ART:CAST SPECIAL & INTERVIEW Filament Deejays

Amsterdam collective Filament readies its third various artist EP and delivers a worthy follow-up of the first ever EP, fest i, on the label. Again Bart, Chris and Bart, the names and musical minds behind Filament curated four special and genre-manifold tracks from artists that they find either inspiring, can musically relate to or have been following for a moment, in other words fest ii contains music from Super Drama, Glowing Palms, LoFi- and Ghetto House luminary Ghostwhip and Filament Deejays themselves, who contribute 4:28 P.M to the EP. The latter is the trio’s second studio track after 1 P.M. was part of fest i last year and underlines Filament’s magnific sense of combining exceptional (world music) influences with electronic music. Shortly before the release of fest ii Torture the Artist caught up with the two Barts and Chris to speak about their passion for vinyl and the upcoming release, intense DJ sets, the label’s focus, their personal background story and how it all got started as well as their studio works. Of course, the three friends compiled a very deep and multi-faceted art:cast, a vinyl-only set, to accompany their words. Let’s call it a fest, because that’s what it is.

Torture the Artist: Hey guys, tell us something about your day.

Filament Deejays: Hey! We recently got the test pressings for FILA003 so we mainly focused on listening to them and making sure everything sounds as we wanted. They turned out really good and we can’t wait to get the final record in. Also, we’re working on new material and are looking for cool stuff to put out in the future.

Torture the Artist: How did you all meet and what was the pickup line for your musical relationship as Filament?

Filament Deejays: Bart & Bart met as housemates and Bart met Chris during college. In the beginning Bart & Bart started going out more and thought, let’s throw a party together. That was our first gig actually. Chris threw his own parties where he played solo. Chris introduced us into vinyl records and that’s how we first bonded over electronic music. We bought our first records without having a vinyl player <laughs>. We fell in love with vinyl ever since. From there on, we started collecting records and talking more about musical concepts around throwing parties and record labels. After a while we collaborated and began forming Filament.

There’s nothing like holding a record in your hands and putting it on the pick up. It’s physical, you can smell it.

Torture the Artist: Regarding the aforementioned introduction to vinyl, what’s the reason to keep the Filament releases vinyl only? 

Filament Deejays: There’s nothing like holding a record in your hands and putting it on the pick up. It’s physical, you can smell it. Furthermore, finding a sweet record, while digging in shops gives us, personally, more pleasure than browsing online. Might sound oldskool, but that’s just our opinion. Of course, playing vinyl has a lot of downsides, like carrying all the weight to gigs and unstable booths, but still. It’s just something we really enjoy. Therefore, releasing records with Filament can only be vinyl.

Torture the Artist: How many records does your own collection contain, and what are three gems you are happy to call your own?

Filament Deejays: I think the three of us together own a little less than a thousand records. We used to own more, but sold a lot to second hand stores to keep our collection fresh and ‘updated’. Also our taste changed a lot since we started collecting and realised some records were just collecting dust. Why not make room for more and make other people happy with them? Hmm difficult question. One record that’s always in the bag is Blorp 93 by Gnork, who always delivers quality house music. For one of us it’s probably Oscar’s Choice by jazz-legend Oscar Peterson, one of the first ever records bought (and re-bought!). Lastly, there’s the Basil EP by DJ Central, for us an instant classic and a much played record in our sets.

We were getting less energy from hosting events and wanted something new to fuel our passion.

Torture the Artist: You used to host events in Amsterdam until 2018, what was the reason you didn’t continue doing that?

Filament Deejays: We felt like we were getting less energy from hosting events and wanted something new to fuel our passion. After investigating the possibility of a label we quickly felt that this was something we wanted to spend all our time on. Since we all have day jobs, we have to make some choices and for us, the label was the thing we wanted to focus on.

Torture the Artist: What’s the event you dream of doing once you get the chance to do so?

Filament Deejays: In our minds a small event with around 300 people is the ideal experience. We like events to not be constrained by things like time and location. This means no set end times, a place where you can roam and a total sense of freedom. We like to create a warm atmosphere with the right lighting, high end sound system and minimal but meaningful decoration.

Torture the Artist: What was the longest and most intense set you, or an act you booked at one of your events, played?

Filament Deejays: Think that was during a rave in a small crane at the docks. We had the closing graveyard shift with no ending time. I think there were only eighty people but they all stayed really long. That was super dope and we got to play a lot of tracks we wouldn’t play normally.

Torture the Artist: What’s the most courageous release or event you did with or under Filament?

Filament Deejays: We feel the first label release was the most daring thing we did to date. With little experience but a lot of inspiration we decided to jump in the deep end and start a label. We tried to approach it with the same mindset as our events, focusing on quality music and a clear concept. We definitely were a little unsure about how the record would be received, but we got a lot of positive comments so in the end we are very happy with having taken that step.

Torture the Artist: As mentioned before Filament is also a label and the third installment, fest ii, is about to be released and covers music from four artists, whose music fits four different (temporal) stages of an event, a concept that you introduced your audience to with the first ever release on Filament. Who and how did you come up with this idea?

Filament Deejays: Chris was the first one who came up with the general concept of using the timeline of an event. We wanted to use this to challenge the artists and get their take on certain stages of a festival day or club night. This way we were hoping to get very diverse releases, while still telling a story. We really like mixing multiple genres and styles on one record and we think that this gives us the opportunity to do that in a way that works very well.

Torture the Artist: What’s your criteria for chosing or requesting an artist for one of your releases?

