Published in: zweikommasieben Magazin #15
Interstellar Funk - In The Right Place At The Right Time
The electronic music business is flourishing in Amsterdam and nightlife became an integral part of how the city is perceived from the outside. On the inside, a night mayor is taking care of mediation between the city government and the scene. The Netherland’s quality standards become apparent in Amsterdam’s musical institutions, too. Dekmantel, Rush Hour or De School are vital businesses that attract as much tourists as they remaining important places for locals. A professional, open and including concept seems to be at work. The DJ and producer Olf Van Elden aka Interstellar Funk is closely interwoven with the mentioned institutions: not only is he resident at De School, but also released records on Dekmantel and Rush Hour – next to releases on labels like L.I.E.S or Berceuse Heroique – and has been part of the city’s nightlife since his teenage years.
Mathis Neuhaus: You just came back from playing in Tbilisi, Georgia. What is your opinion about the scene there?
Olf Van Elden: I find it pretty interesting that the nightlife scene in Georgia, especially in Tbilisi, is so recent, but already so well established. They have four or five solid clubs there and all of them try to leave their mark on the scene, Bassiani or Mtkvarze for example. I played for a collective called Vodkast at the latter. They run the only record store in Tbilisi and just started two years ago. They also started a festival which celebrates its fifth birthday this year. Also, they began doing a Podcast where the name Vodkast found its origin. At some point, they went on doing club nights, too. They, among others, keep the scene in Tbilisi pretty busy.
MN: But I guess this is still pretty low-key compared to Amsterdam that is – as a nightlife city – crazy professional.
OvE: That is definitely true. Tbilisi is a pretty rough and seen from its nightlife’s perspective a somehow undeveloped environment. Nightlife in the Netherlands on the other hand started back in the 1980s in Amsterdam, so it goes a long way already.
MN: Do you think the scene in Amsterdam is lacking something because of its professionality?
OvE: How the mayor is accepting the whole nightlife scene with the 24-hour licenses for clubs and how hard drugs are handled in regards of possibilities to have them tested is pretty advanced. But still: I think, for example, that Amsterdam could do with a few smaller clubs, besides all these finely tuned big ones. So it is obviously always possible to improve things, also in Amsterdam.
MN: I am aware that it is a difficult word to use without talking about a proper definition first, if there even is one, but do you think that by accepting this professionalization the «Underground» gets swallowed?
OvE: This may be true in a way, but I think that the music that is on show in the city still largely caters to the so-called underground. It may be difficult to call it that though, if you fill a club with 1 500 people or sell out a festival with 50 000. But if you take a look at what these institutions do, Dekmantel or De School for example, it seems like they figured out a way to represent the best of both worlds. I am pretty sure that a lot of the people that go to Dekmantel are going for the bigger names and maybe never even heard of the smaller artists, but in the process, they may get familiar with them and expand their horizons.
MN: We talked about Georgia and it seems like you have a connection to Eastern Europe: you get booked there quite regularly and you play some of the music from that region in your radio show on Red Light Radio.
OvE: I don’t know if this is a conscious connection or decision. With the radio show, I usually try to play music that is detached from the club and relatively unknown. I also focus more on darker sounds, a lot of it from the 80s. There is a pretty interesting musical history to the Eastern part of Europe. Every time I am in Belgrade, I am visiting this local record store which is called Yugovinyl and in a way, I am drawn to these records, that is true. But it is not like I exclusively play Eastern European House Music. That sounds like a horrendous genre anyways.
MN: So it is not necessarily about the region, but the sound?
OvE: Yes. And an interesting thing about the region is that they started to produce electronic music later than other countries, because they were so isolated. But still, you are able to find loads of great electronic stuff from the 1980s from these countries that were behind the Iron Curtain. I find it really exciting to explore this, there is still a lot to discover.
MN: You are working for Rush Hour, so you are by job description affiliated with a pretty decent record store. How do you approach digging for new records?
