Sunday 04th Dec, 2016
Ivan Smagghe
Ivan Smagghe

"1971. I was born in a suburb of Paris - not in a rough suburb or anything, but not in a great suburb either. It's still quite different here to be born inside the city than to be born in suburbia. I came and actually lived in Paris on my own when I was 18, for my studies in politics."

"It wasn't a musical family, they're actually all doctors or shrinks. But on the other end, my dad, although he wasn't a musician was buying records. And a lot! Especially when I was a kid; he bought less when I was older. But when I was a kid on a Sunday we used to go and buy records, and that was quite important for me. I feel that's the main thing I got from him. It's not like someone who would have a dad that plays the piano and would become a musician, but my dad buying records on Sunday afternoons was probably a key thing for me becoming a DJ. I suppose it was in the late 70s; it was more like the end of hippy, free rock things and then jazz, a bit of everything really. That's where I got the taste for records from."

"Definitely, definitely rock. Not black music, that came after. For me, when I was a kid, dance music was bad because nightclubs were seen by people like me as places where yobs would go to get drunk and pinch arses. That's it. You gotta remember being born in 1971, I was 14 or 15 in 85, before electronic dance music exploded. I mean it existed, but I was 14 in a suburb of Paris - I was not going to know about underground music. I don't pretend I did! And, believe me, the collision between football and house music through ecstasy did not happen in France at all…The first 12" I remember that I bought was Soft Cell 'Tainted Love.... I started buying records when I was 13 and I don't have an older brother, which is often how you make your education musically, so I had to learn how to do it in my own way. I moved on pretty quickly to kind of indie at the time I suppose… I was a bit too young to catch the big nu-wave artists like New Order, Joy Division, that was a few years before my time, that was Weatherall's time. So I got kind of the dregs of that, which turned into indie music, which was for years blending into electronic music. People like me, when acid house happened, we used to all shop at this record shop in Paris called Danceteria. They sold indie music and when acid house happened, they started selling it. But there was no difference, there was no rock music vs dance music at all, they were the same thing for us. And when I was buying a Teenage Fan Club record or a Sonic Youth record or an 808 State album, it was exactly the same. Electronic music was just another type of indie music really. That's where my fascination for guys like Andrew Weatherall started"

"The first way of being active was working in a record shop because I had to when I stopped studying. I've always bought a lot of records and I ended up working in a record shop to pay for them. That was mid 90s. I was also writing; I was a music journalist before getting on the other side. Way before in the late 80s, early 90s when I was 18… Then from working in a record shop and having a lot of records, a friend of mine who was throwing parties asked me to DJ. I didn't have that thing like kids today, that I want to be a DJ. At the time anyway, you didn't want to be a DJ, especially in Paris. In the beginning, maybe it was a little bit attractive but nothing like today. That was in '92 or '93 maybe, but it was like an accident. Someone had pushed me, but obviously I quite liked it. And a few years later I started making music with different people, born at that time from the shop Rough Trade where I worked. That's where the other guy Arnaud from Black Strobe worked too, and its how we started. Paris was quite buzzing at the time and in that shop we would see everybody, but I was also going out and knowing everybody 'at night'. I was dabbling with a few things, like Volga Select, before Black Strobe. The first Black Strobe release came out in '97, as part of the Source Lab series which were compilations made by Virgin, kind of all the French artists. It was to be a one-off thing and then it ended up being a bit more than that, eventually becoming a full on project. I was also a radio host. That was really important to me for years. I started in the mid 90s doing radio and finished in 2001 doing a daily show for Radio Nova. It was for two hours every day, Monday-Thursday and then DJing on the weekend. I had total freedom but we wanted more. We wanted to have an influence on the whole radio thing, not just to have our show on a shit radio… The girl that was my producer for the show for years is who I do Kill the DJ with now. We left the radio together and there are a few other people that I still work with who were a part of that team."

