In a creative moment with Dandy Jack

Dandy Jack speaks ahead of his visit this Saturday for Det Gode Selskab‘s monthly club night at Jaeger. We talk early days the future and his next record on Det Gode Selskab’s upcoming VA.

Martin Schopf has been at the confluence of electronic music for as long as Techno has been around. From the obscure experimentalist to rhythmical wizard, he has garnered success at various points of his career in many different guises going by his alias Dany Jack or the many variations of that moniker since the early nineties.

At the height of his popularity he and compatriot and friend Ricardo Villalobos ushered in a new and wholly unique era for Techno as the minimal tag appeared on the scene. Releasing records alongside Ricardo as Ric Y Martin or as a solo artist, Dandy Jack became a household name in record bags and DJ booths.

He’s released classic records in today’s terms on the likes of Perlon and has worked with everybody from Atom ™ to Matthew  over the course of his career.

Best known for his adept hand as a producer it was a world away, and again not really, from the DIY beginnings of the industrial electronic movement he first encountered in Berlin back in the eighties; where he as a young Chilean seeking refuge from a dictatorship started developing his artistic voice.

Today, he calls Geneva home. It’s a “very calm city” compared to Berlin, he says over a telephone call, “but good for making music.“ He is still very active on the music front, and his next release is on its way. The track, called Divine in Chile, comes courtesy of Det Gode Selskab’s next compilation Jack’s Favourites #3.

It’s an explorative Techno creation that goes as deep as the mariana trench, while a female vocal entices with its siren-like charm. Dandy Jack is in full effect here channelling those always-present latin-infused influences through his enigmatic grooves. There’s always a hint of experimentalism that follows his music, but it’s curtailed from spiralling out of control by the magnetism of the dance floor.

It’s this release we’ll be celebrating this upcoming Saturday for the next instalment of Det Gode Selskab at Jaeger and we get in touch with a chipper Martin, preparing for his upcoming set.

Dandy Jack: I’m really happy coming to Oslo, to see my friends.

Mischa Mathys: It’s not your first time playing here. Do you remember the last time?

DJ: It’s been a while. The last time was with Sonja (Moonear) 3 or 4 years ago.

MM: Are you and Sonja still together?

DJ: Not as a couple, but we’re still friends. We live in the same city, and we take care of our daughter together.

MM: And do you still collaborate on music?

DJ: We are not collaborating on music at the moment, but we are working together on the label, Ruta5. Sonja is quite busy, so I take care of almost everything, but we put together parties and everything else to do with the label.

MM: I see there are constantly new releases coming from you, not just as an artist, but also producing other people’s things. Are you in the studio every day?

DJ: Yeah, every day. I’m doing three things: I’m making music for me; I’m producing music for other people; and I’m teaching. I also organise workshops, I’m travelling quite a lot and lately often to Ukraine.

MM: Are you teaching production?

DJ: I teach how to mix down, and how to use compressors and mastering. Everything with Ableton, basically. I think I have a good knowledge on how things should sound.

MM: They couldn’t ask for a better teacher. You have over 30 years of knowledge in the field of production. Do you feel that you have to disconnect as an artist in order to do the other stuff?

DJ: This is perhaps a problem. I can have too much influence on my students and those people that want to be produced by me. In the end, it sounds like I did it. I become something like a ghost producer, but that is also OK, I don’t have a problem with that.

MM: And then there’s also the artists you put out on Ruta5.

DJ: I try to integrate a lot of other people, but when you take somebody on to the label, you also take on the responsibility. That’s more difficult.

MM: You mentioned you’ve signed artists from Ecuador and Japan, and you’ve worked with a Venezuelan girl too. That’s quite a global reach.

DJ: Ruta5 was born in Chile so I get a lot of requests from South American artists. It’s not frequently that I hear something interesting, so I’m also open to accept artists like this Japanese girl too. I always have a personal relationship with the artist and the goal is to create a friendship. Recently this young Russian woman who wants to release on my label; that for me is incredible.

MM: You don’t think this might be a bit controversial considering that you work in Ukraine as well?

DJ: I don’t like to politicise this thing, because people are people. She is not a Russian, she’s just a human being to me. A lot of Russians are also victims of their situation. I’m talking about young musicians. The next generation of young musicians, they just want to express themselves, and they can’t leave their country. I can relate because I also lived under a dictatorship in Chile and left the oppression and torture. You can’t open your mouth, otherwise you end up in jail. It’s horrible.

MM: I actually wanted to ask you about your time in Chile under Pinochet, because seeing the world as it is now, it’s gotta be quite relevant to your own experiences?

