Over ten years ago dance floors everywhere were ruled by a track with a repetitive, screaming siren sound. Entitled “Pullover”, the track came out on Ritchie Hawtin’s Plus 8 label and played a major role in techno’s worldwide breakthrough. With this track the Dutch producer Jochem Paap a.k.a. Speedy J became one of the first heroes from Europe’s first wave of Techno producers, and ever since then his name has been inseparable from electronic music. The album “Ginger” followed in 1993, breaking new stylistic ground and featuring more listening material than club tracks, a path Paap would then pursue even further. The follow-up albums “Public Energy No. 1″ and “A Shocking Hobby” broke completely with the four-to-the-floor rhythm schema of their predecessor and presented more experimental sounds and angular breakbeats outside of the popular club fare, which were euphorically accepted by the music press.
Speedy J, aka Jochem Paap, is a cantankerous type. Always shifting the boundaries, forever questioning the norm, this Rotterdam producer has for over a decade now produced some of the most startling electronic music to be recorded in the last ten years. He was initially lauded as a technocrat extrordinaire courtesy of his debut album releases “G Spot” and “Ginger”, both lessons in fluid, functional techno. However, he quickly established a reputation as the enfant terrible of the electronic scene thanks to two albums of astonishing originality “Public Energy No 1″ and “A Shocking Hobby”. Gone were the smooth lines and sleek rhythms of yore, to be replaced by brutal, yet strangely human, caustic beats that defied convention and introduced new lexicons into the techno dictionary. Returning with his latest album, “Loudboxer”, he has utilised his decade’s worth of knowledge to produce a harsh and direct album that is on first name terms with the rhythms of the dancefloor.
Like many of his contemporaries, Paap found a route to where he is today via the concurrent growth of both hip-hop and electronic music in the early 1980s. An adolescent fixation with the stark modernity of groups such as Kraftwerk and Depeche Mode and their, at the time, idiosyncratic approaches to music making created a sense of intrigue in the young Speedy J. Armed only with a rudimentary understanding of the processes of music making, he set about creating basic cut and paste efforts looping sound backwards and forwards on antiquated and outdated machinery.
Undeterred by the primitive nature of his work, by his early teens in the mid ‘80s, he had notched up his first production credit. Equally important at this early stage was his love of hip-hop and its attendant DJ culture and he was soon to garner an alias, courtesy of his ferocious DJing skills, that would hang around for the rest of his career. Yet the catalyst that would ultimately shape the next 15 years was a Dutch pirate radio station, ‘Night Moves’, which introduced Paap to the acid sound. Sensing his destiny, he began in earnest a voyage of discovery which would ultimately see him proclaimed as one of the leading lights in European techno and beyond.
Even while DJing, Paap often seemed more concerned with the possibilities of sound rather than its fundamental function to get people dancing. His inquisitive, scientific mind proved to be ideally suited to his burgeoning interest in crafting futuristic electronic music as he quickly mastered the finer points of the armoury of equipment he was quickly amassing. By the early ‘90s he was up and running and within a couple of years had found refuge under the watchful eye of Canadian Richie Hawtin and his then fledgling Plus 8 label. Early output such as the legendary ‘Pullover’ single marked Speedy out as an original, unique and highly talented individual not afraid to challenge expectations and explore far beyond the edge of the map.
Inevitably, an album was soon to follow. Released in 1993 on Warp Records via a licensing deal with Plus 8, “Ginger” was a benchmark album. Cocooned in lush orchestration and smooth gliding rhythms, it stood apart from its clanking, abrasive contemporaries and pointed to a brighter future where European techno would be free of its masculine obsessions of speed and intensity. The follow up, “G Spot” delved deeper and refined the Paap template of beautified electronic music. However, he had reached a logical dead-end; unable to explore further he took his amassed knowledge and began a process of metamorphosis that would prove revelatory.
By 1997 Speedy J began to move the goalposts. Signing to London based novamute in the same year, he set about forging an album that would ultimately see him rightly proclaimed as an alchemist of sound. Both “Ginger” and “G Spot” may have been revolutionary at the time, yet Paap ultimately sought the freedom to explore far beyond the rigid confines of the 4/4 beat. novamute’s liberal attitudes proved fertile ground as set about recording what would become “Public Energy No 1″, his debut album for the label.
