DEKMANTEL SELECTORS 2017
When we first came up with the Selectors concept, we had a general idea of what the festival would entail: five days and nights on the Croatian coast, soundtracked by dozens of DJs with a keen ear for obscure and underappreciated musical gems. With a strictly limited capacity, many of our favorite artists on the bill and plenty of sunshine in the forecast, we headed to Tisno with high hopes, but the truth is that we simply were not prepared for just how memorable the experience would be. We have been throwing parties for a long time, but the artists playing Selectors dug extra deep into their crates and totally embraced the concept; never have we seen so many elated dancers excitedly asking for track IDs or simply losing themselves to some absolutely off-the-wall sounds.
Text: Shawn Reynaldo | Photos: Desiré van den Berg
Given that, we simply had to do it all again. The Selectors festival will be back in 2017. After years of looking toward the past and (rightfully) lionizing the DJ heroes of days gone by—Frankie Knuckles, Ron Hardy, Larry Levan, etc.—it’s time for dance music to celebrate the new generation of selectors that has blossomed in their wake. And while these artists do often dig for vinyl, play marathon sets and prefer intimate dancefloors to massive crowds, they shouldn’t be mistaken for mere revivalists. Their methods may be traditional, for lack of a better word, but their willingness to venture into unexplored corners of the musical spectrum and push the dancefloor beyond its usual limits has absolutely re-energized the DJ sphere.
Part of what makes these artists so intriguing is that even though they can all loosely be tagged as “selectors,” no two are exactly alike. In purely musical terms, some of them are in fact diametrically opposed. So once again, we’re left with the question of what, exactly, is a selector? If anyone might know, we figured it would be the artists themselves, so we’ve asked some of folks playing the 2017 Selectors festival to share their thoughts about the art of DJing and how they approach their craft.
Gatto Fritto: When I'm playing, I'm trying to give people a psychic holiday from the post-truth imaginarium.
"A good selector is a DJ who can present an interesting selection of music and play that music in a way that really communicates with the audience on the dancefloor. My favorite DJs right now are Hunee, Interstellar Funk, Tako and Mark Cremins—these people bring always a bunch of interesting music. Selection of tunes the most important part of being a DJ, and that’s why my favorite places to dig for records are spots “where no man has gone before.” - Antal
"Being a good selector requires a combination of an open mind, open ears and an understanding of where different music comes from. You have to be able to join the dots between everything fluidly and trying to play the best of everything that’s out there. Leave no stone unturned! At the same time, it’s important to find a middle ground between telling your story and making sure that everyone who has come to see you is enjoying it as much as you are. Without people on the dancefloor you’re not having much of a party, but you shouldn’t have to compromise yourself or your taste in the process. I’m really into playing records and going, "listen to this, isn’t it fucking amazing?!" If I can turn people on to things they’ve never encountered, that’s an amazing feeling. Sharing is caring after all. DJing is the main way I’ve been able to express myself in my life, so it’s not just playing music for me—I reckon I’m trying to find some kind of inner peace and satisfaction while I’m behind the decks." - Brian Not Brian
Antal: A good selector is a DJ who can present an interesting selection of music and play that music in a way that really communicates with the audience on the dancefloor.
"I think the most important quality a DJ can have is to be original, which means not playing what other people are playing. I played alongside DJ Sotofett recently and he’s a perfect example. He picks the weirdest tracks that I hear nobody else play—at least in the way he plays them. A good selector can give the listener surprises and (re)discoveries. I don’t consider DJs to be performers. I think of DJs as communicators. It’s very important to observe your audience, read their expressions and understand both what state they’re in and what they’re wanting. That being said, I have music I want to play to express myself and that I want them to hear. The ideal situation is when these things match. What I do during my DJ set is try to bring these two things as close together as possible. One of the most memorable moments of my DJ career was when I played a closing set at Berghain. Everyone in the room (including the club staff and bartenders) looked really happy, and they gave me an overwhelming applause at the end. I honestly felt like I could die happy at that moment. When you get a crowd response affirming that they had the best time while you did too, it’s an incredible feeling. I think it’s this feeling that drives me to continue DJing." - DJ Nobu
Rabih Beaini: I like the concept of destruction and reconstruction, even if it affects the technique and cleanness of a DJ set.
