Interview: Martin Haidinger (Gimmik)


Our today’s guest Martin Haidinger was part of a scene known as Braindance, Electronica, Bleep Techno, and the much hated IDM term. His main productions were released under the name of Gimmik, but he also released tracks as Num Num, Marvin Kirk, Low Profile Society, and many others. Together with Chris Cunningham (no, not the video artist!) he ran the Toytronic label. After a very long break he released a record Entre les chambres available via n5MD, and we got a chance for an interview.

1. You have disappeared for a very long time. Why did you stop releasing music, and why was Toytronic shut down?

First, I have to point out that everything I say in this interview is totally subjective. It is all just my personal vision and interpretation of things. I am talking about a time that was nearly 20 years ago. In order to answer that question it is important to understand why we started the label.

We started Toytronic basically as a platform that enabled us to release our own material, and music of other artists we liked. It gave us the chance to create our own tiny universe. We could be creative without asking anyone for permission. I think that is the main reason for most labels to get started, that is nothing special. But there was nobody involved in the label who was really a businessman. I guess that is nothing special either. [laughing!]

It would have been good, if we had someone involved who saw the business perspective, and who had a strong interest in it. The business side was something that didn’t really interest us very much. We had a lack of interest in the business side and did not see any importance in that. We were interested in the releases, we were interested in the production, design and the whole creative part of a record label. That was what interested us. But you can not run a record label with just the artistic side. You have to have someone who is looking after the business as well, and that was our weak spot. That sounds like the Factory Records story! [laughing!] That overtook us at a certain time. Chris got very tired, he was the one who looked after the business side, and he had enough of it. I never really liked it either. The very repetitive business process you get with every new release is very boring. This was the time when we both knew it would not go on forever.

The other thing is that I decided to move back to Austria. Back to Basics was already recorded in Austria. I simply was homesick. If you are used to living in a big city you might like it. If you are born in this busy environment, you don’t know anything else, it's normal for you – but for me it wasn’t, I’m a countryside person. In order to realize that, I needed the experience of big city life. [laughing!] Do not get me wrong, I had a great time in London! It was the right thing to be there, I just could not go on forever.

Toytronic always was a partnership of 2 people. More than that, a friendship. And there was a secret 3rd member! Running a record label and living in two different locations didn’t make things very easy. Back in Austria, I locked myself away for some time. I didn’t even have an Internet connection, so we could not “skype” or have online sessions. Abfahrt Hinwil for example, was a project we did together. That was something we could not do separately. We visited each other, but that’s not the same. Luckily our friendship is still very strong. Chris helped me a lot with my new studio, and I am very thankful for his friendship!

The third reason leads me to a question. A question that I kept asking myself more and more often, “Why am I doing this?” When an artist starts asking that question it simply indicates that you need a break. It is dangerous because it kills all your creative energy. I understood that there was a world outside of that music bubble, and I was curious. During that break I met my wife, and we started a family. I had a normal job and children – things just changed. And then things changed again. In 2019 I recorded the current album that’s out now on n5MD. I was lucky enough that Mike (n5MD) liked the album and it got released.

2. What motivated you to come back?

That wasn’t a conscious decision, it happened. I try to explain. The title Entre les chambres means Between two rooms, the space that is between two rooms. Nowhere! That is how I felt when I started recording the album. In my personal life I did not know where I was going. Now I think it was very important, it made us stronger as a family. But during that time it was very hard. I started producing just for myself, a form of meditation, if you want. I just needed something that calmed me down and I started producing ambient tracks. It helped me to cope with all the stress. I had something I could concentrate on – when you are producing, you are focused just on what you are doing, that really helps. And then when it's ambient – it's just very relaxing. I think it is the most personal record. When I was finished I was happy with the result. Chris motivated me to share my music with others again, and so the idea of Hidden Reality [as a label to publish a release] was born. When the tapes were out, I got in contact with Mike Cadoo from n5MD, and he gave me the chance to release an album again. Thank you Mike!

3. Is there any chance you continue your collaboration project Abfahrt Hinwil?

There is a chance, yes, but I do not want to promise anything. As I mentioned before, we are living in two different locations... We are not sure about the workflow yet... it is definitely something I would love to do.

