Trax: Tell me about the time you first met.
Donato Dozzy: Our common friend Marco Freivogel [editor's note: half of Exercise One] introduced us in 2006. He was just starting his new label Lan Muzic and he said "Donato, I found this great artist from Belgium: Peter Van Hoesen. You would like him a lot, not only for his music but also as a person." He gave me his records and his name was in my system.
Peter Van Hoesen: It was the same thing for me. "You would love him…"
DD: Yes, he says that for everybody! (laughs)
PVH: Marco loves everybody, he's a fantastic person, the best human being I know!
DD: But we really met physically in 2008 at Labyrinth festival. I remember it was immediate connection. It was like we had known each other since forever. We have always something to speak about together. It’s never-ending, we jump from a subject to another very easily. It’s like a confession! (laughs). We had a great time in Labyrinth this year, and, 3 months later, we spent the whole week together in the studio in San Felice.
Which tracks did you produce during this week?
PVH: Talis (Curle), Dock et Elektra (Time To Express). And you know what Donato ? Last week I found old unreleased tracks from that session on my computer.
Nice! Can you tell me about your first back to back?
PVH: Everything began at Breakfast club during ADE 2015. Donato was playing alone, he was just taking off and… the sound suddenly stopped!
DD: And I was incredibly sad…
PVH: It was a long break, something like 10 minutes. It’s a long time in a club. We could all see Donato was getting very worried. When electricity came back, Donato started again his live, but after 10 minutes he turned back to us: Marco Shuttle, Neel & me. So Neel began to play on the TR-909 and I began to make loops…
DD: I felt that what I was doing before was over. But I had all my friends around, so I said, "you know what, let’s make something crazy!"
It was like a jam session?
DD: Yes and it turned to be the strongest performance of the year! I don’t remember any other gig like that. People went crazy, and we were crazy as well! It was unreal!
"We can choose to be a DJ or a musician. We can use any music we want, any source we want. It’s like a big vegetable soup! There are endless possibilities!"
What happened after this first b2b?
PVH: Our friend from Labyrinth heard about this Breakfast club-night and invited us to play at Unit in Tokyo in January 2016. And we did a seven hours b2b.
Can you tell us about your "hybrid b2b" concept? How does it work exactly?
PVH: We have 2 drums machines, 2 synthesizers, 3 effect samplers, but also modular systems, a computer full of other people’s music…
DD: We can choose to be a DJ or a musician. We can use any music we want, any source we want. We put everything in the folder of our sampler. We use samples from other producers but we also our original stuff. Sometimes, we play unfinished tracks produced in studio. For example 5 minutes of bassline without any kick or drum. It’s like a big vegetable soup! There are endless possibilities!
PVH: I’ve got a lot of unfinished loops that will maybe one day become tracks. But right now, it’s just maybe 2 instruments in a loop. I might play them tonight when we take off together. Maybe we will play after somebody else’s track, before switching into 5 minutes with a TR-909. We will make something that will exist just for a moment, before disappearing… That’s what will make it so beautiful.
DD: The audience will experience something original and unrepeatable.
PVH: We prepared our set individually but we haven’t really prepared our performance together. Sometimes, we even don’t tell each other what we will bring in the end. It’s nice to surprise each other. This "surprise effect" will make the moment authentic, and the audience will feel it. It’s also a provocation because you want to see your friend’s reaction, how he’s going to get out of this situation.
That’s the definition of b2b, isn’t it?
PVH: Yes, but in a more expanded way. We have more machines, more effects, more options, more of everything. I have enough in my laptop to play for 5 days.
DD: To play like this, you need technical knowledge. 10 years ago, we wouldn’t have been able to do this. But, now we know the machines, and how to prepare such a complex setup quite fast.
Do you think you particularly fit and complete each other, musically speaking?
DD: We are very close to each other, we have very close connections. We have common musical background, common roots because we are the same age [editor's note: 46]. We both grew up in the 80’s.
PVH: We were both lucky to grow up at a period when electronic music was being shaped. Now, it sounds very normal, but in the 80’s and the 90’s, electronic music was kind of an weird thing. It was for freaks, for strange people. We lived the same experience. When we listened to electronic music, we felt like outsiders, people from the “avant-garde”.
"The moment we connected with each other was the day we talked about our love of psychedelic music."
DD: You have also to consider the way music was mixed at this period. DJ’s mixed different musical genres which apparently didn’t match together. Some were able to mix everything with everything. At the beginning of the 80’s, people like Daniele Baldelli created their own concept. He mixed african music with space, earlier electronic music, funk and slow beats in general.
PVH: Situation in the 80’s in Belgium and Italy was similar in many ways. These two countries were advanced for electronic music, more advanced than Germany, France or Holland. There was more acceptance of electronic music and people were very focused on the dancing aspect. In other countries like in the UK, people were for example more focused on the post-punk scene in the 80’s. In Germany, it was the end of krautrock which was also very electronic, but not in the same way as in Italy or Belgium, not with this dancefloor thing.
