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Go BackJIMMY VAN "M" IS FOR "MUSIC." - Balanced dance pioneer keeps looking forward.

Posted: 20/11/06 12:18

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 Jimmy Van M has already earned his esteemed spot in dance history. In the early '90s, Van M, then living in Florida, was among America's first DJs to not only latch onto the progressive house sound emitting from the U.K., but to actually do something about it, too. 

Forging friendships with Sasha and Digweed, he was on the ground floor of bringing the duo to the States. Recognizing a niche when he saw it, Van M went on to form the Balance Promote Group, one of North America's premier DJ talent agencies and helping to usher in electronic dance music into the continent's consciousness.

Whether it was the ascension of the Twilo nightclub (where he, Sasha and Digweed held court) in New York to clubbing dominance or the development of tours like Delta Heavy, Van M pulled strings and pushed things forward. Through all of that, it's easy to forget that he's just a guy who happens to really love music. Van M's moved around some since Florida. After a stint in New York, he now finds himself living in Barcelona. The city's laidback vibe has enabled Van M to explore his music, new and old, and the result is Balance 10, the latest installment in EQ's DJ mix series.

 There's no question that Van M is foremost a club DJ, and he struts his stuff on disc 3, "The Uptempo Mix." Balance 10 represents Van M's first commercial mix CD effort in five years, but the time off has dulled nothing. With a mix boasting minimal greats like Trentemoller, Ellen Alien & Apparat, Kompakt Records favourite Gui Borrato and others, it's modern, attuned and vital.

It's when Van peels back the onion, however, one not one but TWO chill-out mixes that you're seeing easily the most heartfelt thing he's done yet.

"The Downtempo Mix" cuts a swath not only through a range of moods and styles, but across time, also. The mixes begin with work by old-school dub and ambient composer Bill Laswell and journeys from some of Van M's oldest influences (soundscape man Brian Eno, Depeche Mode, Future Sound of London and organic trance heroes Union Jack) through to a few of his newer favourites: Nathan Fake, Boards of Canada and downbeat don Bonobo. He steps up things slightly on "The Midtempo Mix" with work from Peter Benisch, Aphex Twin, I:Cube, LCD Soundsystem and the classic and haunted Underworld mix of "Cool Kids of Death" by St. Etienne.

Van M has returned in fine style. Not, he says, that he was ever really gone. Read on as we ask Jimmy about the new Balance mixes, 9-11, Delta Heavy and why he's getting back to the business … of making and playing music.

How old are you and where do you live?
My favorite color is blue and I'm a Libra. I live in Spain.

When did you move there and why?
I've lived there for a couple years now, but let's be honest: As a DJ, does anyone really live anywhere? We travel constantly – and it's easier to party in Ibiza during the off season from Barcelona.

You've made a few moves in your time. Can you talk about how each place you've lived in and how the environment has impacted you both personally and musically? Like the difference between Florida to New York and New York to Barcelona. Any other places you've lived?
I wouldn't say that any of these environments really affected the music I love or play all that much. They are each quite unique in their attitude, but I've been fortunate enough to be exposed to global music in all of these places, so the experience of music is really not all that provincial. They each have their charms. I was born in Ghent, Belgium.

You were in New York City when 9-11 happened. Can you talk about how that impacted you personally and how it affected you professionally?

I think a lot of people were affected personally. Professionally, the scene slowed down for while all over the world, every company had to tighten their belts. NYC in that time, day, week, year was a very life-changing experience for everyone living there, I believe. Anyone who experienced it firsthand is less interested in talking about it than those that watched it on TV.

How has your life changed since? Do you miss living in the U.S.?
Of course, I love The United States; I've lived there most of my life. But Spain has a tempo to it that is very nice, and I've wanted to move back to Europe for some time now, things have gotten quite crazy in the U.S. in the last five years, especially in New York. I'm not a very political person, but it's impossible not to notice the changes that are taking place there. In Spain, it is very relaxed. I love where I live and it gives me convenient access to the rest of Europe.

