Interview: Julien Chaptal on Amsterdam's New Techno Generation
The Paris-born adopted Amsterdam-ite Julien Chaptal talks to Skiddle about Amsterdam's new School techno generation, and what sets the city's scene apart from other places.
Date published: 18th Jan 2011
Julien Chaptal moved to Amsterdam more than a decade ago. Originally from Paris, he was drawn to the Dutch city at a time when loop techno was in full swing.
But 'with every new generation comes new producers’, whereby new sounds take over the dance-floor – that is until the next generation comes along.
What’s en vogue at present? Well the Parisian-born producer cites ‘90s house as the Netherland capital’s current flavour. Although the musicians and producers are in high demand, so too is their need to create and come together. Amsterdam’s New School techno generation is at the forefront of such collaborative efforts.
Unlike other global cities, Amsterdam’s techno scene is not riddled with rivalry but competitiveness. As similar as these two words may sound, they are worlds apart. In Amsterdam, Chaptal speaks of a ‘constant drive to exchange ideas and challenge each other’. The outcome is one of a more positive nature, that also inspired the creation of Amsterdam 661: a group of six producers; Quazar MG (AKA Gert van Veen), Kabale und Liebe, Lauhaus and David Labeij, Boris Werner and, of course, Julien Chaptal. The collective play live no more than twice a year, though with the tagline "six producers, six machines, one mind" they’ll be sure to blow your mind.
Jasmine Phull listens as Julien Chaptal talks sign language and debates the reasoning behind Amsterdam’s flourishing techno scene.
Although you’re originally from Paris, you are currently living in Amsterdam. How does the city foster the development of techno music? A lot of great producers have come out of Amsterdam the last 20 years or so. I honestly can't pinpoint a specific reason why Amsterdam would nurture techno music more than another city. People really enjoy going out and partying so naturally a few of these people end up making music and playing it too. Of course a healthy club scene really helps. A lot of DJs get the chance to play and sharpen their skills every weekend.
Describe how the city’s techno scene greatly changed since you first moved there in 2000? With every new generation of producers, new styles emerge. Often the new kids will bring in musical flavours of the past and give them a new twist; sometimes something completely new emerges. As for every other scene I think, trends and styles go in waves and the techno scene is no exception. When I arrived here loop techno was very popular in underground clubs that sound faded and minimal sounds came in from Germany. Most people here embraced that new wave of techno and we somehow made it our own by infusing some of the sounds that were popular here before. There is now a new generation of producers who are largely influenced by 90s house and that's part of a new chapter that began a little while back.
Explain Amsterdam’s New School techno generation? How are you involved with that? I started getting involved when Dylan Hermelijn (aka 2000 and One) asked me to release a record on his then new label, Remote Area. At that time some of my friends also started releasing on the label and we all started hanging out, making music and playing together. Soon after that some of us got together to form Amsterdam 661, a live act with six producers. There are different groups in Amsterdam and we all have different approaches to making and performing music so there's a constant drive to exchange ideas and challenge each other. It's very different than the techno scene in other capitals where I often hear that there's a lot of rivalry. We all have a big respect for each other and the variety of music being produced here makes the scene really healthy.
For a DJ, travelling is part of the job. How does travelling inspire your music? I normally don't get very inspired by airports; the "getting there" part of what I do is the only part I find tedious. I am not too keen on taking the airplane, but getting better with it. On the other hand I've started building a couple of high altitude tunes on the laptop and I'm really happy with these. Meeting new people and playing in front of different crowds during the weekend is always exciting and I get loads of inspiration that way. It's interesting to see people's reaction on the floor; I like the challenge of it. I take a lot of that back with me to the studio on Mondays. Sometimes I don't speak the local language and I'm also developing sign language skills so all in all travelling works out great for me.
You remix tracks and create your own. Which do you prefer? Creating my own - any day. Don't get me wrong, I love remixing other people's track as well but nothing beats starting with a blank page. I feel no boundaries when I work on my own tunes.
Do people approach you? Do you feel much pressure when remixing their tracks? People do approach me to remix their tracks regularly. I have made quite a few remixes in the last couple of years and so I got used to the whole process. I guess I used to feel some pressure to produce a track in a certain way because a label would ask me to make the remix sound like the previous track I put out the month before; that can become boring quickly. Sometimes I still get the feeling that some people already think they know exactly what my remix should sound like even before they call me up but at the end of the day they ask me to do so to hear what my take on the original is so I just stick to what I do. I decided to only remix tracks if I feel that I can really add something personal to the original theme. It makes no sense to remix a track and only use, let's say, a percussion sample of the original. Then I'd rather release the track under my own name and take that sample away.
Does Beatport play an important part in your musical process? If so, what from 10-15 years ago would you liken it to. Yeah of course Beatport is a place I visit regularly since I pretty much stopped buying vinyl these days. I guess it's more than just a place to buy tracks but that's all I do there so I guess I'd liken it to… a record store? Of course Beatport is also an interesting place to see what is happening in the dance world. Charts and top 100s are a good way to monitor trends but I don't spend much time looking at them as I am not interested in letting my music being influenced in that way.
What’s something that’s missing in the music industry that was there 10-15 years ago? Money I'd say. There used to be a lot more of it involved in all genres of music and some of the people who grew used to it are crying now, but I think that all in all we are seeing that everyone is adapting fine. Being able to produce house or techno used to cost an arm and a leg; samplers, synths, drum machines and mixers didn't come cheap. Bands had to find ways to get funds to spend some time in professional studios to record but nowadays with software and basic hardware accessible to everyone even these guys have a DIY approach to recording. Because everyone has access to a computer you do get a lot of rubbish out there, but some of today's great producers might not have gotten the chance to produce anything 15 years ago. Another thing that's missing, and one that I do feel a bit nostalgic about, is the medium. Since most of the music is distributed electronically I do miss the relationship we used to have with vinyl, cassettes and CDs. I get the feeling that the music that gets out nowadays gets forgotten quicker because of it. The way we consume music has changed and that's not always for the better.
Something that the music industry has now that it didn’t use to? Lady Gaga.