VOLTAGE Podcast 37 - Kairos & Dress
- Leon Vynehall - Mothra
- Microthol - Binary Systems
- PHON.O - We Just Begun
- Peter van Hoesen - Kres
- Pangaea - Fuzzy Logic
- Bleep Simulator - Liquid Room
- Sterac - Light In The Darkness
- DeFekt - MG1
- Ingez - Nadi
- Footclan - South
- Dj Life - Glycol
- Digga D - No Diet
- Nikki Nair & DJ ADHD - Rips
- Skin on Skin X CLUB - Don't Funk Around
- Perko - Rounded
- Mr. Ho - Mind Polution
- Hermeth - Mandelectroeiv
- Cratan - Crestfall
- Ole Mic Odd - Drop It 2 The Ground
- Ozzy - Een Goed Moment
We’ve invited many artists and introduced them to you over the course of this podcast, so we thought it would only be appropriate to introduce you to the creators of the project for a b2b of considerable strength and funk : Kairos and Dress.
Originally from Ypres in the north of Belgium, Michiel Demeulemeester (known as Kairos) has been mixing for the better part of his adult life. Consistently navigating between genres since his beginnings, he bases his selection on mood rather than style and this has led him to play varied sets across his country. Having played the likes of Funke and Urgent FM in his home base Ghent, Onder Stroom in Antwerp among others, Kairos’s sets are identifiably colorful, prioritizing the use of melodic elements and organic structures, sometimes with vocals. This liveliness is the stamp he offers when invited to play a set and his versatility is a huge strength of his.
Now moving on to the other deck, there is Dress. I actually started the Dress project a few years ago to regroup multiple ideas being spread thin over multiple aliases under a singular name for my productions and DJ sets. The productions are characterized by employing resampling and sound destruction using a mix of field recordings and synthesis for moody ambiances and sometimes driving cuts. Heavily inspired by abstract techno, Detroit Electro, and noise, I released a short concept album / long EP that shies away from club music and focuses on more image based sounds using the same techniques as listed before. Playing Café Central, Onder Stroom with Kairos, Kiosk Radio, and We Are Various in Antwerp, the DJ sets focus more on the body side of things - a rhythmic approach that will soon be expressed in my releases. An upcoming remix with OHN will come out on Brussels’ Antibody Records near the end of the year as a debut label release showing just that.
Together, Kairos and I created Umtzi Bumtzi, which is our little event collective / DJ duo based in Ghent playing around Belgium for more light hearted and vibey music to take down the tone a little bit. My Safé alias was created for this project and together we’ve been hosting nights, inviting guests we think are interesting and sharing lineups with others that share a liking for groovier music.
Part 1 - Kairos interviews Dress
Being close friends, collaborating as residents for our co-founded 'Umtzi Bumtzi' collective and having worked together on this podcast project for VOLTAGE during the past 2 years, I know you live and breathe (techno) music. But how did you get hooked? Put us in that moment.
D : It actually started quite a while ago, my aunt and uncle took me to Dour Festival when I was about 13 or 14 just for one day. They knew I loved music in general so they decided to reward me with a ticket if I did well in school since they knew I was flying in from the US that summer to visit my Belgian family.
I remember seeing a bunch of artists that were incredibly inspiring, especially in that context that I was absolutely not ready for, but the highlight by far was Modeselektor. I couldn’t believe the show, the music, all of it. I went home and desperately searched for the one song that stood out to me as my night’s anthem - ‘The Black Block’.
When I flew back to California, I had decided in one night to put all the music I had been listening to behind me and to focus on the future of what I was to discover. I ended up finding 50Weapons, Modeselektor’s temporary concept label (RIP), and that’s how I ultimately discovered it all.
It started with Benjamin Damage, Cosmin TRG, Phon.o, Bambounou, and all the rest. I think I went really crazy when I discovered Marcel Dettmann, whom to this day is one of my unwavering references. His label MDR (and Bad Manners, which came later that I love as well) threw me into a sort of obsession for overly minimal, haunting and brutal Berlin techno. It also of course showed me Answer Code Request, T++, and all of that. The logical next step was Ostgut Ton - and I think I can leave it off there - but for me it was the early MDR records, Dettmann I and II that described best my vision of the cavernous inside of Berghain.
