Steve Rachmad: Detroit meets the Netherlands
Dutch DJ and producer Steve Rachmad’s sound is influenced heavily by the Detroit techno movement. Deep and groovy, it can also range from minimal through to slamming, all done on 3 decks! He’s released music under an array of monikers, including Sterac, Ignacio, Dreg, Parallel 9 and Adverse Match, and has remixed the likes of The Advent, Chris Liebing and more. Touring Australia in September, ITM caught for a quick chat.
Tell us a bit about your early years and when you decided upon music as a career?
It’s hard to describe the period before I got into music, as I was just a small kid, busy with toys and school. Due to certain unfortunate events in my family, those years were also quite an emotional struggle that would follow me into my teenage years and still have a serious impact on who I am today. Parallel, I was just a normal kid, doing really well at school and discovering charms of the first loves… However, at the age of 12, things would start rapidly changing. I bought my first record, and soon started with simple editing, cut-and-pasting with a tape recorder. Music simply took such an important place in my life already at that stage—so unfortunately school started suffering big time. You can imagine that my dad was not so happy about it. I was busy with music in my attic room every single day, sometimes not even coming down to eat or shower. It’s sort of weird, as if I was possessed. At the age of 15 I had my first gig in one Amsterdam club. That time is colored by 80s disco, dance and electro. Soon after, all of this started bringing some concrete results: DJ and producing-wise. Music has at that point become a number one thing in my life, and it has pretty much not left my head ever since. Over time you grow and learn, your reality gets some new colors. But music is an everlasting thread that in part defines who I am. Over the years also my dad learned to accept what I was doing. People at work would ask him if he’s related to THE Steve Rachmad. I guess then he realized that this was very serious for me, not just a hobby…
So you’ve been involved in music now for over 20 years! Are you happiest doing what you are doing right now?
In 1985 I bought my first piece of hardware—TR 808. I liked 808 because of Planet Rock and SOS Band records, and that’s basically why I bought it. I worked as a newspaper delivery boy then, so I bought it with my earnings from that job. That’s where my studio collection starts, so it’s one of the crucial points of my career as a producer. Over the years I got hold of many other amazing machines, but this one will always have a special flavour for me. And yeah, I’m quite happy with what I’m doing right now—the downside is that gigs take so much of your time and energy so I don’t manage to spend as much time in the studio as I would want to. But it’s OK, I love DJing as well. I hate flying though, it becomes so irritating and boring. When are they going to come up with one of those teleport machines?
Your introduction to house might have been the pre-cursor to your final, real career. What did it teach you about the music business?
Well, the house scene is relatively small, and it’s damn hard to make it, especially nowadays with so many young DJs and producers with their computers out there. I was in a way lucky that I’ve been there since the beginning. Things just worked differently then. With a lot of hard work and persistence, I managed to stand out. But I guess that’s much harder to achieve these days, since it’s not this new and unexplored ground any more. Business-wise I’m quite a dummy, though. I know how things work, and I do hold some threads in my hands when it comes to releases, but in general I have a great manager and booking agent who co-ordinates everything for me so I don’t have to break my head around it. I’m not a businessman, I’m an artist. In business I can get too black-and-white, which is not good. Just let me be with my music, there I’m full of colors.
You found influence and released for Darren Emerson and Derrick May and others – tell us about that.
As for Derrick—that sound was completely new, and I was simply drawn to it. He lived in Amsterdam at some point, so it was a unique chance to get some feedback on my early stuff. He did send me away so many times though, but I would run home, work on the track all day, and there I was again next morning. Until one day it all fell into place!
You’ve done plenty of remixes. Is a remix a chance for you to make a track better or just different? Is there someone you would like to work with in future?
Remixing gives me a chance to show how it all looks from my perspective. It’s not about making it better, indeed—it’s about making it different, with my own personal touch. I’d love to remix Madonna some time!
You have a million aliases – A Scorpion’s Dream, Adverse Match, Black Scorpion, Rachmad Project, Sterac and others- tell us about some of them and the direction you follow with each?
I used many nicknames over the years. For example, Ignacio is my pseudonym under which I release club techno. Adverse Match I used for my releases on Jericho. You can find some new releases as Sterac Electronics—which I use for my electro releases. Dreg is there for really hard techno; Parallel 9 for dubby, minimal stuff. I simply want to show that I produce many different sorts of music, and each of them is represented by a different name.
You did your artist album “Secret Life of Machines,” which came out in 1996 under the pseudonym Sterac; when are we anticipating other from you?
Actually, right now I’m busy with a new album; hopefully it’s out in 2006.
What are the musical inspirations you draw upon in your production and DJ work. Even, what do you like to listen to in your spare time?
Production-wise, my heroes could be listed on pages and pages.. For example Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Arthur Baker, Mr Fingers, Robert Hood, Joey Beltram, Derrick May, The Advent, Jeff Mills, etc. Some of them are my favorites nowadays as well. DJ-wise, I have no favorites, that changes a lot. I admire DJ sets by the guys like Charles Siegling (Technasia) and Spanish female DJ Pelacha, for example, but none of them have direct influence on my DJ style. In that sense, nobody has, I have my own style and technique. Other artists can influence me only indirectly—through records they produce, and which I play in my sets in the end. I listen to many different things in my spare time. 80s disco and electro, Ulrich Schnauss, Monolake… There’s always SOME music playing on my stereo… I’m just not that into rock and metal, but I do listen to stuff like Janet Jackson, Madonna, Prince.
Tell us a bit about your production setup – what your studio consists of, software, hardware, and how you go from idea to inception?
My studio is still almost purely analogue. Computers are not my friends—things just seem to fall out of control even when I do some basic Internet surfing. Hence, my studio computer is an old Atari 1040ST. For the rest, a lot of synths such as Mini Moog, Juno 106; some drum machines like 909, Machinedrum; effects, filters… There is really no recipe on how I make a track. I enter the studio and play with the equipment. Sometimes nothing comes out of it, sometimes two tracks are ready in one day. It really depends on my mood and inspiration. Someone recently called me an “emotional player,” referring to my DJing. And he’s right, this also applies to my productions. If you piss me off, you throw me out of balance and I’m not at my best music-wise any more. That’s also a bad Scorpio side in me: I just can’t let it go so easily. But if everything is how it should be, then also the music just pours out.
Tell us about some of the motivations and inspirations you draw from daily life generally?
Well, life is a funny thing. Music has kept me in some sort of a nutshell for a long time—I used to be closed up in my world of sounds. But over time, I guess my life path and bits of maturity made me more sensitive towards my surroundings. Some simple things have become quite important—I love nature, sun, pure things. Chilling in the mountains abroad or Dutch dunes with some dear people fill my batteries. I occasionally follow political/social/economic happenings in the world, and most of these things just piss me off—which is music-wise inspirational in a different way: I just turn towards my reality and myself. For the rest, I think my music is inevitably a result of who I am as a whole (I guess that goes for almost every true artist)—and my surroundings, beloved people, my past and my strivings, they all colored my music as well. I don’t go out shopping for inspiration—it’s more that all the input moulds me in so many different ways, and hence my music is affected along the way as well.
Finally, tell us something about what you have in store for us during your Australian tour.
What I’m best known for: deep, melodic, funky, pumping, Detroit-influenced record bag. It’s basically a mixture of things – not too hard, and not too soft either…
Steve Rachmad plays Sydney and Melbourne this weekend: