Even when Dandy Jack is making records by himself, he like to invent an imaginary friend: regular Dandy Jack collaborators The Latin Elvis, The Latin Lava and The Plastic Woman don’t actually exist, except in Schopf’s imagination. “I like to create projects as an alter ego, to create a background personality and story.”
Like Luciano and Villalobos, Dandy Jack is a Chilean, part of the first wave of émigrés that escaped the Pinochet dictatorship in the seventies to settle down in Europe. But he maintains a link to his home country, regularly traveling back to play and finding space in his music of Latin sounds and rhythms.
RA caught up with Dandy Jack after a rare solo gig in London. The interview went something like this:
You've been making music since the late eighties. Are you as enthusiastic now as you were before? Has your outlook on techno changed over the years?
For me, in the beginning, electronic music was completely attached to a whole new aesthetic. It was not only music for dancing; it was like a new structure in the whole of society. I believed in the technology at the time. I was young and I was idealistic. I was thinking cool - electronics, techno, computers – this is going to rule the world. This is going to help do something better, you know? But slowly I realised that it wasn’t happening like that. Nothing is getting better. Nothing is getting more beautiful. Nothing's helping nobody. Technology is nothing really. The picture that America was painting was that technology was going to be something nice because one day we were going to fly to Mars, you know? And now the world is completely wrong and fucked up. This changed my opinion about electronic music. I started to realise that the music is important because it is music not because it is electronic. I lost my idealism a bit.
Also in the nineties, the electronic movement was something amazing because everybody was happy, partying together, talking. I made many new friends. I was living in Berlin when the wall came down. Suddenly the people from the East came over and you were connecting with everybody, and it was like wow! But it changed. In 1993, it started to be a big business – the raves, the security staff hitting people. It slowly got ugly. The DJs were getting big payments and they were coming in limousines. They wanted this, they wanted that and everyone was like “Okay, sorry, sorry. You are the master!” Then suddenly the same people were fascists. One day I saw Westbam playing at E-Werk – a lovely place - and I got a shock, you know? I realised that these guys were leading these people with horror music – people, no soul, nothing. I went up to him and said, “Hey man, stop playing that music right now. Because you’ll destroy the charisma of this place.” Yeah! Then I grabbed the needles. Two thousand people were like nooo! And I was thinking “Oh my god. Now they’re going to kill me.”
So what happened?
They threw me out.
Why do you collaborate so much?
For me it’s much more interesting to combine my music with other people's, especially for live projects. Although I also like to play alone. I can concentrate on my own energy when I play alone. But when I work with others, the music morphs more. When you mix two things together, a third thing comes out.
Who is one person you’d like to collaborate with?
Simone. She’s a Brazilian singer who was great in the seventies. She was producing with Milton Nascimento. I have never heard anything like her voice. Ever.
What does she sound like?
She sounds like a man. A very full voice, very deep and very sexy. She was producing bossa nova in the late sixties/early seventies. She’s very dramatic. When I listen to her, I start crying. And then she had an eighties period when she became very cheap. Pop cheap. I think she would be really a good combination with electronic music. She would be a killer.
Have you tried to contact her?
I tried, but she’s very famous, you know? It's like trying to contact somebody from Funkadelic or something. A big person. Maybe Simone is now sixty years old. She’s probably sitting quietly at home. And then there's this guy going [hustler voice] "Hey, you want to make techno? You want to sing on my track?"
Junction SM has an unique way of performing live techno. Could you tell us about your setup?
I do it with Sonja Moonear. I’ve been making live music for a really long time. About fifteen years. I’ve done many projects, like Carbina 30:30 with Luciano and Ric Y Martin with Ricardo. I love to play with those guys, but the problem is that they became too famous. To say it simply. They are concentrating on their own career, you know? They are not really interested in collaborating and investing energy in a live concept because this is really a lot of work. You have to prepare, make new sounds, compose and mix every day. So I was searching for somebody that is really interested in opening up and not just concentrating on themselves. Ricardo and Luciano, they are too much about themselves. They want to be the heroes of the night [laughs]. But then I found Sonja. It’s amazing how sensitively she can react to my music. She plays records, which means that we can play for hours. She can play a record while I reload something and I can take a bit of a breath. Because also when you’re playing live, it’s really intense. After two hours, I lose my breath. I need to do sports!
You're known for your wild live performances. Do you think electronic music needs to have a performance element?
Yeah, definitely. Mutek in Montreal, it’s my number one favourite festival in the world and I love it, but last year it was too much. Only laptops. It's so boring. I realised that there is some problem in the personalities of the people who are making electronic music. The people are not able to express their feelings. In the moment when they have to talk or when they have to show something, or to cry, they just break down. I think it's very important to relax the body. The problem with just using a laptop, it’s too much in the brain. All these ideas to make all these controllers and more equipment, it confuses the head. With an instrument, you can play it blind. You can go with just the body. This is important. If you are all the time using your head, you are not really relaxing.
