Berlin Mixtapes: Bruno Otranto, The Owl & Monog Records
With Christmas and New Year now firmly out of the way and waving fondly back at 2018, we here at Berlin-Brighton continue our stomp of featuring and discovering inspirational artists to share with you. 4 days into January and we are already featuring our next Berlin Mixtapes Episode for which we have invited the lovely and charming Bruno Otranto, head of Berlin label Monog Records.
Bruno has a fond history with Brighton, having lived here for a few years before making the big jump to Berlin some time ago and carving out an impressive career as a DJ in some of Berlin's quirkiest and biggest night spots. Bruno also returned to Brighton back in April 2017 for the Brighton Music Conference where he played for us at our home the Green Door Store for our showcase with the BMC, Decoded Magazine and Kellerkind.
Bruno, did his doctorate in “Dance-floor psychology”, which you automatically notice whenever you enter his sound zone. His music combines sensitivity and is profound in how it inspires you, taking you deeper into his world of musical magnificence. Like a mothers lullaby bringing you sweet dreams, embarking on a journey in which progression and musical coherence are mixed in equal doses for the audience to relish. Otranto converts his set into a fledged story, tangible music fused together with elegance that allows you to enter unknown dimensions, where the only valid law is to dance till you drop. His career as a producer began 5 years ago, having worked with labels such as Novo Music, Share Records, or StonedDogs Records and currently resides in Berlin.
His continued residencies around some of the best clubs in the German capital, include Sisyphos, Golden Gate, Salon zur wilden Renate, Ritter Butzke, Chalet, Grießmuhle, KitKat Club as well as a long list of collaborations have certainly cast Bruno into the spotlight.
Not only that, Bruno has kindly compiled our next Berlin Mixtapes Episode 028 for your ears which you can all listen to here. It consists entirely of Monog Records tracks released within the last year, making this a very unique and special Mixtape indeed.
Hi Bruno, how are you and what have you been up to this week?
Hi Markus, I’m very good and have been sharing the time with family and friends over Christmas & New Year. As you can imagine, winter in Berlin is kind of cold and grey, so I have been using the time this week to stay in the studio to work on some new tracks and ideas.
You used to live in Brighton but made the jump to Berlin. How long were you here for, what made you come to Brightonia?
I lived in Brighton for 3 years, it was an experience that I will never forget. After finishing my university degree in Madrid, I noticed that my English was not good enough and I also had the feeling that I wanted to see new places and meet new people before getting stuck in an office for the rest of my life. Music was also a big influence to me by this time, so I saw Brighton (a young and artistic city in the UK) as the perfect opportunity to feed all my needs. In the beginning I worked as a Kitchen Porter, a Waiter and used to go out flyering but in the end I made my home there. I went on to study for a degree in music business, whilst at the same time DJ’ing and running my own Parties. In conclusion, it was one of the best decisions of my life.
Is there anything you miss about Brighton?
Yes, without doubt... the house parties :) I have not experienced something like this anywhere, not even in Berlin. I’m still asking myself how it was possible to be having these crazy raves in peoples' houses without the police coming out and the neighbours jumping in through the windows! It was a the best way of sharing our passion for music and meeting a lot of new people at the same time. These were the REAL parties and I do miss them nowadays.
How long have you been producing and DJing?
I've been DJing for around 16 years. The first time I played for an audience was in Madrid, a very small bar called “Algo en Negro” (15 people max on the dance-floor) that used to have illegal afterparties, where you never knew when it was going to end. As a producer, not that much, around 4 years, mainly after moving to Berlin. I consider myself more a DJ than a producer at this point of my life, but I'm working hard to improve more and more in that role. Actually, to be totally honest, I am having much more fun currently in the music studio than playing around, so this is a good sign I guess.
Where was your first gig in Brighton and your first slot in Berlin?
This is a cool question, it took me some time to remember the one in Brighton but I've remembered it now! It was in a Bar/Club previously called Madame Geisha. And my first DJ slot in Berlin was at "Golden Gate", probably the club that has influenced my style the most as a DJ during my time in Berlin. Golden Gate will always be very special to me, a real home.
I would add some missing names to the list such as Salon zur Wilden Renate, Ritter Butzke, Kitkat Club, Chalet or Beate Uwe. If there is a club which I have fallen in love with recently, it's Diskothek Melancholie 2.
Since making a name for yourself on the Berlin circuit you also started your own label Monog. What made you start the label and how did it come about?
Actually it was a mix of coincidence and perspective. One time, I was playing a track of Joal in Golden Gate and a person from the audience told me that he was a work colleague of Joal and gave me his contact. I am a big fan of Joal’s music, and have been for a long time, so we met each other and started collaborating right away on different projects. After some time Joal offered me to be part of Monog Records and to work hand in hand with him. It was the beginning of 2017 and was my first experience of managing a record label. At that point I saw it as a great opportunity to carve out a new path for me within the music industry and also get to know more artists from all over the world.
Do you think if you are a DJ only and do not produce that hampers your prospects to make the big jump to the big venues and bookings?
Probably not in Berlin, here you can find many DJs that don't produce music (actually there is a lot of them) and are still playing almost every weekend. Personally, I find this a bit boring as everything in life, if you get too much of something during a long period of time, you will probably stop finding it attractive anymore. You can carry on being a DJ without producing in Berlin if you have the contacts and of course play good quality music. My decision to step back a bit from DJing and dive into the production world has more to do with being curious and ambitious than making the big jump to the bigger bookings or venues.
Your artwork for Monog is always stunning with owl feathers presented in beautiful colours. Why owls and where does the inspiration from the artwork come from?
