Is the techno scene oversaturated? Maybe, but that doesn’t stop Achteraph from following his passion. Raw beats with a dystopian feel and a whiff of acid: that’s what defines his music. Achteraph, the alter ego of Raphaël ter Maat, is quite new to the scene. His interest in electronic music started to develop a few years ago when he started to listen to electronica artists such as Daft Punk and Justice. After attending a few techno events, his musical preference started to shift towards the darker side of techno.
The Mix of the Month competition has discovered a wealth of talented DJs. Artists that have the raw passion and talent to be great, but go un-noticed by the large majority of music fans simply from over saturation and PR white noise. We wanted to look beyond what was visible and find underground stars of the future. Achteraph fits the bill perfectly. A&R Simon Huxtable went to meet the newest Dutch techno icon in person.
Hi Raphael, thanks for taking the time out to chat to us at Decoded Magazine today. How’s your day been?
Thank you for having me! My day was busy but good. Having one of the final days of my internship at a creative agency in Amsterdam. We’ve been working on a series of portraits of inspiring artists today. Other than that I’ve been preparing for my trip to Tokyo next week. I’ll be there for two weeks to visit some family. It will be my first time in Asia. Exciting!
Can you tell us a bit about yourself? Outside of music what do you do?
I’m in the final stages of my degree in Media. After I return from my trip to Japan I’ll start with my thesis. If everything goes well, I’ll have my degree around June. As a part time job, I work freelance in the creative industry as a filmmaker. After my internship I’ll keep working there for a few days a week. The content we create is mostly aimed at smaller brands and advertising, not cinema movies (yet!).
The whole process of filmmaking is really inspiring: coming up with an idea and visualising it into a film. After I graduate I want to keep working in the advertising or film industry. It might sound ironic, but I don’t like the traditional media. It’s too much of a puppet-show for me. Also, I love traveling. Give me a stills camera and I’m all set. It’s fantastic to see the world and it really expands your horizon.
Can you remember back to your first gig? Where was it and how did it go?
My first time playing for a crowd was back at my old job. There were about sixty people. I carried my laptop, monitors and DJ set all over for a small party on a Friday evening. I played house tunes for about two hours. It was fun but I was nervous as hell. My set went well. But I have to admit I was watching way too much at my laptop, I was extremely afraid of doing something wrong. Honestly, I don’t think anyone cared that much; they just wanted some nice music on the background. It was a really fun experience, seeing people smiling and dancing thanks to your music.
Every DJ has an eureka moment that kick starts their career. Do you remember yours?
Probably a set I did at a party a while ago. I did a set of eight hours (part of it back to back with a friend). It was really fun (and intense!). It gave me the chance to really build towards something. It started off slowly with more melodic techno, slowly building towards a higher BPM. In the end we were just playing classic after classic (such as Sonic Destroyer and The Bells). It opened a lot of doors for me, because I got several other opportunities thanks to that night. It was also a huge motivation for myself. Definitely one of the most fun sets I’ve played.
We understand Ben Sims and Luke Slater among others are your influences. Was your passion for the darker side of techno a gradual thing?
It took me a few years to get to this point. My interest in electronic music started to develop around 7 years ago when I became a huge fan of Daft Punk. I became interested in French House and Electronica artists such as Justice, Deadmau5 and Pendulum. After a while, I started going to parties with (deep) house music. Slowly my friends and me got more into the “scene” and we started visiting the more techno-oriented parties.
I still remember entering the Gashouder (the location of Awakenings) for the first time – such a magical moment. My appreciation for the more dark and raw sounds developed slowly. When you visit more events, you start to appreciate the lesser known names more. My taste is still changing, but I’m pretty sure I’ll still be listening to this kind of music in 20 years.
For a layman, techno is probably boring and repetitive, but I love the raw power, hypnotizing beats and groove on it. It has some kind of magical feeling. That’s something I dislike about EDM, it’s all cookie-cutter and extremely predictable. There’s no soul in it for me. I don’t want to say techno is superior, because it isn’t. But it’s definitely less about the “drop” and more about the groove.
Tell us about your hometown of Utrecht, what’s the underground scene like and what are of the nights you regularly attend?
Utrecht has a decent techno scene. There’s always a techno party going on in the weekend. Especially since two new locations have opened recently. I’m a huge fan of the newly opened TivoliVredenburg. It’s not really a nightclub, but a music venue. They have been programming some steady club nights. It’s a good addition to the city. Last month I’ve seen Clouds, Perc and Ansome there. Also Soenda: they organise a few events and a festival in Utrecht every year. It’s the biggest and most forward-thinking organisation in Utrecht. They have some stellar line-ups.
However, the real deal is at Amsterdam. The amount of good artists there every weekend is insane. I often go to the Awakenings and Reaktor parties. Yes, Awakenings might be slightly overrated and expensive, but the Gashouder is the most legendary venue ever. The Reaktor nights are probably my favourite. They are always top notch. They are also one of the few organisations who have the guts to program lesser known names in the scene. I saw DJ Pete, Objekt and Dax J at this New Year’s Day – names that are quite rare around here.
