Markus Lindner, better known behind a pair of decks as Delfonic is a fundamental figure on the Berlin scene. Part-owner of OYE records, an institution in Berlin and a prominent DJ himself with a residencies at Gretchen and Farbfernseher, Lindner has the type of career that any self-proclaimed music nerd swoons over.
A DJ and collector first and foremost, Lindner was a dedicated customer of OYE records, before moving behind the counter and eventually becoming part-owner. His primary objective has always been the music, and whether playing it or pedaling it, there’s a passion there that has persisted even when vinyl was going through the worst of times. His dogged approach to music, whether it’s finding the latest new record; the popular track, customers will buy; or just feeding his own curiosities, informs an eclectic personality whose musical recommendations are always a sure thing.
In that spirit he’s also established a distribution outlet around OYE with 25 labels on the roster today, including Money $ex Records, Tartelet and Box aus Holz. It’s created a focussed yet, eccentric community around the shop with the sound and the spirit of OYE represented through artists like IMYRMIND and Glenn Astro.
With his extensive experience between DJing, the shop and now the distribution outlet, he makes the perfect subject for a Q&A. We sent him some questions via email and he obliged, taking time out of his incredibly busy schedule to field these with some very honest answers.
You’ve came up through the ranks at OYE, from a customer to being a part-owner. How has that evolution affected your own musical development?
That’s a really good question! I guess a lot, but I always have to remember my role at OYE. Sometimes when I order records for the store, I have to imagine which customers could like the record even if I don’t really like it. And after years of making orders you become harder in your decisions about the music. Otherwise it’s great, because you can learn so much about Music or Music history from your customers or colleagues, that you’ve never expected. And more often I would love to buy more records for myself through all the genres, but sadly it’s not possible. But in the end I would say it definitely affected my musical development and taste.
I assume you are also still a customer. Do you ever feel like you have to apply strict measures on yourself when considering your own buying habits?
When I started to work at OYE, I bought way more records, but now I have a family and money goes other ways ;-) But when you’re at the source and you pay less for records, it’s really easy to get addicted. But we always have the business politics, that customers come first, so when we have a rare record, I prefer to sell it than to keep it.
With so much at your disposal, what do you look for in a record in the context of a set?
First if it fits in my sets or my music taste. Second if the genre fits as well. Third I would say, that I should play it out more than once. It should be a future classic – no fillers, only killers.
But genre-wise I have no boundaries. I always try to play between styles with different energies.
You’ve been a longstanding resident at Icon, which became Gretchen. Can you give us a glimpse of how a regular night will play out there, through your selections?
Normally I only do warm ups there, because I love to do that. First hour is just for myself to check out new music or music from our labels. But it always depends on the night or with whom I play. I wanna build a mood, which gives the headliner the opportunity to be the main act. So I start really deep and keep it deep as long as possible. First I check the main act and what they / he / she plays and then I select my music, but I never play music I don’t like even if I know it would work out. You can always hear my taste in the warm up sets. At the end of every set I go down with the energy to give the next act the opportunity to have a good platform from which to start.
How do your guests sets differ from a residency set and what can we expect from your upcoming gig at Jæger?
When I play prime time, then I play prime time, but I always try to tell a story or play through different kind of music styles. Also I like to mix old and new music or bring some breaks. I wanna have the attention on the music I play, because the selection is now more important than ever. There is so much good music out there, that you should be careful what you play and don’t waste the short time we have with shitty music. I really love to play from Disco to House to Afro and Jazz. But nothing has to happen, everything goes…
What has been the fundamental role of the record store in DJ culture for you?
For me the record store was always at the centre of the DJ culture I grew up with, but nowadays there are so many ways to get in touch with great music. But you shouldn’t forget, that a face-to-face culture at the record store is priceless for your taste and for discovering cool music. Music is a social thing and to meet people like you do in a club is always better than just downloading music. I’m not saying it’s bad, but we should try to get the best periphery.
At the end, all the internet platforms and streaming / download services helped us and also brought the people back to the stores!
Even at a time when vinyl sales were very poor, the record store and OYE specifically remained. What in your opinion attributed to its staying power through these years?
We worked for free ;-) spent all the money on records and never gave up. Here we are still and it’s going quite well now. I think it was really important to be keen, disciplined and to be critical with yourself.
What is it about vinyl that just won’t quit for you as a DJ and a record collector?
I still prefer this format as a DJ, because it’s more fun to play and you “work“ with the medium. As a collector I prefer vinyl, because of the sound quality and it lasts forever. And emotional wise you are more connected with a piece of vinyl then a digital file. At the end vinyl is the king of all music formats.
