Andhim are to electronic music as Tim and Eric are to comedy: two of the most creative and eccentric duos of their respective fields. I had the pleasure of catching Simon Haehnel and Tobias Müller after their opening set for Richie Hawtin at The Midway in San Francisco, elucidating their perspective on music as Richie’s bass tested the structural integrity of The Midway’s concrete walls. Simon and Tobias are an endearing duo. Both came from humble roots in Cologne and met as turntablists in 2007, joining forces as Andhim three years later.
Speak with Simon and Tobias and you will almost immediately know that these guys are fun. They stand out as earnestly affable characters—which can be a refreshing change from the sea of black shirts and stoic looks—with each member contributing their own style to this symbiosis. Simon’s love for superimposing his face on the least likely subjects and Tobias’ love for hats make this Colognian duo one of a kind. Their titanic discography, from Hausch to Orientexpress, is only matched in quality and diversity by their extensive DJ sets across the world.
When did you realize you wanted to make your life about music?
Simon: There are two feelings about it. The first feeling is when you get in touch with music for the first time that really gets you going. When you start to DJ and start to produce you know that this is something that really catches you and something that you’re really passionate about. It’s the first time you realize that this is something you want to do for the rest of your life without thinking about the money or career or anything else. So there are two levels to this feeling. The first feeling is realizing that this is your hobby and your passion. Then it comes to a point—where for us luckily it was where we could quit our jobs to concentrate fully on the music.
How long have you guys been producing?
Tobias: We both started as DJs spinning on turntables. I started to record tracks on MiniDisc. After four tracks they were such bad quality, so I started to record on the computer with Cubase. This was around 2002. I ventured to Fruity Loops, then back to Cubase.
Who were your biggest inspirations when you first started?
Tobias: The whole French house stuff. There are so many. And the whole hip-hop inspiration. Nowadays one of our favorite producers is for sure DJ Koze. And also stuff like Caribou that’s more indie.
Who are your favorite live acts right now?
Tobias: We played for KiNK two months ago and saw maybe just thirty minutes of his set, it was very cool. He was using the controller in a really cool way.
When did you realize you needed to forgo leisure to produce?
Simon: We’re constantly touring the world. So we barely spend time at home. For the last four years we didn’t really have vacation. So we’re planning to have more free time next year. To say no to bookings. To keep some weekends free. Otherwise it’s just too crazy.
Do you consider yourself foremost DJs or producers?
Simon: When we started Andhim as a project, we had never played a show before as a duo. We had never produced a song together. So it’s equal between DJing and producing.
What made you want to become a duo?
Tobias: We had some tracks finished, and there was this question of what to release as. Should we release under our names and do featuring, or just creating a duo? It was an awesome decision.
Simon: It was basically the music. We made music and the music was great, so we decided to make something out of it.
When did you first meet?
Simon: 2007. We met at a turntable contest in Cologne.
Do you have any music theory background?
Tobias: We’re all self taught. It started with experimenting on Cubase and Fruity Loops. We started using more VSTs, like stuff from Native Instruments.
Can you produce on tour?
Tobias: No. I hate producing on headphones. It’s so much better to be relaxed in the studio.
Do you guys produce together?
Tobias: Usually we send tracks to each other.
Simon: The conversation’s more like, “Is this worth finishing?” Ideally we come together and finish it.
Tobias: We’re almost at the point where we can master all our tracks ourselves. It’s tough; we use so many samples that it’s hard to equalize it all. We’re getting close to those mastering qualities.
If you could only listen to one album for the rest of your life, what would you choose?
Simon: I’d pick a Best of the 80s Classics compilation. Feel good music, sing along.
What’s your favorite club you’ve ever played?
Simon: It would be unfair to all the venues in the world. We’re so lucky that we can play the whole world and see and play all these cities and clubs.
If you could play one more club before you died, what would you play?
Simon: We always love to play in Melbourne. And Cologne, our hometown. We would do our own open-air party.
If you had to do it all over again, what are the first few steps you would take?
Tobias: I would take lessons on the piano. It’s very good to know about harmonics. You don’t even have to play crazy melodies.
Simon: We were very poor as kids. We couldn’t afford any of that stuff. You could always takes classes, but in the end you have to find your own way.
Many thanks to Andhim, The Midway team, and Neighbourhood for making this discussion possible.