End joint and get assaulted by guitars. This is a great time for musicians, because we can experiment with sound and break barriers without alienating people or pigeon-holing ourselves. In many ways OrtzRoka is a direct reflection of this new era, and so every track or remix we produce can vary in style or tempo or purpose and we love that; it keeps things interesting.”

Skrufff: Quite a few of your productions are minimal in style: how much is minimal a word you embrace?

Ortzroka: “Minimal became a genre of music which is kind of strange; isn’t all electronic/dance music quite minimalistic in its approach? A lot of it is about a 4 bar loop being kept interesting for 6-8 minutes. Wasn’t acid house and Detroit techno minimal? Some of the biggest tracks from that era featured a drum machine and a couple of battling 303s, if you were lucky you got a vocal. Even going further back to Joy Division or The Sex Pistols; weren’t they all quite minimal? So minimal is not a word we embrace or snub, it’s just an approach to production. Less is more, and if we can make it work and get the point across with less instruments then mission accomplished.”

Skrufff: Is moving to Berlin, an option you've considered?

Ortzroka: “We worry that there will be no one left in Shoreditch soon. On the one hand there is the fact that we keep hearing New Cross in the Sarf (South London) is the new shit and secondly every other Hoxtonite seems to be ‘moving to Berlin’. Why? Don’t get me wrong, Germany rocks and our label is distributed by Intergroove Germany and we love it there and their contribution to electronic music cannot be ignored but would living there make us better musicians? I mean if the melting pot of London/UK can’t inspire you as an artist you need to change your contact lenses and take a better look. The UK’s responsible for Orbital, Leftfield, SMD, Depeche Mode, Aphex Twin, The Orb, Joy Division, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, need wego on?”

Skrufff: Do you still have day jobs?

Ortzroka: “We both used to work in TV, it was a natural progression to pay the bills after university, thankfully we gave all that up to pursue OrtzRoka, besides people in our respective workplaces were really starting to resent us for all the name dropping, champagne stories, late night antics and appearing in various tabloids in compromising positions with footballers’ WAGs (wives and girlfriends).”

Skrufff: What's been the most rock & roll experience you've had so far? And the most disappointing?

Ortzroka: “Going to the Miami Winter Conference a couple of years ago, we ended up in some crazy parties, drunkenly speaking to P Diddy, Sven Vath and Felix Da HouseCat; as well as some of the hottest women on the planet! So it was a proper Rock & Roll week but then also quite disappointing because we soon realised that the girls weren’t sticking around for long once the aforementioned people were out of the place.”

OrtzRoka’s new single, ‘Midnight/Black Magic’ is released on Verk on 29th October (rheir remixes of Peter, Bjorn, and John, Dub Pistols and Rui Da Silva are out now).

Jonty Skrufff (