DJ: It’s a really frustrating situation at the moment. The illusion that humans could change is not happening. I have a feeling that we still need some generations to make a society work with establishing new interesting values, because the values today are down. It’s horrible what is happening now. Wars and people killing each other like in Gaza, it’s a horror trip.

MM: Let’s rewind to when you left Chile under the dictatorship for Berlin. What was Berlin like during that time?

DJ: We were all really young and enthusiastic. There was a lot of hope, thinking we could change the world. It was a very creative moment.

MM:This was the 80’s and I want to ask you about Sub Rosa, the first project specifically.

DJ: I was 16 years old.

MM: That was more industrial to what you are known for today.

DJ: It was inspired by Throbbing Gristle. It was pure industrial music like Cabaret Voltaire. These guys were inspiring, and I had the capacity to value this music. Many people didn’t understand it. I grew up during a time when people were listening to rock music like Santana. When I listened to On the Run from Pink Floyd the first time, I was 8 years old, and I was shocked by the depth and the possibility in music that makes you travel. This was the fascination in electronic music for me.

MM: Did you always have this association with the dance floor in terms of this type of music?

DJ: The dance floor came much later. In the beginning I didn’t agree with this Techno movement from Detroit. I found it a bit boring. It was depressing to experience this wave of electronic music coming into this world of electronic music, which I considered much more open. It was too simple for me.

MM: So what changed?

DJ: If it wasn’t for Ricardo Villalobos who said; “Martin, stop refusing and come to a club with me and dance to a boom boom boom, ” I wouldn’t be doing it. Back in the eighties, we had this inner conflict in our group, but in the end I accepted it.

MM: Was it that atmosphere in the club and listening to the music with other people that changed your mind?

DJ: Yes, it was about me leaving my arrogance at the door, and then I understood the complexity of the simplicity. I realised a dance track can also be interesting.

MM: People don’t always realise it’s not just about programming a drum machine. It’s about a groove and without it, the machine is just a metronome.

DJ: Yes, and I also had my latin influences to fall back on, like cumbia. Latin American music is rhythmically more complex than Techno. I had to find a way between both; the complexity of the rhythm combined with the industrial sound.

MM: As you started combining these sounds, at what point does it become second nature to you and you start putting records out?

DJ: In the beginning we were just copying tapes. James Dean Brown was a bit older than me and he was already connected to people from the 80’s industrial stuff. He had four tape recorders at home and he was running a tape label. We started making tapes in the beginning. The first record I made  was a project with Tobias. At that time he was called Pink Elln. He made the first pressing of a single that we did. It was a 45 and we distributed it by hand.

MM: Working in Berlin, as somebody from Chile – an outsider – was it difficult getting your foot in the door and into the scene there?

DJ: Yes, it was super complicated. In the end, me and Tobias, we split with another person in the group because he wanted to continue in the industrial stuff, and me and Tobias were making more “commercial” stuff. We got a contract with Sony music. If you listen to that music today, you understand it is far from commercial. It was an interpretation of commercial music that we had in our head when we were 23. Everything was new, and nothing was established.

MM: And then you hit a nerve and people like you and Ricardo Villalobos ushered i n this new era for Techno music. What was key to that success?

DJ: We had the opportunity to grow up in a moment when everything was fresh. There was also this mix between the moment, talent and the mission. You need all three elements to do what you are doing and then it obviously inspires a lot of other people. We were not trying to make a repetition, we were trying to make something out of nearly nothing. Everything came together in terms of what was happening with electronic music and the industry.

MM: Considering your early music and what you’re doing now, do you think you were ever pigeonholed during the Perlon era?

DJ: I was doing so much more stuff than what was released; thousands of tracks I did in the moment. I have the impression that my inspiration is not always the same. I like this phenomena that music looks like a camera. We live in a frame of time that is really small. I can still live from the ideas  developed ten years ago and it still sounds amazing.

MM: Let’s fast forward to the present. We have to talk about the next Det Gode Selskab release. Do you remember making Divine in Chile?

DJ: Yes. This girl (vocalist on the track) comes from Hip Hop. She’s a young girl from Venezuela and I met her on the street. She sings and raps really well and her approach to music is, she wants to be famous. When it came time to record the vocals for this track, she came with her own vocal producer. I played her 5 – 10 tracks of mine and this one, Divine in Chile, was the most harmonic one. For me it was an experiment, and I’m quite happy with the result.

MM:  Was it always intended for Det Gode Selskab or was it just a result of what you had on  hand at that time?

DJ: At the moment when they asked me, this was the best track I had to give them.

MM: Is that a request you get often; to make tracks for other labels?

DJ: Yes people ask me to make a track for them, but I don’t do it very often. I did this because Det Gode Selskab are my friends and I like to support them. I usually keep it for myself and turn it into four tracks, and put it out on my own label.

to be continued…