An italo-dutch hour in Vilnius with De Dupe and Intergalactic Gary
There are interviews that you spend hours preparing for, even if it's an email chat, and then they don't work out in the end because the artists are too busy or interacting with journalists isn't included in their marketing plan. And then there are Mondays like this, when you come to your mate's loft and spend an hour on a sofa talking about the previous weekend and oh so much more. Then it turns out to be one of the most interesting interviews you've done in the last couple of years.
Otto, also known as De Dupe, is the founder of Bordello A Parigi, a Dutch label that released our very own Mario Moretti.
John is Intergalactic Gary of Intergalactic FM. He's much shyer than Otto but he can be very proud of his intergalactic DJ career. He could, but he isn't, because he's shy. But he has definitely found a lot of new fans after the weekend in STRCamp.
So here's an hour on italo disco, the Netherlands and the curious interaction between the two. And more.
Otto, how did you like the STRCamp festival?
O: I’d visited Lithuania in March and had already experienced your music scene and night culture. I had fun back then – I loved the atmosphere, beautiful people and good vibes. So my expectations were quite big for a small festival, in the sense of the vibe and the people. It was Vilnius in the woods, positive and non-commercial – that’s how I experienced it! Of course, I enjoyed the music as well. To play myself was also nice.
What were your favourite acts?
O: Well, the act that positively surprised me the most was VRR – I didn’t know them before! People knew them and supported them, and I liked the Lithuanian language – it fit the whole concept. I was also curious to see the headliners, they were good as well, and I really loved Lovefingers.
I guess he was my favourite!
O: Also shout-outs to Intergalactic Gary, haha!
What did you like most, John?
J: I really liked VRR. I also enjoyed the more experimental and noise acts that played in the DJ stage on Saturday. It was also surprising in a good way! Also there was a great girl playing from CDs Sunday afternoon in the main stage, really amazing track selection. Lebanon Hanover were also nice, I’d never seen them before.
Oh, the Russian couple from Moscow, that were performing Saturday afternoon. I woke up quite late, just as they were starting. And someone had described their music to me before, so I understood it should be them! They sounded really nice.
Good timing! Otto has been to Vilnius before, have you?
J: No, it’s my first time. I really like the city. Andrius took us for some sightseeing, we also some drinks in Neringa and I ate Chicken Kiev for the first time, Otto made me to! We checked Kablys as well. Some guys played hiphop there, it was quite nice.
Otto started his label Bordello a Parigi two years ago. And John has been in the scene for some 20 years. How did your paths cross?
J: 15 yeah, maybe almost 20...
O: Well, John lives in The Hague and I live in Delft. Our scene is really close; it’s in the same area also including Rotterdam. It’s electro, italo, Intergalactic FM... John is the first generation and I’m probably the next generation.
When I was younger, I knew all the older guys and at some point I started DJing myself. I also started promoting parties and I invited Intergalactic Gary to play, that’s how we officially met and it was about 3 or 4 years ago. But we had been familiar before, from going to the same parties... We had the same interest in music, and because of the geographical conditions we have been seeing each other pretty often.
Have you lived in Delft all your life?
O: I grew up there. I got in touch with this music some 12 years ago. I was already busy with other genres – I listened to a lot of hiphop in the 90s, also jazz, funk, old disco and house music... It’s always fun to search for new music in all eras. But I got stuck in italo; I think this is where I need to stay!
You got married?
Yeah, and it’s hard to divorce. It’s my first real love. I even started a label for it, haha! But I still listen to all kinds of music. I like sounds that have subcultures behind them, something more extreme than mainstream.
John, I’ve read that you were born in New Zealand. When did you move to the Netherlands?
J: I got adopted by Dutch parents who were living and working in New Zealand. They moved back when I was 2. Then, when I was 6, they moved to New Zealand again, and after a couple of years back again.
What was your first contact with music and how did you reach the sound you live with today? I know it’s not a short answer but we have time!
