But while I-f's most recent project has now died, his legacy is assuredly secure. As a producer, I-f was responsible for the 1997 hit "Space Invaders Are Smoking Grass," a track that is often credited with effectively inventing electroclash, while his mix Mixed Up in the Hague, Vol. 1 is regarded as one of the finest ever put together. And, just recently, his vintage mid-'90s acid tracks were re-released on Atlantik Wall by I-f's longtime associate Guy Tavares of Bunker Records. So while there is a little bit to mourn, there's also a lot to look forward to. Including, quite possibly, some new productions with his old friend Intergalactic Gary. RA caught up with van der Sluijs by phone in early August to find out what's next.
That's ultra simple, but it is the bottom line. It wasn't growing anymore. CBS did its work very, very well. It even created a little community around the station, but it totally failed in connecting with other communities. And the station was never designed to be anything more than it was, so I think the wise decision was to pull the plug and go start something new. The work wasn't for nothing, of course. It's not like we're not going to not continue. It just will continue in a different way. CBS was the prototype. The prototype crashed, but we got a lot of valuable data.
Are there ideas percolating as to what the next stage will be?
Definitely. It's very much in progress. We've talked to a lot of people and we still have a lot of people to talk to, but everyone is very enthusiastic. I'm definitely not through with internet radio. I think there is a large future for it, especially with all of the mobile devices now.
It's interesting to hear that you'll be trying to take advantage of new technologies. I think, for some people, internet radio is an antiquated idea.
Sure. These days people can get anything they want online. Anything. From the latest movies to the latest music. In that way, you probably don't need internet radio. But I think the CBS concept worked because the music that we dug up was interesting enough to keep people listening. A lot of our listeners were at work and didn't have the time to dig up the music. A lot of stuff played on the station came from tapes and moist basements, especially the minimal wave and Italo that was being played.
You mentioned Italo. It seems like there has been a recent surge in releases that have celebrated some of that music. Does it seem like vindication to you? It always seemed to me like CBS was tirelessly promoting it.
I don't know what triggered that, really. In the UK, for instance, they were never able to listen to it in the '80s. It never arrived there for some strange reason. In Holland, it did arrive, but it was never on any major radio. It was a pirate thing that you'd have to go to certain record shops to hear. It has a massive following and it amazes me still. France, Germany, Switzerland: this stuff was more above ground over there. And some of it appeared in the Top 40 and they even showed clips on television. I don't know what the power of Italo disco is, to be honest, but if I had to guess it'd be the mix of the often professional sounds with some cheese and some pepper. It's a secret recipe. [laughs]
I have to say, though, that it didn't make me happy that CBS only got associated with Italo disco. There was more going on, like the obscure minimal wave stuff going and we had Decompression Mondays, which featured space stuff. (Other people call it ambient, but that name doesn't do it any good I think.) There was so much going on. And every time we got pushed into the Italo disco corner. That is maybe because I am a disco fetishist, but I still think we shined a light on a lot of different music.
Yeah, of course. You've mentioned in other interviews that you love Lalo Schifrin, for instance. What kind of music were you listening to growing up? Was it basically anything you could get your hands on?
Yes. A good record is a good record. It doesn't really matter what the genre is. I was always a collector. From soundtracks to obscure space stuff up to the dark brown disco and Italo stuff.
Do you remember when you first heard electronic music and being blown away by it?
It was in school. I was 12 or 13 when I first became aware of it. There were tapes from a discothèque near where I lived. I grew up in a tiny city, but it had one of the best discos in Europe. (I didn't know that back then and I was too young to enter the place.) But these tapes were the first place that I heard Kraftwerk's "Numbers" and Laserdance mixed with the mighty "Crusader" by Trax or some Giorgio Moroder. It was then that I became aware of this obscure music and DJ culture and it hit me really hard. Because of this, I totally messed up school. [laughs]
Did you start DJing while you were in school or were you simply collecting records?
