Label Love #38: Speedy J & Electric Deluxe
Electric Deluxe is the label founded by Dutch techno ambassador Speedy J. Originally set up to allow Speedy an outlet for his own productions, the label has since gone on to offer a home to everything from Gary Beck's hissing, dubbed-out techno, to Perc's simmering beat thuggery. With a reputation for deep, underground production, and a commitment to keeping things innovative as well as dancefloor friendly, the label has racked up an increasingly tasty back catalogue, Now they've got an EP of militant remixes coming up, as well as some long anticipated new solo material from Speedy himself on it's way, so it seemed like the perfect time for a catch up –
You started the Electric Deluxe in 2008, which, considering the state of the market at the time, seems a slightly odd time to jump into running a label.
Haha well, yeah, maybe. I’d had labels before in the early and mid ‘90s. At some point I was releasing stuff on Novemute and several other labels, and it was quite easy for me to work as an artist because everything was taken care of, they would handle everything.
Then the time came when I thought it would be good to create a brand of my own. It was mainly driven by the fact I was playing a lot of gigs where I thought the line ups or the times where I was playing, or the selection of artists I was playing in between could have been better organised. So it was basically driven by creating an events series. That was in 2007/2008, and I set up the label at the same time to make a connection between the two. I work with artists that I like, and program them on events – it creates a context around how I think a label and events should be curated. The two go hand in hand
What was going wrong on the bills you were being put on?
It wasn’t really that bad, usually it was ok. But if you tour for a long time and you appear on other peoples events all the time there are always little things that you think could have better, whether it’s the way the artist handling is taken care of, or the sound, or the flow of the night. Programming a night, it’s not rocket science if you know what you’re doing, but a lot of promoters are focusing on, y’know, what they can put on the bill. The idea is usually, ‘if I put this artist on the bill along with this then I’ll sell a lot of tickets’, but they don’t really think how the artists will relate to each other, and how they’ll complement each other. I thought there was a little room for improvement, and that’s still our main focus. There are other labels that do label nights around the label boss, and its all context around them to make them look bigger, but that’s not what we do – I sometimes play the small room while I give the other people the main room – whatever works for that night is our focus. It’s not about me, it’s about every artist being equally important- they should be given the spotlight to shine and flourish.
You have been doing this for such a long time, you’ve had a big influence on shaping techno – do you think the people you’re bringing in our pushing the sounds into new directions in the same way you did in the early 90s? Is that even possible?
Yeah, of course! Music is always a personal opinion, and every human has their own take on it, and some divert further form the mainstream than others.
I mean I never look back myself, I still try to look into territories that I haven’t got a clue about, and try and throw myself in at the deep end to see what happens. I’ve got some new music coming out, I haven’t released stuff for a while, other than in collaborations. As long as it’s uncharted territory, and I don’t have an idea where it’s going, usually that’s where cool things happen, that’s where I get my satisfaction.
What do your new tracks sound like?
It’s all over the place (laughs). I use a lot of technology I’m not familiar with, because that always creates exciting moments. If you’re in a band you can feed off other people, you can create an atmosphere where ideas explode all around you, so I try to treat my equipment like a second band member – I give it a certain degree of randomness, or freedom, using unexpected chains and hook ups between gear, just experimenting then feeding off that randomness. I’ve got a pretty big collection of gear that I’ve accumulated over the years. I still go back to the machines I haven’t touched for a while and find something completely new, because you approach them differently. I’m still buying a lot of gear and switching between working methods.
Have you got a favourite bit of kit?
Well, as with everyone these days, I’m building a lot of modular stuff, that kind of approach is really good for me right now. I mean I’m not a real gear head – I only acquire something when I think it’s good for me, not because it’s limited or cool or collectable or whatever. When I DJ I’ve been playing using a separate drum machine that I program live, alongside my DJ set up. Even the DJ set up I don’t use in a standard way, where your mixing records from A to B – I use 4 decks and I only use loops and bits that I’ve created myself, creating a new track out of all these things running in sync. I’ve tried a really traditional DJ approach, but I kinda feel naked, or even that I’m cheating, because it’s so easy, y’know just playing other peoples records. I need to manipulate something and give my signature to it to feel comfortable.
So what do you look for for tracks to release on Electric Deluxe?
It’s driven by gut feeling, if there’s something I’ll like I’ll put it out, and if I don’t I won’t. It’s a matter of taste, and it should have some relevance for the label, it should contribute to the overall sound and image of the label, but I don’t really have requirements for artists. I’d rather have them stick their neck out and do something different that stick to the rest of the catalogue.
Can you give me an example of one of your artists who has done something different?
Yeah, I think that the EP we did for Arad. He’s just started a solo project for Electric Deluxe and he’s really looking for his own sound, and not looking to other people and trying to sound like something, he’s developing his own vocabulary and I really support that approach.
How easy it for your artists to make a living from the vinyl? Is it possible?
I don’t see running a label as a record selling business – it’s a promotional tool. We do well with the label, we break even or we make a little bit of money, but it’s just a way to create context around the brand and the ideas you have. I think it’s still very feasible to run the label, and you create a sound or an image, and for me it’s very important to continue.
What have you got coming up in the future?
We’ve got this remix package from AnD coming up, with mixes by JK Flash, Ontario Hospital, Black Rain and Zeitgeber. It’s a pretty varied selection of rough stuff. And in the fall we’ll be releasing Giorgio Gigli’s debut album. We’ve got some other tracks coming but I can’t tell you what!
Have you ever thought about revisiting your track from Plus 8, Minimal, it’s amazing…
Ha, well it’s funny because I bumped into Josh Wink the other day when I was travelling and he said the same thing – he told me he was playing it again and that it worked really well on the dancefloor. I was surprised when this whole minimal phase was happening in techno with Minus and Richie Hawtin and everything – actually that track sounds like minimal-
I think it’s got more energy than most minimal – it bangs! Have you thought about doing more drum tracks?
Yeah, of course. The stuff I’ve been working on varies from that sort of thing to things that aren’t fitting into any category, really fast crazy drumming, and also really droney stuff. It’s pretty much all over the place, you’ll hear it when it comes out…!
AnD – Cosmic Microwave Background Parts 1&2, with remixes by Zeitgeber, Sleeparchive & O/H, JK Flesh, and Black Rain is coming soon. Both are available from Electric Deluxe
You can listen to the Electric Deluxe podcast here