“No beat is ever too hard”. Ahl Iver is on the verge of breaking through

Pictures by Olivier Nelen

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Ahead of his contribution to EXHALE’s VA002 compilation, Amelie Lens’ star student is eager to introduce the world to his hard and dark techno.

Thunderous kick drums, fast acidic sequences, and hard-hitting rave stabs is what Ahl Iver is all about. Oliver Maes (fun fact: Oliver spelt phonetically is Ahl Iver) has a big heart for fast-paced kickdrums, and that’s what made him stand out between the thousands of demos in Amelie Lens’ mailbox. The Antwerp-native has already dropped two EPs on Lenske Recordings, and a new track is scheduled on the new EXHALE compilation this week. If you like your techno ruthless, look no further.

LENSKE helped me professionalize my sound from an early stage.

How did you get in touch with Amelie?

“She must have been the first one who heard my Ahl Iver tracks. When I responded to her call for demos, I never thought she would reply, but I had nothing to lose either. I had only been producing for a few months before she started playing some of my music. At that point, I had already messed about with different sounds, but I was ready to take my career more seriously. We continued to send each other music back and forth, and in 2019, she asked me to release my debut vinyl EP on Lenske. I released another one earlier in 2021, and I guess that won’t be the last one”.

Is Amelie someone who helps you with your production? How does the cooperation work exactly?

"She doesn't just help me in the studio. She helps me with everything! I'm getting more and more booking and media requests, and I never respond before hearing what she has to say about it. Farrago (EXHALE and Lenske co-owner, ed) too gave me loads of useful production tips I now apply in the studio every day. They helped me professionalize my sound from an early stage. It's quite incredible what they have done for me, and I'm extremely grateful for that".

I'm someone who always looks for the extremes in music.

Your music can be categorized as the harder and darker type of techno. What is it that draws you to that sound?

"I'm someone who always looks for the extremes in music. Before I made music, I was into hardcore and hard dance. Nothing was ever too hard for me; maybe that rule still applies today (laughs). I need to hear the power, you know. I can’t really describe it any other way”.

In general, techno nowadays seems to take a turn to those darker styles. How do you feel about that trend?

“I love it. Not just as an artist who makes that type of music, but as a raver too. I love the fact that I can go out in my hometown and dance to those dark kicks and basslines every weekend (Hard Harder Hardst and Slagveld at Club Vaag are great examples). It wasn’t always like that. You had to go to Rotterdam or Berlin for that until recently. Nowadays, there are a lot more opportunities in Belgium for artists with that sound. As it’s still a relatively small scene, many young artists and DJs like me get cool bookings. It’s just great to see it all happen in front of me and be a part of it. There are always going to be purists who want everything to stay the same, but I don’t let that get to me”.

2020 was going to be your breakthrough year, but then everything got shut down. How do you feel about that missed start now that we’re slowly crawling out of this pandemic?

"At first, I had a hard time accepting all those cancellations. There were some very cool bookings I was dying to play. Then again, I was lucky I didn't fully depend on DJ-ing for my income yet. I was still in school when it started, and I have a job now, which helped me put things into perspective. As the first new bookings are coming in again, I only feel relief that I'm picking things up where I left them. The first gig is scheduled for July in Sheffield. After that, there's a lot more I can’t tell you about yet. Excitement is an understatement (laughs)”!