Five questions for Neo Ouija

Martin Hirsch, current Neo Ouija label operator, takes some time to answer Five questions for Learn more about the assent, descent and rebirth of this multifaceted imprint. 

Igloo Magazine :: When did Neo Ouija start up and what was your inspiration?

Neo Ouija (Martin) :: Originally, Lee Anthony Norris and his three alter egos Norken, Nacht Plank and Metamatics started Neo Ouija in 2000 as outlet for himself and friends’ music. I discovered Neo Ouija around 2003 while browsing Berlin’s Hardwax record store – The Cottage Industries: Annexe compilation and Xela’s For Frosty Mornings.. were my first Neo Ouija releases.  I started to chat with Lee on the old Neo Ouija bulletin board and I got to participate in one of the Cottage Industries compilations (under my old artist name random noise productions) and was readying an album of my own for the label. Of course I was disappointed when Lee decided to close up shop in 2005 –  he had decided to spend more time with his kids and the collapse of some major distributors didn’t help either. However, we staid in touch and started to work on some music together. In 2008, we finally decided to give Neo Ouija another shot, with me at the helm and Lee in a more laid-back role. My inspiration remains the same as Lee’s – help good music get heard. Luckily, we both have similar definitions of good.

Igloo :: Who were some of your initial artist relations and did your location help or hinder progress?

Neo Ouija :: I live in Weimar, a small German town in the middle of nowhere, but we are lucky to have a thriving scene for electronic music, thanks to the neighboring city of Jena with its Freude Am Tanzen label and associated club and record shop. Of course, it’s all focussed on House and Techno, but even for the more left field artists there’s plenty of opportunities to play out which helps new artists develop their music in a live setting. Most of my Neo Ouija-related work happens online though.

In a way, I didn’t have to start Neo Ouija from scratch since there was a back catalogue of 30 releases when I relaunched the label – on the other hand, I had no contact to most of those artists back then. Getting in touch with them was important to be able to offer them a chance to re-release their albums digitally, so I had to do some research and track them down. I decided to restart the label with a massive 2CD compilation that spanned the classic sound of the label but would also pave the way for new directions. I asked friends to contribute unreleased tracks, so Move D, Benjamin Brunn and Kangding Ray donated some tracks along with future and returning Neo Ouija artists.

Igloo :: What were some of the challenges (if any) starting up a label? …and how did you envision the label to stand apart?

Neo Ouija :: Apart from braving German bureaucracy finding physical distribution was tough. Even though we finally found distribution it was a pretty lackluster affair on their part, so I ditched our worldwide distributor again after finding out worldwide meant on their webpage. Working directly with record stores and small national distributors is a lot more rewarding, but in the end we are going the route of digital-only releases for now. I’m looking forward to one-off handmade CD and vinyl issues in 2012 though. Neo Ouija doesn’t consciously wish to stand apart, just managing to honestly present some quality music and getting those artists some exposure (and gigs, hopefully), is enough. If there’s a common thread in our releases that’s great, but I’m the wrong guy to ask about that. :)

Neo Ouija doesn’t consciously wish to stand apart, just managing to honestly present some quality music and getting those artists some exposure…

Igloo :: What is your motivation in keeping the label moving forward into the next decade?

Neo Ouija :: Well, I still have to actually meet Lee in the real world – it’s funny, we even recorded an album together this year but have never actually met. So, meeting the guy who actually founded the label is a driving force in keeping it going. Well, once we go on tour together as Norken + Deer it’s bound to happen! Seriously though, I do have a rather relaxed release schedule, so it’s an easy gig to keep the label afloat for the time being.

Igloo :: Tell us more about how you (and your staff?) take the label’s “sound” to the listeners and fans. Distribution, campaigns, live shows, word of mouth etc.

Neo Ouija :: That can be a tough nut for labels in our niche since there’s a perceived overabundance of electronic music. In the end, artists have to prove themselves in live settings, that’s been true for music throughout most of history, so it can’t be wrong for electronic music. As a label, it’s our job to help foster an artists talent and help them promote their music, but since this is a nonprofit endeavor our resources are definitely limited. With the Honey Sacrifice album Nights in Columbus we even released a free album, unfortunately that resonated less than a paid digital release. I admire labels that offer their artists the carefree all-in-one package of booking, promotion and publishing, but our focus is on helping to spread the music, no strings attached.

For more info about Neo Ouija, visit their website at

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