In Honor of Soulwax
I'm unfortunately (fortunately?) not going to Coachella this year.
The whether in L.A. sucks anyway ... I feel like the Jesus & Mary Chain are going to have to cancel their show or something because of a tree falling on the stage due to intense winds.
I shouldn't be so bitter, though. It'll be great!
Soulwax is one of the groups that I would really like to see live. The stuff they've produced is mind-boggling to me. Such a wide array of electronic dance tracks -- from the 2 Many DJs output to the remixes -- and more rock-oriented stuff under their own name ...
Anyway. To get you all pumped for their time in the U.S., read an excerpt of this ace interview they did with Urge. And ... just to remind you all of how fantastic the group is, download the "E Taking (Soulwax Nite Version)" song they did with Nancy Whang (of LCD Soundsystem fame) way back in 2005 ... Enjoy!
Soulwax - E Taking (Soulwax Nite Version feat. Nancy Whang)
URGE: A lot of European dance-music makers are still shocked by their
difficulty breaking in America. Why do you think it's so hard?
David Dewaele: I have many theories. One of them is, in terms of dance
music, America is still very traditional in many ways. I think for all
kinds of music in America, you need to do it live. I don't think America
is ready yet to watch people play a laptop. They need a show, a
frontman, a drummer. Even in hip-hop. You can mix the most advanced kind
of electronic, weird hip-hop, and if you want to do it live — even
Timbaland or The Neptunes' stuff — they bring in some s****y
drummer and [yell corny stuff like] "wave your hands in the air." I
think that's a typical American thing; it's the reason why The Prodigy
works, and something like Underworld won't. In essence, Prodigy has a
frontman going, "Come on, jump up and down!"
URGE: Is that why you've incorporated a live-band performance aspect
into Radio Soulwax? Are you trying to trick people into liking dance
Dewaele: Yeah, like a scheme. [Laughs.] No, it's a lot more simple. We
made Nite Versions, and we wanted to do it live. The thing with Radio
Soulwax is that it's set up like a continuous party. It's not
necessarily a live gig then a DJ set; it's one continuous performance,
where one flows into the other. The thing that everyone keeps talking
about is the blend of indie and dance music, electro and new-rave,
whatever you call it. To us, that's just normal. It's what The Clash
used to do. People think a little bit too much in categories. If you can
dance to it, it works. That was at the basis of 2 many dj's and with
Radio Soulwax, it was just an extension of that. In our heads, it
doesn't really matter if it's Vitalic or Justice, or WhoMadeWho that we
bring with us on tour. It's all the same aesthetic for us. It musically
brings the same point.
URGE: With all your various personas, it's sometimes difficult to figure
out what separates Soulwax from 2 many dj's. You're a band, you're DJs,
you're remixers, but you remix yourselves, and reinterpret your music in
Dewaele: I don't think it'll seem so confusing in a few years time. In
2007, it's almost like the only way to go. If you're just a band touring
... you're like thousands of other bands doing the same. A lot of
upcoming kids who send us stuff do the same thing: They're a band that
plays drums, remixes, produces other people. It's almost becoming the
norm. With things like the music industry changing and the Internet and
MySpace, definitely the way people put out music or express creativity
is changing as well. We all have to adapt to it, and whatever we're
doing won't seem abnormal.
URGE: Sampling is integral to your music. When was the first time you
were aware of it?
Dewaele: The first time I heard Grandmaster Flash. He would spend hours
going through records, finding, to him, the best 15 seconds of the
records, and repeat it on the turntables. I still think what was amazing
about hip-hop — De La Soul or Public Enemy — is that they
took the best bits out of records. Subconsciously, what we do as DJs is
take the essence of a track and play that bit, instead of playing a six-
or eight-minute track. We will just play the one minute and a half that
we think is important, and go back and forth. Or edit it in a way that
it will make sense to us. That is kind of what attracted me, in the
beginning of sampling, to early hip-hop.
URGE: It's interesting that the mash-up remix is very much in the vein
of old hip-hop and innovators like Grandmaster Flash.
Dewaele: One of the biggest compliments we'd ever gotten was from Tom
Silverman from the label Tommy Boy, when 2 many dj's' [debut] just came
out. He contacted us to say that he thought it was the most exciting
[music] he had heard since Three Feet High and Rising, and it reminded
him so much of what happened back then. In a way, that's true. In 2003,
you wouldn't have been able to make that De La Soul album anymore,
because of [the strict sampling laws]. But when that album came out,
everyone was asleep. Then, all of a sudden, everyone woke up and started
copying them. We were oblivious to it then, but I can see now that the 2
many dj's CD struck a chord at the perfect time in a similar way.
URGE: When As Heard on Radio Soulwax Pt. 2 was released it popularized
the concept of the mash-up. How were you able to clear all of the
Dewaele: We can't really take credit for it, because in a way it was the
record company who found a loophole by clearing things only for Belgium
and Holland and then exporting it to the rest of the world, which, at
that point, had just become legal because of the European Union. It's
kind of a loophole, and not so cool [laughs], but they claimed it was
the only way to do it. If they had to clear it for real for the U.K. or
U.S., it would have been a nightmare. On the publishing side, I guess it
was the first time that ... well, I don't want to get too specific, but
it used to be a rule that on a mix album, when two tracks overlap, you
can only have a cross-fade of seven seconds. Obviously, if we have an a
cappella of three minutes and put it over an instrumental of three
minutes, we're breaking the rules. So the CD went to the courts, and two
major record labels took us to court. We won both cases, so in that way,
it was a legal precedent as well.
URGE: Where's the song "E-Talking" really coming from?
Dewaele: It comes from years of playing for people who are on ecstasy
and myself not being on ecstasy (I've never done drugs in my life). It's
strange to find yourself surrounded by people who cannot wait to share
their thoughts with you. [Laughs.] But having said that, the track is a
little bit of a joke about how you find yourself in a dressing room, and
there are four guys there who want to tell you their ideas for creating
a magazine. And you're just like, "I have no idea what you're talking
about, but it sounds really funny."
URGE: When was the last time you danced?
Dewaele: Two months ago, I danced all night with my friend Erol [Alkan],
who did the weekly Trash party in London. It was the last night of the
party because he wanted to stop it on a high. It was kind of emotional,
too, because it was the end of something that had meant so much to us,
but I had the best time ever.