Rennie Pilgrem

Scris pe 02.06.2007 de Cypher

Nu e putin lucru sa dai nume sau forma unui nou gen muzical. El le-a facut pe amandoua. In holul unui hotel bucurestean, cu doua ore inainte de setul sau, l-am intrebat cum este, la care mi-a raspuns candid, uneori cautandu-si cuvintele, dar mereu cu un zambet pe fata. Drept urmare, iata ce crede despre origini, vinil, hardware, live, label-uri, mainstream, party-uri est europene si mai ales nu skool breakbeat, omul ce a inventat termenul : "The Godfather of Breaks", Rennie Pilgrem.

How does it feel to be one of the originators, "the godfather of breaks"?
It's good, i mean i've been doing it for a long time so i suppose i've been called that because i've been doing it forever. But yeah, it's a nice accolade.

And did you ever make anyone an offer they just couldn't refuse?
Yeah, everyone on the label that i've signed - they've had no choice, otherwise they'd sleep with the fishes (smiles).

So, what do you think about the breaks scene nowadays, is it going in a good direction?
Yeah, the nice thing is it's spreading around the world. For instance, it's only within the last year i've played in Romania, at the 48 Hours festival. There are a lot of countries in Eastern Europe, China, Japan, and it's spreading kind of organically, so it's growing without being mainstream.

Do you think crossing over into the mainstream would be good or bad for it?
I think it'd probably be bad, i think maybe the odd tune would be good but i think if any form of dance music becomes very popular, many people start to do it and dilute it and make it overly commercial. If you take drum'n bass, it's big around the world but it's not mainstream and you don't need to be in the charts. I think it's good being underground, being healthy but big enough...C: Enough to make a living off of? RP :Just about, i mean, not selling records, selling records is terrible now, but the Internet is gonna open things up. I think it's in a good state, healthy.

Now for the uncomfortable one : tech, bass-line or middle ground?
I've always seen myself as doing a little bit of everything, i mean one of the reasons i like breaks, apart from the fact that i like the beats, is that you can put anything you like over the top, from funk, dub, techno, electro, housey stuff or more tear-out stuff. Me personally, i like not to be pigeonholed.

What do you think about the East-European breaks scene in particular?
I think one of the reasons that breakbeat is healthy in Eastern Europe is that you've kind of got into dance music a bit later than, say, England, and so whereas in England you've had 20 years of house music so house is the dominant thing, you can come here and there can be a club, or a festival where it's all based on alternative stuff like drum'n bass or hip-hop and breaks. I think it's healthy because people have embraced it instead of us being the little cousin in the back room so it's had its share of the main stage.

What made you put your sax down and get into electronic music?
Really, it was a way of being able to produce complete works on your own and being able to control everything, i mean now i've sort of gone the other way where i'm doing lots of live aspects to stuff and doing band things as well, where you're taking it on the road and doing it live. But i like the fact that, say, you can create new sounds whereas over the saxophone it's great but it's only one sound so i like the freedom that you can experiment with.

Where do you think the border between laptop dj-ing and playing live with a laptop lies?
Personally, i like things like Ableton and i can imagine doing sets with Ableton, but i would do as a keyboard player, i would have to have say keyboards or a live element, because, otherwise, as someone described it, it can look like you're checking your emails. You can be very very creative with it, but you've got to be doing stuff, say, for me, i would be triggering samples and playing keyboard lines and doing stuff. If everything's premixed it's hard enough...i mean, i play a lot of cd's, 'cause there are a lot of things that aren't out yet, but...otherwise, it's very hard for the crowd, because there's no involvement, there's no performance, you've just got a guy pressing "Play" and that's it, so, do you need a DJ then? I think that's the way it's going now, but i think it's got to stay interesting and creative.

You're a label owner - what do you look for in an artist in order to get him signed?
Well, at the moment i'm concentrating more on my own stuff, because sales are so difficult with vinyl, but what i'm looking for is someone doing a fantastic dance track. When i was signing stuff, it would be like you'd have a record and you would love playing it out and think it was a strong dancefloor track. If you're doing something for the club, i'd be looking for a fantastic dancefloor track, maybe not necessarily the most obvious one but something that would be different and last a while.

Do you think it's necessary for an otherwise accomplished dance artist to have a significant web presence in order to get signed to a large label?
Well, obviously, things like myspace have changed the way people can promote themselves, but i'm not sure now whether you really need to worry about major labels. In the breaks scene, i think the most important thing is for people to get their music out not to the big name dj's but to all of the residents and all the up-and-coming guys, because then their music will get played. Everyone sends CD's and mp3's to the main people, but so they're innundated with music and half the time they don't even hear it. The most important thing is to get your music into the clubs, and the best way to do that is to give it to the more up-and-coming dj's who'd love to have a new track.

Intergroove (unul din distribuitorii majori de discuri breakbeat si nu numai) - they recently went bust. Why do you think that happened and how does it affect TCR?
It hit a lot of us in a bad way in that, say, all my back catalog for 12 years is there, the last two releases too, and it means you don't get paid for it. The reason why it happened is because vinyl is being hit by the whole digital side and record shops are going bust, and i think in their case, they had too many labels and too much stuff that was maybe average. I think the way to avoid that is to be smaller and vinyl would be a specialist thing, so...C: More quality, less quantity? RP: Yeah, absolutely.

How did you start collaborating with Novation Music, what was that all about?
They rang me one day and brought 'round a keyboard they wanted to show me, the X-Station. It was the first time i saw that, for my live thing, i mean i was looking for a way of having, say, the backing tracks on Ableton and this keyboard would work, where you could play the keyboard and it could sync with the effects, and it would all sync with the laptop. You could use it to play the laptop through it and play stuff so it's a great performance keyboard. I met them and then, maybe six months ago they said "Could you make some noises for the next one?" and i did it - they're a great source of new keyboards & things.

If you'd only have a computer and 1500 euro to spend on studio equipment, what would that be?
I'd probably get something like an X-Station, and buy a real instrument like guitar or bass, so that you could blend electronic stuff with some real things. Also, a good mixing desk, a small one, that's maybe analog, because everything is digital now and it sounds really harsh. C: Monitors? RP: Monitors, i've got Mackie, i think they should be Mackie or Genelec, something like that. Monitors are really important, so i think it's best to have monitors that give you a warm but very accurate sound.

Do you think vinyl has a future, and what can a dj do to support it, besides grassroots level support?
Yeah, i think it's gotta become more specialised, where you've got to maybe get people limited edition vinyl, where what's on vinyl is not available on mp3, tracks you can only get on vinyl. But the only way to support it remains going to your local record shop and buying the track. The difficulty with vinyl is the cost of shipping it - for some countries it can become very expensive so that's a problem.

And lastly: name three records a hard-working breakbeat DJ absolutely cannot do without.
I would say...obviously, it's on TCR but i think the Dopamine track "Hold You" has become a bit of a classic that kind of works anywhere, also the Plumps' mix of "Push Up" is a bit of a classic tune and then as an older tune maybe Jaydee - "Plastic Dreams" or something like that, where people that've been into breaks for two years don't know it, yeah, something like that.

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