4. Have your music preferences changed in any way since most of your releases came out?

The music that I personally listen to? No, not really. The importance has! When I was younger I was always listening to as much music as I could. I did not want to miss anything great. When it comes to genres, I have always been all over the place. I have never been a person who is limited to one certain genre. I think you miss out when you limit your music taste. It would not allow me to listen to Kind Of Blue by Miles Davis for example. That would be a big loss! I am way too curious. I was never really listening only to electronic music, I was always interested in everything there was. Starting from classical to punk records. What makes music interesting is a strong emotional aspect – the genre doesn’t matter to me. I do not see myself as a proper musician in a classical way. I admire music by real musicians. When you obtain mastership over your instrument, that is when the magic of real art starts. Chris, for example, he is a trained musician, he can play the piano. All the complicated parts that we did in Abfahrt Hinwil came from him. Making music without the need of electricity or technology demonstrates an aspect of freedom I have never achieved. [laughing!]

Let us go back to your question. I don’t listen to music so much anymore. That has changed, but not the preferences. During the active Toytronic days we were buying records on a regular basis. We spent a lot of time in record shops researching. Everything from Classical to Jazz. But also current productions of that time, current Drum’N’Bass productions and Techno. Didn't I just say something about music without the need of technology, and now I mention Techno? [laughing!] Let me try again. [laughing!] We bought everything that reflected a strong emotional aspect. If a piece of music is able to move you, if it makes you stop what you’re just doing at the moment, then it reflects aspects of yourself. I think that is what makes me connect with a piece of music. It doesn’t matter where it's coming from or who is playing it, or what the genre is.

5. Do you believe in a revival of the IDM music? If you do, what could help resurrect it, according to you?

Why are we all still using this term? Intelligent Dance Music? What is intelligent and danceable about it? A horrible description. Let’s have a revival, but not under that name. [laughing!]

I am not able to predict anything, but let us have a look at what is happening at this very moment. Now we live in a completely different world from the early 90’s. We are living in a completely different environment and social situation. The way I see it, when it comes to music, the listener is not interested to explore the unknown anymore! It has become very important to consume music without any effort. As soon something sounds different it gets switched off. Of course that has always been the case, but not as strong as today. There seems to be no hunger for something new! Listen to current productions on the radio. We lost interest to explore. Compare that to the pop charts in the early eighties. In 1981 you had Laurie Anderson with O Superman leading the UK Charts at Number One!!! That would be absolutely impossible today! But exploring plays a major part in what you call IDM. I can not see any musical rebellion against established music at the moment. To me IDM was the counterpoint of European Techno and Rave Culture.

Another aspect are the instruments. In the early 90’s it was hard to get your hands on good machines – they were all gone. If anyone had something special, they wouldn’t give them away anymore. There was all this digital stuff around, but it was very hard to get good machinery for little money. Especially when you wanted analog devices. You had to be very creative in order to achieve interesting results. You had to know your equipment very well. Maybe I was the only one making this experience, but that is how I experienced it. If you just had one machine… and you could not afford anything else. That is how I produced Load-Error, I had a sampler with just 4 MB, a 101 and a little DJ-mixer. I had to use my headphones as a microphone. [laughing!] I hardly had any equipment. That makes you very creative. You start exploring! Everything up until TOY 4 was produced with that small set up. When Chris moved in it was synth heaven all of a sudden. [laughing!]

Today you can get software for free to produce music. Yes, that was possible in the early 90s too, but the results were horrible. Now everybody has access to free plugins that produce sounds with high quality. Everybody has a computer that is powerful enough to run that software. That was not the case in the early 90s either. If I look at my own studio at the moment, I feel extremely spoilt.

It is very strange, how nowadays everything is accessible, but it is nearly impossible to generate an unheard sound. That sounds like a lame excuse, let me explain. [laughing!] When you look at music history, every time there was a new instrument, a new genre was born. When all of a sudden guitars got amplified, and you got a distorted guitar sound, you had rock’n’roll. When synthesizers were available for everybody, that is what made Kraftwerk possible. And so on. It seems that new instruments always helped to create a new style of music. The instruments themselves always changed the sound of music. But now…

The last 15 years the whole industry only focused on replicating something vintage. You get a digital version of 101, JX-3P and a Juno 106. They sound great, but those are not new machines, they are replicas. They only emulate a sound that has been there before. That reflects into the music we hear today.

6. Which of your albums would you consider significant and recommend to the listeners as an introduction to your music?

Every piece of music I ever recorded represents a constantly changing perspective of the same thing. Myself. I think that reflects a process one could describe as a search for identity. Maybe it is something completely different. I do not know. This makes it hard to answer that question. My friends would mention Rhythmus der Stadt and Back To Basics. I can not say if they are significant, that judgement is up to the listener. [laughing!] If you like Ambient and you are stressed out, then listen to the current album on n5MD. It really depends on the mood you are in.

