Mix: Waveform Live 004 – Snuff Crew

The latest edition of our Live Mix series is served up by none other than the enigmatic Snuff Crew. The Waveform Transmitter’s Ste Knight talks to them about the hardware-software spectrum, unofficial third members, and huffing tobacco.

If there is one word I always use to describe the productions of Snuff Crew, a mysterious German duo who go by the names of Snuffo and Zwo, then it has got to be funky. Their sound has a defined electro edge to it which, of course, comes with that all important swing in the beat, and it is a sound that has developed over ten years as a production duo. I only need to hear ‘Go Back’ pumping out of any speaker for my limbs to claim free will and start moving, wildly, of their own accord.

There is something about the music, that Snuff Crew have been putting out for the past decade, which makes their sound unique. Production-wise it is certainly the fruit that such a strong partnership can yield, that makes their sound stand out. In a live respect, it may be the fact that they give machine music an organic feel. A paradox in terms that may be, but the manner in which the pair interact with their equipment, their compositions, and each other, has a symbiotic feel to it. You need only hear or see their live sets to bear witness to how all of these components manifest to make Snuff Crew what it is; a living, breathing organism that feeds on the patterns provided by its two overseers.

Whatever the reason may be for their uniqueness, one thing is for sure, Snuffo  and Zwo have got the right approach to making music. Their music isn’t just technically proficient, it is also fun; a notion which seems to be seriously missing in many current productions, floating somewhere, far out, on a sea of black v-neck t-shirts. They produce music that doesn’t just play at parties, it starts that shit. Standing firmly with roots in both the Detroit and Chicago schools of thought, it is fair to say that while their music contains electro idiosyncrasies, there is still a heavy house and techno influence coursing through the veins of their productions, which, when showered with huge drops of acid, is what makes their groove so infectious.

We are lucky enough to have been granted access to an exclusive Snuff Crew live mix, which was recorded at Killekill‘s ‘Jack The Griessmühle’ party which took place last year at Griessmühle, Berlin. You can listen to the mix, below, but first let’s see what Snuffo and Zwo had to say for themselves when I spoke to them, recently.

Waveform: Hi Snuffo, hi Zwo! Thanks for taking time out to chat with us. First things first, we are curious; what made you call yourselves Snuff Crew?! Hopefully it was the tobacco and not the video variety of snuff that you took inspiration from!

Snuffo: It was definitely the tobacco! When I started Snuff Crew in early 2008 I was still living in a small village in Germany. Somehow some friends and I were into taking Snuff tobacco as addition to drinking beer. This kind of tobacco never had a tradition in this area, but we were “hyping” it for some years. I thought “Snuff Crew” could be a funny name for a music project. It sounds evil, but in fact I didn’ t think of the Snuff movies at all.

Recently I’m enjoying Snuff tobacco again, and it’s big fun to see people getting confused when I sniff the brown stuff in a club.

Zwo: I have never tried Snuff tobacco to be honest. And I don’t feel the urge to do so!

Waveform: And how did you both meet and start producing together?

Snuffo: We met through an internship at a music magazine around 2002. We both were already making tracks since the 90s, but Zwo was the already more experienced producer. We both share a similar kind of humor and also both love Acid House and oldschool Techno, House and Electro. So we started doing music together, just for fun and only to release it in a forum for electronic music. Zwo already played a few live shows at that time. When I started the Snuff Crew thing, it felt natural to me to ask him if he likes to be part of the project. He already did the Snuff Crew logo for me and helped me with a lot of other stuff and advice. It’s great that this guy is on board.

Zwo: When speaking of “producing together”, this was only true for our “Behind the Masks” album. By that time Snuffo was still living in the Rhine area where I live and we could meet in my studio to work on those tracks together. Now that he is living in Berlin we actually do not produce together at all. All the tracks we release were either made by him OR by me. We only meet musically during our live shows. He brings elements of his tracks and I bring elements of mine – and then we mash everything up and jam around and we are always surprised what music comes out of the speakers in the end.

Waveform: Your sound is heavily entrenched in Chicago and acid house. Was this a conscious choice, to direct your productions down this path, or did it just seem to happen naturally given the nature of the hardware you had chosen to produce/perform with?

Snuffo: It was both I’d say. Starting Snuff Crew was also a reaction to the boring Minimal and Tech-House sound that was played almost everywhere at that time. I missed powerful ecstatic music and wild people that danced like crazy. Minimal was totally the opposite. My love for electronic music had started already in the mid 90s. And the trippy acid sound fascinated me since then. But in 2007 my passion for Chicago House began to grow. It’s music that sounded so fresh and excited to me. I already knew the „classics“ of this genre for a while but I started digging deeper, listening to recordings of DJ sets from the 80s (HotMix 5, Farley Jackmaster Funk etc etc), to Cybernetic Broadcasting System, plus to mixes of friends. Some forums inspired too. Andreas Gehm and his music knowledge was surely a big inspiration, too.

