ADE 2015 : Herons, techno and building bridges – Part 1

So, that was ADE 2015. Another five days of blurred wonder in which you meet the world and his mother, share stories, party and begin the process of working together. My ADE was very different this year. 2014 was very much about dipping my toe in the water and hoping I dont get bitten, this time round I embraced everything with eyes wide open.

Something which gave me great pleasure was seeing the team grow around me. Like our radio host Ian Dillon, transforming from a shy, quiet fella into confident and engaging man: waking up after an hours sleep to hop into a taxi and be whisked away to an all day after party, on the outskirts of town after speaking to a couple of Russian record label owners at a meet and greet days before. ADE is awash with these instances…if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to tell you some of mine.

I could have flown from Bristol or Heathrow, but I chose Manchester Airport for a few reasons. Its in Manchester so I could catch up on some great friends I never got to say goodbye to when I moved south this summer, its a clean, well kept airport and up until this time, I had breezed through security and check in. I was wearing different jeans. That’s the reason, I’m completely convinced. You see, they had a belt, and I’m normally not a belt man; It through me when the alarm beeped as I walked through the metal detector. I took off the belt for a brusque and rather mean looking security guard, and walked back through. It beeped again: the studs in my jeans. Even meaner looking now, he frisked me. Thoroughly! Looking back, my flippant comment about wearing my good pants if I had known we’d be so close was always going to irritate him… he found nothing on me and unsatisfied allowed me to pass.

My flight was unremarkable to begin with, the young Irish lady to my left was polite enough, but spent the entire flight on her iPad doing business stuff or talking to her work colleague on the seat across the walkway. To my right, a middle aged Indian man with a varied music collection (Shania Twain, Classical then a Radio538 Dance Hits mix) who spralled out putting his elbows across my elbow rest space. I folded my arms and grumbled to myself in a very begrudged English way.

Then Maurice Fulton got on and sat in front of me. Techno legend Maurice Fulton mind. I felt a bit sorry for him actually, the Chinese girl sat next to him was a nightmare traveller and pestered him all flight for her bag, to go to the toilet, then her bag again, then put her bag away… I’d have switched seat personally. But he soldiered on, got his set ready for that night, drank some red wine and chilled.

Herons ADE 2015

For this year’s trip, it had fallen to me to arrange accommodation. For Maria (our North American A&R manager) and I, I had secured a wonderful little place in fashionable De Pijp in the central south east of the city. Albert Cuypstraat hosts a world famous street market 6 days a week. Everything from fresh fish to handbags can be bought here, but its afterwards that the real wonder occurs. Large grey herons descend upon the market almost at the exact moment the market closes for business, its like they have an alarm clock. I’ve never seen anything like it, these large birds come down, pick off the discarded fish and loiter around making sure nothing is left. Then, as quickly as they come, they fly off, only to return exactly 24 hours later and they do this 6 days a week!

My first interview was with Spinnin Records artist Watermat, and, as expected it was a little chaotic at the venue for our chat. Finally, we were ushered to a room to do the interview and I checked to see if my phone had charged enough with Marias’ portable charger – note to self, MUST buy one of these! We had a good 15 minute conversation covering all the expected questions, but what I was struck by was the calmness of the man. Faced with hours of interviews from a range of journalists and having literally just stepped off a plane from Brazil, he took the whole thing in his stride like a champ, and even had a kind word to say about another guy I was to interview, Kolsch. I really like to see that. Artists who recognise each others talents and are not afraid or intimidated to say so. ADE teaches us that we are all in this together, and its better to build a bridge than burn it down.

watermat

Despite my saying to Maria we should head home at a reasonable hour seeing as it was only Wednesday, we ended up at the ADE official opening party at Panama at about 1am. On the bill were Mauro Picotto, James Zabiela and Carlo Lio. My Torontonian compatriot was visibly shaking with excitement at the prospect of seeing Mr. Lio, one of Canada’s finest exports. Me, I was buzzing for Picotto who I first saw on my 26th Birthday at Lakota Club, Bristol for his UK debut, and of course, my number one DJ James Zabiela who I’ll be DJing with next month.

As expected, Panama was packed to the rafters. The largely young Dutch crowd were jumping and yelping as we entered the main room. Picotto was on shortly, but the DJ playing had the room in the palm of his hand and displayed a very considered approach. Warm up had passed, this was now peak time and the tunes matched accordingly. As Picotto took to the stage a loud cheer went up and his first 30 mins was a blur of gargantuan kick drums and heavy industrial techno sounds. Big smiles all round as wave upon wave of beats descended on the dance floor. No-one left: all mesmerised by the consummate professional. Not one to play a linear set, Mauro soon changed the vibe and dropped the pressure with some ethereal melodies and softer tracks giving everyone a much needed break, but before too long we headed down the rabbit hole once more into blissful drum heavy tech.