7. The influence of electro is noticeable in your music. Which electro projects do you consider the most influential?

When I started making music as a teenager the main influences were the obvious ones: Kraftwerk and others from that time. Later German New Wave acts like Der Plan, Pyrolator, Palais Schaumburg and Holger Hiller interested me a lot. Not just German acts, I really liked “Devo” and "The Residents" as well. This kind of music started my interest in electronic instruments. Before I was playing guitar in a thrash metal band. [laughing!] In the late 80’s I started researching the early 80’s and the post punk era. But I was behind! It was something that happened in the past, and I was producing music from the past. Minimal Wave…

Listening to Frequencies by LFO made a big change. It was a radio special about LFO and the Warp label. All of a sudden something happened that was current. It had the same punk vibe like the post punk records I loved so much. “Frequencies” was th first Warp record I’ve ever bought. This was the steppingstone.

Another album I kept playing over and over again was Dimension Intrusion by F.U.S.E. But if you want to pin it down to one album, about which I could say “This is the very first thing that I witnessed from that scene” – it was definitely Frequences by LFO. Simon from Sydney – that was the track from that album that I played over and over again.

8. What were your first synthesizers?

The first equipment I had was a Roland TR-606 and a Roland JX-3P – when I realised that you can sync them up, I was completely over the moon. The fabulous discovery of DIN Sync.[laughing!] All that I had was those two machines and the 4-track “Tascam 234 Syncaset” and a few pedals. This is how I started making music.

9. Would you like to share the setup of your former Toytronic studio?

Sure. The center of it all was a Yamaha O2R Mixing Console which was integrated with our main PC. The connection was made through a patch bay. I still work that way. All inputs and outputs of every machine were on that patchbay.

Here is a list of the machines i remember:

Ensoniq ASR 10 (main sampler)


Roland SH-101

Roland MC-202

Roland TR-606

Roland JD-800


Yamaha TX-81Z

Clavia Nord Lead 2

Access Virus Indigo

Elektron SidStation Ninja Black

A couple of passive Tannoy Reveal (red)

and some FX Units in rack format I can not remember...

10. What kind of current music technology seems attractive to you?

I was very late with Eurorack. So it is quite new to me. Eurorack modules were already available during our Toytronic days. I didn’t get the point of Eurorack. I just judged the results I heard. I didn’t understand it, until I started using it myself. A modular system seems to have a life of its own, and you always end up somewhere completely different from what you thought you would do. Like an experiment.

11. How do you define an experiment?

To me an experiment needs some preparation. Like an experiment in physics. First there is a question. “What happens if?” So your experiment has a plan. You have to prepare your ingredients. For me an experiment is looking for an answer, a result. This brings us back to modular. You have to think before you start patching, you roughly have to know what each module does, and you have your question. “What happens if?” Every experiment contains some sort of vision or expectation of outcome. A modular system is great for experiments because it always gives different results from your expectations. To me an experiment is nothing random. It would mean there is no question, no expectation about the result or outcome, just chaos. I tried complete random patches, by patching with my eyes closed. The results did not even produce a sound. [laughing!] 

12. What is the main idea behind the Hidden Reality label? Could you predict some future of it?

Hidden Reality is a sharing platform.  Something that’s very accessible. The main platform for HR is the Youtube channel. Maybe here and there will be a few tapes, we have not decided yet. At the moment there is that one single tape. It is a platform to share our visual and musical ideas with other people. I can not predict the future! [laughing!] 

13. Will you release more Gimmik albums?

There is a lot of new material. The current album has been released, there is the second part of it, which is now finished. It is an ambient album as well. Entre les chambres was always a two part album from the very beginning. There is also new material for a Gimmik album, which sounds more like something you remember from (Back to Basics) or Rhythmus der Stadt. Something in between those two, but matured.

14. What can you tell about the track you prepared for this interview?

It was an experiment. I tried to emulate a live situation. I gave myself 15 Minutes of preparation. I decided just to use my modular system and started patching. The main output went into a small analog mixing console. The only additional FX I used is the Big Sky. The Thunder Storm came from an older recording of the MixPre3, and I chose to play some of the tape that was already in my Tascam 234. The main out of the mixer went directly into the PC. The first take is what you hear on the recording, no make up.