Berlin’s OYE Records was founded by a guy named Lovis in 2001 with it’s original store situated in the heart of Prenzlauer Berg, and it’s still there today. This mecca for vinyl enthusiasts was opened on a deep passion for Brazil, Latin, Funk, Soul & Jazz music, hence the name “OYE” which is a way to tell somebody to listen in Spanish.
That very same year enthusiastic young wax fiend Markus Lindner aka Delfonic moved to Berlin and began visiting the store on a daily basis, bombarding the staff with endless questions about records. Persistence prevailed, and after a couple of years Markus began working at the store – by 2007, when Lovis was seeking to take a step back spend more time with his family and other projects, Markus and Tinko, another face at the store became partners and took the reigns on the operation. They pooled all their money and poured it into the store – “It was good timing with the lowest selling figures of vinyl ever, but look at it now, it’s been growing ever since and I always say that I’m the reason for this!” laughs Markus – tongue firmly in cheek.
In this new beginning it was just Markus and Tinko running the store, and it was like starting from scratch for them – “It was a hole at the time. We rebuilt everything step by step – we started ordering in more Disco re-edits, deep House and seven years later we are now a team of twelve people and even have a proper working toilet.” Like in any thriving city, central Berlin has transformed dramatically with gentrification over the years. Prices have been pushed up in Prenzlauer Berg and a lot and people can’t afford the rent there today. This was a key reason in OYE setting up their second store, off the beaten tourist trail, nestled snugly in a quiet corner of the self-dubbed ‘Kreuzkölln’ between Kreuzberg & Neukölln.
Without a shop sign outside, this small oasis which maintains the decor of a former coffee shop is an emporium for the bedrock of DJs and collectors living in and passing through the musically rich area. For a bit of perspective friends and extend family include Max Graef, Glenn Astro, IMYRMIND, Andy Hart, Florian Kupfer and the Giegling contingent who are now based nearby. Last month we paid a visit to the Kreuzkölln store to meet with Markus and rummage through their crates for the latest instalment in our re-vamped Waxing-Lyrical series.
We discovered that OYE is much more than a record store, it’s a melting pot of creativity with Scuba’s Hotflush Records and a successful PR agency renting desk space in the back room. Markus himself has a hand in fourteen different independent label organising pressing, distribution and a million other things behind the scenes. La Mission, Box Aus Holz & Torben, XK Records, Money $ex Records, Transatlantyk, The Very Polish Cut Outs, Fasaan, Low Budget Family, Red Motorbike, Skylabel, Tartelet, The Gym and a new project with Moscoman titled Disco Halal coming very soon. “Fourteen labels must sound crazy but it’s not too difficult to communicate over email. The good thing is that we know all these guys face to face. I obviously have to remember a lot of things regarding signing things off, sending files of for mastering and pressing, to pay everything and check up on the selling. I’m a heavy customer at the pressing plant!”
With the back-story out of the way, we managed to pick a selection of vinyl available in the store, retire to the back room for a couple of hours and learn about Markus’ musical eclectic tastes…
This is a re-press from last year which we imported directly from the states. I wasn’t familiar with this one until we got it in just before Christmas. It’s really jazzy and loopy deep House. Definitely one of my favourite UR releases!
XK is short for Kreuzkölln and XK Records because Hauke (who is one half of Session Victim) said he wanted to do some Disco edits. You can play every track out on this one and people will go crazy. It’s in between Disco and House with elements of Boogie and Jazz. Hauke said to me, “When I play this track, nobody knows it but everyone is dancing to it like they do know it!” I’m proud because Moodymann actually stopped by the larger store with his girlfriend a couple of weeks ago and picked up this record. He didn’t have very long on that first visit so after he checked their tour dates and arranged a flight, they came back to Berlin just to visit OYE. The store was opened just for them and they stayed until four in the morning picking up records. Sadly I wasn’t there myself!
