Offen Music – Closed in themselves but part of a whole

Strong Connected to the Salon des Amateurs in Düsseldorf, the Offen Music label has become a true tastemaker. Meanwhile, Vladimir Ivkovic’s label is also sifting beyond the city borders and thus only strengthens its good reputation.

»In a way, the history of the Offen label begins with a record that didn’t even appear on the label,« says label maker Vladimir Ivkovic. What is being referred to is the single »Jagd auf den Hirsch« by the Düsseldorf duo Der Räuber und der Prinz at the time. The vinyl 12″, which began the dance music underground-wave in 2010, was released back then on a label that had not previously been known for krautrock or related genres: Desolat. The label of the busy tech house DJ Loco Dice put out »Jagd auf den Hirsch.« »I was then, and still am today, manager of the label in Düsseldorf. The record popped up in my environment. I thought about how to release it, showed it to Loco Dice and he liked it right away.« The fact that the supposed first 12″ did not appear on Offen was forgivable for Ivkovic; after all, it represented a beginning. So he notes today, »These were not old pieces that someone had discovered. There was no need to dig them up. They were new and alive. And in my context, there were many musicians and musicians who sounded like that.«

Vladimir Ivkovic was born in Yugoslavia, went to school there, and left the country the day before the civil-war broke out. He had been informed that he was to be drafted; and at the airport they must have thought he was still a schoolboy, even though he had already graduated and would have been fit for military service. Via some paths and detours, he ended up first in the Ruhr area and then, sometime in the 2000s, in Düsseldorf. There, he quickly became part of the Salon des Amateurs after the renowned club opened in the old town of the Rhine capital in 2004. One of its co-founders: Detlef Weinrich, also known as Tolouse Low Trax. There were also other faces of underground blueprints hanging around. Someone like Lena Willikens, with whom Ivkovic was to organize the club’s program for years – both perform as a DJ duo nowadays. There was Jan Schulte (Wolf Müller, Bufiman) – or Ralf Beck and Sebastian Lee Philipp, who first formed Der Räuber und der Prinz and then Die Wilde Jagd (although Philipp now runs the project alone). This environment, this context, must always be kept in mind when talking about Offen. Even if a large part of the publications is rather loosely connected to Düsseldorf.

»These were not old pieces that someone had discovered. There was no need to dig them up. They were new and alive. And in my context, there were many musicians and musicians who sounded like that.«

Vladimir Ivkovic

But Ivkovic is easily recognizable not as a businessman in DJ guise, but as a sensitive person who makes decisions for his label from the gut and the heart. Personal relationships stand streets ahead business interests. The first release (and others that followed) came from the soul: Rex Ilusivii and his album »Moon Cage« bear the catalog number 001. »Mitar Subotić was an underground musician who belonged to my parents’ circle of acquaintances. His pieces were always present in my youth« he says. So it was a look back to his own past that represented the future of the label. In the meantime, Ivkovic has released two more albums by the Yugoslavian exile. Just like the label boss, Subotić left the torn country – he was drawn to Brazil. This is also where the album »Wayang« was produced under the moniker Suba, which was to be the breakthrough for the label.

Nevertheless, the label’s paths often lead to Düsseldorf. There are the records of the duo Toresch, consisting of Detlef Weinrich (see above) and Viktoria Wehrmeister – who released as Decha on Malka Tuti. There’s the Metaclaw project, formed spontaneously after an evening at Salon des Amateurs; or Karamika – both of which involve producer and label owner Gordon Pohl. Another friend from Düsseldorf.

The current and upcoming releases are nevertheless something special for Ivkovic: Here he turned to musicians he has admired for a long time. These records were created independently of the Düsseldorf environment – of course, the Salon des Amateurs is also taking a break due to the pandemic. Ivkovic makes a virtue out of necessity: the pieces of the last (and coming) months show themselves very unconventional and courageous. CZN, the project of Portuguese drummer Joao Pais Filipe, is just as much a part of this as the upcoming Nic Arizona release. So there is no need to worry. One thing remains certain: where it says Offen, there is Herzblut in it.