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Interview

Fedde Le Grand on creative preservation: "The second you lose the fun, you are truly lost"

By Dan Carter
flg

Few have rivaled the vigor of Fedde Le Grand’s ascent upon Holland’s musical skyline. Evidenced by his ability to balance the global demand and iconic stardom that has long exceeded his unsuspecting 2006 chart-pleaser “Put Your Hands Up 4 Detroit,” his every move is that of an artist always willing to adapt but never looking to compromise on quality.

This mantra has echoed throughout his career, which has superseded the ranks of DJ and producer to include heading up his own Flamingo Records and Dark Light Sessions radio concept. Off the heels of his latest single, “Long Way From Home,” with Sultan & Ned Shepard and the corresponding Road to Miami tour, which fittingly ended with a landmark stint at Ultra Music Festival, Beatport News caught the flying Dutchman to talk about the road so far and his forthcoming album.

How are you feeling after the first quarter of 2013?

I have a system going where I have an extreme year and then a mellow year. 2012 was the latter. I was happy with it, but this year should be ridiculous—at least that is the essential differentiation I want to make this year.

Between your infamous Takeover tour and the Road To Miami concept, would it be fair to say that you take the live element of your career very seriously?

Absolutely! Takeover was not so much about the solo profile, but being able to have your influence on the whole night. I usually bring either vocal or visual support along with me or decide the opening and closing acts that will best fit the event. It is more that you decide with the club or promoter what the whole musical experience can be, rather than just me doing a gig. It is not about putting me out there on a pedestal, but creating an all-around concept. The same thing kind of translates into stuff like the Road to Miami tour; it is all about consistency of the live dance experience wherever you play in the world and making sure the acts around you are within that mindset.

Since we first met some four years ago, your side of the market seems to have been thrown into overdrive. To your mind, what shifted in the industry tides?

There was a huge gap in the market just before it “exploded,” and I think that young people have played a huge part in reshifting its values and image. Instead of the older crowds leading the way, these kids have filled the void, and as a result we have moved away from that whole drug-fueled image. With pop music now embracing [dance music] properly this time, especially in the American market, we have managed to shift from that pill-popping pigeonhole and it has become a full-blown culture rather than one based around drug use.

Although it was almost a decade ago, “Put Your Hands Up For Detroit” was a very early indicator that your craft could cut it in the popular charts. How do you feel about the current prominence of electronic music and its supposedly mainstream potential?

I still think it’s weird that “Put Your Hands Up…” ever got that high, as, in my opinion, it was just a fun club record without a formal radio structure. To my mind, the more people that get into it, the better. There is so much awareness now. But it doesn’t matter what industry or genre you are talking about; when something becomes commercialized, it loses a little bit of creativity. That applies to anything in popular culture. That’s maybe not always a good thing, but you can’t argue with the enthusiasm and the sheer numbers now associated with this music.

To that extent, does a dance record require these mainstream elements to truly succeed in the modern market?

That really depends. I still love it when a record makes it more or less by popular demand. I love the idea that people just love a record until it gets to the top. When it becomes popular, there are acts that find the formula and employ repetition. That is really where the creativity drops. A big record company gets wind and just starts varying the same thing. I hate that, but I do love that because of the internet it is more often by popular demand. “Levels” was a great example of this; it had so many views and blew up because everyone was playing it.

Your own sound has balanced some pretty eclectic factors over the years. Has this always been a conscious maneuver on your part?

To be really honest, I deliberately try not to put too much thought into my sound. I think you kind of want to keep that dancefloor vibe in the equation, because when you over-think it then you can lose the magic, big time. Most of my releases are slightly leaning towards the club-oriented direction, but I think I have a few surprises left.

Let’s talk technology. You have always been a pretty vocal supporter of its development, but has it always been a positive factor to your mind?

I think the transition from vinyl to CD, and now USB/laptop has been a pretty natural transition for me, personally. In the past several years there have been so many developments and it is now so easy to DJ. As a result, I think a lot of people mistake DJing for only getting two records at the same speed. In my “old school” opinion, it is about more than that. It is a serious and fluid skill that has to be mastered, not just an excuse to travel the world.

In the same vein, has technology made production an overly accessible medium?

Yes, but that is something I really like. When I had my first studio, I had to buy so much hardware and it took one hour to load up the samples—it was such a fucking pain. I like it that now music literally comes from everywhere and a good laptop means you are good to go. This isn’t always a good thing, as people are getting picked up from the bedroom and put straight into the hot seat. These guys are missing the learning curves and shit bookings that we used to have to cut our teeth on—you had to earn your spot as DJ, and it was important to learn it properly. Not all great producers are great DJs, but generally it is a great time for accessibility if you have the patience and talent.

Outside of your own endeavors, Flamingo has unearthed some great new talents over the years. What made you want to add a label to your industrious armor?

I have to say, I started Flamingo just to get rid of annoying A&R managers. We started it for the sake of freedom and the ability to put out weird records without any interference. It has been a tough but rewarding ride, but the key factor is getting your online marketing right to support these amazing talents. Your label has to be out there, same as the radio show. So many more people are interested now. The internet lets you reach people from Hawaii to Brazil to London, so your digital face has to be ready to represent your brand and the music.

Word is that your new album is even closer to seeing the light of day. What drove you towards approaching the full-length concept?

It is 80% of the way there, but I recently decided to add some tracks. Over the past year whenever I thought I found something special, I saved it. With some tracks, especially dancefloor tracks, there is an immediate shelf life. A good song or musical concept is immortal, and for me, that was one thing I needed to tick off in my career. This will be a nice overview of my sound with various album versions and remixes to provide the full musical journey.

Given the solid start you have had, what does the rest of 2013 hold at camp FLG?

My new record with Sultan and Ned Shepard, “Long Way From Home,” just hit the digital market and I am really thrilled with the reaction so far, especially off the back of my remix for Nicky Williams. I will also be joining the guys at Toolroom Records for a special track in line with their 10th anniversary celebrations, so it is great to be a part of that landmark for them. There is another solo offering in the pipeline that you may well notice in my sets at the moment, as well as another solo offering and a new collaboration with Patrick La Funk, which people have been literally hounding me for since “Autosave.”

If you were to choose one lesson that has stuck with you throughout your career, what would it be?

Don’t trust too many people. It’s horrid to say and doesn’t apply to all cases, but you have to keep your guard up in the music industry, especially these days. Taking your health seriously is also paramount. This lifestyle takes a lot out of you. Most important lesson for me has been to never lose the fun in what you do. The second that is gone, you are truly lost.