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2manydjs interview: As Heard On Radio Soulwax

Marko Kutlesa caught up with the legendary epoch-defining Djing duo ahead of their Uk dates.

Skiddle Staff

Last updated: 4th Dec 2017

Image: 2ManyDjs (source)

Brothers Stephen Dewaele and David Dewaele have, no matter how unwittingly, done more than their fair share to help shape music since the new millennium. Inspired by heavy rock music, they formed their group Soulwax in the mid 90s, releasing several EPs and the albums Leave The Story Untold and Much Against Everyone's Advice

Towards the end of the decade the brothers became a DJ and production duo of a slightly different ilk. Their 2ManyDJs alias was birthed from a radio show they undertook in their home country of Belgium in which they would put together an eclectic, cross-genre mix of music utilising both the skill of a DJ and their nous within the studio.

This project soon hit radio and clubland overseas and proved to big a huge success, a clever but highly accessible amalgamation that both entertained and captured the musical zeitgeist of capital cities across western Europe. This lead to the brothers remixing, officially and unofficially, countless acts including Kylie Minogue, Daft Punk, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, Prince, The Klaxons, LCD Soundsystem and DJ Shadow.

Their success as 2manydjs also had a huge impact on their Soulwax group, with the release of third album Any Minute Now in 2004 and its remix album Nite Versions released one year later. Soulwax took the brashness and best songwriting of rock music and mixed it with an electronic dance sound and production which similarly helped define the era.

Since that time the brothers have been restlessly innovating using various mediums, projects, and aliases. They have curated their own Radio Soulwax app, become part of Grand Theft Auto's radio options, made an album as Die Verboten, and produced for Crookers, Peaches and Das Pop.

They have also produced music for film soundtracks including Steve + Sky (2004) and Belgica (2016). The latter, on which the brothers accredited each track to a fictional band who appeared within the movie's nightclub setting (such as Diploma's 'Got Any Chris Rea?'), was highly acclaimed critically.

More recent projects have included building and DJing at the festival slaying Despacio Soundsystem, founded alongside LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy, recording 'Close To Paradise', an EP split between Soulwax music and interviews tracing the history of Ibiza and touring globally as Soulwax. 

Prior to a series of UK dates, we caught up with one of the brothers, Stephen, to ask him about their various projects.

Hi Stephen! Your Essential mix from earlier this year is fantastic! I loved it! With regards to the last half of it, the 2manydjs set, just how do you continue to source music like that?

Hi! There's no shortage of it. We've been buying and looking for rare stuff for the last 20 years so there's still so much that we haven't yet used on any of these mixes. It's just something that's natural to us. I still but a lot of vinyl and wherever we travel there's always a guy we know selling it or a record store which we end up plundering. It's something I feel like we've been doing ever since.

I heard you have over 30,000 records at your studios?

It's even more now, I think. It's too much. 

Got any Chris Rea?

Ha! Yes, we do. And that's such a great t-shirt, by the way. 

Of all the bands who appear on the Belgica soundtrack, which one would you most like to go and see a full show by?

Oooh. That's a really good question. I think the one that I like the most was the new age guy. Danyel Galaxy, who was sitting under a fluorescent pyramid. I want to see more of that guy.

Not only on that soundtrack, but in previous instances, you've seemed to quite like using pseudonyms. Do you do that in order to try and have the music judged on its own merits rather than on your existing reputation?

Yes, in answer to your question. But, on the other hand, I have to be honest with you, I don't think we'd be doing what we're doing now if we wouldn't have had those things. I think it's necessary for us to sometimes be a band, sometimes produce stuff under our other names. I think it helps us be creative and step out of the mould of being just one thing. That's something we find hard to do. It definitely reflects our personalities too!

Before you released that soundtrack, plus the Waffles, Klanken and Die Verboten releases there was a period of a few years in which things seemed pretty quiet in terms of releases. What were you doing at that time?

We were actually making an app called Radio Soulwax in which we did mix hours. It was an online app, which we did for free, instead of making another 2 Many DJs mix album, which we think we pretty much already did. We did these hours which were specifically themed, visualised the sleeves and animated them, stuff like that.

It was an online thing not a physical release. It took up a lot of our time and it cost us a lot of money, but it was something I think we needed to get out of our system and that we're very proud of. But in terms of physical releases it was a period where we didn't actually do that much, apart from remixing some other people, things like that. 