J: I’ll try to make a shortcut.
I was listening to 70s pop and rock on regular radio stations at the early age. When I was 15 years old, one of my friends asked me if I’d ever been to a club. I said no because I was too young and they wouldn’t let me in. He said it’d be ok so we went to a place he used to go every weekend, de Marathon. That’s when I first heard underground disco music. Most of it was Italian-produced, but it wasn’t called italo disco yet. It was inspired by American disco, with a lot of synthesisers and very underground. You couldn’t hear it on the radio.
That’s how I got hooked. I used to go to that club a few times a week for about 4 years. For me, it was the most interesting time music-wise. It was 1980. The music was a mix between orchestral disco and synthesizers, with new wave and new romance coming in. In 1982 came electro sound and the beginning of italo disco. It was a very influential and inspiring time for me.
After 4 years I got a bit bored with the disco scene, the music was also becoming more commercial. What I didn’t like was that pop music was played in the club. I wasn’t interested in it. So I moved to the more alternative punk and new wave scene and was stuck there for 4 our 5 years. In mid 90-s house music came, I got into it.
Then I met IF from Intergalactic FM, he worked in a record shop in The Hague. I was buying records there, we talked, I mentioned italo disco and he became interested that I like it as well. We started to hang out more, and at the time IF had already started to produce music and he invited me to join him for a project. He wanted to do a cover version of an old italo disco track, Fear from Easy Going.
It took us 2 years to finally go to the studio and started The Parallax Corporation. After a few years IF started to do his internet radio station, so we kind of went our own ways, but we’re still very much connected and keep in touch, especially through what was CBS and now is Intergalactic FM.
Will you be releasing anything on Otto’s label any time soon?
J: Well, I’m not really producing at the moment. I want to, but I don’t think it will be very much disco-oriented, so maybe Otto won’t be very interested.
O: I can create a sublabel for you! Intergalactic Bordello, Gary A Parigi or something like that... But you’d need a new, more Italian name as well.
Otto, did you see a niche in the Hague-Delft-Rotterdam scene that you wanted to fill with your label?
O: I was been looking at the scene for quite some time. There was a revival of italo disco and electro in the late 90s, and later on it got quieter again. People started labels like Moustache Records and re-released old records.
I wanted to do something, I wanted to be busy with music, and my idea of a label was more conceptual. A story line, picture covers only, something extra to go with the music. So I found a niche in the label sector, yeah.
I really love vinyl myself and am a collector myself, and I wanted to exploit the format more. I was also aware of new artists, like Mario Moretti, for example. His was the 4th release on Bordello A Parigi, but I had contacted him even before launching the label. I was also in contact with old Italian producers so I did reissues as well. There was a market for that and it worked.
How big is your record collection, John?
J: Around 4000.
Is it easy to grow it today, when there is so much music, or was it easier when there was only vinyl available as today so much stuff is digital-only?
J: Some stuff is really hard to get, rare and expensive. So yeah, if you can download it, you can play it from CD... I am not against digital; I just never got into it. I love vinyl; I love touching it and seeing the label, going through the sleeves... Every record is special and they just mean more to me than CDs. They might be more practical, sure. Sometimes I think about switching because then I could do some edits from vinyls that I can’t play anymore because they get older and thinner and then the volume is too low. Well, maybe one day it happens.
O: For me, vinyl is the first love, and I have the same story as John just told you. I don’t have CD players at home, and I love mixing with vinyl as well, it’s easier for me. I have been DJing for 12 years but, when I started the label, I also started getting a lot of unreleased stuff. Of course it’s a great opportunity to play it exclusively! But in the end I think I will stick to vinyls, even if my back is totally broken. It’s a hard job but somebody has to do it!
Digging for records is an addiction; it‘s such a nerdy guy thing to do. It’s amazing to discover old stuff. 90% of the records that I buy are old! Also, sometimes you find stuff that’s not even on YouTube. That’s the climax of the record digging, getting these goose bumps for the first time. It adds a lot of emotional value to music, as well as holding it with your hands. There’s no such thing in digital world. And I’m a romantic guy in that sense.
