Intergalactic Gary: Slowly Coming Out Of His Shell

Words by: Paul Corey
Posted: 2/7/14 12:18

Intergalactic Gary: Slowly Coming Out Of His ShellIntergalactic Gary, aka John Scheffer, has been around longer than most. Having spent his formative years clubbing in The Hague, he finally began DJing properly in the early nineties and since then he’s never looked back. However, despite being an integral player in The Hague’s scene, and having the likes of I-F, Legowelt and Guy Tavares as cohorts, he has tended to remain in the shadows, gradually building his status as a tastemaker and playing flawlessly, eclectic sets wherever he can.

His DJing seamlessly encompasses most dance music bases, and has been more in evidence of late, as his profile slowly rises due to a combination of his gig count increasing and more of his sets appearing online. He’s one of a rare few whose technical skills are matched by a depth of knowledge second to none, which effortlessly coalesce every time he plays out.

John doesn’t do many interviews, the only previous one on Skype being about five years ago for someone in Finland. We started our conversation alluding to his reticence and, consequently, his general low profile.

There are precious few interviews with you around, and you feel like a ghostly presence, popping up in chats with the likes of I-F, Mick Wills and Gesloten Cirkel, amongst others. Is the low profile down to your sometimes-mentioned shyness, or are there any other reasons?
It has to do with shyness, which I’ve managed to overcome to some degree over the years, so keeping a low profile is a natural thing for me, just to post mixes online and get bookings that way. But since October last year there’s been a lot more interest in me and I’ve also been recording a lot of my own mixes myself because I want the best possible sound quality. I feel that you’re judged too much on any mix that may be available, like those for the radio or for home listening. These get heard and then you’re expected to play exactly the same stuff as what is on them. People are disappointed, for example, if they’ve heard a recording of an italo set online, and when you turn up and play at their club you play non-italo tracks, or vice-versa.

I’m just playing what I like. And the process of discovery is still going on for me. If I hear something, some minimal synth stuff, for example, & like it, then I want others to hear it as well & this is my motivation for playing it...
What first got you into italo, and how can your explain its enduring appeal for you?
It started when I was about fifteen in The Hague, and there was only one big club that you could go to. It was in 1980 and italo didn’t exist at the time, the music being played was like a crossover between orchestrated and synthetic disco. Artists like Gino Soccio and Giorgio Moroder and Peter Jacques Band... a lot of Italian-based disco, or disco produced by Italians in the USA like the Goody Music Records... there was a good base at the time, very much on the synthesizer side of disco.

The music was changing though, music made in 1981 sounded different to that made the previous year, and in 1982 the first italo productions came in, like ‘Robot Is Systematic’. Those records were yet to be categorized as italo, but their synthetic feel really appealed to me. Before all this I liked pop music, stuff like Fleetwood Mac and Supertramp, but I instantly discarded this as soon as I heard disco. It was a life-changing moment.

Mick Wills says that you “have balls” in view of your capacity to experiment. How important is it to “have balls” and do you think it’s justified?
Laughs). I don’t think it’s for me to say, I let other people decide that type of thing. I could say the same about Mick Wills; I’m just playing what I like. And the process of discovery is still going on for me. If I hear something, some minimal synth stuff, for example, and like it, then I want others to hear it as well and this is my motivation for playing it.

All of your sets feel like you’ve taken a lot of trouble to assemble them. How do you approach a typical night, and what preparations do you make?
There’s not really that much preparation. Sometimes if I haven’t played out for a while I may get a little nervous before a gig, or if I’m playing somewhere I’ve never played before I might check out stuff and take it up to my room and start mixing and decide if I want to bring certain tracks along. But I don’t really prepare, more like select records I want to play. I never worry about being able to match or mix records.

You’re based in The Hague?
I still live in The Hague. I’ve always lived there while in Holland.