The rest is history after that, I’ve bounced a lot between genres, artists, labels, and all of that. That’s where I come from, though.
Since you've been active as DJ Dress and Safé (alter ego at Umtzi Bumtzi), how did that initial taste in music evolve? What's the latest/newest genre you're fired up about and can you show a track to explain why we should be too?
D : It had to evolve, of course. I think at some point you start realizing that you consume or interact with music to be transported and feel the hair on the back of your neck stand up. For that to happen long term while listening to a lot of music, you need to switch it up all the time and sometimes you listen to some weird shit. Also, I regularly tell myself that not all people listen to music for the same reasons, and that I don’t listen to different genres of music to feel the same thing either.
In terms of where I’m at in my projects, Dress is a good facet for me for the more daring and ‘serious’ work I do as a DJ and producer. Dress can be a lot for me but some basics come back regularly. Granular sound, heavy ambience, deconstruction - that’s Dress to me. It’s not always easy working under that name and sometimes it comes out easier than other moments, so that’s why it’s nice for me to have my more smiley side - Safé. I needed to create Safé for Umtzi Bumtzi and enjoyed crafting his universe partially with Kairos. Sometimes the two names cross over a tiny bit, but I try to keep them pretty separate.
In general, I’ve really been digging the funkier UK stuff - percussive impact and syncopation, stripped down melodies, all that good stuff. Lately, I’ve been playing Otik in nearly all my sets, I just can’t get over what this guy is doing most of the time. It’s so nice to hear somebody that has leveled production capability and musical taste - and that funnels in so much soul into what he does. People are so obsessed with sounding intellectual these days (probably myself included, honestly) that it comes off as fake and performative, and Otik for me represents the opposite of that. A great record is one of his latest - Skylines - which I’ll play as soon as I find the context.
Next to the above-mentioned affiliations to the Belgian music scene, you're copywriting for different labels (Token, VOLTAGE and recent addition SK-11) and international artists (Luke Slater, Steve Rachmad, Mike Parker, and Ignez to name a few) too. If you could pick one artist to write the newest biography or press release for, who would it be and why?
D : To be honest, if I was able to write a worthwhile biography for myself, I’d do it!
No, but honestly I think everyone around me knows how much I love working around music, specifically writing, so it’s been an absolute trip to be working for a label like Token to put words to the releases. It might not be the most important job to everyone, but it's very important to me, so I’m grateful to Kris (Kr!z) and his artists for the trust. For SK, I literally just started this week and am very excited since it’s such a big deal with very powerful records (that I’ve been listening to a lot) - Sam is doing an incredible job running this thing, so it goes without saying I’m thankful and stoked to get started.
If I had to write for an artist… in techno, it would be Dettmann or Cosmin TRG (even though it’s not always techno - I’ve listened to this guy more than any other electronic artist probably), easy.
Outside of techno, which is something that appeals to me quite a bit, lately I’d say Leon Vynehall, I think. This guy goes beyond confounding genres, his music is like a vast, intricate collage, where some parts are neat and bright, and others are empty and decaying. He breathes life into his records like I’ve rarely heard before, and I think his name deserves a special place in our music. His last records blew me away. <3 you 4ever, Leon.
If by now our readers haven't figured you're a musical polyglot, then now they will.. Combining multiple art facets into one multidisciplinary event called 'Reveries', what's the (mid)long term plan for you guys? Is Brussels the main focus point, or can we expect to see Reveries in any other city some time in the future?
D : We’ve been quiet for a while, but that’s just because we’ve been rubbing our hands together for the next string of events. We tried pressuring ourselves into getting things done quickly, but we decided to take a step back and restructure in order to ensure the quality of our events.
We’ve been working on a few things at once - all for 2023 - and each step is something I can’t wait to announce because they’re all super exciting. For now, Brussels is the plan, but we have a long term interest in going up North I believe. We know of some organizations that we would love to work with, but for now home is what interests us the most.
