Online DJ mixes may be disposable but Rotterdam techno stalwart Speedy J reckons they’re worth more than that, which is why he’s putting out an epic vinyl set of mixes from his EDLX podcast. We called him to find out whether he’s crazy — or is actually onto something good...
It’s impossible to deny. Music is cheap in the 21st century. The net has changed the playing field. What once required you to physically go to a shop and lay down your hard-earned money to acquire has become free from the comfort of your own home. Whether it’s legit free downloads, pirate ZIP files that turn up with your first Google search, or a veritable ocean of gratis DJ mixes masquerading as podcasts, it’s easier than ever to get any music you want for nothing. But another consequence is the sheer sonic overload.
There’s so much that it’s almost impossible to keep abreast of it. Part of an attention deficit culture, here one minute, forgotten the next, mp3s are transient and evaporate in the memory to be replaced by the next buzz hit.
DIGITAL TO VINYL
But there are some who aren’t part of the problem. Some who are looking for ways to fight back against the tide and make music mean something again. ‘Electric Deluxe 100’ is the sprawling, somewhat quixotic new release from Rotterdam’s famed techno don Speedy J — whose career stretches well over 20 years and includes seminal releases for everyone from Warp to Plus 8, R&S, Novamute, Rekids and CLR — and his Electric Deluxe label.
Spread over eight sides of vinyl it does the weird, perhaps unprecedented thing of pressing up a selection of the best guest mixes from Speedy’s fortnightly EDLX podcast, then presents them to be listened to in sequence as a continuous whole.
While most of us download podcast mixes from our favourite DJs, consume them and move on to the next freebie as it comes along, Speedy(realnameJochemPaap)wantstogivethemusic from his podcast shows a little more longevity. But on vinyl? Is he crazy?
“What was the thinking behind it? There was no thinking! It was a stupid idea, to put a podcast on vinyl!” laughs Jochem from his HQ. “With these 100 podcast episodes — we’re at 106 right now — throughouttheyears,therehavebeensomanydiscoverable things in the broadcasts, even though I am pretty well informed about music, I have a pretty big collection, in every episode there are things that I haven’t heard about, music that was never really on my radar. It’s a great place for discovery. And since it’s timeless you can still go back to old episodes and discover things that are relevant today. I wanted to do something that has the same quality, and also a bit of the archival quality. So I wanted to do something physical
The EDLX podcast from which the new release is culled began in 2009. Speedy is known for a genuinely varied discography that touches on everything from lush ambient to raw loopy techno, minimal, thundering house and florid electronica and a similarly open-minded attitude is invested in the podcast. Inviting the best names in underground techno onto the show as guests, with everyone from Black Dog to Vatican Shadow, Adam X, Chris Liebing, Luke Slater and Surgeon appearing, the EDLX podcast asks them to create a mix for the show.
The only remit is to avoid the obvious and the current contents of their vinyl bags or USB sticks, and to dig a little deeper, show the roots of their own musical identity to make something designed to stand the test of time. Or indeed for more than a cursory listen. “People know from following me as an artist that I have a wider scope of interesting music,” concurs Speedy. “But the thing is, most of the people who followed us when we started the podcast were pretty much following because of the techno-oriented output.
We are sticking to the names or the guests that these followers are familiar with, and then try to put them in a different context, revealing this other side that they have when they select music without any restriction, any borders. I think by now we are getting to the stage where the podcast has its own group of followers who really appreciate discovering something new every two weeks. People who appreciate the fact that they will be surprised. I see a lot of people following us who are outside the techno domain, or who are interested in a broader spectrum of music.”
Jochem’s decided to commit these special mixes to wax because he considers them worth preserving. It’s an admirable idea, if a bit bonkers. Whether it will catch on is anyone’s guess.
What is certain is that as an article a record has more permanence and by putting these mixes out physically, Speedy gives them a sense of worth. “Have mixes become disposable? Of course. In the podcast, I’m a tiny bit responsible for that myself, but that’s just the way music is consumed these days. I don’t think by not making a podcast we would make a difference,” he admits. “I do think, yes, it’s very hard to keep up with the enormous wave of information and music that comes to you over time. It loses value a little bit. It’s a way to make it more lasting, to give it back some kind of value.
I’m not a vinyl purist and I’m not a digital purist either. I can see a reason to make use of both. But of course there is a ritual to unpacking a record and putting it on a turntable and flipping it around when it’s done. That’s part of the listening experience, so I think for this kind of music, adding that vinyl record-playing ritual to the experience is probably a valuable thing.”
EDLX is shorthand for Electric Deluxe, the name Speedy J also lends to his label and club-nights. It began as an event series with the label boss and DJ carefully curating the line-ups, as well as playing the nights himself. The philosophy for the events and the label has always been for artists to be able to express themselves as they see fit in a convivial atmosphere of like-minded souls.
“We always make sure that everyone is as welcome and comfortable as they can possibly be, so they can shine and flourish. Thrive in the circumstances. I know as an artist that to really do your best, you have to be in the right context in the right place at the right time, so that’s what we try to create with our events. It’s really for everybody involved. Those are
important factors. That’s true for the label as well. I don’t have a particular sound that I want to promote. They are told, do whatever you want, do what you support yourself, I’m not going to intervene with the music. If I like it I’ll release it, if I don’t like it I’ll shelve it. I don’t have any traditions that they have to meet to be on the label, I just want them to be themselves and I want authentic material.”
new releases forthcoming from hot names like Manchester bass techno duo AnD (“their stuff is techno, but sometimes they do more half-step kind of stuff, more d&b tempo. It’s very industrial and noisy, aggressive”) and Berlin team Sawlin & Subjected, as well as forthcoming material from label regular Black Asteroid.
Right now he’s focusing on preparing more Electric Deluxe club-nights. They’ve recently expanded abroad and done shows in France and Switzerland as well as in their base of Holland, and we’re promised more in the new year. But Jochem’s main concern is his next album, which he’s been hard at work on for a while and which will see the light of day in 2014. How does such a prolific artist stay inspired? Does he find making music easy?
“Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s horrible, a struggle,” he says. “It’s like every artist I guess. Sometimes you ship them out like it’s no effort and other times you get stuck and you can’t really find your groove. I don’t think it’s easy but I really enjoy it, and that’s why I do it. It’s something I really need in my life. I like playing out, I love to play in clubs or festivals, but I couldn’t live without also spending time in the studio as well.”rather than putting it online.”