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Interview

Dutch label 100% Pure celebrates 20 years of underground stamina

By Dan Carter
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There are a lot of great success stories surrounding the legacy of Detroit and its abundance of disciples—and Holland’s 100% Pure has been no exception. Bred on the due musical diligence of founding father Dylan Hermelijn (aka 2000 and One) and national peer Sandy Huner, 100% Pure’s 20-year reign of underground quality is an impressive one, boasting a catalog of landmarks the less trodden paths of electronic music.

But amid the label’s leaps and bounds from melodic club fuel to cutting-edge tech house, from vinyl to the digital age, its ability to float in the age of insecurity for underground imprints marks a home run for underground dance music. At the outset of their 20th-anniversary celebrations, Beatport News caught up with Hermelijn on his birthday to talk about the balance of preserving his techno legacy and passionately sourced music from across the globe.

2013 marks a considerable landmark for both the 100% Pure and your own personal timeline. How are you feeling at the beginning of this triumphant year?

For me, it is a very exciting one. This year is about celebrating 20 years of history for my label, but for me, it feels like almost yesterday. Needless to say, I am very excited to reach this landmark. This year started with a month off to finish new stuff and prepare the 20 years of 100% Pure compilation and now it is about taking the celebrations global.

The development of the label’s and your own sound seems to draw considerable inspiration from both the heyday of hip-hop and Detroit house. How did these musical elements first reach your sound waves?

The thing about my productions is that I started very young. I was very enthusiastic about early-’80s hip-hop and got into the sample culture that drove it. My father flew for Royal Dutch Airlines, so I could fly really cheap, which meant that London’s record stores became a school ground for me. I would fly over there to buy the latest records and rare grooves. Around 1988, all these record stores started playing acid house. I heard these records and it was love at first sight for me. The Detroit movement and subsequent acid sound just made sense on the dancefloor, and I found genuine excitement in finding these records for the first time.

Holland has provided a truly mixed pool of talent for the electronic music industry. Was this a particularly positive place for you to cut your teeth as an artist?

It was funny to see the birth of the early clubs such as The Roxy and then to watch it spread like wildfire. When new music started coming in on a weekly basis, all styles and sounds started to change and develop. The Dutch made it a real business and introduced more commercial styles, shifting through hardcore and trance. The development seemed innocent, but it grew very professional very quickly. We always took advantage of the trends and I think it kept us very relevant as a nation. Between 1988-92, hundreds of new parties and clubs were opening around the Netherlands. It was a short period of time but it was certainly impactful.

To that extent, do you consider yourself to be particularly proud of your national roots, or has the global agenda offered pastures greener than Holland in terms of opportunities?

For me, it no longer matters where you are situated. Europe is still a powerhouse, full stop, but it feels like a virtual scene due to the prominence of technology and the internet. In all honesty, I don’t play that often in the Netherlands. In the summer time, there is a lot of festivals in the area, but nowadays it doesn’t matter where you are situated; this is a truly global business and as a result I have willingly had to take my DJing globally.

100% Pure has leaped from strength to strength over the past 20 years. What spurred the decision to embark on this element of your career?

When we started the label back in 1993, I had already been in the business for five years. One of my best friends, Sandy Huner, wanted to start a label. We were making a different style of music to what was big at the time—which was that whole ravey, Belgian-influenced, hard-house sound. That wasn’t so much for more. We wanted to focus on the deeper Detroit stuff and we just couldn’t find a label that wanted it. We thought we needed to do it ourselves. Sandy came up with this blueprint—he started the label and I drive the releases. Those were the basic origins that have taken us on this incredible journey. We started with the earlier Detroit-based melodic techno sound—those are the fundamentals of our influence.

As the industry has continuously developed, has the role of a label become easier or harder to fill in your mind?

It has definitely become more difficult. There is a lot of competition and a lot of good labels, and the digital age has made it weird; our early days consisted of just vinyl. We have since had to invest a lot of money. Nowadays, basically, anyone can start a label; a lot of them do and there is not a lot of money involved. Some labels even release every three days. 99% of all the sales are for Beatport, there are no record stores to factor for, so a feature on the website is essential for the competition. That being said, had you asked that question 10 years ago, the answer would have been the same. It’s always been hard, but now survival is a tough job.

Given the testing times now upon that side of the industry, what continues to motivate you as a label head?

Because for me I don’t stretch things, I don’t see it as a money thing. I see it as a passionate and large hobby, a hobby that you cannot stop. It’s not like I have to pay my mortgage with the label, luckily; the DJ gigs help that so the label can always stay a hobby driven by love to make and release good music.

While 100% Pure is often pigeonholed as a tech-house label, your sound has been pretty eclectic over the years. Have genre boundaries been a particular concern to you as both an artist and a label?

For me, I always try to break the boundaries. I notice that it is different for people as they have certain expectations as to how it should sound. That was the same back in the day. When it started, everything was just house music. Then the genres started coming from the UK and the Netherlands. For me it should be broken, but unfortunately not always easy to do that. People have this mindset of a certain sound. For example, yesterday I played with Jeff Mills—we all expect him to play a certain techno. Imagine him playing deep house—people would freak, but then when Solomon plays it then it is okay. As a DJ and a label, I try to make it all kinds of styles. Our discography has tried to be as eclectic as possible, but today is different. I can’t release 140-BPM techno or dubstep because we have fans who expect a certain thing and they dictate how we should be.

20 years is a considerable feat on all counts, but are there any future aspirations or hopes you hold for 100% Pure?

I just want to continue on the path we have created. We have already proven that we can keep our groove and heart in times of mass change and development for this industry. We still release tech house and Detroit-fueled stuff without any sign of compromise, and that to me says that we are doing something really right. My aspiration is now to keep the flame alight for another 20 years.

How will you guys be celebrating for the remainder of this anniversary year?

We kicked off with the parties in Amsterdam more recently, and this will extend to events around the globe. Around the fall of ADE, we will do a compilation, which will feature exclusive tracks from some new and returning artists, so that will be an exciting addition to the celebrations. Meanwhile, the label will look forward to and relish the fact that we can still release music that is honest and in demand.