Mike Bierbach has been a familiar face in Berlin and Germany for the last decade. As a DJ known as Rødhåd, he’s been performing since his teenage years at open air parties outside Berlin in a more casual affair. His sets quickly spread across the country as he became noted for his lengthy sets comprising of slow building, looping minimal techno. In 2009, Bierbach formed the record label and club night Dystopian and set himself up as resident DJ. As the label became synonymous with hypnotic sounds in large industrious settings whilst remaining dance floor-friendly, the mechanist and intense club nights garnered praise as he hosted sets from Ben Klock and Shed in Berlin’s Arena Club and Tape Club.
It was his deep rooted musical philosophies that caught the eye of Berghain – Berlin’s most recognisable techno venue – where he started DJing regularly. He acquired a reputation for closing sets at these venues, preferring the creative freedom that came with it. “You can choose much more music and also set the pace and style much wider than for primetime sets – last time I played 11 hours in Berghain.”
Up until last year, Bierbach balanced his DJ work with his day job working in the architecture business. As he clocked up the touring miles, the two became unattainable and he now concentrates on production and mixing full time. However, he does find parallels between art and craftsmanship. “The geometric nature of a sound is not too removed from the theoretical work in the architecture business, but I admire the freedom music is giving me at the moment." Nowadays, he regularly plays well over a hundred shows a year, regularly returning to titan clubs in Concrete in Paris, Trouw in Amsterdam and Fabric in London.
Both Dystopian Records HQ and Mike’s studio have always been based in Berlin and that’s unlikely to change soon – it’s a city that he’s seen change a lot over the years. Berlin has been identified as a major tourist hotspot for techno lovers and Mike remains positive about the ramifications for the scene. “Club culture is still really vibrant, but of course it’s much more professional than even six or seven years ago. I’m happy for everyone who’s coming to Berlin and finding this perfect environment.”
Recently, his production has led to exploring more platforms; last year’s 'Oblivion' release on 50 Weapons was a track that took inspiration from the Elder Spells video game series. Taking a different method of creating music out of the club environment is something he’s keen to do again. “I would love to do it again – so far I’ve only done music for an art installation for my friend Alona Rodeh, but I’m working on several things right now. I would love to try movie soundtracks too.”
Festivals are a completely different matter and it has taken time but Rødhåd has found a way to work within far more limited time constraints. “It’s difficult and I struggled a lot with it in the beginning. A festival is not a club. So my goal is it to present my favourite tracks and songs in the best possible context, which is a challenge for a DJ.” At his upcoming performance at Bloc Festival, he’ll be performing a set as part of the Dystopian-curated night, joined by Ø [Phase], Vril, Alex.Do, Laurel Halo, Demdike Stare and Daniel Miller. Given the last Dystopian night was given a visual transformation in an undressed ‘Dystopian’ environment, he’s secretive when it comes to what’s in store for Bloc. “Music should speak louder than words, so come by and you will see.”
Words by Niall Cunningham