Both. At first I tried to mix with cassette players because I didn't have a lot of money to spend on records, but I had friends with turntables and I learned that way. For me, there was so much magic in mixing records—to make a long story with them. Just playing a record at that time, I found pretty boring. It had to be mixed.
When did you first start producing things?
It was '93, I believe. I opened a record shop in The Hague in '93 and that's when I met Guy [Tavares] from Bunker Records. That was a totally different world, because I was very focused on US imports and Italian music and Guy came in and asked me if I was distributing records. I wanted to start and so Guy gave me some of his label's records, which I had never heard before. I was very impressed with it, because it was basically the same sort of Do It Yourself attitude that Chicago's Trax and Detroit's Underground Resistance had.
Guy also did parties in squats in The Hague and he invited me to come and play there. The music that we were playing there wasn't really available at the time. (Only in a few select places.) So that's basically how it started. I bought a 707 and a 303 and started to make tracks to play at the parties. At a certain point, though, I got really tired of the 303 and began to buy synthesizers and eventually recorded "Portrait of a Dead Girl 1," which was the first acid track that I did.
Armando from Chicago is to blame for that. [laughs] The simplicity, the power. And it was perfect for these crusty parties that we were throwing. It wasn't really stuff for radio, of course. I was already DJing for a pirate radio by that time and I was playing electro and Italo, basically everything together. But for these Acid Planet parties, there was something magic about them. The smoke, the strobes, loud beats, acid. I was hypnotized for about two years, I guess. [laughs] I can't really explain what was going on. It was really strange.
Are you going out much these days?
Not so much, really. It's mostly when I DJ myself. If I go out, it's mostly with friends to play some music or watch movies.
I read that you were really into film.
I love the violent movies. [laughs] The old Italian stuff. I had a large fetish for those. The music and the movies is the reason that I went to Italy for the first time. I like '70s and '80s gangster movies, especially those with Henry Silva in them. He's the baddest motherfucker of all time. [laughs] The movies are basically as trashy as Italo disco, but they have great soundtracks, good action.
You basically stopped producing in 2003, right?
Yes. That was right around the time that CBS started.
Was it a case of you not having enough time to produce? Or was it a conscious decision on your part to stop?
There were a few factors. We didn't have a good place for the studio. CBS took up all of my time, because radio was something that I always wanted to do. (Although I was doing it on pirate stations before CBS.)
Is there a thought to going back to production?
Gary and I actually recently built a studio again and I'm pretty sure that we will start jamming. I really feel the need to do something again and I haven't felt that in the past five years. I wasn't going to force it and make sounds just for the sake of it. I'm sure it would suck if we were to do that. You gotta feel it, otherwise don't do it. There's so much crap out there already and I would like to avoid to releasing crap. No guarantees, but I'll do my best.
As someone who once owned a record shop, I think you might know better than most exactly how much crap is being released these days.
But it's not funny anymore. With CBS too, I listened to so much music that it was my day job basically, aside from programming the station. I enjoyed it, but the only thing that I didn't enjoy was the tons of mindless crap I had to work my way through.
Tell me about Lost Tracks for Lost Minds. Those are just reissues of your material from the Acid Planet days, right?
Yeah. I must say, though, that I have nothing to do with those releases. Those come from Guy from Bunker. Twelve years ago, when we almost went bankrupt with the shop and distribution, I gave Guy the masters of all of the acid tracks and told him that he should feel free to re-release it whenever he'd like. It was stuff that was mostly on the Reference Analogue Audio label.
Every release is a surprise for me. I have no idea what'll be next. [laughs] It's exploitation at its best! [laughs] I must say that I like the second release a lot more than the first one. There's the Dealer stuff, a track I did with Electronome. It's really good for that acid stuff.
There is a third one to be released?
Maybe. I'm not sure if Guy is going to do it. He has tons of unreleased Unit Moebius stuff, but I'm not sure what his priority is. The last time that I asked him, he wasn't sure. I made so much shit in those days. It was amazing, it never stopped.
I-f will DJ at Eastern Electrics on August 24th.