Ivan Smagghe is another one of those exceptionally gifted DJs that tend to slip unnoticed by the masses. It's a shame because he's also one of the most accomplished, a dedicated and street-wise DJ who excites and intrigues in equal measure. His sets are intelligently structured, wildly eclectic, and brimming with weird and wonderful cuts that there's every chance you'll never hear again. Smagghe has never been just another brick in the wall.
The source of this eclecticism lies in the French capital. Smagghe refined and exercised his musical knowledge working at Paris' Rough Trade, educating customers as to the various releases, electronic and otherwise, before opting to pursue a career spinning rather than selling records. Alongside Arnaud Rebotini in 1997, Smagghe became instrumental in the rise of electroclash in the UK as part of Black Strobe, before the group's expansion to a four-piece live band triggered Smagghe's exit to focus on life as a solo DJ, producer, and remixer.
Collaboration, however, has never been too far away. He's been working with Tim Pair as It's A Fine Line since 2006; the pair released their long-awaited album in September 2016 on Kill The DJ, a label Smagghe has co-run for 15 years with his old Paris Le Pulp crew. More recently, he's been working alongside composer Rupert Cross under the Smagghe & Cross guise, proving once again that genre-boundaries are just lines to be crossed. Since 2013, Smagghe has also been running Les Disques de la Mort, an outlet for his own unique taste in music: new kids and old friends, including Erol Alkan, Zongamin, Manfredas, Golden Bug, Marc Pinõl), and reissues (003 is composed of edits of Israeli cold wave.) The aesthetic, as Smagghe says, is the "style of no style."
Smagghe's XLR8R podcast is, well, so...Smagghe. Though removed somewhat from the energetic club sets Smagghe delivers with aplomb each weekend, it's typically trippy and imaginative with an almost entirely unrecognisable tracklisting. Admittedly, much of the music is unreleased, sourced from Smagghe's circle of friends, but it's also indicative of Smagghe's knack for discovering obscure records and presenting them in new and interesting ways. This particular presentation of music is as similarly versatile as the man behind it, and one that gets better and better on each listen.
What have you been up to recently?
Same as ever really, splitting time between travelling and studio. Smagghe & Cross have finished writing a new album for Offen Music, a few remixes here and there, including one for our friends at Garzen Records, Vladimir Ivkovic’s label, and we’ve been preparing a live set. The latter took a bit of time and thinking, I haven’t done it in years, and it’s a totally different frame of mind than DJing (less freedom in one way, more in others). We’ll be playing at Houghton, the festival curated by Craig Richards, this August, and then take it from there. I also have quite a few good records on Les Disques de La Mort, my label, coming up, although this stays a hobby/matter of love kind of thing.
You often play records that few others do. How do you go about finding new records—do you have a routine/process?
Do I? If I do, it’s probably more my personal filter system than a routine of “purchase." I don’t think there is one way of getting music anymore, at least not for me. Just a few loops/habits to get into; I very rarely buy disposable club music on 12” anymore (at least I am honest about that), I use Bandcamp quite a lot, I get sent some stuff by friends. I’m also not worried if I have missed a good track/record; I tend to favour random encounters with music these days.
What do you look for in a record?
You mean a record to play out? It really depends… I have a soft spot for murky waters/borderline records, those which sit in between genres but once again, there are no rules here, or just my personal ones. I do like—sometimes—selectors who play one great track after another but I also believe in “actual DJing”, i.e. playing a couple of tracks that will lead to another one. So different records have different functions, different time, and space etc...
What’s one of your favourite records you’re playing out now?
A record was given to me by my friend Manfredas, it’s called Atmosfear by Philipp Melon on his label Talking Machines (It’s not in the podcast btw).
When and where was this mix recorded?
At home. I usually do them in the morning (I know weird, right?).
How did you select the records you included?
I asked a few friends to send me unreleased/upcoming stuff for this, so a lot of it can’t be bought yet. Let’s not fool ourselves, a podcast also is “the selfie of the DJ," an image you want to project of yourself. It misses the main piece of equipment: the crowd and your relation to it. I, for instance, almost find impossible to make an uptempo club mix if I’m not in a club. I tend not to overthink and just play tracks. I still see the “shining the light on” artists/labels I respect as one of the functions of podcasting but without “pats on the back” or favours given, of course.
Was there a particular idea you were looking to convey?
Hmmmm… Nothing new or conceptual really, just be open-minded.
What else do you have coming up this year?
More of the same. I’m not the best at making long-term plans, I got into this when “job” or “career” were exactly what we were trying to run away from. I'll try and enjoy life as I see it and not care too much about things I don’t want to participate with.
Due to temporary issues regarding the GDPR, EU readers can download the podcast here.
01. Front de Cadeaux "C’est Bon" (Acapella) (Unreleased)
02. Shit & Cheap "Shadowlands" (Shipwrec)
03. Golden Bug "Hippie Friends" (La Belle)
04. Wav Fuzz "Hi Lite" (EYMS)
05. Sacha Mambo "Beau" (Acid Psychedelic Mix) (Bar)
06. River Yarra "Respiration Alternée avec Elen Hyunh" (Antinote)
07. Marco Passarani "Coldrain" (Offen)
08. Mr TC and Lo Kindre "The Storm (Heap Ambient Trance Mix) (Neubau)
09. Death in Vegas "Witchdance Dub" (Drone)
10 Naduve "Back To Work" (Les Disques de la Mort)
11. JD Twitch "The Ecstasy of Saint Therese" (RDF)
12. Leonie Pernet feat. Hanna Ouassim (Auaati) (Acid Arab remix)-(Crybaby/Infine)
13. Golden Bug & Fields "Cracks (Les Disques de la Mort)
14. Xen" Pere Adam" (Garzen)
Smagghe will perform at this year's Neopop Festival, taking place from on August 9, 10, and 11, set across two stages in the northern Portuguese coastal town of Viana do Castelo—a half hour's drive from Porto airport. Also on the bill are Jeff Mills, Ben Klock, Nastia, Josh Wink, and more. More information can be found here.