House music’s ‘next big thing’ was apparently raised on Rammstein.
It's Thursday night at the Miami Winter Music Conference and I am chilling on my third vodka and blueberry Red Bull—think of a Welch's 100 percent Grape Juice on steroids—at the Bullitt Agency's annual mixer, this year hosted at South Beach's iconic Clevelander Hotel.
As I'm making the rounds in the Artist Lounge, amongst others, I've got DJ Sneak and his homies blunted up just ahead, Hot Since 82 holding court with a rowdy group of mates, and SHADED fiddling with his patented coif to the right. Andrew "KRYOMAN" Moore is in the house enjoying a bevvy in full robot regale, definitely a sight to behold. And there's Dubfire and his brother, Bullitt President Arash Shirazi, chatting at arm's length from me while looking as polar opposite as night and day.
As my luck would have it, the ONE act in the room that I don't happen to be overly familiar with is the one I'm also immediately scheduled to interview: Simon Haehnel and Tobias Müller of Germany's andhim.
I blame myself for not being aware that these "super house" masters were already ripping it at some of the biggest venues, lineups and festivals across the globe. Or that they were hand-picked to help open the long-awaited Deep Dish reunion show at Ice Palace, arguably the most buzzed about event on the calendar for the week.
But the last thing I'm going to do is turn down the chance to interview one of the biggest new acts on the WMC circuit. The second last thing I'm going to do is fake it, because these dudes have probably met enough phonies to last a lifetime in just 24 hours alone in Miami. So I chug that drink down and brace myself to come clean and make it up as I go along with the rascally duo from Cologne. Like their refreshing attitude, the results were positive.
THUMP: I'm not going to bullshit you. I'm new to your music and to prepare for this interview, I asked some of my friends who caught you at BPM what they thought about andhim. Without hesitation, they all confirmed you're the 'next big thing'. How do you react when you hear casual fans out there talking about you in these terms?
Simon Haehnel: Smart people!
Tobias Müller: Yes, good guys.
"Smart people"—I like the confidence. Tell me, how long have you two been doing this?
T: We have been doing the andhim project almost four years now, but we've been making music since we were teenagers.
Were you friends before putting andhim together?
S: Not that young. We met seven or eight years ago. That's when we started to date [winks].
How lovely, so I guess your fairy-tale bromance clicked from the very beginning?
S: [Laughs] Yes.
Your girlfriends must appreciate that.
T: They try.
I'm curious who are some of your biggest influences back home? You both hail from Germany, which has often been historically linked with being ground zero of the dance music movement.
S: I would say it's mainly Rammstein [laughs].
You're telling me you weren't off at Berghain as a kid? You were out listening to... hard industrial metal instead?
S: [Laughs] Like I said, it's Rammstein on the one hand and on the other it was Heino from Germany!
So how did you make your way from Cologne to North America?
S: How did we make our way?
T: By plane!
By plane, right. Thank you for that great detail [laughs]. For real though, when did your sound start getting heard on this side of the pond? It's a long journey in a short time for you to be playing here at WMC, which is one of the most pivotal events in your industry.
S: The truth is that we got to know Rocky from Bespoke, who is a promoter in New York. And we started chatting with him on Facebook and he was really into bringing us to the US. When we came to the States for the first time, we paid for everything [laughs]. For the flight, for the stay, everything! We lost like €2,000 for our first two shows in the States, but it was worth it. We really wanted to come and since then… we don't have to pay anymore! That's really the story behind it.
T: Yeah, very natural. Especially in New York you can see it year after year, it's growing.
Where would you pinpoint the moment that things started to pick up? Where you started to feel like this was actually working for you.
S: I think it was also in New York when we had our first sold out show, which was in January 2013. This was the point where we recognized that people in the US wanted to hear us. And sold out doesn't mean Avicii sold out, like 50,000 people. We are talking 500 to 700 people. But anyway, for us it was like, "Okay, it's happening!"
When you came to the States, did you find your style had to change to meet the American audiences?
T: No, we keep it exactly like we want it. That's a reason why they like it.
S: Yes, that's the whole secret to why people here like us so much. They're not used to this sound and they're wondering what it is.
On the subject of sound, define your self-styled notion of "super house."
T: Uplifting. It's very positive.
S: The easiest way to describe us… one word: andhim! That's us.
How many times have you been here to Miami for WMC, is this the first year?
S: It's the second year.
And you're excited to be opening for Deep Dish?
S: Of course! Yes! We were very excited when they asked us because we know Sharam very well. We played a lot of shows for him in the past.
T: It's going to be huge.
This may indeed be your biggest gig yet, but what would you say is your favourite one you've ever played?
S: Maybe… Schützenfest?
S: The marksmen's festival in Hanover [laughs].
T: And Oktoberfest!
Spoken like a true pair of Germans. But seriously...
S: It's hard to tell. Maybe tonight? Who knows. The next gig is always the best one!
You can follow Christopher on Twitter: @theCMprogram