Interview: Speedy J on “#100”

Today we are speaking with Speedy J, legendary Dutch electronic musician and label boss of Electric Deluxe. One of the more unique aspects of the label is its eclectic podcast. Branded as the “hypothetical after party”, it asks each contributor to explore their musical roots, influences, and obscurities instead of just including the sounds they are best known for. Now that more than 100 episodes of this podcast have been created, Electric Deluxe is offering a special set of 4 bootlegged vinyls containing segments of selected episodes. Below, we find out a bit more about this idea. 

So today we’re talking specifically about the “#100” vinyl bootleg pressing. I’ve never really heard of pressing podcasts to vinyl. It’s a strange notion because you’re taking a modern digital radio show, which is often viewed as temporary or disposal and you’re pressing it on something very permanent. How did that idea come about?

Well, you already gave the answer, really. The main idea of the podcast is to ask our guests to come up with a selection which for them is timeless, and helped sort of shape their career and influenced or inspired them. Something they’d like to keep forever, or something they’re really into but never get the chance to play. We’ve reached the 100th episode, so the archive of stuff we’ve built is quite extensive. In every episode I find music from our guests that I’ve never heard about, and even though I know quite a bit about music, there is still so much to discover. So much stuff that is special to people that you would never hear outside of these personal collections. One of the aspects of the podcasts that I really like is that the archive together makes up this huge mountain of music which is pretty timeless. The way we tend to consume music these days is very temporary, and sometimes even very disposable. But because there is so much in the archive now that is very valuable to me, I wanted to create something to emphasize that timelessness and value.

On top of that, we haven’t marked or label the selections we’ve taken from the MP3s to vinyl in order to enhance that element of discovery. You know when you listen to a podcast you can see the track list, but sometimes it can spoil the listening experience. It’s sometimes just nice to just put on a record and see what happens, and leave it up to the moment. That’s a way of listening to music that sometimes gets overlooked.

Sort of an unbiased approach?

Yeah, exactly. To emphasize the aspect of discovery. I think discovering music is probably even nicer than to listen to something which you already know. I think [the unmarked vinyls] are a nice way to bring back the ritual of listening. Taking it back into focus by putting it on vinyl.

With this release, there are four records included, so a total of eight recordings. But obviously there is a limit to how much music you can fit on one side of a record, and some of the podcasts are quite long. So did you just have to cut and select from certain podcasts?

The guy who cuts our records decided that in order to preserve sound quality the maximum length for each side could be 20 minutes. So I picked 20 minute selections from the 100 previous episodes which really represent the podcast in general – the variety, the flow of the mixes. So I took 8 parts which flow really well and are really nice pieces and put them on vinyl.

You’ve branded the podcast series as the “hypothetical after party”, which suggests a focus of more experimental music that you wouldn’t hear in a normal club or rave setting. And that theme goes all the way back to the first episode. It’s very different than the podcasts other techno labels are running. How did people respond to those first few podcasts?

Actually, very positively. We didn’t tell [the artists] “just do whatever you want”, we gave them a brief and told them it should be something personal and very close to them. It’s a chance for artists to basically show where they are coming from, what their roots are, or their hidden interests. In that way, I think the podcasts reveal something about the artists. It puts them in a slightly different context. You find something on their episode that you never would have expected. Sometimes it’s unexpected, and sometimes it makes total sense. Musicians in general are open-minded people, and the majority of people listen a wider selection of music than they are known for. So this is a chance to highlight that other side or to extend what they are known for. Most people are sort of relieved, or really into it, or really excited to play stuff they never get the chance to. We invite a lot of people and some say “This is amazing, but it’s going to take a lot of time to find the stuff to put on this podcast” and other people just run to their record crates and just pull out stuff they think represents them but is outside of what they’re normally known for. There is a lot of variation between approaches. But most people are relieved and excited to contribute something.

I know that yesterday I was browsing through them and discovered Lakker’s, which is sort of a hardcore, noisy, glitchy metal mix. It was really cool, but it was very surprising to me after knowing him for his releases on Stroboscopic Artefacts. Which podcast would you say has surprised you the most?

That’s a difficult one. Because the selection is so all-over-the-place, they don’t really surprise me anymore. It’s not like its a competition to be as extreme as you can, but there have been some extreme examples. Like the one Richard Devine did is very extreme, but of course he’s known for his extreme taste in music. There’s one from Tallmen [785] who did a Delta blues one, which is sonically very interesting. It’s got this texture to it which is very close to electronic music. Some of these old blues recordings have really distinct sound, and thats where the connection with electronic music is. And of course he has a blues background so it’s not very surprising, but among the selections it’s one of the most notable ones I think.

Despite the diversity of the podcast, most people still think of Electric Deluxe as a techno label. And your personal career has been mostly focused on techno, but of course you’ve dabbled in other sounds, like the ambient electronica you released on WARP records in the early 90’s. Do you find it constricting that people expect you and your label to be releasing techno now? Would you prefer people to think of EDLX as a broader electronic label, or are you comfortable with being a techno label?

I think the perception is OK. Of course, we release stuff which is very much focused on the dance floor or is very techno-oriented. But we also do a lot of events we do the programming and lineups for that are slightly more diverse than the label. Like you said, if you look at my musical background and the stuff we do in general under the EDLX brand, there’s a lot of variation. And that’s the way I want to portray the brand, and have it reflect my background. In some of the elements it shines through much more than in others. But in general I think it’s perceived with an open mind. There’s always the risk of being confusing, but I don’t underestimate our audience. I know that most people who like techno are also interested in a wider scope of electronic music, and I’m not afraid to give that a place in the brand and make it part of what we do with EDLX.

So we always end each interview with the same question on Dub Monitor, and the question is: what up-and-coming artists and labels are you excited about right now?

It’s so fragmented these days. Sometimes you find a record which may only be on vinyl, or a label that only releases three tracks or something. You find these things and think it’s amazing and you look further to find out more about this artist or label and there seems to be nothing else out there. I’m a fan of these things that are unexpected and coming from anonymous people. I couldn’t say which label is representing exactly my tastes these days, but there are so many fragmented things coming through different channels that it’s hard to name names. I think it’s a very exciting time for electronic music and techno. A lot of stuff out there, a lot of innovation, and a lot really good ideas.

You can order your copy of the #100 pressing on the Electric Deluxe shop here.