Steve Rachmad is one of Europe’s best-loved techno protagonists. A DJ and producer spanning three decades, he is one of the artists associated with the original ‘Dutch Detroit sound’, and has released music under a mountain of pseudonyms from Parallel 9, Esteban Del Monte, Sterac, Ignacio and Tons of Tones, remixing the likes of M.A.N.D.Y., John Tejada, Basement Jaxx and Victor Calderone across labels as diverse as Tresor, 100% Pure, Prime, Music Man Records, Spiritual Records and Soma. This summer he rereleased one of techno’s seminal albums, his 1995 Secret Life Of Machines. We caught up with him in Spain as he landed in Barcelona for Sonar week.
This year sees you re-release your seminal 1995 album Secret Life Of Machines on 100% Pure. What made you want to revisit it, 17 years later? Was it a case of wanting to bring some classic techno to new listeners? At first I didn’t want to re-release it but other artists, friends and fans convinced me to do it. They thought it sounded quite timeless and still up to date. And next to that a lot of people were still looking for the original and it is an opportunity to introduce it to the people who don’t know it at all.
The album is out now. Was the gig in Barcelona just one step of the tour to take it to the masses? Yes it was actually one of the many tourdates on schedule. And both Karotte and I played some of the album stuff.
You played at the Mac Arena Mar Beach Club. How did that go? Yes, I did a back2back set with Karotte for the second time now and it was really great! We had so much fun together and the people were up for a good party so it was all good. Great party! The audio and video stream is still available online at be@TV in case people want to check it out.
Techno has changed so much over the years. What’s your take on modern techno? Do you think it’s still true to the source? House music seems to be paying a lot of dues to the old days now. Is techno the same? A lot of things in life change over the years and a lot of things in life look back at what was there before earlier in time. Look at fashion or design, they all had a revival of sometime in the past weather it is the 50′s, 60′s, 70′s, 80′s. And so does music and so does techno. Techno did change but nothing really left. Of course the new style techno is a bit further away from its origin. But even in those new styles it refers to things from the past. And next to that there will always be a group of people that will be true to the original source.
You’ve been one of the longest-serving techno artists from outside Detroit over the last 25 years. What first got you into techno and how did you first start to produce? It was mainly the sounds and chords and the way they were played that got me into techno. First I had to find out what sounds they used before buying stuff myself. An TR-808 I already had and slowly after that I was collecting more synths and drummachines.
You’re almost soley resonsible for the creation of the ‘Dutch Detroit Techno’ sound. Do you feel a responsibility to the scene? How do you think the scene has changed there? I think it’s wrong to say that I am the only one or the first one because there where/are more in Holland. What about People like Speedy J, Orlando Voorn that came before I did. Labels from the past like Evolute with Stefan Robbers and nowadays still Delsin with M>O>S and Ross 154 and there are so many more. I don’t feel responsible for the scene but I do feel I’m part of it, yes. I did influence a lot of people, this is for sure too. The scene changed a lot with the “big change” a few years ago. One of the main positive sides I think is the slowing down of the speed of the music. It made it more friendly for clubs and there are more girls on the dancefloor nowadays. There is a bigger variety of music if you look around and don’t get stuck with all the trendy stuff.
Your sound when it began was all hardware. Do you still produce mostly on hardware? Do you think software makes it too easy to make records these days? I do still produce on hardware except now I combine it with software as well. For me it’s still the most intuitive way to make music. For me on the computer it gets too much screen and mousepad based. I like to play on the keyboard, turn knobs, play with the mixer and effects. I do think the computer makes it too easy to make records. Now even people without talent can release a record. In my time you had to go to an A&R manager, he had to test your tracks and refuse them or tell you that you had to change things. Nowadays you just start a label and release it yourself. Instead of having talent for making music, people are forcing themselves to make music because it’s so cool and so easy with the computer. But next to that there is a whole bunch of people that do have talent and make really cool music, luckily.
Do you have plans for a new album after this? How hard is it to make an album these days when there’s so much music around? I’m thinking about doing a new album of one of my projects but I’m still not sure if it will be a Sterac or a Parallel 9 album. I think you have to do an album when you are ready for it and do it for yourself. So basically, don’t think too much about how much music there is around, and what’s hot and what not, but just focus on your album and make it something special.
Of any genre, techno feels like it owes most (still) to the original founders. What debt do you think you feel to those guys – Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson, Juan Atkins and the rest? Unfortunately a lot of people don’t know the history of techno. And some of those people think it’s trance when you play them an original Detroit record. Which is a shame. I think it’s good to know where the music you like comes from. There’s no debt towards these guys. They were my teachers and after that a pupil steps into the world and explores things on his/her own, to pass on the knowledge to the next generation. I am doing this too.
What keeps the creative fires burning still after all these years? The music, the people, the new technics and machines, the great artists, great parties and good food keep me going.
What’s in store for the rest of the summer and 2012? The summer is filed up with lots of festivals in and outside of Holland. Fusion, Tundra, Day and Night, Welcome To The Future just to name a few. Next to that I will try to be in the studio as much as possible.