Pablo Picasso once said, "Good artists borrow. Great artists steal." That's true, but few artists–even in the age of sampling–are ballsy enough to admit their "genius" actually came from someone else.
Not so with Dirt Crew. Germany's two-man house team borrows liberally from the old school, and they'll straight-up tell you so. "Dirt Crew [records] always [have] some disco samples or samples of old techno and house records from the '80s," says 34-year-old Crew member Peter Gijselaers (also known to Trapez fans as Break 3000). "We then try to mix those sounds with the current minimal techno or minimal house sound. The difference [between us and other electro-house producers] is that we try to keep things on the house side, and always put some of that older Chicago feeling in it."
On The First Chapter–a digital collection of 11 of Dirt Crew's previously vinyl-only singles–nfluences from Cerrone to 808 State to DJ Pierre come through loud and clear. The robotic one-two punch "Rok Da House" and dark, sweaty workouts "What You Want" and "Give Me House" wouldn't be out of place next to classic Trax Records acid jams. And Gijselaers' favorite track, the duo's remix of Sasse's "Soul Sounds," features spooky hollow synth washes and piano vamps that will give anyone over the age of 30 profound flashbacks of warehouse parties and drugs.
Of course, Dirt Crew records don't sound entirely old–they have a crisp, sharp quality that could only come from today's digital production. Gijselaers and 30-year-old partner Felix Eder (a.k.a. James Flavour) work entirely on Macs running Logic, sending tracks back and forth via the internet from their respective homes in Cologne and Berlin. "We don't use any hardware," explains Gijselaers. "I think if you sample from old records and combine the old analog sounds with the new digital production, you get the best of both worlds." Plus, having too much gear can be distracting. "I found it easier to produce since I sold all my hardware and bought my computer," he says. "Some of the best tracks are made on simple machines."
When Dirt Crew Recordings kicked off in 2003, making new New Beat and acid trax wasn't quite as common as it is today. Where can an act that made their name with retro flavors go from here? Gijselaers says he's drawing inspiration from producers who combine different genres; he drops names like Ame, Cologne's Daso (who records for My Best Friend), and Solid Groove man Switch ("He takes breakbeat garage and mixes it with electro-house and techno. This is very exciting!").
And if all else fails, Gijselaers will just build a time machine back to the disco days. "I would love to go back to 1976 or '77," he muses. "I think this was an extraordinary time for freedom–of music, sexuality, drugs. I think the world looked a bit better than now."