One of the last big projects you undertook in the U.S. was Delta Heavy, a tour for yourself, Sasha and John Digweed that was done in conjunction with Clear Channel. Can you talk about the project, your objective and the result?
My primary role in Delta Heavy was not one of a DJ. That is history; let's talk about what is going on now. I'm on my way to South East Asia, doing shows, and just launched my B10 tour in Australia, playing to thousands of people - it was an amazing experience. From Asia, I tour U.S.A., Puerto Rico, Canada and a date in Mexico City. Break for the holidays, I believe, and then launch a full European tour to promote the album through March.

You used to run Balance and are now releasing a Balance mix, which seems like a funny coincidence. What would you say makes this album different that previous ones in the Balance series? What is it you tried to accomplish that's different from other mixes?
I think most of the other DJs did very club-friendly mixes. Mine is more of a home-listening experience, at least until the last CD, and then it's definitely more of a club-oriented mix. I'm really hoping that what I accomplished was making a CD that people will want to listen to in a few years, not just one that they play this month and then never again.

What have you learned during this change in your life that inspired you to make an album of this type with so many past and current songs on one project?
It's not so much what I've learned in the last few years as it is a project that I've always wanted to do. We used to spend so much time at after-parties playing records that you could never really play in a club and I wanted to make a listening experience that speaks to those moments.

Balance represents your first commercial DJ mix CD compilation in five years, while other DJs of your caliber have been releasing CDs every year. Why the delay?
No real reason. I've been touring all along and wanted to wait for the right opportunity. I don't think you necessarily need to force a mix down the public's throat every year to remain relevant. The Balance guys were definitely the people I wanted to work with next and I'm very happy the way things worked out.

In light of the gap, do you get the "Whatever happened to Jimmy Van M" thing a lot?
Mainly from journalists. I've been traveling, DJing and having fun the entire time. Journalists tend to only stand up and take notice to mix CDs. There is so much more to club-life than just CD compilations.

Does it feel good to be back on the horse, so to speak, with respect to having a new compilation on the market?
I don't think of my career in those terms. I'm very happy with the Balance 10 compilation, and very happy that Tom Pandzic GM at EQ/Stomp heard my vision and went the extra mile with me to get some of the artists on this album. How many mix albums today have Brian Eno, Boards of Canada, Apex Twins, Norah Jones and so many other amazing artists mixed together, to create a mood? It has depth that takes you somewhere, that is what my parties were about. That is what I tried to do with this album. The idea is to put on disc 1, 2 and 3 in a row and have the feel of one continues mix. Tempo starts slow on disc 1 and ends up club feel on disc 3.

Tom was able to clear almost everything on my wish list. You must make a stellar compilation mix album these days, as there are probably 200 out over the next three to five months. I believe this album will raise the bar and in years to come I hope people will still love it. I think it's a TEN.

What were you trying to accomplish with your mixes?

The downtempo mix in particular seems rooted to your history (with classic-styled ambiance from Union Jack and Future Sound of London) through to modern stuff by guys like Nathan Fake. Do you see the transition yourself?
Of course. I was there when it was being made. In fact, I chose the tracks.

You also have tracks by old favourites like Oliver Lieb. Are there any tunes for you that will never go out of style?
Yes, and I would hope that this album will be around for many years to come. That was the vision of old and new…

How do you think your DJ style has evolved over the years? What do you think is the hallmark of a Jimmy Van M mix CD or DJ set?

Do you have any particular favourite mixes in the Balance series? Was there a feeling of either measuring up or raising the bar with yours?
I didn't feel like there were shoes to fill. This album is a different idea. It is my vision, and my inspiration, that I wanted to extend to everyone that wants to experience it. So there really is nothing to compare it to. The Balance albums that came before me were the vision of the DJ that did them. I spent a lot of time on my album, and I am very proud of the outcome of my patience.