Maybe it's because of the fantastic video made by Ill Studio, but on 'Do You Want To Get Into Trouble' you seem to be evoking feelings that are maybe more usually assigned to people who are younger than you now are. Would you agree?

Er, yeah, but I think it's still something that's inherent in pop culture that we like and also in the personalities we have as well. It's a sentiment that, as an older person, I can still find myself falling into haha. Things sometimes get a little too formal for me.

All of your DEEWEE projects hold a unique catalogue number, even your studio building. Similarly they are all designed by Ill Studio, as was your live show. I'm from Manchester and I recognise that modus operandi. Would you say Factory Records was an inspiration?

100%. It's hard to explain. I really loved what they did, what they created. It's timeless. It comes from a different period yet it's still something unique in the way it sounds and in the way it looks. And it's very consistent. It has been such a big influence not just on DEEWEE, but on everything that we've done. Maybe DEEWEE is the culmination of it, but it's in everything that's gone before as well.  

Do you have a particular favourite Factory artist?

I know this might sound weird, but it has to be New Order. What is there not to like about New Order? I could go on for hours and hours about them.

I think one of the biggest compliments we got was when we met Peter Hook from New Order and he said one of our remixes was one of his favourites that had been done of them. It was an amazing compliment because I think he really understood what we did and where we were coming from. 

Moving onto the band, in what ways has 'The Singer Became A DJ'?

Well, you're speaking to him! Ahahahaha. It's not a critique, it's just something that has happened. With us, we started off as an indie band and since then I've seen a lot of people who were in bands and they've now become DJs. It was a little bit of that.

Where did the idea come from to work with three drummers and why were those particular drummers the ones you chose? 

The three drummers idea was something I think we had in our heads for a long time. Not because of the three, but because of the idea of syncopating whatever rhythms we had with us and to have it done by different people physically. And then the three people that we ended up with.

Iggor is such a good friend of ours. I actually feel as though if we hadn't have asked him he probably would've hated us for the rest of his life. So, even before we sat down and agreed on the idea, Iggor was already in the picture. After that it was pretty easy.

We needed something that was different to him, different to the style that he plays, and Victoria and Blake were presented to us. It all happened very quickly. We called them up and we thought there would be questions, but they were just, like, OK, I'm there. When do we start?

How do you set that up to ensure they are not all playing the same rhythm and spectrum of the drums? Do you suggest roles or areas to them or do they decide between themselves in a pre-arranged agreement? 

No, I think the way we did it was we wrote demos and passed them on so that there's never a point where they all play the same thing. We made sure there was three different parts for three separate drummers. We tried it out and sometimes we ended up switching positions, in the sense that some of them were more suitable for some of the parts.

Once they were playing it, it became very clear who was playing what and who would be better at what, or who has a better feel for which particular element within each song. Then we rehearsed and rehearsed, played it live, then just recorded it in a couple of takes. 

Like you've said, you've known Iggor Cavalera for quite a few years. How did you first meet?

We went over as 2ManyDJs to play in Brazil a long, long time ago, maybe 15 years and it was one of our first trips. He came to one of the shows and that's how we met. We stayed in contact ever since.

I think maybe the reason why he liked what we did was maybe because we were also rock kids who started getting into electronic music, but we incorporated quite a lot of that feeling. And I think it was was a new world for him.

Whenever we went to Brazil after that we would hang out and also whenever they would come here, more and more. I'm so happy we found a way to work together. And still be friends!

You recorded the Die Verboten album on Ibiza. Did you learn anything about Ibiza when you did this year's 'Close To Paradise' project that you didn't previously know about the island?

Actually, the first time that we went to record on Ibiza at the villa we were quite snobbish about it. But, when we were recording there, we got to know quite a lot of the people who had been living there for 20 or 30 years and we started getting into the history. So, it was while recording that we actually discovered a side of it that we really kind of liked.

It was while we were doing Die Verboten records that we actually got to know Ibiza in a different way. The thing that triggered our interest in the old days was about when it was a weird place, where people would gather from all over Europe and they would be playing a specific kind of music and that was the beginning of a club culture that we all seem to try to emulate now. 


Freeze presents 2ManyDJs - Underground, Liverpool Saturday 9th December

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