By: Filip Sandström Beijer
Photos by: Shanélle De Melo
The Madrid born DJ talks about his childhood, his love for Berghain and his special connection to his father. He’s also giving a shoutout to Tbilisi, Georgia, which has become one of his favorite places to play.
Reading about Héctor Oaks online, you’ll mostly find interviews on the topic of his DJ career and music. We want to know more about the Spanish guy with the mullet and the massive collection of Fred Perry shirts, and what he’s doing when he’s not on stage.
“I’m a quite normal guy. I like vintage”, Héctor says and laughs as he’s pouring up a glass of red wine, which he prefers over a beer.
He grew up in Madrid and describes himself in school as a little boy who never really found his context. He was neither bullied nor popular and knew both everyone and no one.
"I was good at getting people to gather, but I never felt completely included myself," he says when we meet in his apartment in Berlin.
He’s got a special and complex connection with his father. It was him who introduced Héctor to the music by constantly playing Pink Floyd and Supertramp mixed with other 80's music in the car radio.
"I really enjoyed it and I especially liked the songs with high energy"
His relationship with his father was in many ways built around the music, since he otherwise was hard to connect with.
“I would say that we only connected through the music”
In this way, his interest in electronic music grew and he got curious about creating his own sounds. At a school disco he realized for the first time that he also wanted to start DJing. But it would take a few more years before he really got the chance.
“A guy at my school had turntables and played in this club for people under 18. My friend had rich parents and he told them he wanted the same. He got it, and then I just went to my friend all the time to play. Around two years later, when I was 16, my mother gave me the shittiest turntables available and then it started."
When I was DJing before, I was playing a different kind of music. More Hard Trance and Eurodance
As a teenager, he became more involved in Madrid's club life and ran between the venues on Malasaña, one of Madrid's most vibrant neighborhoods. When he came of age, he visited the nightclub Macumba and got a mind blowing and lifechanging experience.
"When I was DJing before, I was playing a different kind of music. More Hard Trance and Eurodance. But in Macumba they played something that I couldn’t understand. There were no lyrics, no song, no beginning and no end. Only strobe lights and people freaking out. And I was like 'what is this?' It attracted me so hard that I couldn’t stop going to this club. I went every Friday, and that's when I discovered techno music. "
At the age of twenty, he received a student scholarship in Berlin and took the chance moving to the German capital. He had visited the city before, but only as a tourist. It’s perhaps not very surprising that he had already fallen in love with Berghain.
"I did not know I wanted to be a DJ until the day I went to Berghain. I decided that I'm gonna do whatever I have to do to play there just once, and then I can live in peace.”
Moving to Berlin, besides studying, Héctor got a job as a sound engineer that didn’t last for long. He quitted after the first day since they just spoke German and he was only allowed to carry cables in and out of a truck. Instead, he got a job at a record store which suited him much better.
When he was not working in the shop, he spent his hours partying.
"In the beginning I was over the top. I was trying to meet everybody and at the same time making music. I was in every party, socializing. It took me some time but slowly I got into the scene."
There are certain rules that you have to respect, but besides that all is okay. That means, not judging people for how they look, their heritage and their sexual orientation
As of being a new DJ at the time, he describes the techno scene as including to newcomers, and he always felt welcomed.
“There are certain rules that you have to respect, but besides that all is okay. That means, not judging people for how they look, their heritage and their sexual orientation.”
Anyone who has seen Héctor Oaks live or on stream knows that you can expect a high-intensity set with a mix of music genres at mostly high tempo. One of his most liked comments on a Youtube clip is a user comparing him to a modern Mozart. He is not afraid to push the boundaries mixing genres together. Don’t be surprised if a German punk song gets mixed in the upbeat techno tracks.
"I believe that techno is the real punk. The old punk movement are in the end very into following the rules today. They're drinking their beers and are abiding to the law. Techno is the opposite with the drugs for example. Techno is the true punk music with the real punk attitude.”
"I consider myself a hybrid of all the genres. The only way of moving forward is to take all the information you get and make it into something new.
In a world without the pandemic, Héctor is busy touring. He’s specially in love with Tiblisi in Georgia and he’s constantly coming back to play at Bassiani, the country’s biggest techno club.
At Bassiani, it does not matter how you dress, for example. I love coming to these places and being a part of the atmosphere that is created there
During the years he’s built a strong connection to both the club and the city and he’s eager to recommend techno fans to go there. The techno culture in Berlin is something many take for granted, with its freedom and openness. But in other countries it is more of an oasis where people can finally have a safe space to be themselves and live out their desires and energies.
"At Bassiani, it does not matter how you dress, for example. I love coming to these places and being a part of the atmosphere that is created there."
In Berlin, it’s sometimes easier to spot the techno crowd by the looks.
“I don’t think it’s a bad thing though. That makes Berlin, Berlin. It’s just different.”
Bassiani has recently had problems with law enforcement in Georgia, which is struggling to shut down the culture. That’s something that makes Héctor's commitment and longing to come back and play even greater.
10 years after Héctor moved to Berlin, he’s one of the city's most in demand and popular DJs. He doesn’t slow down the partying and the memories of fantastic club nights around the world are many. But when we’re asking about his strongest memory, he actually is carrying it with him as an audio recording on his phone.
Just before the pandemic hit, Héctor’s dad passed away after a long time of illness. The day after it had happened, he was booked to close Berghain, something he decided he would follow through with. He wrote officially about it, and decided to pay tribute to his father from the stage.
"I wrote on Instagram that I was going to play this song for my father for the opening of my set. So, a lot of people was already aware of what was going to happen. My friend, who was there, managed to get the sound recorded on his phone.”
Héctor asks if we want to listen.
It starts with the familiar sound of an electronic engine starting joined by a clear acoustic guitar chords. Then the voice of Roger Waters joins in together with the crowd.
”Welcome my son Welcome to the machine Where have you been? It's alright we know where you've been"