- Zilka Grogan
A chat with A. Brehme
Recently dubbed the king of warm up techno by a fellow Belgian DJ, A. Brehme is making waves in the country’s growing deep techno scene. We sat down with him to discuss why techno first caught his attention, the current state of the scene in his hometown of Brussels, and what to expect from his set at Patterns of Perception on June 16.
Tell us how you got to where you are. How did you get your start in techno?
Around the age of seven I was already attracted by the early Belgian New Beat and EBM vinyls and CDs of my parents which hit Belgium between the mid-eighties and the mid-nineties. Tracks such as Neon’s Voices, In-D’s Virgin In-D Sky, Euroshima by Snowy Red, and The Neon Judgement’s TV Treated belong to my first musical memories. I had my first clubbing experience around the age of fifteen, at a former venue called Structure Béton. It was a dark and infamous underground drum and bass venue, in an empty parking lot on the industrial outskirts of Brussels. I attended raves over there multiple times a month for about two years until its doors closed, and during this period I got hooked on DJing. Since it took me significantly longer than my close friends to learn how to beatmatch, I decided to create my own music in Fruity Loops and sync it through Ableton. This lead me to a kind of primitive live set which I performed for an audience for the first time when I was seventeen years old, consisting a ravey sound that was quite popular at that time and which often surpassed a tempo of 160 beats per minute. After a while I didn’t experience any gratification with this anymore and started digging for techno and going out to Fuse in Brussels.
What initially attracted you to techno as a genre?
I quickly got hooked on the slower tempos and more challenging textures techno has to offer. From this point I started studying techno, defining my musical identity and carefully began recording sounds from machines through Logic and got booked more often to play in clubs and parties around the country. It’s only recently that I started being productive in the studio, after facing a lack of self-confidence in my output throughout the years, which held me back from producing music on a regular basis.
Thanks to some significant changes in my life and stimulating sources of inspiration I found the determination to sculpt and wrap up tracks that define my personality.
Your bio says your approach to DJing and producing envelops “the last twenty years of musical history”. How so?
I like to combine older records alongside more contemporary sounds. One of the two resident DJs of Fuse since more than two decades, Deg, often played and still plays a lot of older techno records that instantly intrigued me — by artists such as Random XS, Basic Channel, Lory D, G-Man, DJ Slip and others – and that I like to include in my sets on a regular basis as well. Unfortunately, there’s a dead gap which started in the early 2000s until approximately 2006 where techno tends to be too loopy in a harsh way for me. But I regularly find a lot of interesting minimal, electro and ambient sounds originating from that period which I like to use as a second or third layer in my sets as well.
The impressive home set-up that A. Brehme shares with his housemate, DJ Walrus
As a Brussels born and based DJ, how have you seen the city’s techno scene develop in recent years? What place does the deep, hypnotic techno you like to play have in the clubs of your hometown?
Unfortunately, Brussels has few clubs to offer, which leads promoters to occasionally use temporary or one-time locations throughout the city. Sadly enough many purist initiatives get repressed by the authorities. I prefer not to be too rancorous about this and try to focus on the future and the past initiatives instead that have worked out, such as last year’s rave in an abandoned multi-level fashion house in the heart of the city, which offered a place for more than 500 people to party around the clock without being noticed by the police. I had the chance to play nine hours and still often daydream about what happened during that particular night. I feel that Brussels is emerging from a quiet period when it comes to deep techno. Artists such as Lunar Convoy, Ground Tactics, Thomas Hayes, Kafim and Siwei have released or are preparing more than interesting and refreshing releases. As a buyer of the techno selection at Crevette Records, a new record store in Brussels, I’m partially involved in the settlement of our own record distribution and I can already see that this is facilitating and accelerating releases for artists that are sitting on a huge pile of interesting unreleased tracks. On a personal level, I promote a club night called Sonata Forma at Fuse a handful of times a year, where I welcomed artists such as Marco Shuttle, Luigi Tozzi, Deepbass and Evigt Mörker. The next ones are scheduled for September and November.
Along with Peter Van Hoesen, you’re a resident at Technoon, the Sunday day party in Brussels. It seems like a great concept, with similar bookings to Patterns of Perception – what’s it like to play there?
The people behind Technoon have become like family. There’s a unique spirit of mutual trust and confidence which makes the experience ironically unique every single time. I feel that this is the case for the invited guest DJs as well. It’s dark. It’s loud. People dance from the first until the last row. Since the very beginning I’m taking care of the three-hour warm-up slots most of the time, and it’s been a great apprenticeship for that concern. I’ve seen a tendency of people anticipating every new Technoon party without being focussed on the booked guest DJ, being daunted by weather conditions or having to go to work on Monday morning. And that’s unique in Belgium. I feel blessed to be a part of it alongside a warm group of likeminded and committed people.
Fellow Belgian DJ Pilose called you “the king of melancholic warming up in techno land” in a recent interview. How do you feel about that label?
I generally don’t support labels, but I take his finding as a compliment. I enjoy playing warm-up sets because it offers the opportunity to play out weirder, slower and more experimental tracks than during peak time slots. In contrast to other time slots, the vibe of the whole set can collapse by just one slightly inappropriate track during a warm-up, which makes it absolutely delicate but interesting and it forces me to be focussed on every single track, as a small independent piece of a wider puzzle. I often like to start out at a tempo around 80 BPM and go up until I reach a tempo which is suitable for the next DJ to take over with a dancing audience. However, I prefer not to pin myself down to a certain time slot. Every occasion demands a specific approach depending on time and space which keeps it challenging for me, whether it’s a full house during peak time or whether it’s in front of a handful of people during an after hour.
You’re playing alongside Amandra for the next Patterns of Perception party on June 16. What can we expect from your set?
A melancholic trip in techno land enveloping the last twenty years of musical history!
What else is on the cards for you this year? Any productions on the horizon or are you focusing on DJing for now?
Currently, I’m working at my new studio on the first release on my label Sonata Forma. Next to that my first solo EP is scheduled after this summer as the second release on an exciting new Belgian label, and a remix for the first release of Siwei Recordings is coming up as well.