And approximately 30 years later, you make this "fusion roots" happen again…
DD: Parties often start with house music nowadays. But for our first b2b at Unit, the entire night was dedicated to us, we didn’t have any DJ opening the night for us, so we opened the party and closed the party. That’s why we decided to start with the oldschool way : very slow beats and then faster and faster. And we mixed many different elements. I remember we played african music instead of old beats or italo grooves. We started very slow. The first track was from Francis Bebey. First 20 minutes were only sounds, no grooves.
What are the bridges between your musical cultures? Did it take you a while to understand each other musically speaking?
PVH: Of course, we have different tastes but we both love a lot of psychedelic music. That’s the way we found each other. The moment we connected with each other was the day we talked about our love of psychedelic music. We also both very like percussive music and african music.
DD: For example Guem & Zaka. It’s fantastic! Oh my god!
What is psychedelic music for you?
PVH: That’s a good question!
DD: It’s what makes your head turn around, when you know you are in a spiral, when things take off from a moment to another. You understand that everybody is in a spiral like you. It could be a bassline, a percussive sound, a voice… anything! Even something that is not connected to a rhythm. For example, a few years ago at Labyrinth festival, things took off when I played a 9 minutes track from Spacemen 3 called Ecstasy in Slow Motion from the album Dream Weapon. There was no groove at all, just a phaser effect that sounds like an UFO. The 3 000 people of the dancefloor were waiting for this feeling to come back again. 10 minutes of spiral… I told myself: "I got them!"
Spacemen 3 - Ecstasy in Slow Motion
PVH: For me, the best thing that a psychedelic vibe can do for you is to connect you to the real thing, to take you away from all the filters we have.
DD: Then, you begin to speak a common language.
PVH: Exactly! Music helps us to see things for what they really are. Psychedelic experience brings people in a special state of mind. You tell yourself: "now it’s the real thing".
You mean that psychedelic music is a way to be really yourself, or even more than yourself?
PVH: Yes, a psychedelic experience allows you to find freedom.
DD: You connect with the people around you, you connect with yourself, with your environment, with nature…. But it doesn’t mean it only happens in a forest, it can happen anywhere.
PVH: And you don’t need to be on drugs. You just use music to free your mind from negative thoughts that block you.
"Dancing is a cure. You are curing yourself when you dance."
What about your love for percussive music and African music?
PVH: We both love percussions: African rhythm and voodoo percussions.
DD: In Haïti, people get in trance with voodoo music. Listen to Ti Roro's music released in the 50’s [editor's note: haitian drummer known for popularizing the artistry of Haitian Vodou ritual drumming]. He was THE voodooist by excellence. Jeff Mills has also this voodoo thing that puts you in trance. Just listen to Purpose Maker records. If you compare Ti Roro’s patterns and Jeff Mills' tracks, you can see the bridges.
PVH: Purpose Maker records are famous for their techno loops. But journalists made a mistake. It’s not about techno loops, it’s more about voodoo percussions. For example, Jeff Mills' EP Our Man In Havana.
Jeff Mills - The Fly Guy
I'm glad that you speak about voodoo music and trance, because I wanted to speak about shamanism. For Dino Sabatini, DJ’s are modern shamans. Do you agree with him? Do you think DJ’s cure people or help them to see or feel the invisible?
PVH: Dancing is a cure. You are curing yourself when you dance.
DD: Shamanism doesn’t only belong to our generation. People have always needed to trip out. If we were born hundreds years before, we would have found another way to be shamanistic. Every age has its own way of expression. Technologic components help us nowadays to spread easily this vibe. Today, we use synthesizers and drum machines, but we could have been voodoo percussionists if we had been born a hundred years earlier. Two years ago, I had an obsession. I wanted to release an album by using only a Jew's harp. This instrument sounds acid for me, it’s very close to TB 303. I tried to imagine which kind of musician I could have been 200 years before and I tried to make acid music without using synthesizers. The album I’m talking about is called Loud Silence and was released on Further Records in 2015.
So, do you think DJ’s are modern shamans or not?
PVH: Real shamans represent much more than DJ’s for the tribes, they really heal people. They go much further, they travel through psychedelic experiences and other realities to bring back solutions for people from the tribe. But, both of them, shamans and DJ’s, try to transmit something. We are blessed to receive and we transmit it.
As DJ’s, what would you like to transmit and give to people?
DD: Make them dance, help them to open themselves, put something in their minds, something that will help them to feel better and connect with themselves, help them to find their own ways… But we are doing this first for ourselves. As a DJ, I am looking for these special moments where you have the feeling to be lighter on the dancefloor, when the weight of the world doesn’t seem heavy anymore. And then, I try to bring these moments of lightness in your daily life. If some people from the audience feel them, I think we can say that we did our job.
But it’s hard to bring these moments in real life… The things you live on the dancefloor are very special and hard to transpose…
PVH: That’s why we do what we do. Some DJ’s did that for me, they changed my life. I felt free when I was dancing and progressively managed to be free in my daily life. And now, it’s my turn to give people these moments of freedom.
Peter Van Hoesen & Donato Dozzy - Elektra