Fasaan is a vinyl imprint based in Malmö, Sweden. The guys behind it, Prince Emmanuel & Golden Ivy are more musicians than DJs and are also really big record collectors. Their first 7” fell between Dub, Reggae and the Balearic sound, we loved it here! They do everything themselves including the artwork and they’re the only label heads we’re working with that aren’t living or staying in Berlin. This record – ‘Sketches Of Golden Ivy’ comes from Golden Ivy. Featuring live instruments, it’s really downbeat…
I really love this compilation. It’s amazing weird stuff, more downbeat Balearic vibes. I like to play this stuff when at home, it’s totally chilled. I love the Jago track on there, amazing drums – I’m Going To Go (Inst. Plant Remix) and the one from Doudou, you might recognise the sample but it’s still not even the original version! Before we got this record I was familiar with Monsoon, Linda Di Franco, High Voltage Orchestra, Tranquility Bass & Ned Doheny.
This is a new one from Fake Glasses and Noodleman from Canada. It’s like 85BPM and sounds amazing in the club. Red Motorbike is a label run by Eddie C, who’s one of my favourite DJs to be honest. He moved from Canada to Berlin with his wife a couple of years back, he lives around the corner from the other store, we built up a relationship there and now we’re working together. All these records come hand stamped…
Harvey Sutherland is a musician from Melbourne and this EP was one of our best sellers last year. Voyage is a label run by a guy called Andy Hart (also from Melbourne) who was staying at my flat around the time of this release. Andy is coming back to Berlin soon and he definitely plans on bringing Harvey to play live. The artwork and the video made for this release are both very special!
These guys sent me an email saying that they love the store and asking if we want to stock their record? It’s limited to 333 copies and is quite expensive at €20 for a 12″ with four tracks! I have to say the original track is really nice and the remixes from Severino & Hifi Sean, Matrixxman and Rotciv. Really happy House music!
So, this is a record that Max recorded with his dad who was a guitar player with a band in 70/80s from East Berlin. Max asked me, “so I have this project I did with my dad, it would be really cool if we could release it on vinyl to show some respect to his dad who showed him how to play guitar.” We had to do it! It’s in between Rock and Disco and all live cuts with his father on guitar and Max on beats. It wasn’t a big seller because nobody knew who it was being labelled “Franke & Son” and there was no promotion done around it.
Athens Of The North is definitely one of my favourite reissue labels. Did you know they’re connected to Jazzman Records? I’ve been feeling all of their recent releases and obviously the Bileo release was a big seller last year. I’ve asked them to send me more seven inches, people really want this stuff.
There’s an interesting story behind this. Ubiquity licensed the record but it was also licensed by some Italian guys. ‘Deep Inside You’ was one of the most expensive Disco records, all the cover versions are amazing too, Walter Whisenhunt was her husband and ‘Deep Inside You’ also features on this album.
This is Max & Glenn’s latest project. Their sound is always Jazzy but this is probably the Jazziest yet. The first track is called ‘Cool Garageband Intro’.
I made a track with Max on this one, it’s a bit confusing because the last record was Box Aus Holz 009 with Glenn Astro & IMYRMIND. There was never a first or second release, the first two were just downloads and the third came out on vinyl. We said we’d call it The Lost Tracks number one. It’s caused all sorts of confusion with distribution! Box Aus Holz literally means “a wooden box” so when we bring out number 10, we’re going to do a special edition wooden box with all of the releases and the test pressings, so nine test pressings and number ten on top. We’re going to have an exhibition too.
Max’s label partner Ludwig used to work in the store a couple of years ago, he was 16 or 17 at the time. One day he told me he had a very talented friend – Max Graef, who was living in London at the time. He passed on his music and we talked about doing a vinyl release and we started with Box Aus Holz two years ago. The records are exclusive here for a couple of weeks then get shipped out around the world. Record stores started to ask if they could order directly from us so I started doing that step by step. There’s no pressure but we’re now at the point where I’m going to set up an distribution e-mail where dealers can order direct.
I’ve gathered that with a lot of these label you like to confuse people by throwing in a mixture of bizarre German words?
Yes! I really like the idea, and find it funny to drop in more German words because English-speaking people can’t understand them. The first track on this record is called ‘Kimmenschwitzer’, and you don’t want to know what that means! One of my favourite tracks on the record is ‘Riesenglied 95 (Fur Nano)’ (which means big penis) from Axel S who works here at the store. Have you heard about Torben? BAH is the main label and Torben is it’s sub-label. It’s a weird German name like Markus or Klaus. The tracks are usually collaborations but always come under the name Torben. This track ‘Fresh Brown Birkenstocks Kickin’ Your Ass’ is from the latest record, I think it was a collaboration between Max & Glenn, or maybe Andy Hart. Birkenstocks are like really healthy shoes…
You do in stores here fairly regularly, what’s happening next?