How do you play your own equipment live?
In the end, I’m a percussionist. I try to do that with my MPC. For me it's a very interactive instrument. I overdub all my music with percussion, and I assign the buttons on the MPC to trigger things rhythmically. This is why I like collaborating. Because then we are two, then we are three. Then something can really happen.
What do you produce with in your studio? Do you use analogue gear or software?
I started buying instruments at the end of the eighties. I have a huge collection of little machines and equipment. I love them and I still produce with them, but I’ve also introduced software. I prefer originating ideas with a sampler. If I only use a computer, it’s really boring for me. I need to touch the instruments. Because behind each instrument there is an idea. A philosophy. The guy that was developing it in the eighties, he was thinking something. And this is what I want to find out.
The problem today is that people want more and more and more. It’s a typical consumer attitude. You get one plug-in, you spend one hour with it and then you move onto another one. But you never understood what the first one was doing! Too many things and too much information. In the end, you are not really getting into the instrument. Before, instruments were like €2000. You bought it and you were like ‘Wow!’
Why are their so many Chilean-Germans making minimal techno?
Because our families had to escape from a dictator [laughs].
There’s such a tight-knit group of Chileans making a distinctive techno music.
I think maybe there are two people in the Chilean electronic scene that influenced the rest of the group. One of them is Ricardo. He was three years old when he went to Germany but he kept his Chilean roots. When he goes back to Chile, he keeps in touch with the people. And this sounds a bit egocentric, but maybe I was also one of the reasons too. I grew up in Germany, but my roots are really in Chile. I was a bit like a connector between Germany and Chile. And also between Ricardo and Chile. Because when I met Ricardo, he couldn’t speak Spanish really. I introduced him to the Chilean scene. I think that was a catalyst. But it’s not so special. It could have been Argentina or Brazil, but in this case it was me and Ricardo so it was Chile. Our families had to escape from Chile to Germany. And we took in all the German influences. We were the first generation of ex-pat Chileans.
What were your influences when you were growing up?
Kraftwerk. Like everybody. Yellow Magic Orchestra was amazing. I was a big fan of Cabaret Voltaire, Chris & Cosey. Throbbing Gristle, especially Chris Carter. This is the guy that I would love to meet. His records are amazing. I am not so influenced by Americans. For me, American music came much later, like '91, '92. But then I realised that house music was very important. The four on the floor was coming more from there. But also those people listened to German music. They listened to Kraftwerk and they realised "Oh, we can do something with this groove.”
Is Mutek happening this year in Chile?
Unfortunately it’s not going to happen because nobody in Chile was really able to organise it. People are not very consistent, not very responsible. When I started organising Mutek with people, I very soon realised that it's a lot of work. People were really interested in doing it, but in the end the most important thing was the money. People were feeling like “You're fucking me over. Where is my stuff?" You have to fight too much in Chile. But I would love one day to try to work again on this. Because they’re our people.
I don’t like the general attitude in the atmosphere at the moment about business in music. It’s disturbing me a bit. I hate rap music because of this. Rap music is all the time presenting yourself, making money, good clothing. I like that video from that guy from England with the big tits, the one where he comes along in the big car.
‘Windowlicker’ by Aphex Twin?
Yes, it represents that kind of scene so well. This is what I don’t like to see in the people that are around me. This kind of attitude is disturbs me. It’s no good to talk bad about people, but this whole scene is a bit weird at the moment. [sighs] The problem is that this is all part of a business. You know, everybody has to play in Ibiza because “Oh, you have to play in Ibiza.”
So any Ibiza dates booked?
Yeah, maybe I’m going to play at DC-10. [laughs] But I think it’s an amazing party. It’s just all the things around that which is the thing. I don’t like when people are like “Oh, wow, you’re playing DC-10!” Because in general terms I don’t like the atmosphere of the island so much. I’m not a big fan of all of these English or Germans or Italians who go there and get really fucked up. It’s decadent. It’s very empty, you know? “We are full of food. We are full of money. We are full of everything. I go to Ibiza and go to Miami.” For me it’s hard to understand that this exists in a parallel world.
Who do you think is doing interesting work these days?
I am not DJing, but I listen to a lot of music. Sonja buys the records and I listen to them. But I would mention Samim. He’s a very talented guy. He’s working with Michel Ho – both of those guys are fabulous musicians. I also like very much the way Ricardo is producing, but not everything. He’s out of this thing called “minimal”. I’ve gotten bored of that. This is why I’m not a big fan of M_nus. Some stuff from M_nus I like for sure. Some tracks are amazing, but I listened to a mix from Richie Hawtin and I was like “Oh, this thing. Okay, this is enough.”
