Erik Jong's story is one that should instill faith in the benefits of the internet. A gear enthusiast, the Dutchman tried his hand at making music during the late '90s, but never did anything with the end products. Almost two decades later, via a series of fortunate events, he has been dug out from SoundCloud anonymity by Suction Records head Jason Amm (a.k.a. Solvent), who stumbled upon a treasure trove of lost beauties.
Finally, Jong is getting the recognition that he deserves. His debut releases as RX-101, all taken from an archive of cassettes recorded between 1997-99, sound something akin to early Aphex Twin recordings. Across two EPs and one album (made up of a selection of the tracks from both EPs), the spirited productions span IDM, techno, electro, all with a rich, excited character that often lacks in modern music.
In light of the curious new release, we decided to speak with those behind it. First up, RX-101:
All the music on your new series of releases was recorded between '97-99 and was discovered by Suction Records label head Solvent a few years ago via recent SoundCloud uploads. What happened after that creative period?
Very little when it comes to making music. At some point I stopped with school and soon after that I found a full-time job. That was quite a big change in my life and therefore I had much less time to make music. I spent much of my spare time on the internet and I was mainly looking for new music.
Having a job also meant that I had more money to spend, so I started to make some changes to my studio setup. I swapped my Atari ST computer for a PC and a whole new world opened for me, with all possibilities like modern music software. At the same time, I also bought more hardware like analog synths, drum machines, and stuff like that. I spent a lot of time discovering new equipment. Through the years I played a lot with my musical equipment, but it never really came to making new tracks. I must confess that the urge to create new music was also much lower. Discovering new equipment gave me a lot of satisfaction.
Will there be more RX-101 releases of material from this same period?
Yes, absolutely. After I came in contact with Jason from Suction Records, he took a selection of tracks. Initially, there was a plan to release two EPs and an album, followed by another two EPs and a second album—so, four EPs and two albums. Meanwhile, plans have been made for a total of six EPs and three albums, so there is going to be a lot of material released from this period.
Are you producing these days (or considering to get back into it)?
Last year I made some tracks for the first time in 15 years. For a week, I tried to make one track per day, just to see if I still was able to do that. Actually, I was quite happy with the result. I always make my tracks in a short time. I can’t work on a track for days because I get bored at some point and I want to do something else. If I start today with a new track, it must also be ready today. That method still works well.
In the meantime, I've made some changes in my setup. I bought some new gear and I also sold some. I'm still working on discovering new equipment. Before I get serious about making tracks again, I want to know my gear 100%. In the end, the endless switching of equipment isn’t the best idea. In a way, it’s fun to play with a lot of different synths, but you make no progress in making new music. Sometimes I think about going back to my setup from the '90s. The limitations of my old setup contributed in some way to the creative process.
Did you approach any labels with your music at the time you made it? If not, then why did you suddenly put it on SoundCloud? Were you actively seeking to have it released or did you merely want to share it with the world?
Actually no. When I bought my first synthesizer in '92, I began to build a small bedroom studio. It was a big dream to release my own music on a label then. Over the years this dream faded and then when I really started to make tracks, there was really no more desire to look for a label. I can’t really explain what the reason was... I think I was too lazy back then and I didn’t want to make demo tapes to send to labels.
The reason I put my music on SoundCloud was purely for fun. Three years ago I recorded all my tracks from cassette to my computer and put everything in iTunes. After a while, it seemed fun to share some tracks with a larger audience. Many tracks had never been heard by anyone.
We also spoke to Solvent:
How did you discover RX-101 and what drew you to his sound?
When Aphex Twin started uploading hundreds of old, unreleased tracks to Soundcloud a couple of years ago under an account called "user18081971," I got really excited about that and started regularly checking We Are The Music Makers, a forum for Aphex Twin mega-fans. The conversations there weren't normal chatting about the music—it was all frenzied, analyzing his comments, and there was even a whole long thread about other SoundCloud accounts that some suspected might also be secret Aphex Twin accounts.
I started checking those out, and while I found most of it to be crap copycat stuff, I came across an account by Erik which immediately blew me away. There were about 100 tracks uploaded, and it was honestly the most authentic sounding early-Aphex material I'd ever heard. The quality level was so high. In fact, I found myself wondering if this was in fact a secret Aphex Twin account! Anyway, I decided, whether it's him or not, I'm just going to send a message to this Erik account and offer to release some material on Suction. Erik turned out to be RX-101, and he agreed to the idea of releasing on Suction, so we started working on it right away.
As for what drew me to the sound: when I started recording music, and later when I launched Suction Records, my biggest musical inspiration came from labels like Warp, Skam, and especially Rephlex. You can hear that pretty clearly in the early material we released by Solvent, Lowfish, and Skanfrom. I've always loved that era, what I guess we would now call "early IDM"—specifically the stuff from the early to mid-90s that was all done with cheap hardware synths, samplers, and drum machines. By the late '90s, I think that sound got totally derailed by the introduction of in-the-box computer production. Everything in the IDM realm seemed to go all glitchy, digital, and hyper-complex, and that's when I lost interest in it. Discovering RX-101's music has been like finding a treasure trove of some of the best Rephlex-style electronics ever produced - it sounds "of another era" in 2016, yet totally timeless. It's a sound that I have always craved more of.
What’s in store for the label and where does RX-101 fit in?
We do have some other releases in the pipeline, including a new split 12" by June and Lowfish that we just released. Next year there will be a 12" by an early-90s Toronto EBM band called Digital Poodle, which includes killer remixes by Zoviet France and Adam X. Suction's main focus for a while will be on RX-101. This is just the first batch in an extensive series of RX-101 archival releases; next year we plan to release four more EPs and 2 more albums. It's a vast archive of material, with a lot of variety.
Is any RX-101 material recorded after '99 in consideration for Suction Records?
Erik hasn't played me any of that material yet! At the moment there is still so much material from his 1997-99 archive that we want to release, I'm scared to even hear any new material. Our RX-101 backlog is already big enough! Of course, I'll be very curious to hear Erik's new material when he's ready to play it for me.