Could the scene that emerged in The Hague have happened anywhere? Or is there something unique about it?
I think it’s quite unique, but it’s always depended on certain people meeting up and being in the right place at the right time, rather like it all started in Chicago and Detroit. Without even realizing it people were doing their own thing and inspiring each other. People were sending out demos to record labels, but they were under appreciated and no one wanted to release anything. There was Ferenc (I-F) of Hot Mix. He started a shop because before he was doing distribution from his house and he needed a proper base. He met Guy (Tavares) from Bunker Records who needed distribution because no one wanted to release his Unit Moebius stuff... and lots of things started falling into place. It was a gathering of people who didn’t fit in but everybody eventually found a common connection.

I think for most club promoters they feel more comfortable if they can put something behind your name on a flyer... the name of a record label or a track, particularly one which has been very well supported.You’ve worked with I-F as both The Parallax Corporation and The Conservatives, but you don’t seem to have released anything for over ten years. Are there any plans to return to the studio and what would you make?
I’m working in the studio at the moment, and I hope to finish my first track soon, but it’s a slow process because I’m DJing as well... but I need to get into a rhythm, otherwise it doesn’t work unless you’re really talented.

You need a lot of patience, and it can be very frustrating, particularly when listening back to something you thought was good, but doesn’t sound the same the day after. It can be very rewarding though, time passes and you don’t overthink things too much and you get a result. I work on one track at a time, but things take time to be released.

I don’t see anything coming out this year, because I’ve been told that having tracks mastered and prepared for release takes six months. So in order to have something out by the end of the year I really should have sent it off to be mastered by now. I’ll wait until I’ve got three or four tracks together and then send them off, so it’ll probably early 2015.

Is it possible for the DJ to be the complete artist without having a background in production?
I’m sure it works for some people... but I think for most club promoters they feel more comfortable if they can put something behind your name on a flyer... the name of a record label or a track, particularly one which has been very well supported. It’s hard to tell if having more of a production history would have got me more gigs. Being picked up by the media at the right time would help, as well as not getting stuck in too much of a niche.

Interview with Intergalactic Gary AKA John SchefferYou have a day job, don’t you? What do you do and has it influenced your outlook in any way?
I make architectural scale models I’m unemployed at the moment, but I’ve just had a second interview for a new job and will be starting, part-time, in August. My last job was forty hours a week, and it’s quite hard to return from work and go into the studio, or make mixes.

My DJing takes priority, which is why I’m not going to be working such long hours in the future as it’s very tiring.

How many records do you own, and how many of them do you think you could do without?
I’ve got about 4200.

I was expecting you to have quite a lot more.
If I’d kept everything and never sold stuff, I’d probably have had about 15000. I started a residency in the Hague’s first house club, in 1992 for about four years and I probably bought about 4-5000 records in that time.

Once I stopped playing at that club I hardly bought any music for two to three years, then I started buying again from Clone. Hot Mix had already closed down by this time and Clone had started in Rotterdam.... then I moved to a smaller apartment and I had no room to put a lot of my records, so I had to make a choice. “What are the records that I’ll still want to play in ten years’ time?

Interview with Intergalactic Gary AKA John SchefferIt’s surprising how many you instantly decide you can do without.
Exactly, exactly. I got rid of loads of records on Ebay and Discogs... throughout the years you put records aside, maybe five hundred, and then a few more, and get stricter and stricter, and now I have a collection of records I’m very happy with. I mainly buy new stuff at the moment, but I like to keep things manageable. It’s compact and I know where things are.

Do you still buy a lot then, and do you spend a lot of time looking for rarities?
I buy between ten and fifteen a month. I spend more time digging on the Internet than digging in real crates, but nowadays I think everything has been taken, and everybody knows the prices. It’s not much fun going to record fairs now.

I used to go to a big one twice a year in Utrecht, but it’s not so interesting anymore. If you’re really lucky you can find something that’s been overlooked, a little bit rare and reasonably priced. However, most of the time the sellers have put their stuff on Discogs, and once shipping has been added you know you’re not going to find anything rare anymore for one or two Euros.

Finally, is it possible for you to name a favourite piece of music, from any genre?
I think a favourite of mine, at least since I discovered it, is ‘A Game of Despair’/’Maritime Tatami’ by Victrola. It’s an Italian minimal synth, dark rave record. It’s very melancholic and still gives me goose bumps every time I hear it.

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