First let me explain the origin of the name because this is directly related to the figure of the Owl. The name "Monog" comes from the word "Monogamy", the state of having only one partner at any one time. In many cases, this word is used to refer specifically to marital monogamy and this is what we are about. We define Monogamy not as a death sentence but as an idea of sharing the same path together. Monog Records seeks to refine the concept and turn it into a “Musical Monogamy”: two individuals/parties with one shared music soul.
The owl is our mascot, our guide, and our loyal friend. This monogamous night hunter is a symbol of wisdom and mystic force. We believe that the features of the owl lie closely with the values of Monog, and as such, it has become the symbol of the label. After redefining the graphic line we just decided to use the owl feathers to represent each EP cover as a unique artwork.
I have to say I have genuinely enjoyed all of the releases from your label in particular over the last 12 months. I am almost playing tracks from your EPs on a weekly basis. What's next for Monog?
2018 has been an amazing year for Monog. I am personally very happy to see that the Label is finally being recognised by the Berlin music scene. We have received great feedback from well-known Berlin based artists and this is already a big success for me. Another big achievement this year is to see how we were able to connect emerging artists with the established ones. It's beautiful to see how they keep in touch supporting each other after Monog Records connected them. What is next for Monog? I'm afraid cannot say that much and I prefer to keep it a secret but stay tuned, because a lot of new surprises are coming on 2019 ;)
I also believe you had your first vinyl release recently, tell us more!
Yes! It was a personal goal that I was working on for a long time and finally it happened!
"Jean Yann Records" (a French record label based in Berlin) contacted me because of their "3 year anniversary release" and they asked me to be part of this VA. I produced an original track called "Epiphanie" (Epiphany in German).
I had been working in collaboration with other artists for a long time in producing tracks and this one is the very first song that I produced individually. This is the reason why it has a special meaning to me.
I am also aware that as well as a DJ, producer and label owner, you started your own night in Berlin called Kaleidoskop. Tell us more about that.
Kaleidoskop is a very special project. A little baby with only a few months of life (we started in June 2018) that I share and work on together with my girlfriend and best friend Fabienne. I take care of the musical aspect and she does all the conceptual artwork and PR. As I have mentioned before, Diskothek Melancholie was the perfect place to start this beautiful project. A concealed and mysterious space where people enter by going through a fridge of a Späti (a 24h shop).
Fabienne and myself found the location very special, it is a flashback to the olden days of Berlin clubbing, with a great sound system and the perfect sized space for an intimate clubbing experience. The name Kaleidoskop comes from the idea of offering a dynamic sensory experience. In terms of music, Kaleidoskop always brings an exclusive "live act" for each show. I'd like to take this opportunity to say thanks to all the artists involved so far, great memories!
The visual aspect is the other important part of the concept. Fabienne is the person in charge for the design and decoration of the space to express a specific idea for each party. So as you can imagine each event is special and different to the others, always moving, always changing... just like a Kaleidoscope ;)
What sort of sound can we expect at Kaleidoskop?
If I had to explain the type of music being played in terms of musical tags, (which I don't really like to do) I would say that what people can expect from Kaleidoskop parties is underground electronic music which moves between House and Techno. Although, whilst we feature DJ's, it's really not just another party where you're going to dance, but it's also a place to watch rare Live act performances.
For our first show we booked Martin Patiño (Cadenza/Suara) who performed an outstanding live act using a real cactus. And in our latest edition we had the honour to invite Atelier Francesco (Cityfox/Get Physical) who also delivered a superb performance using a violin in a percussive way.
You have been in Berlin for a good few years now, where's your favourite place to just to kick back and chill?
5 years already... time flies! I would say there are 2 particular places I would totally recommend for that, Minimal Bar which is a very special Bar where the co-owner Basti has put so much energy and love into. Beers and cocktails are delicious, and you can also count on playing on a pingpong table inside with a small bar just for shots. I have a monthly DJ residency at Minimal Bar too and every single time there, it just feels like home.
Secondly, Beate Uwe (Barfuß). This is a party that happens just on Sundays at Beate Uwe. A unique and special event where everyone takes their shoes off, the whole club floor is full of carpets and cosy seats and then slow-tempo music does the rest. Perfect place to chill out and drink some hot tea while listening or dancing to quality music.
And equally, where's your favourite place to let loose?
I’m afraid this is not happening that often anymore, but if I have to choose a place for that... of course it's Sisyphos.
Which other DJs or producers are you liking right now?
Atelier Francesco (unique sound, very experimental and inspiring), Kasper Koman (super talented emerging artist that is definitely on my radar), Patryk Molinari, Kobana/ID Ensemble, Adisyn, Pysh, Toto Chiavetta, David Pad/Volen Sentir just to name a few.
What are your go to labels?
You have compiled our latest Berlin Mixtapes Series Episode 028 - Tell us more about your mix.
This is my way of saying thanks to all of the artists and friends that have believed in Monog Records and my capacity to manage the label since 2017 (when I joined) until today. It is a Mixtape recorded using exclusive Monog Records releases from 2017 and 2018. I feel honoured of having the chance to put all of these little pearls together and tell my own story out of it. The selection of the tracks is based on the Monog compilation released just a few days ago, which features some of the best songs published within that timeframe. Hope you guys enjoy it as much as I did playing it.
What else can we expect from you soon? What's next on the horizon for DJ gigs & productions? Where can people see you next?
Next year I expect to release my own EP on Monog Records with a very special remix. I also hope it will be the year where my alias "Otranto" will come to light by releasing music on some German labels.
Regarding DJ gigs, I also expect a couple of summer festivals to be confirmed and some international gigs in Poland (love that country and their people).
Great news, it's been an absolute pleasure as always talking with you Bruno but before we go is there anything else you'd like to add?
Thanks a lot to you Markus and the Berlin-Brighton crew for the interview and interest! Hopefully we will see us on British soil soon. It was a big pleasure :)