Interview Speedy J

An interview and a video with Rotterdam techno artist Jochem Paap aka Speedy J. Commissioned by Ableton.

Camera and video-editing: Johan Mulder.

How did it all start?

“In the mid 80’s I bought some turntables with a tape recorder, a Revox, which I still own. With these tools I started to made loops. At first I started doing live mixing, DJ battles in hiphop-style with Robin Albers, who had a competition (Dutch mixing championships). And other locals contests. Then I started to collaborate with different kinds of people, I started a hiphop band with me as DJ. But one moment I went into more loop oriented stuff, just when techno and house flew over from Chicago and Detroit. I started buying more equipment. I was very much interested in the electronic-variant of hiphop, Mantronics-style , drum machines and synthesizers. As soon as some labels in the US and England started to promote electronic music I got into contact with people who worked at radio stations. At a certain moment in time I made contact with Plus8 from Canada, the label of John Aquaviva and Richie Hawtin. They were flattered that their music was discovered in Europe, since they only pressed something like 500 records. I then send them a little demo to show them the things I was doing and straight away they told me: ‘We want to release this material!’. I personally did not really thought about releasing my music, but they really liked it. So in fact I have never put any time in pushing my music, but thanks to their interest, things started to roll. I think that my song was the 3rd single for that label. One song they did on their own, one done by Kenny Larkin and one done was by me. And with my single it was their first try internationally. The label was run from a bedroom, very small and low budget.”

Just after you had started you had huge success with your commercial song Pullover. But instead of continuing this same style you seem to have decided to go into the opposite direction and tried to make more personal music, was this something you planned like that?

“Yes, I had the idea that if I kept on doing music in the style of Pullover I couldn’t do anything else. At that time my music was just becoming more popular and Pullover was like the 2nd housesong (after Human Recourse) for the Dutch market which could also be” found in the charts. The demand for another 10 songs in that style was very high, but I thought that if I’d do that I would still be playing that music when I grow old and I just didn’t want that. I also had a very wide style of different kinds of music, from smooth music for listening to loud techno and everything in between. In all kinds of tempos, very diverse which is always something I really like to do. So when that song came out and became a huge success, it wasn’t really the song of which I thought I wanted to become famous for. It was more of a DJ-track, an ‘inbetweenie’. But that became ‘the one’. I have tried some more songs in that style, but I only did those because I liked doing that instead of people asking me to do so. In one way, it had opened many doors, but during that year I really needed to put effort in showing people I was also able to do different kinds of music. These days it’s no longer an issue, it’s more like a good old funny story from the past, but it has no influence on the music I am making today. So yes, I kept myself from repeating myself and started doing the music I wanted to do.”

This diversity seems to be your trademark, right?

“Yes, I developed that as my trademark. When I started nobody knew my other music, only a small group of people did. The song Pullover doesn’t have any effect on my music at the moment. I am not ashamed of it either, even when it’s not really the song I would have picked to become a success. But it opened many doors for me.”

Please explain to us how you use Live.

“First off all I like to use all my equipment in my studio for making grooves. Every device in my studio is patched so I can connect and combine them. I love to give my music a sort of live-feeling and energy so one way of achieving this is by having jamsessions. In these jamsessions I use all sorts of strange combinations of synths and effects. This way you will get characteristic patterns. I record these jamsessions to 2-tracks off audio. Then Live comes in, I import the chunks of 2-track audio, in Live. Basically I have 90% of a song ready when combining the tracks. I then only have to add some accents to my jam sessions and that’s all it takes for me to compose my music. This way I can come up with far more interesting sounds than when building a song by adding one track at the time, because you tend to strive for perfection that way. So it’s like a sort of ‘painting’ what I am doing. Method number two is for mixing songs together. I used this method on my last album, which is totally mixed in Live. I found out that some songs didn’t moved nicely into the next song. To make them all work together I added parts between the songs. So my last album is totally arranged in Live using this method. The third method is for sound design. With the quantize and pitch parameters and of course the newer granular timestrech-settings you can do some weird things. I often copy a track four or five times and detune or quantize them in all sort of different ways. I make big multilayered sounds in this way. The things which add character to a sound are then the things manuals try to tell you not to do. Even in version 1 of Live I used these kind of tricks. The fourth method I use Live for is for using it as a multi-effect processor in a live performance situation instead of using a hardware effect rack. I made an arrangement in Live with on every track a different effects. For this I am using a RME Hammerfall with 8 in and outputs. Every auxiliary on my hardware mixer is routed into an input on the RME and to a track in Live. All tracks are armed for record in Live and the outputs of the tracks are plugged into the aux-returns of the hardware mixer.”

Can you tell us if Live changed you method of composing music, and please explain how?

“It sounds like a commercial but it is exactly the tool I always needed. Live didn’t change my method of working, but I am now able to work a lot faster! With Live it is possible to insert parts of a large chunks of audio, and everything is looping in the right tempo. So for my way of working Live made things a lot easier.”