German house music producer Oliver $ (pronounced “Oliver Dollar”), né Oliver Siebert, was born and grew up in the north of Germany before moving to Berlin. He started out as a protégé of his cousin, techno doyen Jan Driver, recording tracks in his bedroom and DJing in local clubs. He originally went by the name of Oliver S, but changed the S to a dollar sign at the suggestion of a friend who thought it would make him stand out more. His first release was the Poor Boy EP on Grand Petrol in 2005. Two years later he worked with Jesse Rose on the single “Wake Up” on Made to Play; it was to be the start of a fruitful collaboration with Rose, on whose Play It Down label Oliver would go on to release many of his records. His first big hit was in 2011 with “Doin’ Ya Thang.” A minimalist DJ tool originally created just for dropping into his sets, the track became an unexpected runaway success, going to number one on the influential Beatport Top 100 and staying there for an astonishing five weeks. However, it generated some controversy for its extensive and unlicensed vocal samples of Kenny Dixon, Jr., aka Moodymann. The hit tracks “Granulated Soul” and “Hoes” followed, as well as a number of popular remixes. In 2013 Oliver met Swiss producer Jimi Jules, with whom he released the Earl EP on Hive Audio. Their follow-up, the funky and soulful “Pushing On,” was a hit across Europe, giving him his second Beatport number one.
What made you go with the name Oliver Dollar?
Thinking of a name is actually really hard. Obviously my first name is Oliver, which I wanted to keep, and I just thought the $ sign looked wicked next to it. I like the look on flyers and I wanted to keep it simple – and of course making some dollar. Since everybody started going on Facebook and social networks though I’ve had to change it slightly, so it’s a written dollar, as you can’t search the $ sign on Google.
how did you initially get into music?
I used to work at a record store buying vinyl. I’ve always had an interest in buying music, in particular all the older records, and I suppose that’s where my love of sampling has come from. I met Jesse Rose whilst I was working in Berlin and he asked me to come on tour with him as his tour manager – at the time I barely spoke any English which was kind of funny and I was the worst tour manager ever! Whilst we were at one of the shows, I decided to play an after party instead of sorting his stuff out for the next gig. That’s when we both realised I’m a much better DJ than I am tour manager!
So, Oliver, how “black” is your soul? 🙂 Based on your music output you could pass as a “black” artist from NY, Chicago or Detroit, who has an ear for classic house music as well as funk, soul and jazz.
In general, I love all kinds of music. At the moment I dig very deep for fusion jazz from the 70’s. There are still loads of samples unused out there and I still try to use these in my own production.
Who were artists that have influenced your taste in music? There were some great house producers in Germany in the 90’s, but you sound very American.
That’s right, my roots are in Chicago house as well as Detroit techno from the 90’s, the golden era of electronic music. And of course my hometown Berlin has shaped my sound, too.
I love what you did with Rufus Thomas’ chant from historic Wattstax festival gig on “Ain’t I’m Clean”. Tell us a bit more about working on this one.
That was a title session in Los Angeles with my mate Brillstein, who showed me the Wattstax documentary. If I still remember this correctly it took us one night to create the original and another one for the dub version, where Brillstein came up with this funky guitar licks. Shortly after that, it got pressed on a 10” vinyl.
Let’s say you get a chance to create a live band and you can pick up to five top musicians, be it dead or alive. Who’d be in your all-stars group?
Interesting question. I mean, we’re all dreaming to go in the studio with our heroes like Roy Ayers, Bob James (author’s note: you might know him as a producer of a theme song for iconic TV series Taxi), Stevie Wonder, George Clinton and jazz legend Ahmad Jamal. That would be actually a sick band!
This season Cirkus already hosted Erick Morillo, Sonny Fodera, The Magician and Klangkuenstler is coming after you. Where does your selection fit in this constellation?
I would probably say expect some quality house and even techno tunes, the whole spectrum. I don’t really like to be reduced to one style. I pretty much play what I like, so expect the unexpected.
What were the best-spent 100 dollars (marks or euros) in your life?
Ha! That was my Roland TR606 I bought for 100 marks in the late 90’s.
You’ve had some taste of Adriatic festivals action (Hideout, Barrakud, Defected). Do parties in this region in any way stand out?
I like these Adriatic festivals. Production wise they are the same as parties in Ibiza or Miami and they are held in amazing part of the world for spending summer holidays.
What would you do if you weren’t a DJ & producer? What do you also excel at?
I’m a passionate chef and I love cooking for my friends but as a job, it’s pretty hectic so I’m glad that’s just a hobby.
Anything new you’re working on and we should be aware of?
There’re a few upcoming remixes and my artist album in the pipeline – and of course soon even more to come.