Richie Hawtin has his work ethic, you know, day in day out…
Yeah. But my disappointment is nothing to do with the person. It’s the aesthetic of the music. This is my point: This M_nus thing is not believing too much in music. They are much more believing in selling you an aesthetic.
Well, it’s a brand now.
Brands, yeah, blah blah. This is what I love so much about Perlon. Because Perlon is releasing music. Thomas never said “I want to make minimal. I’m a minimal artist.” If you really listen to the Perlon records, sometimes they are funky, or they are disco. And I think that maybe Richie is a bit too dictatorial. He has these young musicians…I have to be careful what I’m saying now! [laughs] Anyway, that’s just my opinion. For sure, everybody can be a dictator - all the label managers - because they are choosing the music. I’d prefer things to be more open. Besides, there are many other labels that I love. That’s another thing, you know? Everyone speaks about the same three or four labels. Yet when you get some records from somewhere else, you think “Wow, what is this?” I love Boogizm. Telegraph…
How do you feel about the explosion of minimal? Do you feel part of the movement? Do you get more bookings now?
Yes, for sure. Ricardo was always pushing me and saying, “Hey, you have to release more by yourself.” Then suddenly I realised that it was true. If I push the name Dandy Jack in front, sometimes people call me and ask for me. Now after all those releases on Perlon, I’m getting many bookings. I go to places and people are talking to me in a way that I never would have expected. “Oh, you’re Dandy Jack.” And you feel it. In every city there is a crowd that knows your music. It’s amazing. Like I was touring in the USA. It’s weird to go to somewhere like Mississippi or Minnesota, and everybody comes and they know all your music. And they sing them! They’re singing minimal tracks! [laughs]. That means it is a huge explosion. Before Tiesto was the big star, but now Ricardo is the big star. It’s changing. In Italy, which has a stronger disco and house tradition, before Ricardo was just playing Milan, now he is playing Rimini. To all these fancy Italian girls and boys! That’s a huge change. When I was going to Italy fifteen years ago, minimal or techno didn’t exist. Recently I was in Salerno in southern Italy, and the DJ before me was playing all the minimal records that you have, Sonja. Everybody was [screams]. So sorry, Sonja, you are a minimal DJ. Okay, next question.
You are performing at Sonar this year with NarodNiki. How did the project start and how do you fit all those super egos on one stage?
The project was born a long time ago. It was an idea of Ricardo’s. Ricardo comes from a supposedly communist family. Us ex-pat Chileans, our families were communist, but we were not poor. My father is a university professor. So Ricardo called the project ‘NarodNiki’ because NarodNiki is a Russian movement of professors teaching the communists in Russia. There is a huge idealistic idea behind it. NarodNiki also means to keep a secret about something. The idea was that the artists that play in NarodNiki have to be anonymous. Originally, we planned to produce records as NarodNiki and nobody would know who it was. It was a good idea, but we never released a record. Now all the members make the front page! Now Richie Hawtin is saying he is the inventor! Everybody now wants to be the boss of the project. Luciano is saying this too. Now they are fighting for rights, for money and a million dollars!
But it’s a very nice project from Ricardo. I’m very happy to be part of it. Last time we played with Maurizio from Basic Channel and I was like “Wow, this is amazing.” These guys are such amazing people, so quiet, so shy but genius guys. They teach you so many things. And then there was Carl Craig. It was so funny to see how he was acting. He was playing his famous trademarks, you know? You can see the different personalities so clearly.
What can we expect for the Sonar performance?
Last year we got together two days before to get together and to try to arrange who is doing what. I hope we do the same this year, to talk and think about it. It’s a difficult project because with eight people together it’s a little bit hard to organise. We never synchronise it. We just start. For people like Ricardo, he DJs very fast. Ricardo, you know, he is DJing with all of us. We are all just records moving.
All these people are heroes for Ricardo. I grew up with Ricardo and I remember Ricardo saying [German accent] “Wow, these guys are amazing. This music – you must write him an email!” “Uh, who?” “Daniel Bell! The inventor of minimal!” So now he’s really happy. I love this very much. We can get people we really like, for example Daniel Bell. I hope we can tour around the whole world with it. With not too many fights about rights hopefully.
You know it’s always the same people talking about terms. But you know, we are all stupid musicians in the end. We’ve all been fucked over all of our life. [German promoter voice] “I’m counting out fifty euros for you!” And there were five thousand people at the gig! And we were playing ten hours! “Can you add one hour more? I give you ten euros more!” “Okay, no problem.” I mean how much is it for ten records? A hundred euros.
What can we expect from yourself over the next year?
I want to develop the project with Sonja. I’ve got a lot of tracks. I also made a friend in Geneva - my only friend there – he is a jazz musician. He gave me tons of new tracks – his music is amazing. The harmonies that he plays are like ‘wow’. It is very inspiring for me to organise the music into house and techno, but with this funky thing. We are going to call it John Keys. Crosstown Rebels are going to release it in May I hope.