For this week‘s MNMT podcast, we invited Dutch Albert Van Abbe. He is a long-time producer, DJ and also active as an audiovisual artist. Operating two record labels, No Comment and VANABBE and having already released music on FIGURE Jams, Semantica, Deep Sound Channel, Trolldans, ESHU and Curle clearly show his prominent role in the techno scene. For his mix on this week’s podcast, Albert has shared a recording of his live set from the last Tresor meets Semantica party.
Enjoy the mix and interview we conducted with him.
You started making music and performing live in 2001. How did you get in touch with Techno?
I’ve been answering this question a few times over the years of course but remember some more key moments since reading the book Dutch Dance over the last week. As a skateboarder I was listening to a lot of Hip-Hop and Jungle from the age of 14. At that time (1996) it was impossible to ignore Hardcore as ”Gabber” was the main subculture. Loads of people where playing the early Thunderdome CD’s and I even remember my cousin playing me Poing from Rotterdam Termination Source, which made a big impact on me. I must have been 12 years old when it came out. Funny thing is that he came along to my Tresor live gig where I recorded this podcast.
It took until 1998 for me to really get into techno though. Seeing Lady Aida play at Shine Festival was an eyeopener, truly mind blowing to me then. I saw on the flyer that Martyn from Ostgut was also playing (as PAN) and the Acid Junkies (from Eindhoven’s Djax-Up-Beats) as well.
The name of your family is well-known especially in the field of art. The Van Abbe museum is one of the biggest galleries of contemporary art in Europe. How artistic was your childhood? Did the art influence your music?
My great grandfather was a cigar manufacturer who came to Eindhoven in the 30’s from Amsterdam mainly because of the cheaper labor costs in the South of the Netherlands. He was an art enthusiast and collector and decided to give the city of Eindhoven a museum and his art collection, which is pretty unique. This story influenced people in my family and myself in a great deal of course. I always felt uncomfortable introducing myself because people would mention the museum. So for years my real name got to be a sort of an alias to me because I didn’t really like to mention it. People just knew me as Appie. The family history surely must be an influence on my music and how I approach it. Yet my upbringing wasn’t more artistic than others I think.
You are from Eindhoven, the Netherlands. How is the scene compared to the rest of the country, especially to Amsterdam?
The techno scene was always really strong in Eindhoven and that is slowly coming back now, very happy about that. Eindhoven has a big history with key figures like Miss Djax (Djax-Up-Beats), the Acid Junkies, Zodiak Commune (who have been hosting events for 25 years), but also with key events at Effenaar like Lady Aida’s Fluid and Rick Angel’s Technononsense. We also had a legendary club called Funki Bizniz and long running Drum & Bass night Redzone. Even back in the 50’s people like Dick Raaymaakers where making electronic pop music for the Philips corporation at Natlab in Eindhoven, where the Cassette Tape as well as the CD was invented. Compared to Amsterdam Eindhoven is a lot smaller. I think the big difference is the mentality. In Eindhoven it is easy to collaborate for example, people tend to help each other out as we need to stick together to make something out of this town.
No Comment and VANABBE are your own imprints. Why did you start two record labels, and what‘s the difference between them?
I just actually started a new one called DRUM next to the DRUM event series that I have been hosting for the last 5 years. DRUM001 was released in September. I focused on No Comment and VANABBE before indeed. On No Comment I wanted to feature Techno, Electro and Ambient music and work with remixers like Gerald Donald, Sleeparchive and Anthony Linell. On VANABBE I really wanted to focus on solo material. I like to have loads of control when I put my music out or do an event. So releasing music was a natural step also because I have been pressing vinyl records since 2004.
You have also released a ton of music on many different labels such as Semantica, FIGURE Jams and Curle. How do your keep the variety of your tracks? What are the sources for your inspiration?
To be honest, it feels like I try to make the same track over and over. I like to create a world in audio / frequencies where I like to be and I see music as self-help sort of, which works therapeutic for me. I don’t really believe you can know where your inspiration comes from unless you are copying elements from other work, which is fine too. My believe is that everything in my life is reflected in my music, since it has been sounding deep and dry, though I figured, I like contrasts and the idea of juxtaposition. I like contrasts in sound / music but really in my life in general and in the emotions I feel. Life to me is about embracing the paradoxical nature of it.
DJ sets or live PA performances, for what you get booked more? What‘s your setup, when you performing live?
Mostly DJ sets now, although in the first years (2001 – 2006) I only played live sets, for the most part on illegal ”freetekno” raves and festivals. My setup is always changing with a few key elements. I tend to use Ableton, controllers and different hardware so I can still use my mastering chain so my audio quality will stay the same as the music I release on vinyl or digital (even playing with the laptop closed). Loads of people are obsessed with hardware only sets, which I did for years too, but this setup gives me even more control.
Besides of your work as producer and DJ, you are also involved in many different audiovisual projects. Can you tell us something about it?
As I mentioned before my approach to music has always been very graphic also because of my background in graffiti and graphic design. I don’t feel like I am a musician, to me it feels like doing graphic design with sound. When I create music or do an event I have images in my head that I like to combine with the music. So doing audio-visual projects was always a natural thing to me. This started with 2 Live Cinema projects and exhibitions that I did as Het Vleesgeworden Videowoord (The Video Word Made Flesh) and Phase Alternating Line back in 2005. In recent years I did an audio-video project around my album release Champagne Palestine and currently Weltmaschine.
You have been active for 17 years, it’s a really long time. Are there special moments in your career, that you will never forget?
Playing live on a Teknival in the Czech Republic while police helicopters where flying above the festival grounds and my live set at Berghain, a cliché but true.
For this week podcast you created a live mix for us. What was your setup and how did you prepare?
This live set was recorded at Tresor in Berlin October 20 during a Semantica night. The set consists only unreleased material for you to enjoy. It was the first time playing all this material live with Ableton, controllers an Elektron Analog Rythm and a 104HP Intellijel case with modules from that brand.