We’re going to do an in store for Moomin’s album launch and we’re going to have a WotNot Records party here in March with Glenn Astro & K15. Reebok’s agency is close by and we have a deal going with them now and they hooked us up with free shoes for every DJ who plays at the store. So we can offer beer and shoes, at the end everyone buys records! We normally close at 8 with in-stores going on until 10 but not longer so as to keep the neighbours sweet.
Every two months we do a vinyl only OYE Vs. Hotflush night at OHM here in Berlin. It’s a small invite only party with free entry. We each bring three names to the line-up which isn’t announced in advance. One time we had Ryan Elliott playing vinyl only, and George Fitzgerald another. I think seeing these dudes playing strictly vinyl is much better, because they’re playing their favourite records.
Do you throw parties asides from the in-store sessions?
This year it’s our 13th anniversary, we’re planning on doing a big party here in Berlin. We can’t announce the location yet but hopefully it will happen in August. About six years ago we used to do a monthly party but then realised – why should we book parties in other locations when we can bring people to the store? It’s weird promoting parties as a record store because we mostly reach nerds. What kind of party is that?!
Sometimes we had problems with people wanting to bring CDJs in from outside, we like to keep the in-stores vinyl only except of course for live shows. Last year we had Matias Aguayo and Seven Davis Jr which was amazing at the other store. Hundreds of people came down and danced at Max Graef’s album launch. For us it’s never stressful and always easy going. We just organise some beer, the set up is done in five minutes and sometimes we’ll have a live stream and we’re recording all the sets for Mixcloud now.
Do you invite the guests or do they come to you?
A bit of both, whatever suits us and the artist. It’s better to do the sessions midweek because the artists have more time. We’re always trying to get Todd Terje, he’s been a customer at OYE for 6-7 years but he’s become so big now that there’s probably no chance.
Do you ever buy in old DJs collections?
Yeah sure, but not household names. I find that people like that might hire someone to sell their collection over Discogs for more money. I remember when Dixon was selling his collection, they set up a pop up store in the Innervisions office and he sold it in a couple of days. Now there are a lot of second hand record stores which are better connected to these people too.
I remember we bought a really nice 90s collection of about 600 records from a guy from the UK who was living here in Berlin. From Jungle to D’n’B, Hip-Hop and House classics, all classic records in perfect condition because he wasn’t a DJ, more of a listener at home.
I wanted to ask you about Record Store Day seeing as you were the first person to bring the phenomenon to Berlin?
My friend Tamara from the States came to me with the idea, we have so many great record stores and labels here so I said yes let’s do it. When you are a record store, there’s always a challenge between other stores. So when you show up and say “hey we want to do a project together?” a lot of people will just tell you to fuck off.
Haha! No they don’t do that but they don’t do RSD either. They’re super nice guys and we have full respect for each other, we deal with each other for distribution. We had like 10-15 stores involved in RSD but it was really hard organising about 50 releases for this date, a lot of people were like old-school record store owners who didn’t want to do a lot of work.The event was really good but afterwards we got an email from the original RSD franchise in the States, who weren’t very amused with us using the name. We informed them in the beginning and they were cool about it, but afterwards they weren’t because they wanted to expand across Europe.
Original OYE Records store, Prenzlauer Berg
Now they have founded a bureau in Hamburg where they organise it from. There’s simply way too many releases coming out for RSD now, nobody needs 10 Beatles reissues on vinyl. I think it’s a great idea to support the independent stores but it’s time to re-think the process, with the info-sheets you get a list of of the 500+ releases for one day, but don’t get to listen to them or even know how many you will get. This comes on top of all our normal releases, it’s a lot more work and we have to pay cash. The risk is on our side because we pay the distributor. Money wise it’s not a big business for us and sometimes I have to agree with Hardwax when they say “Everyday is Record Store Day”…
You can connect with OYE via their website.
Words: Conor McTernan
Photography: Aine Devaney