You can expect immersive sound installations and performances in the near future in a super cool and familiar venue to some, and our regular format of conference, workshop, music, installation is on its way as well.
Any other projects coming up soon? Any words / thoughts you'd like to share with us?
D : For me, I’ve been focusing on getting back in the studio and producing for myself, which I haven’t done in a while. I’m doing a soundtrack for a short film that’ll come out in October, I think. I want to finish a club EP by the end of this year and have a remix with Ohn for Antibody Records with a pending release, so I’m looking forward to that.
I got a few gigs with Umtzi Bumtzi, playing Kiosk Radio on the 21st and starting a new residency at We Are Various in Antwerp in October as well. Besides that, I’m doing my writing, my event stuff, and all the rest. Maybe there will be a plan to continue a podcast, radio thing - but I still need to check that out. Who knows?
Well one thing's for sure: we'll miss your smooth-as-butter voice after episode 40 wraps up the (at certain times very challenging but oh so rewarding) podcast series.
D : Thanks, I’ll miss recording the podcast on a Røde microphone in a closet with a blanket over my head.
Part 2 - Dress interviews Kairos
You’ve been playing records for quite some time and seem very much at ease behind the decks. How did this journey begin for you and what do you love so much about it?
K : I’m glad to hear it comes of that way, because honestly - especially in the beginning - it hasn’t always been the case. As with most starting DJ’s / artists, nerves play a role when stepping on a stage and performing in front of a crowd. Though for me, even before ever doing so, it got to a point where I just declined any opportunity that came my way.
Music and going out to clubs & festivals to me meant (and still means) letting loose, disconnecting from the day to day commitments & obligations. On the contrary, being a part of the lineup myself, would deliver me stress and thus change that relationship towards music. That’s why - at the time - I very consciously chose not to quit being just a bedroom DJ, yet.
The confidence of being behind the decks grew by spinning some records when hanging out with friends. More often than not I got complimented for my track selection, and got told that I should step outside of my living room and share my passion with other music enthusiasts. I guess that’s the moment when I opened up a bit, not by actively searching to get my first booking(s), but neither declining them if the setting were right.
A couple weeks later I got hit up by Robin who’s a part of Grid.avi - a local event collective and experimental platform for image and sound inviting artists such as Stenny, LCY, Alia … He asked me to be a part of their next gig. The fact that the event was happening in my home city (Ypres), meaning that some friends could come along, and that I really stood behind their project, made it an easy choice.
My comfort level when DJing has increased over the last years, by playing at bigger events and in front of bigger crowds. Positive reactions by peers in the scene help me prove to myself that there’s no reason to stress out. Because in the end, there’s no reason to overcomplicate & overthink things, it’s all about having fun and sharing my eclectic taste in music with other people. Fun fact: the first tattoo I ever got, where two different hands are holding an LP, is a representation of that idea. That’s what I love so much about doing this!
You’ve played many gigs around Belgium inside and outside of the collective you currently run, can you pinpoint a favorite and tell us what made it so special?
K : Whenever I visit Funke in Ghent, there’s always a special and intimate atmosphere. I was well surprised when receiving a phone call from Michelle, who’s doing the bookings for Funke and a true honor for me to share the decks with local boss-ladies Zouzibabe and Sara Dziri on the night I got invited over.
The clubs’ strong effort to create a safe(r) space for all visitors, no-camera policy, sublime sound system and quality bookings are things I can only applaud. As strange as it may sound, due to the anonymous atmosphere and open mindedness of the venue and crowd, it’s been the only time that I truly was able to play whatever I like the most, without feeling any restrictions whatsoever.
Although it wasn’t the busiest night by the time I ended up taking over the decks from Sara Dziri at 5 am, more people showed up and really got into the groove with me. It was dope…
Playing at local events like LLOSS and Od’us have gotten me smiling from beginning to end. Both of these events are created by friends & for friends and put a lot of effort into the hospitality aspect. Would be glad to return there any time.
Let’s talk about Umtzi Bumtzi. What has this project brought to you and what are some things you would like to explore with it?