We loved reading in your biography you detest DJs who rely on the Beatport top 100 playlists. Could you name 5 tracks which have shaped you musically, and why they impacted you the way they did?
That’s a difficult question! There are so many great tracks that influenced me. But if I have to make a selection…
Ben Sims – Air Rage (2012)
This is the track where techno all started for me. It’s the tune that made me feel in love with the genre. I’m not exactly sure where I heard it. It’s energetic and groovy as hell. It has the typical Ben Sims sound with the claps. It’s still one of my favourite Ben Sims tunes. He’s also still one of the most fun DJ’s to see live.
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Edge of Motion – Set up a 707 (1992)
Powerful and raw. I have very fond memories of hearing this track live. Hearing this live is probably the moment why I started to appreciate the more raw sounds. The acid bleeps are raw snares are awesome. Also, if you listen carefully to the acid, it sounds like you hear “eat your candy” (0:30). Thank you YouTube, now it’s stuck in my head forever…
Aphex Twin – Didgerido (1991)
Musically Aphex Twin is a genius. He has released so many great tracks in a variety of styles. You have his beautiful piano work (Lichen!) or his harder Caustic Window stuff. Phenomenal melodies. He’s a huge inspiration. Also Selected Ambient Works 85-92 is one of the best albums of all time. He’s the reason why I started to appreciate the more experimental electronic music. Didgeridoo is a crazy, mesmerizing track that works like crack. My favourite Aphex tune.
Outlander – Vamp (1991)
This is probably my favourite techno tune of all time. The ultimate techno classic in my opinion. Released on the legendary R&S label. The track is 25 years old, but it still sounds extremely fresh. It’s timeless. I love the moment where the piano kicks in. I’m a huge fan of the “rave” feeling of the track. This tune definitely got me into the more “ravey” sound.
Daft Punk – Superheroes (2001)
Superheroes, yes that’s what Daft Punk are for me. They are THE reason why I started to listen to electronic music in the first place. Easily the biggest inspiration and influence for me. I love all of their work, especially Discovery (2001). It’s hard to nominate one of their tracks as my favourite, but Superheroes is definitely one of them. It’s uplifting, happy and energetic. I’d sell a kidney to experience the 2007 Alive show. Hopefully an Alive 2017 tour…
How has your home set up changed since your first set of decks? I image it’s a different league now?
I started with a cheap set from Reloop. I upgraded to a Traktor S2 a while after that. I still have it. It’s a great machine for a decent price and it’s still working good. I also have a Xone K2. I use it for extra effects and a third deck. It just gives me some extra knobs to work with.
A few months ago I purchased a Roland TR-8. Honestly, I haven’t used it that much yet, but it’s a fun machine to jam with. I also want to get the TB-3 for the acid, because acid is fun. Live sets are even more fun than DJ sets, so I might start working on a live or hybrid DJ set somewhere this year. Also, I’d like to upgrade to CDJ’s at some point. I like the feel and look, but I’m finding them too expensive to justify a purchase, plus I don’t have room for them right now.
You’ve a very distinct style. Do you find there’s enough music for you to play, and where do you have most luck finding it?
There’s so much good music these days, especially electronic music. But there’s also a lot of boring and crappy music. If you know where to look there’s plenty to find. My biggest source is probably listening to the tracks my favourite DJ’s play. I also like to spend hours on YouTube or looking up old records on Discogs.
I always like to find techno tracks from the 90’s. I love the rawness and style, something that’s lacking with most present-day releases. Take the CLR label for example. Good tunes, but most sound extremely similar, which makes it boring. Sometimes it all sounds too clean in my opinion, I rather have some more rawness.
Still very much in the infancy of your career, have you started making tracks yet?
I’ve been experimenting with Ableton a lot recently. I’ve made a few tracks, but it’s nothing to write home about yet. My head is full of ideas, but after making a solid loop I’m having a hard time transforming them into a full track. I’m pretty perfectionistic, so I am not satisfied quickly. My skills are definitely improving and my tracks are heading to the right direction. It’s definitely one of my New Year’s resolutions to release a track. I’m not in a hurry though, it’s all about having fun for me.
Tell us about the mix. How long did the process take from start to finish?
I don’t prepare my mixes that much because it ruins the spontaneity. Most of the time I have a rough idea in my head of what I want to play, especially the opening track. The rest is improvised. For this mix I had a few tracks in mind I really wanted to play. There was no track list beforehand.
For my mixes I like to start atmospheric without a kick. With longer sets I love to play ambient a few minutes before the first kick hits, but it’s also heavily depending on the situation. I like to take my listeners on a journey – an hour is not enough for it most of the time. There’s more room for experimental tracks in longer sets as well. I also think the closing track is important. Totally depending on circumstances, but I love to end with a melodic track or a classic.
Finally, where can we see you play this year?
Except for a few smaller club gigs, I don’t have too much planned right now because I’m extremely busy with finishing my degree. I’m in conversation for a possible gig on a festival this spring, more info about this soon hopefully!
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