The Secret Life of Steve Rachmad - an interview with a techno legend

Words by: Sean-Michael Yoder
Posted: 8/5/12 9:18

The Secret Life of Steve Rachmad - an interview with a techno legendThe mid-Nineties was arguably one of techno’s golden eras and one of the reasons was Sandy Huner and Dylan Hermelijn’s 100% Pure label. Dig deep in to that catalog, somewhere in the mid-Nineties, while most f the so-called edgy numbnuts out there were getting high on grunge and mall-purchased flannels these guys were quietly making history that is still leaving pop music ripples today. Dig through a huge of a pile of old wax and those records are still the ones leaving a lasting impression.

Built on that success has been Dutch legend Steve Rachmad, as humble and hardworking a dude in this business as you will ever meet, and his seminal 1995 album The Secret Life of Machines still sounds like it could have come out last week. The same cannot be said of the 100% Pure output these days, but to be going fresh and strong 15+ years on is a space reserved only for a select group of folks and it’s no shame to not be included.

As Sterac, Rachmad influenced a ton of techno artists around the world but few ever heard Secret Life but like the old adage about the Velvet Underground – this select cabal who did hear it went and started their own things, influenced heavily by Rachmad’s work as Sterac. In a recent interview, he’s decided to remake the album 17 years on because he thought the original was mastered poorly, the demand was still there, and an almost instinctual sense that it was time for the genre to get back to its roots.

What was the decision behind revisiting your Secret Life of Machines album 17 years on and how do you feel about the album after all of these years of it being considered a techno classic?
We got a lot of requests from people that were looking for the album. A lot of people thought it still sounded fresh nowadays and some even thought stuff nowadays sounded a bit like some tracks on the album. Since many new people didn't know the album at all I decided to redo the album.

How did you connect with 100% Pure originally and how did the album come about?
I met Sandy Huner and Dylan Hermelijn aka 2000 and One, who were running the label together at that time, at a recordstore they were working at back in the days. And they were also connected to the ESP label with some projects. ESP is the label that released my first release as Black Scorpion. So through all this we got connected and that's when the Sterac moniker was born. At first a few Sterac EPs were released and at some time it felt like it was time for an album.

You’ve come so far since those days are there any artists you miss from those days who aren’t making music anymore that you wish would?
YES!!! Actually there's just one and I guess many would agree with me about this person who was a big inspiration to me... DERRICK MAY!! I always hoped he would pick up on producing again, which he never did, unfortunately. Even when later stuff of his came out, it wasn't new in most of the cases; meaning that it was done in the time he was still making music. Except Serenity which he did with Marcello (former resident DJ at club iT) and was released on 100% Pure as well.

Tell us a little bit about the remastering of the album, the five bonus tracks on the digital package, and the remix collection forthcoming. What was the reasoning behind this.?
Honestly, I always hated the pressing back in the days. The mastering in those days didn't try to make tracks louder and also didn't try to even out the volume levels of each track. Which resulted in low volumes on some tracks and sometimes even feedbacking when I played it out.

Some tracks were simply too fast for these days and those ones I have literally re-mixed and slowed them down. So basically I looked up all the old synths and sounds and just redid the mixes and kept the tracks as they were back in days except for some minor changes.

During that process, while I was dosing off, in effects and sounds some new versions were born accidentally.

How were the artists selected for the remix selection, were you surprised to find out that any of the remixers were influenced by this album?
We wanted to have a nice diverse selection of people: mixing some new and old artists to get that diversity.  With some of the older artists I knew they got inspired by the album. But not all the remixers knew the originals though.

SteracWhere do you think this album stands in the pantheon of classic techno albums and are you proud of its enduring legacy to inspire other artists?
Honestly, I am always way too shy and modest to make such statements. There are so many great albums that should be in there that I would put higher than my own. I leave that up for others to decide.

How do you inspire other artists nowadays?
I can't really say how – I have my own style and I guess this is what they find inspirational. But one thing I can say about the new younger talents in my hometown Amsterdam is that a lot of them got inspired to buy hardware after visiting my studio. Which for me was the other way around. They inspired me to use software and learn about the digital world.

Are there any plans to tour in support of the album?
Yes, in the coming period there are a lot of tour dates planned all over. I started the tour beginning of April already. We are working on combining some of the dates with some of the remixers as well in the near future. So far there is one date planned with two of the remixers at Berghain on 5 may: Vince Watson and Joel Mull are joining me on that night.

What else can we expect from you in 2012?
Oh, there are so many things I want to do but it all depends on time, which seems too short nowadays.  A new residency a couple of times a year at my favorite club in Amsterdam Studio 80.

Next to all the remixes lined up I want to do a lot of new productions in the coming period and even some collaborations are on the list. First collab is probably gonna be with my mate Heiko Laux. Others do still have to be planned. Therefore I don't want to name names yet.

I'm even playing with the idea of making a new album. Either Sterac or Parallel 9 but not sure yet. And I also miss working on my Sterac Electronics projec,t so I might work on some new stuff. Because of this, I will go a bit easy on taking new remixes and will have to say no to some.

Anyway still a lot to do. Out of the concrete things that are also coming out shortly – keep an eye on my Parallel 9 double 12” which is coming out on Music Man Records this May, and my remixes for Nina Kraviz album on Rekids.

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