From sublime to sludgy with the Salon Des Amateurs resident.
Düsseldorf's Salon Des Amateurs has produced some of Europe's most interesting DJs and live acts: Lena Willikens, Jan Schulte, Tolouse Low Trax. Alongside these names add Vladimir Ivkovic, who has been a regular at the Salon, a much-loved venue that's currently imperilled by water damage, for the past 12 years. In that time, he's developed a DJ style that's quite his own—sometimes abrasive, always intriguing.
As well as being an integral part of Düsseldorf's scene, he's also a respected figure in Belgrade, where he was born and raised. He often plays at 20/44, one of the city's best venues, but his DJing roots in the city date back to the '90s. Back then his father ran a couple of venues, Sara and Omen, and it was at Sara where Ivkovic cut his teeth as a selector. "I used to sit on the terrace at night with a few friends and some music, and then more people started to show up," he recalls. "I rented a bigger soundsystem so more people could sit on the terrace or on the beach, and night after night, Sara became an example of wonderful self-organization and a sense of community where in the morning no one would notice that something had happened during the night. For that one summer, Sara was not utopia in a sense of an imagined community because it really existed."
Aside from DJing, Ivkovic also has a hand in two very different record labels: Offen Music and Desolat. Offen, which launched in 2015, is Ivkovic's own outlet for experimental music from the likes of Rex Ilusivii (a Serbian artist who died in 1999) and Toresch (a Düsseldorf group featuring Tolouse Low Trax). He also manages Loco Dice's Desolat label. "Dice doesn't fail to amaze me," Ivkovic says. "I'm looking forward to the next ten years with Desolat. Maybe someday, in 20 years, we'll sit on some porch with our kids and look back with a smile at the rich back catalogue of contemporary dance music that Desolat released."
Recorded late one night at Ivkovic's Düsseldorf home, this RA podcast is a two-hour trawl through the sludgy and the sublime.
What have you been up to recently?
Recently I've been trying to stop the process of transformation into an octopus.
How and where was the mix recorded?
The mix was recorded at home, in one take, on January 12th, between 1 AM and 3 AM. It was recorded with records, two Technics SL-1210 MK2 turntables and one Allen & Heath Xone:92 rotary mixer.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
The idea was not to have one, but I could have executed that "no idea" idea if I went diving instead of recording an RA podcast. So I tried to enter the sphere of zaum, and let things happen. Then the recording was immediately uploaded and gone. I listened to it the next evening and had slight idea why it is what it is. Something like half life in two hours, but also an opportunity not to face the fact that I should look for records for the Futura x Salon Des Amateurs Night that was happening at Moog on January 13th.
Things are currently uncertain at the Salon. What's the latest?
Uncertainty is certain. There was a water leak that caused serious damage and has to be repaired. However, it is not yet clear when exactly the clean-up will begin. It seems to be a complex process that's beyond my understanding. Not all the necessary specialists were there to check what's going on, how long it might take to fix, make appointments etc. At the moment the health office considers it safe for us and visitors, so the Salon can stay open until the works begin. When they'll begin and how long they'll take—it's impossible to tell at the moment. Salon Des Amateurs is one of the foundations of what I'd call home. It's not only the room itself, and the music, staff and guests, it's also all that happens around it, or what emanated from the bar: bands, friends, talks, exchanges, ideas, experiences, encounters.
I started to play alongside Detlef (Tolouse Low Trax) in the early days of the Salon, some 12 years ago, and it's been such a ride, with a huge amount of music and stories. He's such unique character. In the Salon's case, "resident" is maybe not the right term. It's more like being a member of the house band alongside Lena Willikens, Jan Schulte, Arne Rearview Radio and Frank D'Arpino, plus Gordon Pohl and Marc Matter from the early days.
Tell us about why you started your label, Offen Music, and where you're taking it in 2017.
Offen was something necessary. I think in 2009 I became aware of the fact that there was so much nice music around me, and that it would be awful not to share it. But then I was probably busy with other things and it took another five or six years until it really began. And it had to begin when I got to hear the musical archive of Mitar Subotic Suba / Rex Ilusivii— especially the music he made in the former Yugoslavia from the period 1980-1991, music that comes from the time when I was a kid and from the country that doesn't exist anymore. So it's like a message in a bottle found and stored by people like Suba's mama Ruza Subotic, Slobodan Misailovic and few other of his friends and colleagues.
So, in a way, Offen is not my label. It's a platform that embodies the ideas of people and spirits involved on many levels: music, artwork, mastering, cutting, distribution… There is love, friendship, trust, fun—and some of it maybe I just channel a little bit. In that sense it's more a little universe than a label. It's an anti-label. One of the tracks I had in mind back then was Der Räuber Und Der Prinz's "Jagd Auf Den Hirsch," and I am happy that we released it on Desolat. For me it's such a great timeless piece of music. Another one that was recorded around that time and would have been on Offen back then, if Offen would have been possible, will be Offen Music 006. It's getting released almost nine years after it was recorded. Things happen when they happen.
What are you up to next?
Next on Offen is the Smagghe & Cross debut album. It arrived a few weeks after Ivan Smagghe and I played 14 hours shoulder-to-shoulder at 20/44 in Belgrade, a place also known as The Boat, at the beginning of September last year. Heavy, weird times, and a heavy, wonderful album. Nosebleed, Belgrade gloom, memories, nausea, history, hope, frozen Balearic and so much more is in there. Soundtrack to the live-sick, die-old lifestyle. In May, Offen's first proper 12-inch will follow. An epic track by Ralf Beck, Jonny Nash and Tako Reyenga recorded in 2008 with remixes by Gilbert Cohen and Gordon Pohl—a closure of another circle.
There is lots of excitement at Desolat, too. I've been fortunate to work alongside Loco Dice for the past ten years, and it's wonderful to see that with all the work, dedication, his passion for what he does, Desolat remains independent, real, and turns ten in September this year. Then next weekend I'll play with Nic Tasker and Coby Say at The Yard in London, and later this year Primavera (thanks Meri!), Strange Sounds From Beyond, Dekmantel, Houghton Festival, and still Salon Des Amateurs, I hope. There is another release from the Rex Ilusivii archive planned.