"One needs a good mixture of human empathy and general curiosity to be a good DJ. The curiosity will drive your very curious record collection, and your empathy will guide you in the best way to share it with people. When I hear a DJ who seems lacking in either of those qualities, I usually struggle to understand what they are doing. I don't have a favorite DJ but I wish I could have heard Count Matchuki because I'm sure it's true that we've all been in the great man's shadow ever since his golden days!" - Call Super
"DJing is about playing the right record at the right time to the right people. When I’m playing, I’m trying to give people a psychic holiday from the post-truth imaginarium. My favorite DJ this year is Vladimir Ivkovic, who can be similarly transportative. (Previously my favorite was John Reynolds, the former Lost resident and Fatcat counter staff, but he stopped DJing.) When it comes to digging for records, Music & Video Exchange in Greenwich, London is my favorite. They’ve got interesting stock, decent prices, accurate grading and it’s owned by a madman—what’s not to love?" - Gatto Fritto
"What makes a good selector? I would have to say the obvious and that's selection of course. I have multiple spots where I like to dig for records, but but my main place lately is in Berlin and it’s in the 10435 post code. Without question, the most important part of being a DJ is having a strong connection with your music. My favorite DJs—there are several favorites and each one brings something different to the table—all connect with their music, but I’d have to say KDJ takes the top spot for me. When I’m in the booth though, I'm trying to provide a memorable experience. I want people to be engaged from beginning to end. It helps to play in the right club, and there are plenty of good spots across the EU, but I have to say OHM is my favorite. Playing there is like driving a luxury car." - DJ Stingray
DJ Nobu: When you get a crowd response affirming that they had the best time while you did too, it's an incredible feeling.
"A good selector is someone who digs deeper into genres, labels and artists and doesn’t stop after he or she has found that one specific 12". These people play the unexpected and don’t copy other DJs who’ve put a lot of time and effort into discovering new music. When I’m playing, I try to surprise the audience and let them enjoy music that they are unfamiliar with. It’s important to be original, and when it comes to selections, it doesn’t matter if a record is new, old, cheap or extremely rare—in the end, it’s all about the music itself." - Interstellar Funk
"When it comes to DJing, it’s important not to take yourself too seriously, but you also need a real deep hunger and love of music. Good selectors are creative, have open ears and continuously push boundaries. That’s why we love guys like Tako. He is one of the most passionate and open-minded music lovers we’ve ever met. Whether he is playing records at home for friends or playing a packed club, he exudes a genuine joy in sharing the music he loves and that definitely comes across in his sets. As for our sets, we’re always trying to surprise people and get them excited and dancing to music they don’t know about or didn’t expect to hear in a club. We want to make people hyper over a pitched-up digital reggae jam or a kwaito cut at cosmic tempo." - Invisible City Sound System
"A good selector is someone that plays the right records at the right time in the right context. Moreover, their sets make total sense to you, whether or not you know the tunes. That being said, it’s important for DJs to forget about themselves to a certain degree and always remember you that they in it together with the crowd. When I’m playing, I try to shape my personal musical exploration into a collective celebration. Of course, I think every DJ is always trying to arrive at “that moment” where the records play themselves and everyone in the room is together." - Orpheu The Wizard
Volcov: Everybody is so busy trying to be obscure these days, but I'm more focused on presenting things that have a certain vibe, sound or message, even if they aren't all that hard to find.
