History of Harthouse

The label Harthouse was founded in 1992 in Frankfurt / Offenbach by Matthias Hoffmann, Heinz Roth and the well-known Frankfurt DJ Sven Väth. Harthouse, a sublabel of Eye Q Records in the early years from 1992 to 1997, was launched as a platform for newcomer artists. It stood for a harder, more minimalist sound that did not fit into Eye Q Records‘ commercial lineage. Sven Väth commented, “We wanted to create a stage, a playground – even an experimental one – and I think we succeeded.”

In the beginning Harthouse (also known as “Harthouse Frankfurt“) defined a sound that became known as “Sound Of Frankfurt”, a harder but danceable version of “Trance” – just “Hard House” or “Harthouse”. The first release was produced by the Harthouse A&R himself, Sven Väth.

His co-producer until 2000 was Ralf Hildenbeutel, who still runs the production company “Schallbau” today. Sven Väth, together with the other “Schallbau” members Steffen Britzke (aka B-Zet) and Matthias Hoffmann (aka AC Boutsen), also released various projects themselves on Harthouse. The decision on what was released on Harthouse and what was not was up to Sven Väth from the beginning. In the early years, Harthouse releases were heavily limited, to about 2000 copies per release. The white sample promo list was also kept small. In a very short time, Harthouse became the flagship of the German techno scene. The label became known worldwide, its artists became stars of the international scene with high placements in the charts.

Harthouse Posse in New York (1993)

Due to the limited editions and quality releases, the demand increased rapidly. The first big success was Hardfloor‘s (Ramon Zenker & Oliver Bondzio) first release “Hardtrance Acperience” (1992, HH-008). Hardly noticed in Germany, it entered the British charts (1992/93, #56) when it was released locally there half a year later. Bucking the trend of producing from track to track at ever-increasing speed was a revolutionary idea in 1992.

To this day, there is an international demand for remixes of Hardfloor. Examples are Mory Kanté, The Shamen and Anne Clark. Then one hit followed the other: Arpeggiator‘s “Possible Future of Humanity” (HH-016), Hardfloor‘s “Trancscript” (HH-019) (#72 on the UK charts in 1993) or Resistance D‘s “Human EP” (HH-020).

Justified by the fast, worldwide success, divisions were also founded abroad in 1992: “Harthouse UK” in England, distributed by “Rising High“, and “Harthouse America“, in the USA with a license deal with “Moonshine Music“.

But soon after, in 1994, the deal with “Rising High” was cancelled and Harthouse opened its own distribution department in the UK. The cooperation with “Moonshine Records” in the USA also proved not to be as successful as hoped.

1997 was the worst year for Harthouse. Artists were not paid or paid too late, but calmed down with hope for future payments. At the beginning of the year the confusion was already complete: Sven Väth left the label. The company then moved from its large office in Offenbach to Berlin. Two months later, the company was insolvent and filed for bankruptcy. The directors were unwilling to comment on the reasons for the insolvency. But the tremendous discrepancies between the aspired goals and reality were obvious: on the one hand they wanted to be a German techno underground label, on the other hand they rented a multi-story office that had to be paid for; and they reduced sales by self-imposed limitation, while the managing directors started jetting off to their branch offices in the UK and the USA.

B Harthouse 2002

It was clear to everyone involved that this could not work. The limitation of the editions was still stopped quickly enough, but the move to a smaller office came too late.

Pascal FEOS (Resistance D) said at the time, “I’d like to know more myself. Of course, we didn’t get any more royalty statements.” Ramon Zenker (Hardfloor) followed with the comment, “In the end, new people always answered the phone when I called Harthouse. I never got any money, though. Fortunately, we had a clause in our contract that entitled us to collect the money if payment was late. So we were some of the last people to get any money at all. “

When Sven Väth was asked about his exit from the company, he mentioned conflicts of interest between his partners and himself, as well as serious doubts about the discrepancy between his initial dreams, which had given him strength, and the sad reality of the whole enterprise.

At the beginning of 1998 UCMG (Under Cover Music Group) took over the rights to use the label’s brand name as well as the brand “Harthouse“. For UCMG Germany, an essential point of this takeover was the assurance to give back to the artists / authors the right to use their titles.

UCMG Germany therefore first issued a “Retrospective Box” series, a collection of Harthouse‘s most successful releases. This retrospective was released on 4xCD box as well as on 12 LPs in four 3xLP vinyl releases.  Ramon Zenker (Hardfloor) commented, “This compilation is a good way for all artists to make a few marks with their repertoire and thereby absorb a bit of the damage caused by Harthouse.”

After these first compilations Harthouse started a new series of single releases at UCMG Germany as well as some album and promo releases. A&R of the new Harthouse was Oliver Bondzio. The design of the releases was changed from the minimalistic black sleeves with the blue Harthouse logo to white sleeves with embossed grey logo.

The release list was kept short. In the years from 1998 to 2003, when Harthouse existed under UCMG, the label released only 9 singles, a couple of albums and, what was new with Harthouse, a couple of DJ mix CDs by various DJs such as Oliver Bondzio, Frank Lorber and Plank.

There was also a foreign release of Hardfloor under Harthouse UK on UCMG United Kingdom.

In 2001 Harthouse started re-releasing some old Hardfloor albums (“TB Resuscitation” Remastered and “Respested” Remastered) that had been released in the early 90s under Eye Q Records. These re-releases sold very well, also the single releases became quite successful.

In 2004, daredo media from Mannheim took over the rights to the Harthouse brand (“Harthouse Mannheim“). A different release strategy was approached than at UCMG Germany, with a new design (based on the old Harthouse style) and high-quality releases from both established and new artists.

At that time, artists such as Zoo Brazil, Gui Boratto, Hardfloor, Der Dritte Raum, Boris Brejcha, Joey Beltram, Joel Mull, Jesper Dahlbäck, Alexi Delano, among others, released on the Harthouse label, creating with their releases an appropriate successor to the “old Harthouse sound” and myth.

At the end of 2017 came the next big change. The company UCM.ONE from Berlin took over the label Harthouse and all rights from daredo media. The first release was the album “Der Dritte Raum – D3R-25” with new remixes of well-known tracks, followed by a new album, which was released in autumn 2018.

With these new releases Harthouse now started its fourth chapter – now in the German capital Berlin. In the 90s, the Frankfurt sound and with it the flagship Harthouse was still the antithesis of the (West-)Berlin techno scene around Westbam, Dr. Motte, DJ Dick and the label Low Spirit.

In the label’s newest era, Harthouse has not only arrived in the capital city of Berlin itself, but is also releasing Der Dritte Raum, an act that is also now based in Berlin and was already one of the best-known and most successful artists on the label during its Frankfurt days.

In addition to new releases and re-releases by established Harthouse artists and bands such as Eternal Basement, Der Dritte Raum, Boris Brejcha and Resistance D, the “Berlin time” also featured new titles by well-known artists such as Frank De Wulf, CJ Bolland, Tom Wax and Ken Ishii. At the same time, new artists such as Smilla, sikØra, DJ Lion or Betatec continue to join the ranks and release on Harthouse.

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