An hour and a half shot by, and soon Jay Boy Zee was to grace the decks. There’s not many progressive DJs I can think of with the ability to take over from a nails hard techno DJ, but JZ did it with the effiecency of a German race car driver and the class of Parisian escort. Both tempo and intensity changed, but thankfully the crowd knew of Zabiela and went where he was going to take them. Now in the small hours, we decided it was a good time to leave, Lio wasn’t on until 5/6am and we had a full day of meetings and interviews. So we booked an Uber and head home, tired, but fully engaged for a busy ADE.

Kolsch

My head was banging on Thursday morning. I think I managed 3 or 4 hours sleep after coming home excited and talking with Maria about love, life and the universe. We spent some time getting ready and syncing our schedules and headed into town to meet Damion at the Felix Hotel, our meeting point. Unsurprisingly, he’d been there for hours already and had in fact taken a few meetings. We caught up with him chatting with some industry people – so much of the business done at ADE occurs out front of the Dylan and Felix, and in the local cafes that if conference were to have blown up, we probably wouldn’t have noticed for a while. Its still surreal to me, even though I came last year, to see guys like Marshall Jefferson and Ferry Corston just wandering around the streets of Amsterdam minding their own business.

Imagine my awe later in the week when I spent the evening hanging out with tribal house hero Saeed Younan and his good friend Angel Matos. I’d bumped into them outside the Dylan as we both waited for interviews, mine with Kolsch and their’s with a film crew. Kolsch was by far my favourite interview all week. He was running late and I had been waiting in the rain at a cafe a few streets away for him. I wasn’t sure what he looked like, so had had to do a bit of a google search. I needn’t have bothered, his 6’5 frame was very easy to spot even in a land of giants like Amsterdam.

With a firm handshake and warm smile he introduced himself, and we started chatting immediately. We found a table at the back of the cafe where it was quiet enough to record and started going over what topics we should cover. His manager told us about his time constraints and I worked out a few questions in my head. After an hour of conversation, we had covered everything from the isolation of constant touring, to the value of warm up DJs, how to get a really snappy hi hat and some other production techniques, even his admiration for other artists like his best mate Joris Voorn and Watermat, who I’d told him about. Mega late for my next meeting, I parted company, but I honestly could have chatted for hours more, such a fascinating conversationalist.

Ellen Allien

My next interview was with Ellen Allien, now I must point out, the interview was arranged hastily by her PR team to be before Radio One DJ B.Traits, so I only thought I had a few minutes with her. We had agreed to discuss her fashion range, yeah, Ellen Allien has a fashion range and its pretty cool too! Anyway, On route I got a WhatsApp message from a good friend Juuriaan who was in town for a few gigs and had time for a beer. Anyone who knows me, knows I can’t refuse a beer, so I head over to meet him and his lovely girlfriend Ruthy. Turns out they had mopeds for the week and after our quick beer gave me a lift over to the Hotel D’Europe.

I announced myself to the receptionist, who had no clue who I was and had to ring the press office to clarify my being in the hotel…. I emailed Ellens PR team, just in case. The press team hadn’t heard of me, so it was by luck I got a text message back with Ellens phone number, I rang, she answered and I got my interview. 35 minutes! And we hardly talked about fashion! hahaha Another really interesting person with a big heart and a fiery passion for music.

That was work done for me… Thursday night was a blur of parties. Fortunately my headache disappeared! First up was a flying visit to Tom Hades meet and greet. Always a great event, and a chance to catch up with a whole host of faces. As always Tom’s manager, Joost was a fine host and we enjoyed a spot of bubbly on entry and a free beer once inside. The music was pumping out from the renovated sound system ,and even though Cue Bar is a small place, sounded magnificent. Next up was a solo trip to the Soma meet and greet to catch up with a PR friend Jenn and a really great producer called Simon. The rain, which had been pouring all day finially got the better of me and by the time I found the party, I was soaked through. Undeterred, and a little tipsy I got a beer, met Jenn and was introduced to two of the maddest, funniest girls I’ve ever met. I don’t recall their names, but one was a doctor in London and the other a yoga instructor… we had a great chat and lots of laughs. Just what ADE is all about!

Gashouder

After a trip back to base camp for a shower and change of clothes, Maria and I headed out to the Sloterdijk district of suburban Amsterdam for Awakenings presents Drumcode at the infamous Gashouder. What. A. Venue! I thought Trouw was good when I went last year with Dale Middleton, but this was next level. Inside the gargantuan structure, the night was in full swing. After deftly passing through the security with guest list passes, we put our coats away in personal lockers, something unique to Dutch venues it seems, and headed into the main room. After a quick scout round, we grabbed a drink and hit the floor. Hours passed and the DJs came and went; Dense & Pika a particular highlight for me. Then Adam Beyer came to the stage.

For those not familiar with the Drumcode sound, Adam Beyer is pretty much the new sheriff in town. The likes of Carl Cox and Sven Vath etc will always have a special place in my heart, but the energy, passion and damn fine music that Beyer had to blow the crowd away made the night really unique and noteworthy. Also the indoor firework display was pretty intense too! Our taxi home in the small hours after Alan Fitzpatrick has pummeled our brains with more nails hard techno was completely filled with a shared enjoyment of the night, of techno and of what Friday would hold. But first, sleep. Much needed sleep.