It’s been a career populated with releases on the likes of original Detroit hero Robert Hood’s imprint, M-Plant and the more localised but equally well respected, Delsin amongst numerous others. And while Rachmad’s popularity and the respect for what he’s achieved is stronger than ever the most overwhelming aspect of his career is the groundwork he laid for what is now a thriving electronic music scene in his home country, The Netherlands – a fact that is acknowledged by the wider community and a thing we wouldn’t dare dispute either.
In fortuitous time for all these anniversaries and the STERAC set that’s planned in Room Two this coming Saturday, we linked up with the pioneering artist to chat about being name checked by Robert Hood and how sticking to your values is the only way to maintain such a long and respectable career in electronic music…
First up – happy birthday I heard you had a bit of a party at the weekend how did that go down?
I am very happy to have had the opportunity to have Cobblestone Jazz live play at my birthday party, the party was packed and Cobblestone served us a two hour spontaneous musical jam, I loved it. The whole night was quality actually, and both rooms remained full till quite late. I played till 08:00 am and in the end Boris Werner also joined us for the last few tunes. It was for sure a night to remember.
Has reaching this point where you’re now celebrating 30 years of DJing and making music made you think back and think about what you’ve learned, what you’ve achieved or what you’re most greatful for in life?
There are days I take a look at my past. Especially the days I discovered electronic music back in the 80's are very dear to me. But also the early success of my career, getting my first STERAC records out, is a special time in my life that pops up in my mind once in a while. On the other hand there’s still so much going on these days, with techno as well as house music making a huge comeback, it feels like I’m doing it all over again. So then I’m simply happy that I got to know this music in such an early stage and saw it evolve into what it is now. I’ve grown together with the music, I guess that’s what I’m most grateful of.
With all the pearls of wisdom you must have under your belt now and being aware of music – what advice would you give people starting out in electronic music?
If you’re into some particular sound or style, and you know that’s where your heart and talent is, don’t let anything keep you from that. For me it all started with Detroit techno, and when I saw minimal techno come up ten years ago, I didn’t know exactly what to do with it. I saw lots of colleagues do something with this sound, suddenly changing the style they’d been doing for years. Which is cool if you’re up for it, personally I had a little more trouble with it. Until somebody told me I had to stay close to myself, so if this wasn’t working for me, just stick with where your heart is. And that’s what I did, taking my Detroit sound to another level and discovering a deeper house sound for myself. Perhaps I wasn’t en vogue with what was happening back then, not going with the flow helped me to stay inspired until this day.
Has it all been a positive journey for you or has it thrown some challenges and given you obstacles to overcome?
Well, there have been some difficult moments. Like the one I described above, where I started to question the musical path I was following. But as I stayed true to myself I found it’s the best way to keep going and don’t fade out with passing trends. But even then it was sometimes hard to keep inspiration coming. Back in the early 2000s there was even a moment I wanted to stop touring, fed up as I was from waiting at airports, playing the same records every weekend and not having time to be in my studio. It’s all been lessons learned, making it easier for me these days to combine everything. You could say the obstacles I had resulted in a more balanced life now.
Music I know has always been the thing for you, but are there any other facets of life or interests you’d like to have more time to explore?
I can’t think of a lot. Usually when I have time for myself I go straight into the studio, to me that’s pure freedom. Of course I do like an evening with friends, but then it often ends up with conversations about music as well! Besides that I’m kind of a foodie, especially when it comes to the Asian kitchen. One of the things I most enjoy is discovering new restaurants, simple or upclass, in Amsterdam or abroad, with my girlfriend.
For you out of all the Sterac tracks what would you say is the one you’re most proud of (I know super hard question) but think about it as in the one you think you just got everything right…the one if you had to make a time capsule with one track from every techno producer it’s the one you’d want to represent yourself with…
It’s definitely difficult to name only one track, so many things I’m proud of.. But I guess the first STERAC track I made, Sitting On Clouds, was something of a special moment. Up till then I was only learning, trying to get the right sound out of my equipment. When I made Sitting On Clouds it felt like passing a test or something, it was a track that in my opinion could just as easily had come from Derrick May. In the sense that it sounded professional and like the solid Detroit stuff I was listening to. After that I felt like a full producer, it gave me confidence to keep going.
Robert Hood mentioned in a recent interview that you were one of the producers he rates what does that mean to you? Especially as Hood and his friends in Detroit have been cited as influences for you in the past…
I was kind of speechless, to be honest. Like I said, for me it started with Detroit and all those guys, so when I read this interview with Robert Hood I was really excited. He’s definitely one of my heroes, to get such a compliment from him is really a big honour.
"I’m simply happy that I got to know this music in such an early stage and saw it evolve into what it is now. I’ve grown together with the music, I guess that’s what I’m most grateful of."
Who do you think are artists who are innovating and doing the best music right now?
That's a very hard question. I've been around for so long and I've seen a lot come and go but for me it's hard to see something that's really innovating. But the last one that really impressed me these last years was Floating Points. I of course discovered him a few years later than when he started. But I am glad I did. This guy is simply a genius. It's from the more experimental corner but has jazz, funk, hip hop, trip hop, soul, classical and more influences in it. A very cool combination between technical and musical stuff. To me his style is pretty innovating if I might say.
You’re DJing for us on your next visit – a techno focused STERAC set - are you finding you’re making up a lot of your DJ sets with as much contemporary or older music these days?
There’s so much good music coming out these days, I try to combine a lot of contemporary records with classic stuff. As for STERAC, this is more my techno persona, where things can get heavy into even 90s based techno. At such moments it’s always tempting to dive into my archive and come up with a record from back then, on the other hand the more darker techno is really making a revival recently. So many cool new records coming out, I think you’ll be surprised how many classic sounding records will be recent productions. In any case, it’s going to be an interesting night. fabric is a special venue for me and I want to make this party one to remember.
What about this year – how has that been for Steve Rachmad and STERAC? Have you got anything forthcoming you’re excited about?
It’s been a crazy year. I’ve been touring quite a lot, travelling to Asia, USA and across Europe, did a lot of festivals where I didn’t only play techno, but also the more housey stuff I like. There were some moments I got the feeling it was getting too much, although every gig was worth it, there’s simply so many nice events these days. Right now I’m actually looking forward to my fabric gig, as well as Panorama Bar, Time Warp Holland, two times Trouw in December, and January 1st at Circo Loco Ibiza.