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Interview: Plastique De Reve (Germany)

Originally published on Fat Planet.

Spare a thought for poor Gen-Xers like me – the generation Wikipedia describes as “apathetic, cynical, disaffected, streetwise loners and slackers”. A disgraceful slur – I’m sure most X-ers would agree, and one that would fail to find resonance amongst almost all hip hop heads, sample culture freaks, the rave generation, the grand electronica alumni, the soldiers at the forefront of the industrial (music) revolution and many more cultures and subcultures besides. For every stoner and Winona, there’s an equal and opposite reaction – one of DIY, heads-down, hands aloft, creativity.

If there’s one X-er who can claim to have been more than a bystander over the last two or three decades, it’s Chrisophe Dasen, aka Daze, aka Plastique De Reve. Over the last twenty years, Daze has been bringing life to electronic music across a vast range of genres, building a wild and unruly menagerie of sounds along the way. From early experiments in experimental and industrial forms, through EBM, acid house and so-called IDM, Daze arrived in the late 90s with enough live performances under his belt to put most rock bands to shame. In 1997, he finally stood behind a set of decks and thus began the transition that would launch ‘Plastique De Reve’ on an unsuspecting world. Since then, he’s produced original music and remixes for the likes of Tiga’s Turbo Recordings, International Deejay Gigolos, WMF, Inzest and many more. In 1998, he co-founded Switzerland;’s first internet radio station, basic.ch, and presented an international electronic music show for over seven years.

Born in Australia, and subsequently travelling with his family through Canada, Ivory Coast, Algeria and Kenya, Daze currently resides in Berlin, with a fresh pot of tracks for local label Kitty-Yo bubbling right off the boil. “I’ve been really lucky”, he says, via email from Berlin, “Travelling with my parents during all my childhood was fantastic. It has opened my mind in ways that are hard to describe in few words. I remember dancing to disco 7 inches with the kids in my Kenyan village, or to the royal drums in Masaï mudhouses with the lions roaring outside in the night, dancing to ‘soukouss’ in Ivory Coast, going up on stage with Myriam Makeba at age seven, fishing sharks, fighting giant spiders, decrypting hieroglyphs… something like The Swiss Family Robinson meets Indiana Jones and Margaret Mead…”

After playing his first live gig in front of schoolmates in Nairobi at the age of nine, Daze began to ingest the sounds eminating from his parents stereo – “They were listening to electronic ‘hippie’ music (Kraftwerk, Vangelis, Klaus Shulze, Tangerine Dream etc), but also a lot of psychedelic rock, all kinds of ‘jazz’, ethnic music, classical music… This early electronic stuff I loved so much, it infused in me some kind of never-ending quest for electronic, synthetic sounds.”

Whilst any mention of ‘sample-culture’ implies vinyl lifts for hip hop breaks, Daze came to this particular technique via a less obvious route. Having drifted into harder electronic sounds in the early 80s from the likes of DAF and Depeche Mode, there was an inevitable lurch towards industrial music, Front 242, Neubauten and Skinny Puppy. “I bought my first sampler in 1986 after seeing a Young Gods concert, and spent several years experimenting with sound / noise in different projects. There was a raw energy in EBM that was like electronic and punk mixed together.”

Given industrial music’s dramatic merger of metal, noise and symphonic crescendos, Daze’s drift into soundtracks, theatre, installation and performance art was a natural progression. Following a period with a Genevan ‘living theatre’ group, Daze formed an experimental music and performance collective titled MXP, “something like ‘the electronic Merry Pranksters meet Einstürzende Neubauten and Antonin Artaud’. Interventionist, situationist work followed, in tandem with “conventional” sound installations, all the while Daze’s marriage of art and music became ever more complex: “Musically it all relates to what I do now in the sense that every track, dj set or live show has to suggest something new or different, try to be an ‘intervention’ on its own.”

In 1998, Daze was establishing himself as a DJ, and shortly thereafter, as a broadcaster. He earned himself a small but important place in broadcasting history by co-founding the first internet radio station in Switerland, basic.ch. “It came along naturally with the development of technologies and cultural media, and access to that. It was natural for our little electronic music community in Geneva to embrace the internet as a new communication tool and a platform for mixes and productions of local deejays and artists. Of course internet radio is essential to the development of electronic music – like what I-F’s CBS.nu radio is doing, truly fantastic – but also all the online shops, the forums, blogs, profiles etc.”

By 2001, Daze was releasing music on a variety of labels, with some of his earliest material appearing on Hell’s International Deejay Gigolos label. Fuelled by a now-legendary series of Berlin club nights, and a frenetic release schedule, Gigolo found itself as the poster label for the Electroclash movement – and in the spirit of all great fashion movements, it was maligned almost as soon as it was established. Despite being swept along with the Electroclash tide, Daze survived the fallout.

“The term ‘electroclash’ was the media’s renaming of what for me was just ‘electro’. [Subgenres] help to define the music in words, but they can hinder when subject to narrow definitions in the media and the people’s minds. In my view there are no SUB genres, just general musical orientations, and inside that, plenty of new genres everyday – one for every track.

“At the time I didn’t care too much about the hype, we had lots of fun and there was good music. Later that electroclash ‘etiquette’ is a little difficult to shake off, if you think you have more to offer than a pre-established ‘genre’. I think there was a fallout for electro in general, and for Gigolo too, but no more than for other labels. I am grateful to Gigolo to have done a good job for interesting, risk-taking, non-mainstream, electronic music, and I’ll drink a Jaegermeister to that!”

For Daze’s recent Kitty-Yo release, he described his current sound as “multispeed varistyle”, a phrase coined by Oliver Mental Groove: “it just means ‘freestyle’, eclectic, not setting yourself any style boundaries. That’s also why I called this EP ‘Jeux Sans Frontières’. Every track is different, there are some obvious references to various ‘styles’, but I tried crossing boundaries, making my own mashup of ingredients.”

The influences on the EP are certainly broad, but one still can’t help but be surprised when the opening salvo, ‘Favela Norte’, spins Daze’s sound into baile funk territory. Alongside Man Recordings’ ‘Funk Mundial’ imprint, it stands as one of the few examples of Euro-Brasilian baile-fusion. “When I first heard it a few years ago, I thought it was the freshest thing I’d heard in a long time, it was like reviving miami bass and old-school electro hip hop, like some kind of ‘tribal ghetto tech’ with kids rapping on top. I like the way the samples are used in rhythm patterns, the rawness of edits, the anger, the pride, the fun it provides. I thought I’d give it a try with my own take on it. I’m making more tracks in that direction, with chicago house samples, touches of acid, and well… other secret components.”

Given his history to date, the nature of such ‘secret components’ remains impossible to guess. As long as Daze keeps making sounds ‘sans frontieres’, we’ll all still be tuning in.