The story of D’Julz is that of a veteran who still finds dance culture as fresh and exciting as the day he began; a fact reflected in both his enthusiasm, as well as the focused energy still present in what he’s doing. He’s the DJ behind the enduring Bass Culture nights at Rex Club in Paris – the iconic club’s longest-running event, and potentially one of the longest-running house and techno nights in the history of dance culture. D’Julz laughs when the possibility is presented to him.
“I don’t know. It’s definitely the longest running club night at The Rex, and possibly Paris,” he told Data Transmission. “You’re right, I never really thought about it like that. But you know, it doesn’t really feel like this at all, that’s the funny thing. I don’t realise that it’s so old. Otherwise I would stop it I guess, if it feels like that, if it feels like, ‘oh shit, again’. So I guess that’s why it keeps going and going, because it feels like almost the first night every time”.
Bringing a consistent approach over the years, and focussing on the deep and dubby end of house and techno, as a contrast to the filtered ‘French touch’ sound that dominated when he began, the Bass Culture parties saw D’Julz playing long sets over the evening’s seven hours, typically inviting guests like Terry Francis and Josh Wink to share DJ duties.
More than 15 years later, and not only is the night still going, but the brand was also the catalyst for another project begun four years ago by D’Julz; his Bass Culture record label. He’s now celebrating with This is Bass Culture: 4 years of Bass Culture Records, a carefully curated mix that’s both a showcase for some of the label’s more timeless moments, as well as highlighting some excellent upcoming releases from the label’s roster.
Speaking with D’Julz in his Paris home last month, Data Transmission found him to be an affable and chilled out guy, speaking with the articulate voice of a veteran craftsman, with plenty of insightful observations about the ever-moving cycles of dance culture.
You talk about how the experience of running a club night as still feeling fresh and new. I guess that’s the great thing about electronic music, it can always feel fresh and exciting.
As a DJ, I always need to be excited. I need to buy new music, I need to look at what’s hot and new, to stay curious. But at the same time, I have very strong roots in classic house and techno, so I always try to find the balance between my style and the new things. At the moment there is a kind of a retro vibe in a lot of the records, and I find this interesting because as an ‘older’ DJ, it’s good to be able to play older music and records. But I wouldn’t be able to just do that; to play only the same music that I was loving ten or twenty years ago. Some people do exactly that, and they do it really well, but for me it would feel like repeating myself. But at the same time, I still love some of these records. So I always try to find the balance between the new records that I find in the shop, and still mixing some of my older classics.
I guess that’s what I try to do with the Bass Culture nights; I never try to jump on the bandwagon. If you travelled back to one of the first nights in ’97, or if you go to the next one this year, you’re still going to find the same elements of house and techno. Even though the guests would be different, maybe it was Terry Francis in ’97, or Chris Duckenfield or Josh Wink, and today it might be Raresh or Cassy. I don’t feel the music is that different though. So I guess that would explain why the night is successful, because it has a strong identify. But at the same time, I haven’t been playing the same records. So it’s the thin line between having your sound, but also progressing and going with the time. So as an artist and a DJ, I think I do that. And my night reflects that as well. But it’s not a strategy, it’s not thought about, it’s just how it is. So I’m lucky it works [laughs].
I guess what you can say about the house and techno you play, the records might sound different to what was being played back then, but it has the same energy or feeling?
Yeah. And also there are cycles. At the moment, I could play literally play 50 percent of the records I played in ’97 in today’s set, and nobody would notice it. Or people would ask, ‘what is that new track?’ For the past three or four years there has been a big comeback to the old school house and techno kinda vibe. But maybe seven years ago when the minimal thing was pretty big, no way… playing old house would have been a lot more difficult. And I still did, but it was a harder thing to do because the sound was completely different. It was a lot more clean, more like a sound engineer kind of music. And I was not feeling that vibe so much, it was a harder time. I found some people in that sound who were maybe closer to my sound, maybe Steve Bug or Matthias Tanzmann at the time, or even Loco Dice who had a minimal label and was playing basically house and techno. Right now though, it’s definitely easier to mix older things with the new things. But it’s the cycle; you have to find a way to go through transitions, and with the new trends that sometimes don’t really resonate with your tastes. And I managed to do that, but when actually house and techno kind of comes back, I can definitely feel like a fish in the sea. It’s easier for me to make my point for sure, and that’s the case at the moment.
How often are the nights happening at the moment?
For the first three or four years Bass Culture was a monthly party, and then I started to pick up more international gigs, so since 2001 it became every other month. So I do six or seven nights a year. And it’s great like this, and that’s also one of the reasons why it lasted so long I think, because I have time to come up with a new set to play there, and to think of new guests. I don’t get tired of it, and people don’t get tired of me or the night either.
Who are some of the people you have been hosting recently?
The past few guests have been Raresh, Mike Huckaby, Mr G, Daniel Bell. The next one is going to be Jordan Peak, and John Jastszebski, who are guys from the label. I try to do one or two nights a year where we really focus on artists from the label, but I don’t want to do that too much, because the night was originally there before the label ever existed. So I still want to be able to invite artists and DJs that I like, who are not necessarily on the label. Maybe they might be on the label later as remixers or something else. But the next night will be a Bass Culture anniversary party with me and two other artists from the label.
Photos: Stephane Ghenacia