Why is The Hague and around the cradle for italo disco? How did this geographical transfer happen?
J: Well, it’s history! I’ve already told you about de Marathon, the place for underground disco and synthesizer-based music. Amsterdam had a disco scene as well, but it was very much US-influenced. They didn’t like the Italian sound at all, it was too cheese for them. And in The Hague the sound came to stay. It influenced a lot of people – DJs and producers, those coming from punk and other scenes, changing their minds completely.
What about the situation now? Are there any Italian guys that make italo disco?
J: No, not really!
O: Back in the days, italo disco wasn’t even that popular in Italy. Maybe in some underground discos, but if you asked a regular guy in the street if he knows something about it, he wouldn’t. The Dutch adopted the sound in the 80s, many records came there through distribution connections, so the Italians aren’t really aware of that. And if they are, they are jealous of our scene, of the energy we put into it!
Of course there are guys like Fred Ventura who continue performing and still make records, but it’s not really general.
What about the events – how busy is your party calendar in the Netherlands?
O: Our scene is really booming. A year or two ago new clubs started popping up in The Hague and Rotterdam, they are well minded, and we are really spoiled. You can find something in our theme every weekend. Five years ago it was once in a few months.
John, where do you play more often – at home or abroad?
J: Abroad.
Would you like it to be the other way round?
J: Not really! Haha. In the Netherlands, it’s always hit or miss. Sometimes people are not really interested, lazy and spoiled, because there’s so much going on. Our scene is really small and if you want to have a party for real freaks, it’s like 10 or 20 people. The rest of them won’t even know what you’re playing.
Abroad, things aren’t also that big, but people are fanatic and eager. They come out to party!
Which countries are the best for you to play?
J: Ireland has a good party scene, Dublin especially. Also Glasgow. Some places in Germany, even some small towns you wouldn’t expect to see so many people. Helsinki.
O: You should Vilnius and the forests around it!
J: I just had my first official gig in Paris, it was also pretty good.
What was your first ever gig outside the Netherlands?
J: Hmmmm...
O: Do you want me to say it for you? I think it was Panorama Bar.
J: Yeah, maybe! Early 2000. Definitely somewhere in Germany. Or maybe Spain? A lot of things were happening at that time!
Back to the nerdy questions. What’s the difference between the original italo tracks and the new production?
O: The first big difference is that 90% of the new stuff isn’t made by Italian people!
What’s funny is that back then people tried to copy the American disco and now people are copying the copy. But it’s much more advanced technically now, even though they try to sing bad English on purpose to make it sound authentic. It was more spontaneous back then...
Purists would say you couldn’t call anything that’s produced today italo disco, because it was made in the 80s. And it’s true that most of new music is not so pure. It’s same compositions and same thoughts, same vibe, but still a lot of differences.
J: Today’s producers take some elements that are typical, like bass lines or drums, also melodies. The Italians tried to embrace the American disco with their synthesizers and melodramatic melodies. And the technical changes are quite obvious! From analogue synthesizers and drum machines, more experimental sound, to modern studios and digital formula music.
Could your scene become a tourist attraction? Or maybe it already has? Like Berlin!
O: In my parties I see a lot of people from abroad. They book a flight, a hotel and show up. I announce the events pretty early so people can come for the experience. I’ve met people from Belgium, France, England, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland... I think it’s because of the lack of this kind of parties over there.
As for becoming a tourist attraction, I prefer things like they are now. Like John said before, he prefers playing abroad and for the majority of people it’s more special to have one of our guys in their city than going abroad.
Were the parties very different some 10 or 15 years ago?
J: The first place was a small basement for like 50 people; it was called De Hemel, or Heaven. It was actually a cellar of a bar, super small and underground! Sometimes guys from the US came to play, like Adult.