Recorded in his Rotterdam based home studio, it somehow falls between Ornette Coleman, Kraftwerk, Otis Redding and The Swans. Unrestrained, untethered, yet ultimately deeply soulful, the album sees Paap assuming the role of the insane conductor of a bunch of unruly machines let loose for an hour. Every glitch and every mistake is captured as cold functionalism gives way to a humanity so often absent in much electronic music. Brutal, forceful and extreme it may be, yet within lies a beating heart and warm refuge; its approach and disregard of convention and form is almost jazz-like. Critical acclaim followed with the UK press quick to praise the unique quality of this stunning piece of work.
The next couple of years saw Paap explore the furthest musical galaxies possible playing around the world at many major dance festivals including Sonar and I Love Techno. Live shows proved incendiary and soon he began to examine the role of electronic music far beyond the dancefloor. He began working with Michael Shamberg on the movie soundtrack to ‘Souvenir’, joined forces with the Dutch Wind Ensemble on a televised event, collaborated with Japanese visual artist Diazaburo Harada and contributed to various television commercials.
Returning to the studio in 1999, the follow up to the revolutionary “Public Energy No 1″ was a more relaxed affair. “A Shocking Hobby” was still as non- conformist as its predecessor, yet its gentle ambient washes and often mogadon pace proved a less intense experience. Far from a dumbing down exercise, its Eno-esque moments are with hindsight the logical conclusion to an exploration that took Paap far beyond the chartered territories of electronic music and deep into the unknown. After all, “Public Energy No 1″ had taken him so far out even well trained translators were useless.
By the end of the last decade, like many explorers before, Speedy J was faced with some tricky questions. He had navigated far beyond where others had charted, and returned with a rich knowledge of the unknown. Making an about turn he returned to almost where he had begun revisiting the stark functionalism of dancefloor orientated tunes with a new found knowledge garnered from his far reaching musical voyages.Last year’s single release, ‘Krekc’, marked a return to basics. Harsh, direct and ragingly hard, it was nonetheless a universe away from his formative outings way back in the ‘90s. Recorded entirely in his home studio in Rotterdam “Loudboxer” is a startling return. Cold and brutal, Speedy utilises a decade’s worth of experience to produce an album of unrelenting ferocity. An album in two parts, the opening six tracks, beginning with ‘Reenter’ unfold around a central theme with each track melding perfectly into its successor. Dense, deep and atmospheric, the first half is reminiscent of Berlin sound scientists Basic Channel. ‘Inter Zil’ is a logical half way house with its dreamlike snatches of speech and washes of sound before the mayhem of the second half begins with the petrifying ‘Krekc’. The final half sounds like a full blown riot, ‘Krikc Live’ in particular is the sound of civil unrest put to music.
Without doubt “Loudboxer” is a more dancefloor friendly outing, a trend he hopes to continue this year with his pan-global live shows and collaborations with the likes of Gert-Jan Bijl, Chris Liebing and George Issakidis, yet rest assured, Speedy is still as far out as a space tourist who’s taken the wrong turn.
Long may he remain.
Speedy J – Live at Perron, Rotterdam 21-12-2012
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Speedy J – Live at Berghain, Berlin 24-11-2012
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Speedy J – Live at Fuckmyfunk, Colombia 06-10-2012
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Speedy J – Live at ADE on XT3 Techno Radio, Amsterdam Dance Event 18-10-2012
Speedy J – Live at Poema Club, Utrecht 22-09-2012
Speedy J – Live at Awakenings Festival 30-06-2012
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Speedy J – DJ Set at Electric Deluxe Podcast 00-05-2012
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Collabs (Chris Liebing & Speedy J) – Live at Club Lehmann, Stuttgart 21-04-2012
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Speedy J – DJ Set at Pulse Radio 16-04-2012
Speedy J – Live at Atomic Jam, The Q Club Midlands 28-01-2012
Speedy J b2b Lucy Zeitberger – Live at Boiler Room, Berlin 05-06-2013
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