It’s a sunny autumn day in London and French born DJ/Producer/label-head, musical genius of all trades, Ivan Smagghe just finished curating 59 minutes of handpicked eclectic tunes for Torture the Artist, and is up for a quick chat. Besides yielding some iconic tracks over the years as Ivan Smagghe or as part of accomplished collaborations – Smagghe & Cross, It’s a Fine Line, RMVN, Black Strobe, to name a few, Smagghe has made a name for himself as a very fine digger and innovative selector, setting a wide spectrum of moods in venues worldwide. For the 95th edition of TTA’s art:cast series, Ivan takes listeners far out on a trippy ride with seductive beats, industrial groove and electro genre-bending – a ticket to a no frills warehouse rave (of your dreams) at ungodly hours. Here are some words with Ivan, for the full Smagghe experience.
Torture the Artist: Bonjour Ivan, tell us something about your day.
Ivan Smagghe: It’s sunny.
Keeping myself busy is not really a problem, I have always had side-lines besides music.
Torture the Artist: How do you keep yourself busy nowadays? Have you developed a new hobby, skill or interest with the world in altered frequencies?
Ivan Smagghe: Keeping myself busy is not really a problem, I have always had side-lines besides music. I read quite a lot, watch quite a lot of movies. I also don’t see not doing much as a non-activity, a walk in the park can be enough for one day.
No one knows what club culture will be like and I have switched off from the feed of speculations.
Torture the Artist: You grew up in the music scene, from Paris to London, and worldwide for work. Many things have changed due to the pandemic, and club culture is clearly one aspect of life that has gone through quite the transformation. Does this make you anxious at all?
Ivan Smagghe: It can. Though I am not sure if the anxiety would come more from thinking about what the next world will be like than from the actual void of the old one disintegrating, or from what will become the “new normal”. No one knows what club culture will be like and I have switched off from the feed of speculations.
Torture the Artist: Let’s time travel to your last gig, as a DJ or as a dancer. Who did you see? Where was the venue and what did you drink?
Ivan Smagghe: I did an Asian tour and an American one very early on in the pandemic. The last gig was mid-march in Tulum with my friend Manfredas. It was “normal” per se but you could feel a strange worry in the air. We kind of played “last parties” before the implosion everywhere we were on that tour, or at least it felt like that.
Torture the Artist: What did you listen to as a young Ivan Smagghe? Would you say you were part of a counterculture of some sort?
Ivan Smagghe: My dad listened to quite a lot of music, from Tangerine Dream to The Velvet Underground. The first record I bought myself with my own money was Soft Cell’s Tainted Love. Then when I was in high school, I slowly mutated into a classic late 80’s indie kid. The shop I bought records from at the time (Danceteria in Paris) started selling house music from the beginning, which I saw at the time as a prolongation of electronic pop (from New Order to Cabaret Voltaire). The perspective changed when I started going out to clubs and raves.
I love working with someone. I guess, at the same time it is gratifying and enables me to avoid my own insecurities.
Torture the Artist: Smagghe & Cross, It’s a Fine Line with Tim Paris, RMVN with Roman Flugel, Black Strobe, Volga Select – you were/are involved in a handful of collaborations, some simultaneously. How do you divide yourself between projects, maintain distinct sounds/styles and manage to slip on different shoes so effortlessly (or so it seems)? Does this entail a knack for splitting your (artistic) personality or role play?
Ivan Smagghe: I love working with someone. I guess, at the same time it is gratifying and enables me to avoid my own insecurities. All collabs were unique, and were able to gain different things from each other too, I would say. I don’t have a monolithic musical taste so why make one style of music? Smagghe & Cross in itself is quite fragmented and diverse. I split my personality in the way that I don’t think of DJing and producing as closely related. It sometimes happens that I make tracks to play out but I do not force myself to do so.
Torture the Artist: Speaking of B2Bs, can you share some tips on decksharing? We heard you and the late legend, Andrew Weatherall once played side by side for Boiler Room for the purpose of “outweirding” each other, however that’s supposed to mean?
Ivan Smagghe: It was a request from Boiler Room. Though they probably underestimated us in a way. The live feed of comments was pretty gnarly but it’s not like I cared. Nor did Andrew.
Torture the Artist: Jack of all trades, you do label A&R work too. Can you tell us a bit about your roles in Kill the DJ, Les DIsques de la Mort ?
Ivan Smagghe: As with producing, it’s a natural process: just putting out records I like. There is no obligation, very little time tables, not so much pressure. I admire people who run a tighter ship but am too nonchalant for that I guess.
Torture the Artist: What can we expect from Ivan Smagghe at all fronts for the rest of 2020?
Ivan Smagghe: That’s a very good question but I don’t even have the answer myself.
Interview by Marie J Floro