Are you still producing? If so, what have you done recently and what can we expect?
I just finished a track with the 16bit Lolitas and a song with Nick Warren "One And Only." Much more to come in 2007.

Can you provide us with a top 10?
These are in no particular order….

  • SCSI-9 – Woodman / SCSI-9
  • Horizons - Original Mix / Sebo K
  • Seven Deadly Strokes - Patrick Chardronnet Remix / Claude VonStroke
    Egress - Original Mix /Gaiser
  • White Lice - Original Mix / Funk D'Void, Phil Kieran
  • ready and rare / 16bit Lolitas
  • Gamma Fix - Original Mix / Nick Hogendoorn, Eelke Kleijn
  • Gush - Original Mix / Trentemoller
  • Electric Bogaloo (Dub Version Without Melody) / Terry Numan
  • DNox&Beckers (Original) / OneShot

Regarding Ibiza, can you recall your first experience there? What do you think of Ibiza? Do you have any residencies or gigs planned for next season?
My first experience was at Pacha, loved it. Ibiza is a magical place. I have nothing planned so far in Ibiza for '07 but I hope that changes very soon…

What is your philosophy towards life?
Not to over-analyze and to have a good time while making the journey. On the other hand, it is also important not to under-think things, and make sure you're not always having too many good times along the way either. All of life is about Balance... Hehe ...

Disk 1 Downtempo
1.  Bill Laswell – Ethiopia 
2.  Bill Laswell - Babylon Ghost 
3.  Future Sound Of London - Study Of Six Guitars 
4.  Laika – Coming Down The Glass 
5.  Coldcut - Autumn Leaves 
6.  Union Jack - Water Drums 
7.  Casio Vs Japan - Slo Bid Bellwave 
8.  Nathan Fake – Falmer 
9.  Boards Of Canada – Dayvan Cowboy 
10.  Anoushka Shankar – Beloved (Thievery Corporation Mix) 
11.  Wax Poetic Ft Norah Jones - Angels (Thievery Corp. Mix) 
12.  Autechre - Nine 
13.  Boards Of Canada - Everything You Is A Baloon 
14.  Brian Eno & J. Peter Schwalm – Rising Dust 
15.  Depeche Mode – Halo (Goldfrapp Mix) 
16.  The Egg – Walking Away 
17.  Bonobo - Everything You Do
Disk 2 Midtempo
1.  Miles Tilmann - Floating Windows 
2.  Miles Tilmann – Minutes 
3.  Steve T – How Are You 
4.  Cocteau Twins – Blue Bell Knoll 
5.  Speedy J - The Oil Zone 
6.  Adam Johnson – Kriegspiel 
7.  Adam Johnson – Version 2 
8.  Ellen Allien – Bubbles 
9.  Boards Of Canada – Skyliner 
10.  Peter Benisch – Desert White (Joel Mull Mix) 
11.  Babel - X-equals 
12.  Aphex Twin- Delphium 
13.  Brandi Ifgray – Mono 
14.  I:cube - Cash Conv. 
15.  Lcd Soundsystem - Too Much Love (Rub N Tugs Mix) 
16.  St Etienne – Cool Kids Of Death (Underworld Mix)
Disk 3 Uptempo
1.  Djuma Soundsystem - Les Djinns (Trentemoller Mix) 
2.  Djuma Soundsystem - Les Djinns (Def Jaguar Mix) 
3.  Solieb - Intergrale 
4.  Ellen Allien – Jet 
5.  San Lebowski – The Reducer 2 
6.  Dj Jordano - No Gravity 
7.  Tom Pooks – Docker 
8.  N/a - Acid Test 1 
9.  16 Bit Lolitas – Ask Why (Jvm Gold Mix) 
10.  Bookashade & Dj T – Played Runner 
11.  Hug – The Chopper 
12.  Loafer – Dirt Bike (16 Bit Lolitas Mix) 
13.  Gui Boratto - Like You (Supermayer Mix)

Words by Yuri Wuensch