Between 2003 and 2008 I also went to a party where proper Acid House and Chicago House music was played. For example listening to ‘Can You Feel It’ by Fingers Inc in a totally smoked basement was an amazing moment. Around 2007  I started buying more and more records of the jackin’ kind of music. At the same time I felt very frustrated about my own music productions. I had a few releases out on net labels but no vinyl label was into my stuff. 

At one point I decided to quit my former music projects and start new again. In early 2008 I finally bought some professional studio gear and the everything felt totally excited again. It was awesome. I recorded some oldschool tracks and created a Myspace page under the name Snuff Crew. Suddenly record deals were offered. I was totally surprised and shocked how easy things suddenly went and what great labels wanted to release my music. But there was and still is no masterplan behind Snuff Crew.  It was and still is an adventurous trip, with an unknown destination, a lot of fun and a great partner on board. 

For me hardware  wasn’t playing a big role for Snuff Crew as almost all of the Snuff Crew stuff that came out in the past 10 years was produced with software. I owned some hardware in the beginning and also sampled the drum sounds from my TR-707, but somehow I always had a better access to the software. Propellerhead’s ‘Reason’ is my studio weapon that fits perfect when it’s about realizing my ideas.  

I also really like the idea to make old sounding music with modern devices. Related to this it was funny to see so many music mags and labels writing about “analog sound” and “machines” when reviewing or promoting Snuff Crew records.

Currently I feel bored by all this “hardware posturing” that is happening on social medias. Back in the days people where posing in front of their cars or with their sneakers. Now it’s the drum machines and synth collection. But of course, it’s  fun to make music with some nice hardware, too.

As Snuff Crew live act we perform with Macbooks, controllers and many many loops, but since our gig in Frankfurt a few weeks ago, Zwo included his TR-8 too. I think: At the end it doesn’t matter what gear you use, as long as you have a good idea in the studio and make people dance when playing live. But just posing with your synths for your Instagram or Facebook doesn’t make a good track.

Zwo: When speaking of gear we use, I recently feel a bit bored when using software (and controllers) only. For the last 10 years it worked pretty well but recently I felt I needed to challenge myself more during the live sets. So I brought my TR-8 without having any patterns prepared, and programmed everything on the fly – which was a great improvement for my own fun during the set!

I am currently thinking of replacing more and more tasks Ableton does so far with hardware sequencers, synths and effects. On the other hand it’s also a problem to carry around so much stuff (or even find enough space in the DJ booth where we play also as live act most of the times). So I’ll try to find a good balance between software and hardware. The TR-8 is definitely a good start, and maybe I’ll replace it with the TR-8s, so I can also use samples. We will see…

Concerning the Chicago and Acid question – I was always very much into Acid music, but mainly because of the 303 sound itself. My biggest heroes back in the days were probably Josh Wink and Hardfloor – and that’s because our German music television channel VIVA played their videos.

Internet wasn’t much around and it was hard for me, living in a small town in the north of Germany, to find out about the actual roots of that music. We didn’t have any proper record shops around, there were only Karstadt (a typical we-have-everything-store) and the “Disco Express”, which was more focused on German Schlager and Rock music. I had’t heard about Phuture, Trax Records or DJ International until 2002 when I finally moved to Cologne. And although the big wave of Acid was already over and Minimal became bigger and bigger, I discovered more and more of that music, also with lots of help from my new DJ friends who used to have big Chicago collections and showed me those records that really mattered.

By that time a friend of mine ran a net label, releasing some techno/house music but also experimental or even parody music. I produced a track called “Jack Johnson” which made a bit fun of that “Jack!” topic found in lots of Chicago records, and of course I used other cliché elements like TR-707 sounds, a simple bassline and a Juno string melody. Although it was intended to be a joke track, it made me discover a sympathy for old school House music and probably that’s what made me want to be a part of Snuff Crew.

Credit: Marie Staggat

Waveform: You have been represented on labels such as Killekill, BPitch Control, and International Deejay Gigolo and collaborated with some fantastic artists. Who was your favourite collab?

Snuffo: We loved all of the collaborations! But the most we work with our dear Italian friends Hard Ton. We made some new tracks again last year and we can’t wait to see them released.

Zwo: Yes, Hard Ton was always a pleasure. Max and Mauro are such lovely guys and real characters. And of course we enjoyed working with Andreas Gehm very much. Few people knew that he was the unofficial third member of Snuff Crew, replacing me during the live sets during my parental leave for example. With those masks nobody realized – and probably nobody cared that it wasn’t me, but the (now even more) famous Andreas Gehm!