OvE: We are spoiled with record stores in Amsterdam. There are a lot of good ones so finding a decent amount of lovely records is already possible in the city itself. It is easy to buy the records in the store you are working at, but in the end, all the people do this and all the people are buying the same African Re-Issues. Also, in Amsterdam are a lot of people who know where and how to look for music. They know all the rare records. The competition is pretty big and it can get really intense. Often, it is easier to find the special records somewhere else, because maybe not a lot of people go there that much or the scene is not that big in general.
MN: I always find it interesting to hear from artists what their opinion on collaborations is. You did a few things with other people, Robert Bergmann for example or Jeroen on your new record.
OvE: Robert is a really good friend of mine. Being a young producer, I think it is very important to also look at other people and how they are working. For example, you learn a lot when you are sharing a studio. Work in the studio is usually pretty isolated and making music is always influenced by yourself first. If you are not sure about the outcome though, it is always good to have other capable people around you.
MN: You are exclusively producing with hardware and you recently moved your studio into the Red Light Complex, how is it coming together?
OvE: I am rebuilding it slowly. It is especially the workflow that makes it interesting to work with hardware instead of the computer. The creative part is very intriguing. The computer is endless: you can choose from 10 000 different reverbs and then you keep on going and going. If you have old equipment, you are limited in what you can do with it – but it is still a lot, of course. And you do not have to spend hours trying to make it sound like hardware, because it already is. It allows you to spend more time on the creative aspect of producing.
MN: Did you ever consider playing live?
OvE: I did it twice. The first time was together with Das Ding. We both got invited to do a project in Nijmegen. We never met before, but I really like his music. We were provided with a studio with loads of gear and produced music for two days. In the end, we had to do a live show which led to interesting results, so to speak. I did another short live show after the concerts of Minimal Music Festival here in Amsterdam and used mainly Synthesizers for that one. I find the idea of playing live appealing, but getting a live show from the ground does not happen overnight.
MN: I was in Amsterdam last year during ADE and I saw you playing football in a tournament here at De School. And you are actually pretty good. What is the story behind this?
OvE: Football is pretty big in the Netherlands in general. My brother and I were growing up with a father who was very involved with football in a few ways: he coached football teams here and also went to Curacao for six years to train young guys from the island. So, I grew up with it and played for all my life until I was 18 or 19, when I moved to Amsterdam.
MN: Are you also involved in the Ajax fan scene?
OvE: I do not really care about it. I still like to play football a lot though. We have a team with a few friends, but training is on Sunday which makes it rather impossible for me to participate right now. Also, during last ADE I injured my ankle and I did not play a lot since then.
MN: I think I remember that, too. A friend told me about it and said that you still had to play something like three gigs that weekend?
OvE: I played three more matches with the injury and then I had to play Boiler Room the next day. I thought I would be fine, but then I got up the next morning and could not even walk properly. I asked my brother to get me crutches, but I did not really feel like playing Boiler Room on crutches, so in the end I powered through. I do not dance that much, so it was fine.
MN: Let us talk about the connection between music and football. Do you know Boys Own, the fanzine that Andrew Weatherall was putting out during the 1980s that deals with Hooligan culture and Acid House?
OvE: Yes, I think I have seen it. There is definitely an overlap between these two things, Acid House and Hooligan culture. Or maybe, if you take the Netherlands as an example you could think about a similar connection with the Gabber scene. It relies on codes and symbols that are reminiscent of something you could also see in a football stadium. But if I look around in my scene or the people that I am surrounded with, it is not that obvious of a connection anymore.
MN: Were you ever involved with the Gabber scene?
OvE: Not really, it was before my age. My brother was more involved with it, but he was also a bit too young. He was around 14 and I was 11. To some extent, he is still into the music, but I cannot listen to it. When I first started going out, I went to all these festivals, like Awakenings for example. And they always had one stage where pretty hard Techno was played. People like DJ Rush or Frank Kvitta were playing there. I enjoyed that, but that was about it, I never got into the scene.