"The Black Strobe album is going to come out at the second part of the year, it's nearly finished. We've been really busy playing, I've been busy DJing and we've been doing a lot of remixes. The album will not be a collection of dance tracks, because we can do two a day, easy. We wanted to do something that would be more album-like without being pretentious. I've got the whole DJing thing so I didn't want to do that with Black Strobe. We're still doing a lot with Kill The DJ. The night's in its 4th year now and the label we've actually built up a new company for, so we're taking it a bit more seriously now. The thing is I always work with people, the only thing I do actually on my own is DJing really. That's my own and I actually don't like many people to interfere with it. But with the rest of it, I've got a lot of people working with me. I'm not like the centre, with Kill the DJ it's more like my partner who's in charge with that. I'm quite happy at the moment with Kill the DJ, we've got a lot of good 12"s coming out in the near future. I still work on another label called Set Recordings…I still have Volga Select with Marc - he's another person I make music with, but we've done things for 20:20 Vision and a few others… I really want to do music on my own also, but that's going to be when the album's finished. All you need is time, and time is what I'm missing."

"There were a few steps, building it up in my own way .For years in Paris it was like a small scene - you had to be in that scene, but it was a bit clique-y. My reputation for being moody as fuck comes from working in the shop on a come down, but also from not being part of this bunch of people. That's why I also did radio. For years I didn't want to only DJ because I didn't want it becoming a necessity. Now it's fine because I can pick my gigs - but I didn't want it to be like 'oh, I've got to do this gig for just the money' - that's awful. For me, that's a nightmare… I always had a lot of friends in England, even from the very beginning. It was people there who gave me my break and then it went really fast. At fabric, Judy, definitely. And Johnno from Bugged Out, and Ata from Robert Johnson. People who at some point made me play on a regular basis. It was not long ago, 3 years ago, it exploded everything. And, of course, the sound I can be associated with. I don't like wave the electro flag at all, and actually less and less. But the sound which I was kind of linked with became suddenly big. But for years it was not, and people like me were playing roughly the same thing but small gigs. And now actually, I'm not scared, because sometimes people ask me 'Are you scared? You know, you're really fashionable at the moment, you're really big at the moment, because your sound is really now' but I was DJing before, probably will be after. Anyway I'm quite happy to be playing now because it's really not going to be what people expect, which for me is a lot of what DJing is about. I've got this thing that's coming from the Weatherall approach - for me he's always been the guy who's got like the best line of conduct and ideas about DJing, and making music. Knowing how to say no, and when to say no, and don't do what people expect because otherwise, what is the point? People like me are always afraid to be the same as everybody, which can be quite bad too sometimes. It's like if people are going to expect this, you go 'no, I really can't do this! It's not possible; I've got to do something else!' Sometimes it's pretty bad, but it's also very good."

Funnily enough, I've known Craig (Richards, fabric resident) for at least 10 years. I met him in Paris years ago; it was actually when he met Amanda his partner. In the beginning, I was not too keen when the club opened, before I was playing. But the work of Judy (Griffith, fabric promoter) and Craig for the last three years has just been amazing. If you look at the size of the club and the program, who plays, it's just a bit insane. It's really underground programming for a massive club. And people follow. I've always enjoyed playing and it's been a good reaction. It could've gone the easy way, but fabric is the proof that you can do some quality work and still be a successful club. It was like a fucking slap in the face to all the big, commercial shit. The music played in fabric is really high level. So I'm definitely happy to be a part of that!"

"Oh my god, a holiday. I'm finishing the Black Strobe album, and the CD. Then take more time for myself. For the last three years, I've been really working hard. But you know when you have to work hard, and then you also know that you won't have to work as much. Then you can take it easy a little bit so I think the next year at least is going to be a bit more relaxed."

"Abstract bleeps and dark noises? Synths that rock? 4/4 electronics? Yes, all that. This is the scream of the guy who did not want to be pigeonholed."

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