01.03.2017 | Words by:
Alex Rigby.Pictures by:
Bradley FletcherAs JP Enfant’s first all-nighter at DS nears, we sat down with the techno artist to discuss the nature of extended sets and his upcoming projects. You’ve played here 11 times over the past year or so. Do you now feel familiar enough to regard it as home?
I was counting the number the other night actually, and 11 seems crazy. I do definitely now regard it as a base; this is now the place where I play best and feel secure and safe enough be truly experimental.Was that comfort from the first moment you stepped in the booth or was it something that came with time?
The first time felt very good, but after 2-3 times I could say that I totally felt at home. The first time I felt at comfortable but I didn’t know the club so well yet. You always have to take time to figure out how things work and how things sound, and what kind of music fits best in a certain environment. I have a real belief that programming shouldn’t be just throwing artists into a club, but a club should make its programmes to situate the artists properly within. A certain space fits a certain sound; you can’t just throw DJs into random places. Things need to fit and things need to take time to connect. I agree. Can you remember settling into that first night well?
The first night was tricky to figure out. I played an opening set and much harder than I maybe should’ve done. The soundsystem is heavy here and I selected records that I thought would be good but they were too powerful for that timeslot. Now for opening sets I know exactly now what I can and can’t do music-wise. During your previous nights have there been artists who you’ve particularly connected with?
The night with Aurora Halal stands out. I didn’t know her well but she played live first and then did a DJ set later on. I was totally blown away by her live set which doesn’t happen very often, as I find that live-sets in can be static. When she began to DJ set there was a strong connection between us both with the choice of records. I think this night was also the first time everything clicked down there. In regards to March 4th and your upcoming all-nighter, I’m interested in how you approach something of that magnitude.
The first time you do it, yes, it’s intimidating. The fun thing about it is that you can take people with you for an entire night and tell them a story. You can really build towards something and create a kind of flow. I see it like the dynamics of the sea: by the coast there are waves that are very short and restless, but further out on the ocean there are waves that are longer and smoother. Playing for an extended period of time is kind of like the longer and smoother waves further from the shore You build slowly towards occasional peaks and then take them down slowly again. That’s an interesting way to describe techno.
Techno is cyclical when best. There are larger cycles in a long set. In a shorter set there are more peaks.What kind of preparation and strategy goes into creating these larger cycles in a set like that, compared to say the standard 2 hours?
What I normally do is to think about 3 different parts of the night: the beginning, middle and end. For each part I pre-select different records. I don’t know exactly when these phases start and stop, but I can roughly make blocks of three hours or so. How conscious are you of time passing during something like that?
In the beginning you’re quite conscious. But at a certain moment you start to become into a hyper-focus state, where time goes away and becomes irrelative. If it goes really well, records come to you, and they just begin to pop into your mind without even thinking. You don’t really need to consciously choose them. There’s more ease and flow. I guess it feels almost spiritual in a way. Are you ever looking at a watch?
Sometimes you have to check the time but the charm really is that you lose track of it and don’t check for 2-3 hours. Sometimes you do check and you’re like, ‘oh my god!’ That’s normally a good sign. When you get into it you can go on for ages and ages and you begin to receive energy from the crowd - that energy isn’t really relative to what time it is. You can kind of steer your own energy with your music. How?
Contrary to what many people think, you don’t necessarily play harder. There’s always music that fits a certain type of energy. You make a connection with the crowd and then make a selection, and if you do it right you feel the energy rise again. It’s very satisfactory when it happens. What is an adequate length of set for a techno artist in your opinion?
Two hours can be too short. Sometimes you can struggle to craft something in that time when playing techno. I think it starts at 3+, from there you can begin to do interesting things. Nothing shorter than 3 I suppose. This can be related to the ocean waves metaphor I mentioned earlier. Short sets are more like the restless waves, while from 3 hours onwards you can take it usually a little bit more easy on the peaks which leaves more space for surprising turns and some more difficult tracks that you need to build towards to during the set.Is there such thing as a techno set that is too long?
No. If you are a good DJ you can go on and on and keep finding the right records. Sometimes enough is enough when it becomes physically tiring but the appeal is that extended sets become almost meditative for techno as you create these waves that I mentioned before. Meditation actually shares some similar traits with techno. There’s this idea that you access the endless, and with techno it’s an ever-evolving beat that can go forever. I really believe this is something that also happened during spiritual rituals from all different cultures where they use slowly evolving repetitive music to get people in a state of trance.How much more nerve wracking is an all-nighter compared to a normal set?
You always feel nervous beforehand. But with good preparation you’re fine. What I basically do before long sets is to close myself off for maybe 3 days and keep on searching for tracks and tracks, make my selection and know exactly what I have so I know what records are in what timeframe. How many tracks is that?
That’s hard to say. My music is normally categorised by the night. On my USB I have playlists from the first time I played here at De School, from the last time I played here, from the weekender, my first time at Berghain, and so on. I know what tracks are in each playlist and the playlists merge into each other - they’re quite fluid. For an all-nighter I normally make three different lists for the three different blocks. For my records I select maybe 40-50 and then 40-50 tracks on my USB for each 3 hour time frame. I order the vinyl in the same phrases as USB. Can you talk about your recent productions and upcoming plans for LET?
I’m doing a new release on LET which comes out in March which I’m very excited about. For the label I‘m also currently working hard and doing a release with Tammo Hesselink (The Invariants) who also played here a few months ago. We’re going to put a piece of his music out on the label. It’s kind of club music, and it’s very diverse and different from his last few releases. This one has evolved more. He’s still a young artist so I find it interesting to hear his development, especially because I think he’s very talented. JP Enfant will play all night long at De School on Saturday 4th of March.