Are the people who were in the scene back then also here today?
J: Some of them disappeared, some of them stayed. Some pop up after a while. Some lurk around in the background.
Otto, what aims do you have for Bordello A Parigi?
O: I want to release more records, of course, and more often. I have a lot of things to put out, like 20 releases planned, and it’s just a matter of time. It’s difficult because I don’t want to overkill the customers. But people are getting really enthusiastic, more and more new listeners show up, so it’s great.
I am also building the conceptual side of the label. I work a lot on the merchandise, not only t-shirts! I have like 3000 old Italian movie posters on stock. I bought them a year ago in Italy. Cinema is also one of my passions; I just need to keep my mind busy.
Also more parties and more gigs! Always.
And I also have a normal job besides music. I need to!
Really? What do you do?
O: I work at the government, for a health institution. It’s an office job; I do it a couple of days a week, because I don’t earn enough from the music.
How does your health job comply with your weekend activities?
O: They know about it, and yeah, it’s hard, and I can’t do it forever, but I have to for now. I studied film and television in university, I’m a creative person, and I do a lot of stuff for not so much money. But then I also need to go for a holiday; I need to pay for dinner, and so on and so on.
Can you see your label bringing enough money?
O: Yes, but not only by releasing music. That wouldn’t be realistic. Not with vinyl. That’s why I see the label as a concept and am also looking for other marketing possibilities. Promoting parties as well.
How many copies of a vinyl do you usually press?
O: It’s between 150 and 500 copies. It sometimes takes 3 months to sell the limited 150 edition. In music business, 500 used to be a limited edition, but definitely not anymore! Only big records sell like 2000 or 3000 copies.
What do you do on a daily basis, John?
J: I do architectural scale models in an office. I’ve done it for some 18 years now.
I’d say it’s a meditative job.
J: Sometimes, but usually it’s stressful because you have to deal with deadlines, and architects like to change their designs up until the last moment, when we have already almost finished the model.
Have you ever tried to make music your full time job?
J: I’ve thought about it. I was unemployed for about 9 months some time ago and now work for the same company again. For me, it would be very difficult to just live from music; I’d have to compromise a lot.
You have to be able to promote yourself. And if you want to live from DJ gigs, you have to produce music. Even in the underground scene. No releases – no bookings. I’m not producing at the moment, and I’m too shy for the self-promotion...
O: I think a lot of DJs get overhyped today not because they are good DJs but because of their good production level. 90% of the people in big festivals wouldn’t tell the difference between a good and a bad DJ, it’s all about the hype. And in some cases it’s the ghost producers behind the DJs doing the real job. A whole marketing team to push it. That’s the way to do it if you want to become popular and earn good money; I’d also like to believe there is a middle way.
Will this rockstar DJ trend die soon?
J: I think it will go on for a while. A lot of young kids see it, they don’t want to be rockstars anymore, they want to be DJ stars. They grab CDjs instead of guitars.
Isn’t that sad?
J: Yeah.
O: The art of mixing might have already died in that sense, because people look at DJs not for of their skills but for of their looks and popularity. I might have a nostalgic way of thinking but I think there’s more to it than just playing records out loud.
And if there are more people like me, people who want to go deeper, experience the music to the fullest, the art will keep on living, even on a smaller scale. Dedication is the key. Putting people on a statue is strange. But... I like to put people on statues as well, like John, for example! I loved how people came up to him in STRCamp and thanked him for the mixing. It’s not something that would happen in a big festival, right?
J: It’s more difficult to have a good party in a big place. The bigger the place, the more the people that didn’t come there for the music, but only because they saw the name somewhere or their friends told them to. More intimate is better, I think.
O: I also think diversity of people is important for a good party. A good mix of men and women, dancers and listeners, having a good sober time or drunken time. If the people dance to the music, that’s the most important!
De Dupe @ Facebook
Intergalactic Gary @ Intergalactic FM
Intergalactic Gary @ Facebook
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