Truancy Volume 190: DJ Deep

As one of house and techno’s most accomplished and technically skilled selectors, DJ Deep’s encyclopaedic understanding of the genres has kept him busy on the scene for more than twenty years, building up a reputation that’s beyond reproach. From his early days as a resident DJ for Laurent Garnier’s legendary “Wake Up” parties at Rex Club to forming the careers of artists such as Francois X through his Deeply Rooted label, his influence runs deep. As well as an accomplished producer, he has regularly collaborated with Roman Poncet for Tresor. His newest release For The Love Of Kaoz finds himself on Kerri Chandler’s label, a friendship that’s equally lasted twenty or so odd years. Following on from a Q&A we had with him last year before Gottwood, we caught up with Cyril for a more in depth chat. Topics this time include the strict club policies in Paris twenty years ago, the seminal Wake Up parties with Laurent Garnier, and how he feels techno is connecting with today’s audience. The mix he’s done for us, coming in at Truancy Volume 190, is a barrage of new music bursting at the seams featuring the likes of Floorplan, that amazing Money Morning record on Acting Press and Mike Dunn’s latest 12″.

Hey Cyril, thanks again for taking time out to do this mix and interview. I’m sure you’re aware we’re long time fans of yours and fellow Parisians such as Francois X. We did a short Q&A with you before Gottwood last year so thought we’d go a little more in depth with the research and some of the questions for this one. Going way back I wanted to start by asking about the club policy in Paris back when you were around in your late teens. You’ve talked in the past about having to ‘fight’ for music to be played. How long did it take for the music to get accepted? “Hi, thanks so much for having me on board again, and many thanks for the kind words! I remember the Q&A for Gottwood, it was great fun. It’s great that you mention this now as I was just discussing it with my dear friend Laurent Garnier during his Legion d’Honneur ceremony last week, and we were remembering how hard it was for us to be taken seriously in the early days of house and techno. A lot of people used to make fun of us and of our music. But somehow it has been great for us too, in the sense that we almost felt like ‘knights’ who had to fight to get this music recognised and accepted, and now in 2017 Laurent gets one of the French government’s  highest medals. That’s strong recognition! It actually took a long time, I’d say until the mid/late 90’s here in France to be accepted as a musical movement. Clubs were not always too enthusiastic about giving us nights. But it also came as a musical revolution, and by the mid 90s, Le Boy, Le Palace, La Locomotive, La Luna, Le Rex Club and Power Station were all having house and techno nights, not to mention all the raves that were happening too. The city could not escape the revolution that was happening all over the world!”

From what I understand, the Wake Up parties made up a relatively big part in getting this music heard. Who were running these parties, who were the DJs and were there any major obstacles that occurred with these parties that you might know of? “Rex Club soon became ‘The Mothership’ for house and techno in Paris :) Wake Up parties took place at Rex and were Laurent’s parties where I was the resident warm up DJ. It was such a unique moment. Laurent invited Lil Louis to Paris for the first time, and when we went to pick him up at the airport in Laurent’s car, Lil Louis showed up with five huge record crates that were almost impossible to fit in a ‘standard’ Parisian car of those days! Derrick May was another guest. He was our big idol and I have really strong memories of meeting him there and soon becoming good friends with him, and with DJ Pierre too of course. I also remember the night when the whole Underground Resistance family showed up and gave us promos of their forthcoming releases including Red Planet 2 with ‘Stardancer’ on it!”

What does the station Radio FG mean to you and what can you tell us about that time? For example, how did you land a show, who were the people behind the station and how was the radio operating at that time etc.“At first, it was a gay pirate station. I wasn’t even a DJ but they trusted me, and as a result I started my show there. It was really exciting but we were all learning the basics of everything. I remember sometimes having no monitors, sometimes having belt drive turntables. It was a great station, and I really enjoyed my days there. Two strong memories there include:

1) Having Armando on my show. He was such an influence and an idol for us all, and to this day I often listen to this specific mix. That day he gave me a test pressing of his ‘100% dissin’ you’ release!

2) I remember going to the station one day with my friend Olivier le Castor. We went there with TR909, 808, 707 and TB 303 and started to take over the radio and improvise live.

The radio station then became official, but I also had a show at that period in time too.

It’s funny, I was reading an old interview on Juno from 2012 where, at the time, your own productions possibly weren’t the most important thing to you. You claimed you ‘didn’t want to pollute the world with your boring’ productions. Your output then snowballed completely from 2014, it’s amazing! Are you happy at the pace the releases are coming out now and would you say you’ve ‘found’ the sound you were looking for in your own productions? “Well I think I found Romain Poncet!!! :) That’s really what happened! He’s a great guy, and really pushed me and helped me to get my confidence back and return to the studio. Thanks to him I managed to explore a few things, and relax a little about this stress of not polluting the world with my crap, and hopefully some of the tracks are not too bad! Instead of finding one sound, I realised I could experiment and try different things. We have this Sergie Rezza project that is really close to our hearts and precisely where we try and mix many of our influences to come up with a free and open-minded landscape.

