A timeless mix from one of Holland's most capped selectors.
As one of Holland’s most celebrated electronic artists, Gerd’s discography is the stuff of legend. With countless monikers responsible for some of the truly classic house and techno releases of the past 25+ years, his longstanding reputation as a selector is equally formidable, known for seamlessly jumping between house, techno, disco, boogie and Afro with incredible precision. Recently re-issuing his debut It’s Thinking EP, a heavily influential 12″ of dreamy house he made in an attic at his parents house around 90/91′ alongside two friends that he would go on to produce and tour with constantly throughout the 90s, we caught up with the 4lux label boss to find out more about those early days, and he’s turned in one of the most memorable Deepcast’s to date.
Through your new label Frame Of Mind you recently reissued the classic It’s Thinking – Afterglow EP that you produced alongside Dirk-Jan Hanegraaff and Mark Ripmeester back in the early 90s, and it sounds like those tracks were quite special for you guys back then and still are 25 years on… what can you tell us about that record and the influences that inspired it at the time?
Yeah, the It’s Thinking record was produced like 26 years ago. I met Dirk-Jan at high school. Must have been around 89′. At that time I was already heavily into these new type of sounds called house and techno music. I used to make tapes for friends. So when I met Dirk, I started to feed him with my tapes as well which he totally loved. Some of my friends, such as Maurits Paardekooper (Exposure) and Jochem Paap (Speedy J) were already making and releasing music. One day Dirk and I said to each other “Let’s make house music too.” So we started to buy some cheap equipment, fiddle around and take the leap. Soon after I met Mark Ripmeester. He was hosting a show at a local radio station and he was playing all those tunes that I was buying: Blake Baxter, Rhythim is Rhythim, K-Alexi Shelby, etc. you name it. Mind you: those were completely different times: no internet, no social media and house music was something new. So it was rare when you met like-minded people. Usually you had to explain to people what house and techno music exactly was because they simply had never heard of it.
Long story short: the three of us ended up experimenting with some synths and drum machines. Mark was the first guy from the European mainland to ever get in touch with John Acquaviva and Richie Hawtin. He started to send them our demos and at one point they were like “Yes, this is awesome. We want to release those tracks!” The tracks were too ‘house’ to be released on Plus 8 records so they ended up on Malego, an unknown and obscure subsidiary. The tracks were strongly influenced by Italian and USA house (think DFC, UMM, Strictly Rhythm, Area 10, Retroactive, Strobe, etc. etc.) and by a little bit of ‘E’ too.. haha. Although we also were into tougher sounds, we preferred to make more dreamy stuff ourselves during those early days. Below you see a fun pic of a part of our studio in a dark attic room at my parents house somewhere in the (mid-)west of the Netherlands around 90/91.
Following that release you guys seemed to have quite a productive run, working together under a myriad of aliases like Sensurreal, Marvo Genetic and Perez & Dowell spanning everything from techno and house to tribal, ambient and experimental. What do you think enabled you to work so well together across so many styles, and were you guys playing playing regular gigs together too, or was it just a studio collaboration?
Yes, the three of us produced as It’s Thinking, Sunshower and Marvo Genetic. Later on Dirk and I launched a number of other projects too, such as Sensurreal, Perez & Dowell, Massivemen and more. It’s hard to pinpoint why our collabs were such a success at the time. I think it was just pure love for the music. We basically went all in and gave our everything to this music… working in the studio all day and all night. It was our way of life and for me personally a way to rebel against my parents, school and whatnot.. and create some kind of identity of my own. We indeed brought our sounds live to the stage as well. We were part of the first generation of Dutch house producers bringing all our studio equipment to the clubs and festivals and performing our music live to a crowd, paving the way for generations to come. I remember during our very first gigs (think 1990/91) we didn’t have the knowledge (nor the equipment with the capability) to mix our tracks into one subtle, ever-building live set (except when we did live acid improvisations). Instead there was a silence of like 1 to 2 mins between each track, which allowed us to set sounds, load samples and arrangements for the next song. But (most) crowds loved it and didn’t mind waiting for the next tune at all,.. It was something fresh and new, so people just went along with the program. Although we also experienced less enthusiastic crowds booing at us and yelling to get off stage and go away with our ‘fake’ machines that tried to imitate drum-kits and stuff. Later on Dirk and I played all over the globe as Sensurreal. And from 1993/94 I also started to perform (and DJ) solo as Gerd, Metro Dade and Literon.
Tell us a bit more about the idea behind the new Frame Of Mind label, will it continue to focus both on reissuing forgotten classics as well as new music?
For a while now I was thinking of re-issuing It’s Thinking. I talked to Dirk and Mark and they were up for it. But I never felt the time was right, so it never happened. I talked to Milo (DJ Nature) regarding a re-issue of Nature Boy like 4 or 5 years ago for the first time but he couldn’t find the original DAT tapes. In summer 2016 he told me he finally found all tracks. In the meantime I was in touch with Toyin Agbetu (Nemesis, Shades Of Black, etc) as well. So all of a sudden everything came together and I had a few releases ready. I didn’t want to re-issue on 4lux, so I started a new label which I called Frame Of Mind, a little homage to one of our It’s Thinking tracks from the early 90’s and to my fave Vernon Burch track. I didn’t want to focus on re-issuing music only and planned to release some new music through the label as well. But sometimes things go slightly different than anticipated and now it looks like the first 6 or 7 releases will be re-releases of some of my all-time faves. I got some killer stuff coming up on the label in the coming months. Next up is a little compilation of some fine Toyin Agbetu tracks under his Shades Of Black alias.
You’ve put together a really diverse selection for this mix, what can you tell us about it? Any standout records you would like to mention?
I never prepare mixes that i do for podcasts, radio shows, etc. You know, in a sense that I really think it through.. Instead I just get started and see where the vibe brings me. Just like my dj-sets where you feel the vibe in a club and go from there instead. I just like the spontaneity that way. Style-wise I have the tendency to go all over the shop when I play out too. I just get bored playing one type of music for like 30 minutes, so I need to change the pace. It’s the same with this mix. I just mixed up some old and new tunes that I like. One track I would like to mention is Neal Howard’s The Gathering. This simply is one of my most cherished house records I purchased way back when it came out. As I made a lot of edits for my own DJ sets, I did one with The Gathering as well. I combined what I think are the best parts of both the Club Mix and the Pain Mix, and molded them into one fierce track to play out. I am very happy that after all these years, this version will be available on wax soon as part of an official reissue coming through Clone in October. You can hear my little edit at around 52 minutes in the mix.
What do you have coming up next, with both your label 4lux as well as your own music to round out the year?
On 4lux I’ve got a new Organ Grinder release coming up in November. On Frame Of Mind I’ve got like 5 to 6 releases lined up. As I said, first up will be Toyin Agbetu presents Shades of Black. Keep a eye out on our Bandcamp..
I am now finishing two new singles as ‘Gerd’ for Clone Royal Oak as we speak, and working on a lot of other stuff too. Since my Planet F.M.D.X release on Clone Royal Oak, I haven’t released anything for like 1 and a half years, so I am making a little comeback in 2018 for sure!