"I don’t have a favorite DJ. There are far too many innovative people which are formative for me to choose one single person. I don’t have a go-to spot for digging either, although ideally I like to go to places where not too many selectors have been before. Naturally, I love to play at the Golden Pudel Club, but Salon des Amateurs in Düsseldorf, De School in Amsterdam, Intonal Festival in Malmö, Arma 17 in Moscow and both 20/44 and Drugstore in Belgrade have all been fantastic as well. Brussels has always been good to me too. In all of these place, the audience has been incredibly open-minded, and that’s what I’m looking for." - Phuong-Dan
"Ideally a music selector is someone with a broad knowledge of music, good skills in playing and the capacity to tell a story. A good storyteller can develop their selections based on the vocabulary they master, which is the music they know and the records they own. It’s really important to master the language in order to make a good conversation, and this applies directly to music as a communication method. My favorite DJs are the ones who can teach me something every time. When I’m playing, I’m focused on creation. I like the concept of destruction and reconstruction, even if it affects the technique and cleanness of a DJ set. I tend to treat the music I play as source material to create something new, or at least I try to." - Rabih Beaini
"Being a good DJ is all about selection and honesty. That’s why Theo Parrish is still by far my favorite DJ. He plays a lot of music I love from across the board, and does it with an unrivalled energy. Whenever there’s a new D’angelo, Kaidi Tatham or Raphael Sadiq song, he’s still the only DJ I know will include it straight away in his sets. As for my own DJing, I try to present music that doesn’t get heard often. Everybody is so busy trying to be ‘obscure’ these days, but I’m more focused on presenting things that have a certain vibe, sound or message, even if they aren’t all that hard to find." - Volcov
Sassy J: A good selector is someone who inspires curiosity and makes you tune into their world.
"The most important part of DJing is timing. You need to be able to feel what kind of atmosphere is appropriate for the crowd and the setting—that doesn’t mean it has to be pleasing! A good selector has a sensitive nose and big ears, intuitively knowing what fits without having to think about it and analyze it. Of course, a deep emotional connection with the music is also essential. Personally, I’ve had my most inspiring moments on the dancefloor with Traxx and Vladimir Ivkovic—their uncompromising way of playing is really unique. Places like Salon des Amateurs celebrate this, and it’s also why De School is absolutely one of my favorite clubs. The booth there is uniquely placed and it’s great to have people dancing all the way around you; it feels more like you’re part of the crowd, which I really enjoy! Plus, the light design is perfectly subtle. I’m not a fan of ambitious light shows, and De School is simply a sweaty, black and foggy room that doesn’t distract from what it’s really about—the music!" - Lena Willikens
"This may sound obvious, but being a good selector ultimately comes down to good, authentic selection. That said, DJing well involves more than simply playing good music. It requires an ability to read your environment and the particular microcosm that you’re a part of. In some places, it’s all about keeping the energy levels high. In others, you have to keep in mind that you’re playing in public and people don’t necessarily need to have your ego imposed and hear all of your 7-inches from Uzbekistan. Not surprisingly, my favorite place to play is Salon des Amateurs in Düsseldorf. It’s a place that’s been shaped by friends for many years now, without any ingratiation." - Vladimir Ivkovic
Orpheu The Wizard: A good selector is someone that plays the right records at the right time in the right context.
"A good selector plays their own records, exactly the way they want to, without any trend boundaries or any other bullshit influences from the outside. I think it’s pretty hard to reach that point—it takes loads of time and work! Beyond that, the best DJs are always having fun, giving fun, being generous and honest. When I’m playing, I want to communicate in the most honest way with my audience. It’s a chance to fully be myself and to spread my message. Sometimes when I meet people, I act weird because I’m not comfortable. I hide behind bad jokes or act cold and distant. I can’t do that with records because I don’t own any music that I don’t like or even that I only 50% like. That’s also why I admire Raphael Top Secret so much. Yes, we grew up together, but he makes very personal choices and statements with his sets and he’s always open to new musical directions too." - Zaltan