To go where no man has gone before with Dekmantel Soundsystem

If Dekmantel were a universe the Dekmantel Soundsystem would be the vessel that transported us through it all. It’s a DJ-collective that brings the Dekmantel sound to the wider known world, a sound that breaches genres and styles with the sole focus of bringing people together through adventurous electronic music. As Dekmantel Soundsystem the music has always taken centre stage, and like the annual festival of the same name, it celebrates the underground heroes at the forefront of the electronic music scene, pushing it to the farthest reaches of this galaxy.

At the centre of the Dekmantel universe is Casper Tieltooij and Thomas Martojo, a pair of Dutch DJs who created Dekmantel as a way to bring a new dimension to electronic music in Amsterdam, predicated by their own tastes. What started with a focus on Detroit House soon incorporated more styles and genres as their universe expanded around the festival of the same name, a festival that has become a serious highlight on the international electronic music calendar today. A label would eventually follow suite with names like Juju & Jordash and Joey Anderson propagating the House sound that would spawn the Dekmantel universe, but like the festival, would eventually incorporate other styles and genres, going from the Electro of Entro Senestre to the Techno of Robert Hood.

Dekmantel is a living entity today and even in the short time it’s been around, it has set the benchmark for what many labels, festivals and electronic music organisations want to- and should be. They’ve continued to laud the unsung luminaries of electronic music, while pushing known conventions further and further into unmarked territory. Their UFO imprint stands as a landmark of their explorative perspective, a label that took shape around their UFO stage and features to this date three unique releases by Randomer, Peter Van Hoesen and Voiski, all bringing something unique, probing and fresh to this music. They’ve also established a new “Selectors” series, a DJ compilation series that was inaugurated by none other than Motor City Drum Ensemble.

Yes, the Dekmantel universe is quite vast, always growing bigger, and navigating through it is nigh impossible, so we’ve enlisted the help of Dekmantel Soundsystem to steer us through its expansive interior this Saturday, and before they land in Oslo, we thought we’d get a quick peak behind the curtain with a Q&A. 

Can you explain what exactly a Dekmantel Soundsystem is and who constitutes its parts today?

Dekmantel Soundsytem is made up of the two original founders Casper Tielrooij and Thomas Martojo. They have DJ’ed together for almost ten years.

What’s the role of Dekmantel Soundsystem in the Dekmantel universe and why does it need to exist?

As very young music fanatics, we started throwing parties because we wanted to invite great artists, but also wanted to DJ ourselves. The broad spectrum of music we play reflects the line-ups that you see at our events and the records that we release on our label.

It’s not like you can realistically roll around the globe with a custom sound system, so how do you interpret the Soundsystem element in your name?

Of course, the tradition of adding soundsytem to your name should mean that we bring a sick physical sound system anywhere we go. That’s not the case, it’s more a name that reflects the touring aspect of the original soundsystems. We will bring a lot of music though ;)

The name Dekmantel can mean various things: a festival, a DJ collective and two labels. How does the Dekmantel name modulate between all those various factions?

Dekmantel really comes down to the fact that we organize and do things in a way we would love them to be ourselves. Festivals we would like to visit ourselves, records that we would want to buy ourselves, and DJs we’d like to hear ourselves.

I remember when you started out Dekmantel was mostly focused on a Detroit House sound with Thomas Martojo and Casper Tielrooij at the centre of it. What’s been the driving force behind the evolution of the Dekmantel name and what’s been the common denominator throughout it all?

It’s correct that in the beginning we were known for a focus on American house and techno, but also a lot of disco. However, at that time we already had a broad taste in music, from WARP to Fela Kuti and from Dilla to European house and techno. The common denominator in working out all these interests is really, again, our own taste which like that from everyone evolves and changes.

The latest edition to the Dekmantel is the UFO sublabel, which takes its name from the UFO stage at the Dekmantel festival. Is everything Dekmantel informed by the festival and how does the festival operate as the nucleus to it all?

The Festival is of course our key moment in the year and with the stages we could create some kind of order in the broad spectrum of music we would like to broadcast. We noticed that this festival order was also a really great way in organizing the label as we are expanding our activities on that terrain very much in the last year.

While we’re on the label, the UFO label has three releases out to date, and focuses on experimental/futuristic techno, electro and electronica. How would explain the sound of the label?

The UFO stage at Dekmantel Festival is the place to be when it comes to aphotic, experimental and futuristic techno, electro and electronica indeed. You can find Blawan there, but also Holly Herndon. With the launch of  UFO on the label we beam these aesthetics into physical audio realms that tip to the dark side of our musical tastes.

The flagship label continues to deliver a mix of House cuts and has shifted over to Techno quite a bit more in recent memory. What has been the focus of the label so far and where do you see it heading to in the future?

I don’t think it shifted to Techno to be honest. The main label displays a wide range of electronic music. From Legowelt ambient to the techno from Robert Hood and the blissful house by Palms Trax. It’s also the home to dear label artist in which we really believe: think of Juju & Jordash, Vakula, and Joey Anderson amongst others.

There’s also the new selectors series. Can you tell us a little more about that, and what would influence your picks for those releases?

Admittedly, drawing a line between “selectors” and mere DJs is an all-but-impossible task—it’s essentially a “you know it when you see it” proposition. Every Selectors compilation will include a collection of hand-picked, unmixed tracks personally curated by the artist.

I’ve heard that you had one of the most impressive sound systems for a festival this year from various sources. The importance of the sound system is one we know all too well at Jæger, but how do you maintain a level of control when Dekmantel goes on tour?

It’s a crucial point in deciding which venues to visit. We indeed heard that sound in Jæger is valued very high and for us it’s the most important thing. It doesn’t make sense to play all these beautiful music if the sound system is not top notch.

Were there any musical highlights from this past festival that you’re looking forward to bringing on tour with you?

We will surely bring some new heat from Fatima Yahama. Next to that we are still playing a lot of ESG and Azymuth tracks, both bands doing incredible shows at the festival this summer. Central, your Danish neighbour, did send us a killer track just before the festival which is going to be a very cool release in the nearby future.

Dekmantel always seems to have its finger of the pulse of this music, so can we have a look into your crystal ball and get a little glimpse of what will be lighting up the Dekmantel universe in the near future?

Kind words, thanks Just like with the label, all events and tours we did this year were remarkable. Dekmantel Festival again met our own standards of running a festival and Dekmantel Selectors was a very intimate, magical experience. And all the time we were working on a new chapter in our history: Dekmantel Festival São Paulo. On our tour, we just fell completely in love with the city and the local crew and scene. It feels like the perfect place to start a new adventure.