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Interview: Legowelt

The many different facets and aliases that characterise Danny Wolfers’ recording career is surpassed only his massive collection of studio equipment. Most widely known for his work as Legowelt,  Wolfers remains a truly enigmatic figure whose musical output has at times come to define a genre – the bonafide electroclash anthem that was 2002’s “Disco Rout”  for example – but has always been characterised by a unique sense of humour sometimes absent from electronic music.

From his homebase in The Hague, Wolfer’s richly analogue sound has has surfaced on a raft of respected labels such as Bunker, Clone, Crème, and Ghostly whilst he has continued to build an enviable back catalogue of low key and remarkably cheap CDr albums and EPs via his own Strange Life Records imprint. A melange of influences from obscure 70s synth outs and early 90s electronica to the Dutch electro of compatriot I-F and the house and techno sounds from Chicago and Detroit seep through Wolfers music.

It’s perhaps the latter that has seen Rush Hour turn to Wolfers to deliver an excellent promotional mix for their forthcoming Virgo Four release or Peoples Potential Unlimited recruit him to remix Superlife’s “Go Bananas”, considered by many a massive influence of the formation of the Detroit techno sound.

Being such an interesting figure has naturally lead to plenty of column space over the years, with a considerable focus on how important The Hague has been on his musical identity and dissection of Wolfers’ love for the old analogue sound. Being granted the opportunity to interview him ahead of his appearance at Bloc Festival, we saw it as a chance to indulge Wolfers’ lighter side with some questions he might not have encountered before.

Our research shows you possess quite an enviable arsenal of knitwear. What sort of outfit are you rocking at the moment?

I recently got a cool sweater with the snake from the video game Pitfall on it, but it’s kind of big – maybe if I wash it a couple of times it will shrink. I am also wearing a woolen trenchcoat with a scarf, grey sweater and white shirt underneath it, kind of like a football manager or something. I don’t really know whats hip now – I guess checkered or plaid lumberjack shirts? I don’t think I have any of those.

The sadly defunct Jockey Slut once called you a Mike Paradinas lookalike – have you been the unwitting recipient of abuse from juke obsessives recently?

Um, no I have no idea what this question is about. And I don’t look like Mike Paradinas, I am like way more muscular! No seriously, is this about that footwork stuff? I’ve seen those YouTube movies, it’s like IDM from the ghetto with weird rhythms to confuse the dancers in the battles. Only the smartest and best dancers can survive the footwork tracks!

Haha indeed! Your career to date has been characterised by a raft of aliases and pseudonyms – our personal favourite is Chicago Shags, not least for its distinctive name. What was the inspiration behind it?

Well I do that Chicago Shags project with Brian Orgue Electronique, and it was inspired by a cult girl band from the 60s called The Shags. The band consisted of three sisters who couldn’t play instruments, sung out of tune and weren’t the hottest looking. But their father had a vision that his daughters would become famous popstars, and thus he created The Shags. He was also their manager and because it was just so weird and almost psychedelic they still became famous – so the dad was right with his vision in the end. Anyway, because the first Chicago Shags records was also kind of out of tune because each track was recorded in five minutes, without any effort, we called this project Chicago Shags.

The sounds of Chicago and Detroit clearly influence your music deeply, have you ever had the chance to visit or indeed play in this cities?

Yeah lots of times, mostly Detroit. I’ve played at the DEMF a couple of times also and I like the city very much. It’s where the freaks are at.

“Nothing sounds quite as crunchy and dirty as a TR-909 rhythm from an Amiga”

As a long standing acid enthusiast how do you feel about contemporary producers recreating that distinct 303 style using modern technology?

I really don’t care how its made, nobody hears the difference, it’s about the notes you play, not if it’s a perfect analogue rendition model of a Japanese transistor.

We just downloaded and enjoyed the Amiga 500 tapes you posted on your site, and it’s clear we wasted our youth playing Cannon Fodder when we could have been conjuring up epic tinny box jams. How much of a role does this computer play in your current output?

Well I just reconnected it last week – I haven’t used it for about a year because I didn’t have a TV to connect it to. But a lot of Legowelt, Gladio and Polarius stuff has been made with Octamed on an Amiga 1200. People always see it as some 8-bit retro computer and start with their micromusic chiptune bollocks, but basically the Amiga is 32-bit, 4 track, 8-bit sampler, drum machine, sequencer, workstation etc. A lot of people used that shit in the 90s and thousands of records were being made with that computer, from Aphex Twin to the typical Rotterdam gabba sound to old school jungle breaks and Model 500. Nothing sounds quite as crunchy and dirty as a TR-909 rhythm from an Amiga.

What Strange Life releases do you having coming up this year that our readers should check?

A lot of stuff – they should check everything of course – although it’s actually kind of hibernating right now. It will get a restart soon.

You seem to be building a strong relationship with Rush Hour with the House Of Jezebel release and a remix on Hour House Is Rush House. Will you be doing anything further with the label?

I’ve known those Rush Hour cats a long time, since the 90s. Lately it’s felt like the scenes in The Hague and Clone in Rotterdam are kind of merging with Rush Hour, because it’s basically the same music we’re interested in. The House Of Jezebel thing was on Voyage Direct, Tom Trago’s Rush Hour sub-label. I played with him a couple of times in London and Bulgaria and we got along well, so he asked me if I wanted to release that track on his label. I am going to do another weird gospel house record for him soon too. There will also be a Nacho Patrol album on Kindred Spirits which should have been finished a long time ago, and also a release for the M>O>S label as Aroy Dee.

They also tasked you with doing a mix of material from the new Virgo Four Resurrection compilation – as a fan of Chicago House you must have been delighted?

Yeah that was cool, it was like a musical treasure being uncovered hearing all those unreleased tracks!

“I really don’t care how it’s made – nobody hears the difference – it’s about the notes you play, not if it’s a perfect analogue rendition model of a Japanese transistor”

Equally exciting is the forthcoming remix for Peoples Potential Unlimited, another of our favourite labels, how did this come about?

Well the guy who runs PPU, Andrew Morgan, just emailed me and asked if I wanted to do a remix, and since I love that label I was like, ‘yeah of course’. That’s not a very exciting story but that’s how it goes (laughs).

You played Bloc back in 2008, and the festival has grown exponentially in this period, are you excited to return and who else on the line-up are you itching to see?

I was there in the great hamlet of Hemsby in 2008! I don’t know who is playing this year. Ceephax Acid Crew plays there a lot I hope he’s playing this year too – his sets are insane. Some Detroit cats will probably be there too. I will just read the program when I get there, and no doubt I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

How much of your (truly) enviable stock of studio equipment will you be using at the Bloc performance?

About two per cent, I don’t know! I have a special live set-up which doesn’t utilise anything from my studio – it’s mostly expendable cheap crap  because if you play live it will break down eventually, and since I am not Rick Wakeman with 20 roadies I can’t afford to bring a Jupiter 8 or shit like that! It’s just whatever fits in a suitcase; electribes, Yamaha QY70, old Roland TR-707s, Microkorgs, a computer and controller.

Interview: Tony Poland