Filament Deejays: The most important thing is that we like the music, we almost always come by an artist because one of us is a fan of their music. It also has to have a place on one of the EP variations (festival oriented or club oriented). Some artists might fit a club release better so we will probably not ask them for a festival release.

Torture the Artist: Besides covering several stages of an event, the releases always depict musical diversity. On the latest EP you can find a track from Canadian artist Ghostwhip, who’s known for his Ghetto and LoFi-House approaches. How did working with Ben Carson, Ghostwhip’s real name, come about?

Filament Deejays: We came across his Amber Sexual track on Youtube and it immediately spoke to us. After looking into his profile a bit more we got really excited and decided to send him a message, asking if he was keen on releasing a track on our label. We felt his style would really fit the end of a festival day and proposed this timeslot to him. His approach to contributing to our EP was really open minded, we talked a lot about the feel of the track and how it fit the proposed time slot. This resulted in a track that we feel could close out any festival in proper style, so we hope that opportunity comes soon again.

The diversity, combined with the sequence of the tracks and the story it tells, is exactly what we imagined the label should be.

Torture the Artist: Does the aforementioned diversity sum up, what Filament represents and stands for at any level or how do you want it to be perceived?

Filament Deejays: Yes, we think that the diversity in both the artists and how they view the different time slots embodies our vision of the label. The diversity, combined with the sequence of the tracks and the story it tells, is exactly what we imagined the label should be.

Torture the Artist: What’s the filament that holds Filament together?

Filament Deejays: For us, it’s the shared and clear vision we have of what Filament should be. Also it’s working on things we are most passionate about, which right now is the label and the music we are putting out there. It’s important to us to be able to put our energy into the things we want the most and if we can keep on doing that, we hope to be around for a good while!

Torture the Artist: On the first edition of Fest a track from the Filament collective was included, the excellent ‚1 P.M., while you did not add a track to EP number two, club i. You guys return on the new fest ii with 4:28 P.M.. Is it the plan to feature your own music regularly on the label? And are you now receiving more potential new material from other artists?

Filament Deejays: We really like to have our own music out there, but it’s not a requisite to be on every release. The main reason is that there are a lot of artists that we would like to have on the label besides ourselves, so we always try to find the ones that fit the concept first. We are also very critical of our own work, meaning that it takes quite a lot of time to make it worthy of a release. So we only include our own track if the three of us feel like it is good enough. We are getting some demos left and right or general requests by artists to be on the label, which is awesome. We never thought that people would come to us for a contribution and it’s an honor to see artists enjoying what we do and wanting to work together.

We don’t have clear roles in the studio, we usually just spitball ideas and try some things.

Torture the Artist: What’s everyone’s task in the studio when you produce together and are you equally involved in the production process?

Filament Deejays: We don’t have clear roles in the studio, we usually just spitball ideas and try some things. In terms of hardware there is a clear distinction between us, since we don’t own that much gear. We are finding out where all of our talents lie, which does help when working on new music. Usually each of us comes up with a few tracks or samples that we think we can use for edits. We listen to all of them and pick one to work on. From there on out the flow continues.

Torture the Artist: Following from the question before, how do you proceed when you disagree on something in the studio, when it is something personal, e.g. if Bart does not like a certain element in the track? Do you talk things out or have democratic decisions?

Filament Deejays: We don’t often disagree on major things, it’s usually the small things that we have to discuss, like certain accents or additions to beats. Sometimes we have to settle them outside, if you know what we mean. No, just kidding. We do try to see each other’s perspective but sometimes it does come down to a vote. Luckily we’ve never had moments where someone totally disagreed and we could not proceed.

Torture the Artist: What’s the last thing you disagreed on, and why?

Filament Deejays: Probably who to approach for a future release, simply because of differences in taste, but these are the most fun discussions for us. We have similar tastes but also all have our own quirky niches that we love. Combining those into a solid EP is sometimes challenging but even more rewarding when it works out!

Torture the Artist: And who did you agree on? <winks>

Filament Deejays: Probably on the direction we wanted to take with the TTA art:cast! We’ve had an idea for the vibe of a DJ mix for a while and are very excited to try it for you guys.

Torture the Artist: Speaking of the art:cast, does it follow your favorited time track titles from the EPs you’ve released, like does it span an entire event or rather a certain excerpt of the day/night?

Filament Deejays: Correct! And much obliged doing so! We envisioned playing somewhere around the end of an outdoor event on an intimate stage surrounded by nature. Sun down with a lot of smoke around the stage. Instead we were just playing and recording in our living room, which made it hard without a crowd. Nevertheless we tried, collected some records, mixed old with relatively new and this is the result. The mix is recorded with 2 technics SL1210’s, 2 CDJ2000’s and an E&S DJR400. Hope you dig it.

We’ve learned that the most important thing is to be passionate about everything you do and don’t be afraid to jump into the unknown.

Torture the Artist: So what have you learnt over your first years in events and label management? And what are the mistakes that you cherish most? 

Filament Deejays: We’ve learned that the most important thing is to be passionate about everything you do and don’t be afraid to jump into the unknown. Believe in your own ideas and concepts. For us this was our very own record label, as we wanted to do this for quite a while. It gave us a lot of new energy and it still does. 

Torture the Artist: What else will you, or do you, put your energy into these days and what is something you’d like to change for yourselves, the scene or society – if you could?

Filament Deejays: We will focus mostly on the label and try to release some awesome new music or maybe re-release some long forgotten obscure music. We hope to be able to see some cool events again in the future and we think that there are a lot of people eager to get involved once they are able to again. For now we hope that people look out for each other so that we can make it out of these weird times together.

Interview by Holger Breuer