Tell us a bit about the OYE distribution. What are some of the ideologies behind your picks of labels you work with?
It started 3 years ago only with one label, Box aus Holz. And after a while there was more demand and we befriended more labels. It was a step by step business with no master plan. Now we have around 25 labels on the roster and distribute exclusively in Germany and the rest of the world All Ears in the UK takes care of.
For me it’s really important to work with people and labels I really like and I have a good personal relationship with. It makes everything easier. Music-wise it’s like OYE: totally diverse. We have some House, Techno, Beats, Jazz or Edits in the program. Sometimes I start projects with friends when they have some good music we think we should release. F.e. with Hauke Freer from Session Victim and I run “XK Records“. We’ve just released the 2nd issue, but there is no pressure at all. When something is ready we release it. With Money $ex Records, which I run with Max Graef & Glenn Astro we released 3 Albums in 4 months. This is really hard to realize, but I think it’s the best way to do it – when you feel it.
But you can check all our releases on our soundcloud page.
With so many labels flooding the limited pressing facilities around the world, what are some of the difficulties you’re experiencing today as a distributor and how do you see it playing it out in the future?
I have built up a really good connection to our mastering studio “Schnittstelle“ and our pressing plant Rand Muzik, so we don’t really have the problem with postponed releases. We can make a record in about 2 months. They are doing a great job and it’s easy to work with such professional people.
But I definitely see a problem in the mass of releases right now, or since 2016. Too many labels, too many releases and sometimes everybody should think twice, if this music should be released on vinyl. I’m not talking about taste, but sometimes it feels, that a lot of people are using the vinyl hype / ultra limited pressing as a marketing tool to promote the labels or producers to get better gigs. But the music is just a tool. It doesn’t help the business and record stores at the end, because the customer is not an idiot. They can feel it immediately and they are willing to spent a lot of money on records, but not for cheap tools.
With all these labels that you’re involved including Hotflush, who I’m told have a desk in one of the rooms in the back of the store, is there something of a label community forming around the store and how do you all influence each other through OYE?
To make it clear. I was never involved in Hotflush. We subleased a room at OYE Kreuzkoelln to them and we were running the Hotflush vs OYE parties together at OHM for a while. We still have a great connection and these guys know how to run a label and make it big! But now we’ve moved on and we have our distribution office in this room, because we needed more space for the backstock and upcoming releases.
As I said before. I prefer to work with people who know OYE and most of the time they are customers. So we already have a connection and we influence each other. Sometimes they work at OYE like Alex Seidel. After his releases on Tartelet, Money $ex and OYE Black Label we found a new label for him: “Schwarz 12“. He had some absolutely crazy tracks ready between Techno & Electro, but no label wanted to release them and I’m ready when something like this happens. I know Alex now for years and he is such a great guy and his taste of music is insane. I’m really impressed with him, so we’ll be releasing this new stuff soon.
With Berlin being such a great city for this music, does it ever feel saturated, and how do you feel OYE and the labels you’re involved with stand out from the crowd?
That’s true, we are always complaining here in Berlin about everything, but the tourists know what’s going on and it’s cool so to see how excited they are about our scene. When you travel a little bit and you come back to Berlin, it’s still a great city for music culture and clubs. But I have to say, that I don’t go out that much anymore, something I did for years almost every night. After years it feels like the same thing.
There are always a few prominent artists circling around OYE too. One of them is IMYRMIND, who’ll be playing at Jæger with Amp Fiddler the following week. What can we expect from his set?
This boy is crazy. His album “Uniwerum Luxury“ is such an outstanding record, because I bet, that not everyone is gets the idea behind it. And I always enjoy his DJ sets a lot, as he spins records from Jazz to Funk to Disco to House or Techno. I’m not impressed by a lot of DJs nowadays, but you should check this guy!
The day after your set, you’re doing a pop-up shop at Baklengs. What do you hope to bring to Oslo that we might look forward to?
That’s a good question as I have to pack the records really soon ;-) I try to dig records, which represents the OYE sound. Quite organic music from Disco, Afro, Funk, Jazz to House, NeoDisco, Broken Beats and HipHop.
We will bring around 600 records and a lot of the OYE family stuff! Also I will bring some exclusive promo copies for the pop up!
You’re playing at Jæger under the RETRO banner, which is a night dedicated to those unsung heroes of electronic music’s past, present and future. Which artist or record best personifies this for you?
Detroit Experiment is one of my all time favourites of the past. Present I would say Soulphiction and Alex Seidel at the moment. What the future brings I can’t really tell you, but there will be some dope stuff ….
*Catch Delfonic at Baklengs the day after for the pop-up shop.