Speedy J: The abstract electronic

Your neighbours can’t appreciate anything loud let alone electronic, so what’s the point in trying to convince them that experimental waveforms and smashing techno can be cool. Yeah, this isn’t even about them, its about Speedy J – or Jochem Paap, to those of you who know him more intimately. Jochem and his ‘rocking-ability’.

As you do, we find ourselves communicating once again (so soon, too..) and I realise that Jochem is coming back. Melbourne (and Sydney) dates are only around the corner. Dates no less, with big speakers and the best sounds ever to come from machines. For Jochem, his focus is key because every two hour live performance must deliver that definite ‘loud’ potential. “I have to keep concentrating; every second I have to keep manipulating to make it interesting because otherwise nothing is happening dynamically”. Yep, he is his own veritable one man band. One could also be forgiven for thinking that this was to be some high speed head banging session and it is, kinda. Either way, somehow playing with a machine rather than a record adds a certain excitement and charm – an ability for the artist to really work a crowd.

Indeed, it was from his beginnings in hip-hop, that he garnered the name Speedy J, given his dexterity with turntables. But today his approach is a little different. There is no identical performance. Everything is different. Every time. “All the stuff I have been doing in recent years is very live, so every time, I can play tracks slow or stripped down or whatever so all the parameters are versatile”. In the game for many a year and with prolific and diverse releases on NovaMute, +8 and umpteenth others, the live element brings a new and different feel with its ability to respond on demand. How it is delivered though? Well that depends. “The size of the crowd is an influence, and whether I’ve played there before”. But mainly, “I decide while I’m playing – I have a small setup and it allows me to do that”. A setup can contain a set of samplers, or even a laptop and beyond. And during the performance sonically one can travel through electro, experimental to techno and back. There are no limits. No rules. Even this – “in theory, I can play indefinitely (!) but in effect, to do a good set, you want up to 3 hours”. And with his popularity soaring, he adds that this time “the track listing will definitely be different, I’ve done lots of new stuff, but especially when you play for some time you will hear old stuff too”. Any complaints? Not here. That is because his anthems date back to the 90s and transcend raving generations. As a rule though, he always remains “danceable”.

Since we last saw him in March, he has been playing the countries of European summer. There’s really no where he hasn’t been and the determination is still there – “I gig a lot and enjoy it, but I’m also trying to get back into the studio. I’m working with new ideas, finding new directions. It’s all premature fooling around with sounds”. Always the pioneer, he notes also that “of most of the places I’ve been, I notice that techno seems to be shifting eastwards now – its really happening in the eastern bloc countries like Hungary and Poland and also the usual countries like Holland, Germany, Spain, Italy”. Does that have anything to do with the style? A kind of menacing yet harmonious blend of sounds that sooth and kick arse, all at the same time. “I have taken the time to work on a new album” – something to follow from the awesome Loudboxer LP. I also set up kind of a collaboration project – it’s a series on NovaMute”. The first is a single with Swedish wonderkid Adam Beyer – and its out in two months. The second will be with Liberon, a Dutch friend; while the third will be “some stuff” with Chris Liebing. I hazard a thought to what that could mean! So it is clear that techno has been going really well for the guy. “It gives me the chance to play new stuff live and put out the release”. Testing the waters so to speak. But most importantly, “play time in the studio”!

But amongst all this talk about music, I felt an urge to digress for a while – to talk about some different. I asked him about a non musical view. The world is an interesting place. Governments are toppled and dictators overthrown, but the music still plays. “It does worry me. The thing that worries me the most is that its really difficult to find out what’s going on – every government is involved in a conflict and each will totally try to shape the news and information”. I feel it too – there is clearly a general conflict going on between the earths. “And those who are pulling the strings might be offering propaganda with opinions based on false information – which has created hatred between people in the street”.

Can we make peace through music? We can certainly try. Speedy J plays 100% LIVE in Sydney on Friday 19th @ Technikal and Melbourne, at War of the Worlds on Saturday September 20. Will he devastate? “Ill just pick up where the last get left off”. Yeah right..