K : It has brought me many things; most importantly the joy of sharing the decks with Safé - one of my dearest friends - and artists we musically and personally feel good about, to invite on our lineups when playing at bars or clubs. Playing improvised B2B sets is a whole other experience than doing so alone, since you’re mixing off tracks you’ve never heard before which can be challenging and makes you a more experienced and complete artist in the end.
Now that we’ve hosted a couple events in Ghent & Brussels, it’s time for us to bring things up a notch. Inviting bigger artists next to the local talents, and sharing our positive minded tracks at well respected venues is where we’re headed.
The Belgian scene is important to you and UB, can you tell us about your favorite set you’ve seen in person or a record you heard by a local artist?
K : Oooff, that’s a tough one.. I’ve attended so many events that it’s even hard to remember. The first artists I ever saw performing live and that blew me off my socks were Netsky and The Subs in 2013. They didn’t have the status they have nowadays, but you could tell they were in it for the long ride.
This further sparked my interest in music, leading up to discovering Dour Festival a couple years later. Just to name a few; Rone, Nils Frahm and Tyler The Creator are some of the most mentionworthy discoveries from back then.
Later on I gravitated more towards house and techno music. Starting off with top of the bill artists like Rodhad, KiNK, Honey Dijon, Blawan and so forth - as well as a special mention to the Live set by 138 at VOLTAGE 2017 - to move on to the more refined and left field genres, including breakbeat, electro, UK Bass and others.
Some of the highlights of the past few years have to include a B2B set between Object and Dj Stingray, performances by Ross From Friends, Ben UFO or Reptant and some local personal favorites who never fail to deliver: Alfred Anders and Driss Bennis (a.k.a. OCB).
As far as choosing a favorite track from Belgian soil - come on Noah, please have some mercy on me .. - I’ve been in love with the Brussels sound for a while now. Basic Moves is one of the labels that catched my attention and didn’t let go of it. The imprint brings forward alternative, groove-centered club music with touches of retro. The stunner I’m picking for now is called ‘Can’t Get New Shoes’ by Walrus, who’s the owner of the label.
A lot of weird things can happen over the course of a set. Do you have a funny gig story to share with us?
K : Actually not that many weird things have happened (yet) during the course of my young DJing career. Though when I played at a local event called Od’us, two guys climbed up the side of the 3 meter high stage I was standing on, asking me to play a random Polish track. After denying their request, one of them tried to put his hands on the gear and jogging wheels, which was followed by a quick escort of the stage lead by a crew member.
Playing at Onder Stroom in Antwerp with Umtzi Bumtzi was quite an occurrence as well, since there were some technical difficulties from the start till the end of our set. One of the front speakers blew up after playing our second track, resulting in a severe crackling sound in half of the room. The sound engineers did their ultimate best trying to fix it by climbing up a ladder to check out the speaker and by switching the cables connected to the CDJ’s to see if that could help. During that moment the stage production guys were taking down the podium for live performances that was located besides us, moving stuff & walking up and down right behind us, leaving very little room for us to operate. Those things can happen of course, but it’s clear to say that it wasn’t the easiest way (for ourselves and for the crowd) to get into the groove, ending in somewhat of a weird evening.
I’m very much welcoming more of these weird moments though, since they’re always a funny memory and a good story to tell.
You were the man in the shadows running the show, Noah took all the credit constantly, and now you’re mixing on the podcast as a sort of goodbye to your project. You dedicated a lot of time here, how does this departure feel for you and what did you take from the project?
K : It’s been a sweet ride and I’m happy I was able to do this together with you. Thanks to the platform that VOLTAGE has given us we’ve been able to book and interview some of the greatest artists in today’s techno scene.
I’ve been able to get a better understanding of how this (inter)national scene works and think it was only right that you displayed your smooth voice for our audience while I felt comfortable working in the shadows to get the show up and running. And of course this series will forever be a cool thing to look back to, although we’re not done yet, with some banging names coming up to close this project.
Thanks to everyone who joined us on this ride, listened to the episodes and took the time to read the interviews!