ADE is in full throttle as Sébastien Léger sits down with me in a busy Central Amsterdam café. I never had the pleasure to meet him before, but I have been a fan of his funky and dreamy house sound for years now.
Whenever you connect up with an artist for the first time you’re a little unsure of what to expect, but with Sébastien it feels like reconnecting with an old friend I haven’t seen in a while. He arrives with his manager and wife, both of whom are just like him: friendly, approachable and funny. It’s immediately clear that Sébastien wants to talk, and his passion for the music he has turned into a career shines through everything he says.
Hi Seb, thanks for meeting with us today in the middle of a busy ADE week. You already played a set right?
Sébastien: Yes last night, I played the Einmusika showcase. I closed the room, 4am to 6am. It was good, it was busy, the same as usual! (laughs)
How long have you been coming to Amsterdam for ADE for?
Sébastien: Well the thing is I used to live here. I lived here 10 years. I moved back to France 2 1/2 years ago, this is my first ADE since I moved back to France.
How has it changed for you over the years?
Sébastien: Actually it didn’t really change, it’s pretty much the same. It’s constant, a staple I would say. Just there’s more and more really big nights. Before it was smaller label nights, now it’s really really big venues, huge lineups, multi-rooms. It’s really just a festival taking over a city, when before it was smaller club parties. Otherwise it’s pretty much the same thing, it’s really music focused. It’s not like WMC where it’s really party time and you can barely do any business anymore. Here we have meetings, interviews and stuff like that and I love that a lot more than just partying.
Do you feel it brings you as an artist any values?
Sébastien: I think it’s important to be here. It’s essential to be here, to play the right spots, to expand your network and to meet people. If you’re a newcomer or established artist, it doesn’t matter. It’s important to be here. If there’s one event to be at… I think this one is the most important one to be at. And it’s Amsterdam man, it’s not a huge city where you have to drive, take taxis… everything is compact, you can walk, it’s cool.
Very true. You’re also playing a party tomorrow, during the day. It’s also a collab of two sounds, All Day I Dream in one room and then the more deep and techy progressive sound you play also.
Sébastien: Yes, exactly. I think as a DJ I can play almost anywhere you put me, except hard techno (laughs). I can play either a deep location, or on the beach, or a bit more punching. I have been DJing for 23 years and I like a lot of things, but tomorrow is All Day I Dream with Lee Burridge, and it will be more pretty and groovy, atmospheric, and I play the other room which is going to be a little… I don’t know actually, i will play a little more like All Day I Dream because that’s what I like, which is funny because I have a release coming out on All Day I Dream next year anyways, in February (laughs).
So you should be playing the other room!
Sébastien: Well… actually maybe next year! (laughs) We confirmed the release 2-3 weeks ago and it’s out in February and the lineup was already done, so I guess next year maybe. I think tomorrow is sold out, so it’s going to be a good one.
Yeah, Lee has done a great job curating the vibe of his parties.
Sébastien: Definitely, the vibe is so important. For my experience the vibe is most important, rather than “a room” and the sound system even. I like a room with decoration like All Day I Dream, the flowers, the atmosphere. It feels good, it’s nice. It gets you involved, you’re part of something, instead of just enjoying a music event and then it’s gone. Sometimes you enjoy the music, you go home and then it’s over. But with real good parties where the vibe is great you still have the great memories, the colors, the images, it’s just like elrow and their crazy style, the colors, the circus, the confetti, fireworks, unicorns… it’s crazy! It’s insane, but it’s good. It’s different, it stands out.
Have you played elrow?
Sébastien: Yes, many times.
Did you dress up?
Sébastien: Yes, well I didn’t myself, but they gave me a costume, a hat and a beard and all that. I did for a little bit and then it was so uncomfortable I removed it (laughs). But I don’t play the elrow sound anymore really but up to 4-5 years ago I played like 10 times. It’s great, they have their own identity, their own sound and they stick to it and I think it’s really important to bring something else than just the music. For me that’s the future of clubbing.
Let’s go back to talking about Amsterdam. You said you lived here for 10 years, what else do you do when you’re in the city, whether it’s for ADE or other gigs?
Sébastien: Doing food stuff in Amsterdam would be stupid, but since we live in the countryside in France now, when we come here it’s now the moment for us to shop. it’s so cozy, we just chill, walk the streets and hang out. It’s such a nice city to live in and super pretty, so we just shop and hang out. My main focus is that we can’t shop at home because there’s nothing around so we shop here.
Makes sense. Was the decision to move away anything to do with finding a more relaxed living situation?
Sébastien: No, I had enough of Amsterdam actually. I had my time so I wanted a house and space and so we decided to move.