We are actually starting Sergie Rezza Records for this through Juno. I joined forces with Traumer to start this label Comptines Electroniques. The first release should be out early October as DeepTraum. I also started a new alias with Romain Poncet, Slang, which is focused on more of an ‘abstract’ house sound, if I can put it this way. The first release will be a double pack on our friend Paulo Reachi’s brand new label Possible Futures. Then I have my house tracks, the latest releases being on Kerri Chandler’s Kaoz Theory. As for techno, I just completed a track for a V/A on Moscow’s Propaganda Records. Myself and Romain are very excited about this remix we did of Carl Craig’s version from Borderland (Juan Atkins and Moritz Von Oswald), which is coming out on Tresor soon. So yes, there are quite a lot of things happening at the same time, but I’m happy about that. There is a strong energy going on in the studio with Romain, and I discovered it was okay to also try and experiment with things, and that one project may feed and fuel another one, and vice versa.”

Tell us about your remix for St Germain with Roman Poncent. In a past interview you stated how although it’s not definitive over how you feel techno should sound today, it contained certain uncompromising elements that might be missing from techno. Do you think techno productions are still connecting with audiences as much as they could? “With St Germain’s mix of ‘Real Blues’ we really wanted to do something that we felt was not betraying Ludovic’s great work, but had some raw elements to it that really made us excited to play it out in clubs. As for our remix of ’How Dare You’, the title also kind of pushed us somehow to try to be a bit aggressive musically in doing a stripped down energetic mix. We knew that for instance At Jazz would do a dope and beautiful deep version, and we thought “well let’s try to push the boundaries a bit here” and see what we can do with it. We asked “can we do a techno house dub thing out of it?”.

The problem for me with house and techno is that I keep hearing people telling me that they have ‘their own vision’ or ‘their own definition’ of house and techno. I understand that the younger generation wants to reinvent things, but I don’t understand how people claim to be passionate about one musical style and not know the roots of it. If you don’t know the roots of the music, how can you have your own ‘vision of it’? It is hard to generalise as I buy so many great records every week and I think there are some really great artists around that do offer a new twist to the techno ‘sound’, for instance. I also believe it is how you play techno that make your set techno or not, if you know what I mean? If house is not part of techno for you (and the other way round), I think you missed something along the way, for instance. I think we have a strong heritage of two decades of music, and it is so inspiring to me that I sometimes regret that people seem to choose to only focus on just a little part of this heritage.But there are many ways to be and to play techno, but I’m not here to give lessons. I am a music lover first, and I find so much inspiring music these days that I would not like to sound negative. On the contrary, I can only encourage friends to go to record stores more often and dig in the oceans of possible sounds there!”

Having been doing this for so long now, what are some of the key things that you’ve taken away from what you do? “I’m always curious. I’m in record stores everyday, and I record my vinyl records to digital everyday too. I’m hungry and always will be. I can’t stand missing a good record and that’s not going away. And if it ever does fade away, that will mean it will be time for me to stop doing this :)”

You’ve formed a great personal relationship with Kerri Chandler over your career, so it was great to see you two come together professionally by releasing a record on his newish label Kaoz Theory. Having come off a string of heavy techno hitters on your own label, it must have been refreshing to work at this level of restraint. How quickly did the EP come together? “I am extremely thankful to Kerri for all of his help and wise advice through the years, he is such a brother and mentor! I learnt so much from him, both musically and personally. The release came together quite naturally. I sent him those simple tracks to get his opinion, I think he liked them and then it happened so fast. I couldn’t even believe I would release a record on my mentor’s label!”

What can you tell us about the mix you’ve recorded for us? “Well I tried a few things, but I am always so nervous recording these things. I had so much music at hand and so many new tracks I wanted to play that I was having a hard time deciding which tracks to pick. I didn’t really know where to start as I had a few records that I really wanted to play, such as the Money Morning release on Acting Press that opens up the mix, and our remix of Carl Craig’s remix of Borderland that should come out on Tresor sometime around November which closes the mix. In the end, I grabbed a pile of vinyl I wanted to play including Mike Dunn’s last 12″, and the digital files I wanted to include, and then I hit record. So here is the mix with all its imperfections, but also hopefully all of its emotions intact!”

Lastly, can you tell us the last thing that brought a big smile to your face? “There have been a few things, but I have to say releasing a record on Kerri Chandler’s label was definitely one. Also receiving a text message from Carl Craig telling us he liked our version of his mix, and having Moritz Von Oswald tell me he also liked the version is definitely another one!”

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