SPEEDY J with GREG GOW , ADAM MARSHALL , ZUZANA GRIMM and CASPIAN RABONE at Element (553 Queen West), Sunday (October 12). $15 before 11 pm, $20 after. 416-359-1919. Rating: NNNNN
In the techno world, Rotterdam is known for two things: blindingly hard and fast gabber techno and veteran producer/DJ Speedy J (aka Jochem Paap). Not that Paap hasn't produced his share of disturbingly abstract pounding techno, but his approach was always closer to the experimental one taken by people like Richie Hawtin and Jeff Mills than to the candy raver hardcore scene.
Back in the early 90s he was known for his high-speed mixing and technical skills, but in more recent years he's more likely to be performing a live PA than mixing records. He's not alone in this shift - techno DJs have finally started getting over the fetish of old synths, drum machines and the Technics 1200 turntable in favour of new digital technology that allows them to interact more directly with pre-recorded music.
"It's very dance floor-oriented," says Paap on the phone. "My set lists vary from show to show. I pick tracks as I play, so it's almost like DJing. The main difference is that a DJ is much more restricted in manipulating the music. I have to build the entire mix and arrangement live; everything is non-linear. Plus, I have a huge range of sound-sculpting tools to work with. The preprogrammed material is always the same, but the arrangement, mix, length, tempo, effects, etc., are all improvised. Tracks are recognizable but different each time I play."
Does this approach intrinsically change the actual music, or is it just another way for a DJ to maintain interest in performing? We've seen how technological developments can push forward new sounds as affordable sequencers did in the 80s.
"The progression in the way people interact with musical material is not restricted to techno or clubs. These progressions are influencing all of us and how we listen, consume and enjoy music. We will all be getting more and more involved in modifying and manipulating the music we listen to. Performing, listening and DJing will all blur into each other."
His last full-length album, Loudboxer, shared the strategy Richie Hawtin made popular with his Closer To The Edit album, using digital technology to piece together a mix CD at a microscopic level. More recently, Speedy released Tannga, a single that gets a bit weirder and more abstract than Loudboxer's percussion-heavy material.
"Each time I do an album, I need it to be a challenge. I want to find out whether I can do something, and once I've tried it I don't see the point of doing it again. The new stuff I'm working on is becoming more abstract and less dance floor-oriented. It's more listenable."
A short attention span seems to be a driving force for Paap, which makes it all the more surprising that he's been making this music for more than 10 years. When asked what got him into techno in the first place, he simply answers, "I can't remember, I must have been really bored."