So what do you get up to on a random afternoon when you’re not doing music?
Sébastien: This is not happening, I am always working on music. The only time we take off we walk the dog, we bring the dog to the lake so she can run free for an hour and this is our time with no music involved. Otherwise it’s full-on music all the time. I am in the studio all the time. She is in the studio all the time. It’s music all the time… otherwise e-mails and I don’t want to talk about that, it’s terrible! (laughs)
It’s just music, otherwise if I wasn’t doing music and there were no dogs I would play my arcade games. I like Japanese arcade games.
The old school ones?
Sébastien: Yes yes.
Do you have some at home?
Sébastien: Yes, I do.
Wife interjects: He has a whole room!
Sébastien: Yes I have a whole room full of arcade games. They are all collectibles.
What’s your favorite?
Sébastien: You won’t know it, it’s way too obscure. Japanese shoot-them-up, super underground you could say.
(shows photos of arcade room with what seems to be 10 or more games) This is my room!
Wow, it’s basically your man cave?
Sébastien: Yes, super geeky. I love it.
Do you go search those out in Asia?
Sébastien: When I go to Japan I stop in the areas where you have all the geeky things and I play there as well. I play less these days because I have less time, but i used to play hardcore and even have some world records. But apart from Japan… Japan is number one, super hardcore. But beyond that in the rest of the world I have some world records.
Nobody knows but I used to play super, super extreme. We played for the score. The highest score and the Japanese are world record of every game so when we say world record we call it Western world record apart from Japan, and for 2 or 3 games i have the Western world record.
Wow, so are there leagues or who keeps these scores?
Sébastien: There’s like specialized boards and communities with judges, videos and all that.
Are there any other fellow DJs also into this?
Sébastien: No, I am the only one like that.
I have definitely met a few that like to play FIFA, PlayStation and other similar kind of consolle games when they get out of the studio to unwind but this is ver different.
Sébastien: Yes, I don’t get it to be honest. This for me is a real passion, it’s something I have been doing from when I was a kid. Back then Street Fighter and all those.
Wife interjects: He is extremely good at that one!
Do you play together, is there competition?
Sébastien: The games I play are one player focused, just one guy in a spaceship or something like that.
You said you play less now. Do you mean you play less in Asia or…?
Sébastien: No no, I meant I play the games less because I have less time. I am still touring a lot there. I was in China three weeks ago, or something like that. And India as well. I am going to Tokyo actually on holiday this time, in December.
What’s your view on the current scene in Asia?
Sébastien: I think it’s a mixed bag. There’s some countries that love EDM, like Korea or actually Japan as well. China too. The underground scene, no matter what the style is, techno or house, is not that big. It’s not that huge. Thailand sort of but not really, with Singapore it depends. In Japan yes, but it used to be a lot bigger. Now they like the more bumping thing. I don’t know, people say techno is the music of the future but I disagree. It is not. Wake up. Your 909, hi-hats and claps… just forget it. That’s it for me. How many acid tracks do you need to produce? You’re not new anymore, just deal with it.
It’s interesting you say that because in the States right now we went from a deep house craze and now techno is making a comeback.
Sébastien: Yeah, but because it’s big in Europe as well. Techno is big, it’s huge. So it’s going there now. It’s going on a circle, I am not saying Europe is creating the trend always but it does seem that the U.S. is following about a year later. But I think techno is massive at the moment, but I have my views on it.
While we are talking about the States, what is your take on how your fan base has developed over the last few years there?
Sébastien: It’s the same thing, it’s a mixed bag situation. There’s areas where there’s nothing at all and I don’t even play there and there’s some places that are really good. I played in New York a lot of times and it’s always really nice. LA… I have a good and bad experience in LA because I always play at a wrong time. I could be playing Burning Man but instead I am playing at the same time as Burning Man but in the club, and the club is fucking empty. Three shows in a row like that or something now. I was in LA last month or two months ago and I played Sound, which was great, the sound in that booth is amazing! But the same night as Burning Man. But I know there’s good things happening in LA and other places in America.
Do you have any favorite cities beyond these that you like to visit?
Sébastien: Not really, it’s too big a country for me. It’s so expansive and you need a car to kind of enjoy it and when I am there I don’t have a car, I don’t want to drive by myself. Everything is so big, friends live far and I am jet lagged and I just end up sleeping in the hotel room. I have been many times and I don’t know many things about it. I have been to LA 15 times, then New York and Miami. I like the vibe of Chicago because I used to love Chicago House back then, so there were really specific vibes in the city but to live there or to visit I don’t know.