He was also my neighbour for some years and a close friend and he showed and taught me lots of things about old school house music. In exchange I introduced him to Ableton Live and he started to play his own live sets afterwards. His passing was a big loss for everybody.

Waveform: Your brilliant Waveform Live mix was recorded at a recent Killekill party. Tell us a bit about your set here and the thinking behind it. With this kind of live performance, exactly how much is planned and how much is you both bouncing jams off each other?

Snuffo: As Snuff Crew live we just jam around. I never know what sounds Zwo will play next, and he doesn’t know what noise I do next. We split our released and unreleased tracks into single loops and create our live action. It’s always wild, chaotic and we have a lot of fun. The Killekill party “Jack The Griessmühle” happened  in April 2017 and it was definitely a crazy, crazy night… We always love to play on the events of Nico and his staff, and Griessmühle is one of the greatest spots in Berlin, but that night was special.

Zwo: I have very good memories to that party. We did our soundcheck during the daytime, I guess it was around 4 or 5 in the afternoon. Another party that started the day before was still running but they closed the big floor to prepare everything for the Killekill party. So we set up our stuff and played some music and somehow we lost ourselves in jamming around. When we looked up again after maybe 5 minutes, there were suddenly 30 to 40 people on the dancefloor, partying and dancing to our music having a great time! Lovely.

Waveform: In an interview back in 2013 you are quoted as saying that a lot of your music is made using software and controllers. How much has that changed, now? Have you found that you lean more on the self-contained hardware, now, or is the balance still tipped towards software?

Snuffo: I personally don’t need to do Snuff Crew tracks with hardware, I also don’t have any hardware for this. I only have some drone synths and some other cheap stuff that I use for my experimental prokject Cellarkalt. But I like the fact that my man Zwo is bringing some more hardware flavour into his productions for Snuff Crew and into his part of our live set.

Zwo: Some years ago I visited a friend who had a Jupiter 6 in his bedroom. I played a bit with it and I was hooked immediately, I loved to have a dedicated knob for every aspect of the sound, I really enjoyed to put my fingers on such a majestic machine. So I started to spend all my money I earned to buy hardware synthesizers, sequencers, effects. You can see everything in its full glory when you search for our track “Winter in June” on YouTube.

In the meantime I had to sell almost everything again (having a family and paying taxes is expensive, people!) but I still love to twist those knobs. I am a big fan of those small machines like the Roland Boutiques or the Korg Volca series. Great fun on a small footprint. And who cares if analog or digital nowadays? They are fun and sound nice – what else could you ask from a music machine?

Waveform: You’ve played some amazing events over the past ten years and have just embarked upon your ’10 Years of Snuff Crew’ celebration tour, which launched in Tresor. Do you have any plans to play in the UK in the near future? We’re all dying to see you here!

Snuffo: We would love to play in the UK! It’s been some years since we performed the last time there. So If any cool local promoter is reading this, feel free to reach out to us. Let’s make some Acid House partys happen again!

Zwo: Agree!

Waveform: Have you got anything else in the pipeline alongside live dates? Any more releases in the works?

Snuffo: For this year there are some new Snuff Crew records planned to come out. Our “Love Songs For Smoke Machines” E.P. will hopefully be released on a great new label from Italy. Fingers crossed. And Jerome Hill from UK just started a new label called “Bleeper”  where he will be bringing out a Snuff Crew 12″ , too . I’m pretty excited about both records I must say. Plus, there’s the new Snuff Crew / Hard Ton release, but it’s not clear yet who’s gonna release it.

There are also some more labels that asked us to send new stuff, this will happen soon, we promise… And for the fans some tracks will be available for free download, as part of our 10th anniversary. I’m not sure if we can manage it to record a new album. As we both live in different cities and Zwo has a full time job and two kids, things became a bit trickier. But I guess sooner or later we will start thinking about a new Snuff Crew long player again.  And of course, we both also have our solo projects…

Zwo: I am currently focusing more on playing live than on producing new tracks to be honest. Sure, from time to time there’s a new track coming up but the fun part for me is testing new performance tools, sequencer/synth/drum/fx-combinations and being surprised in the end when listening to the recording!

Waveform: Thanks again for chatting with us, guys. We look forward to hearing more exciting music from the Snuff Crew Camp!

Snuffo: Thank you very much for the interview! 

Zwo: It’s been a pleasure!

So, promoters, you heard the guys, get them booked to play in the UK for crying out loud! If you really need any more persuasion, then get a load of their Waveform Live Mix below.

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