Name: Thomas Hoffknecht
Occupation: Producer, DJ
Current release: Thomas Hoffknecht's "Combination", a collaboration with Mark Broom is out via Thomas's #STRGHT.
[Read our Mark Broom interview]
If you enjoyed this interview with Thomas Hoffknecht and would like to stay up to date with his work, visit him on Instagram, Facebook, and Soundcloud.
What was your first studio like?
Computer, Reason and Logitec Speakers :-)
How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
The main reason for me was learning the technique and realising the ideas that spring up in my head. Realizing the ideas constantly expands your horizon and new ideas and experiments eventually bring new tricks.
The most important weapons in the studio are my Roland TR-8s and the Pioneer Toraiz SP-16 sampler.
The digital studio promises endless possibilities at every step of the process. What is it that you actually need from these potentials and how do go about you selecting it? How do you keep control over the wealth of options at the production stage?
Work with your ear, keep it simple and don’t make it harder than it is!
A studio can be as minimal as a laptop with headphones and as expansive as a multi-room recording facility. Which studio situation do you personally prefer – and why?
I find a studio that I built and set up myself important for my well-being. If I feel comfortable in my surroundings, you can also hear it in the production. That's why my studio is in the room next to my bedroom.
From traditional keyboards to microtonal ones, from re-configured instruments (like drums or guitars) to customised devices, what are your preferred controllers and interfaces? What role does the tactile element play in your production process?
I use a very simple midi keyboard from Arturia (Keystep) and use the K2 controllers from Allen&Heath. It's nice to be offered a lot of "toys", but in my opinion this can quickly lead to getting lost and not getting anything right in the end.
The first steps in production are always the same for me. In the middle comes the creative process. It works well.
How would you describe the relationship between technology and creativity for your work? Using a recent piece as an example, how do you work with your production tools to achieve specific artistic results?
I usually start sitting down in the studio first thing in the morning. At this moment of the day I am FREE of the thoughts that everyday life brings with it. I bring grooves and rhythm into play with tops and hi hats. I'm usually jamming and tinkering with the TR-8S and the Toraiz SP-16. For me, the most important thing in a track.
Within a digital working environment, it is possible to compile huge archives of ideas for later use. Tell me a bit about your strategies of building such an archive and how you put these ideas and sketches to use.
I do a lot of recording and tinkering, but if I don't have a creative idea or if the arranging gets on my nerves, then I jam with the two devices mentioned above and record it, cut it into loops and archive them for later projects. I produce my own bricks, so to speak, in order to build the house out of them later (the track). And believe me, I have a lot of bricks. (laughs) If I wanted to, I could build the Great Wall of China. (laughs)
Despite the aforementioned near endless possibilities, many productions seem to follow conventional paths. How do you retain an element of surprise for your own work – are there technologies which are particularly useful in this regard?
Definitely no. For me, it's a matter of trial and error, and most of the time the best sounds and synthlines come from "accidents". The ear should decide what sounds good and what doesn't, not a guide or a to-do list to get a synth to sound one way or another.
Production tools can already suggest compositional ideas on their own. How much of your music is based on concepts and ideas you had before entering the studio, how much of it is triggered by equipment, software and apps?
I hardly ever have ideas in advance. I create everything from scratch.
How important is it for you that you personally create or participate in the creation of every element of a piece – from sound synthesis via rhythm programming to mixing?
If it fits, it fits. If I use a sample that I like very much, why should I play around with it and try to change it? Would you try to prepare a fillet steak differently in a Super Steakhouse if it already optimally meets your wishes? (laughs)
It's important to me to let my touch flow into it, and that usually happens in the arrangement and in the automation. And to stay with my comparison, it's like adding a little pepper and herb butter to the steak if you like it.
Have there been technologies which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
No. I am the artist, I decide the way I produce and how I produce.
To some, the advent of AI and 'intelligent' composing tools offers potential for machines to contribute to the creative process. Do you feel as though technology can develop a form of creativity itself? Is there possibly a sense of co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
AGAIN: No. I am the artist, I decide the way I produce and how I produce, no more word to say.
Do you personally see a potential for deeper forms of Artifical Intelligence in your music?
That certain something that touches my ear and I then implement! What I hear, some others may hear differently and perceive it differently. (laughs) So, yes!
What tools/instruments do you feel could have a deeper impact on creativity but need to still be invented or developed?
We are talking about music right? Composing, creativity comes from humanity. A machine is programmed by a human. So I don’t want to bring something from somebody who programmed his mind settings inside a gear. We are good as it is.