It almost feels like the Chicago has been stuck in a certain era. Like from the 80s and 90s, then it got a little bit stuck in that sound and hasn’t progressed much from the great music of that time. Derrick Carter, Sneak, jacking house… which is all good because I love it, not to play but to listen to, but it seems like it’s been stuck a bit and hasn’t progressed much as far as the overall scene.
Let’s talk about some of the interesting videos I have seen on your YouTube channel.
Sébastien: With cables everywhere?
Yes, all that modular stuff. Have you been doing that for a long time?
Sébastien: No, no no no. The modular stuff is pretty new, maybe two years. The synthesizer stuff obviously yes, but the modular became a lot more popular lately because it’s cheaper. It’s newer but for me I already have the knowledge on how to patch things because I have synthesizers and experience there. It’s pretty fresh and the way I use it now in my productions has changed my way of making music completely.
Sébastien: The concept of accident and stuff you don’t program, you just patch up and wait for a result while before you had your routine and your computer and you knew what you were doing and how this created that, and that created this. But with modular it’s a surprise all the time, you never know what you’re gonna get.
You’re jamming. You record the whole session, you cut, you edit. You will never get these results with plug-ins and a mouse.
How did this start by the way?
Sébastien: I don’t even know how it came about to be honest. I started watching videos online. The thing is that most of the videos you see with modular as beepy and noise, but I know you can make real music with it. I don’t know how I really got into it but I just started to be interested.
Do you know other artists that do similar stuff that influenced you to do this?
Sébastien: No, not at all. I guess the artists from the 70s rather than the ones from today. The ones from today are much more experimental. There are some but they are not that good yet, they are raw, muddy… not so good. But back then Giorgio Moroder and what not, it was really fucking tight. I’d rather look at that, the disco, the funk, house… than what people do with modular today which is more obscure.
This has influenced you in the studio obviously but what about turning this into a Live show?
Sébastien: Aaaaaaah (laughs)… maybe. I don’t know, it could be, but maybe not… (laughs). Actually to be honest with you, I really don’t know. It might happen. my manager wants it to happen, but I say “maybe” … they don’t know how it is to really organize that. But it’s possible, everything is possible. It will take some time but we will see.
So let’s pretend you decide to do this. Would you be incorporating a whole audi-visual set-up with it for a special kind of Live show?
Sébastien: My whole concept for it would be for the music to be for the dance floor. If I just do experimental music people won’t understand. They will come and say, “What the fuck was that?” They won’t get it. As far as audio-visual I don’t know. At first it could maybe be a hybrid kind of thing, with cymbals, drums, synthesizers, some modular, a small thing as part of my set and see how comfortable I am with the whole process. The thing I have home is massive and I can’t take that on tour with me.
The thing with modular is, well the problem is that when you patch your things you can do forever loops but it’s just one loop. If you want to make another specific thing you need extra equipment so it expands really fast. if you want to make 5 or 10 tracks you need a lot of modules and a lot of cables. So people who do live do 30 minute sets and that’s it. They don’t do three hours unless you’re just beepy and experimental, but if you’re trying to give a proper set then it’s short and you need at least one hour to do something decent, to take the crowd somewhere. You need to have more than one loop, you need to have changes, you need to have more sounds. You need more sound processors, more oscillators, more filters for this specific moment. It has to be big.
Looking forward to see what comes from this. You’ve been an artist for over two decades and you’re constantly working on new things, new projects. What stimulates you to keep your career fresh?
Sébastien:To be honest, it’s all the other artists. I get influenced by this guy and this guy and this thing. It’s not me creating a trend. I go on Beatport and think that this is really good, and I don’t copy at all but I let it influence me to go in a different direction. I think, “Oh this track has really nice vibe,” and as long as you don’t copy each other but influence one another to be original and make your own sound it keeps the scene moving. You maybe hear a DJ on a beach, or a track and it makes your creative thoughts go in a specific direction. To think that I am creating because of the weather, politicians, etc… nah that’s bullshit. It’s the music itself that inspires me.
That’s awesome. Any other exciting projects and releases coming up?
Ooooh… maybe (laughs). There will be. There will actually be an album, I guess next year! I actually have a bunch of tracks ready, some loops ready, some finished things, some to still work on. My next official release is All Day I Dream in February, 9th of February. It’s slightly different than what they release right now. It remains with their vibe, Lee loved the tracks. He contacted me saying he loved the track. I said I loved his label and we decided to do something. I was talking about it with my wife, how much I loved the label for the last 4-5 years but lately especially it’s been such a good label and then two days later I received an e-mail from Lee saying “Your track is my favorite track this year!” So I said, ok that’s perfect.
Congratulations on that! Looking forward to hearing the release.