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Behind the decks with Mendel

Mendel understands and builds energy like no other, creating danceable journeys finalizing in euphoria. We’ve always been a fan of his approach to music and impressed by his wizardry behind the decks, and we wanted to know more about his philosophy in anticipation for our event at OASE on 13th of April. Take a read through this Behind The Decks with the Amsterdam based DJ to get to know him a bit better.

We could describe your sets as a journey through sound. But can you tell us a bit about how your personal journey through sound kicked off?

As a youngin I was really into hiphop and breakdancing. At the hiphop parties I used to go to, the djs also regularly played r&b, soul and disco. It opened my eyes and ears to what those sweeter sounds could do to a dancefloor. When we started our first party, The Daisy Age, we focussed on the uplifting side of hiphop and related genres. At the same time I was working at Waxwell Records, where the bins were filled with all types of music, so I got to listen to many different things. I was especially drawn to boogie and disco. We also used to get some boxes with African records, mainly Nigerian afrobeat, which opened up a whole other musical world.

In my 20s I heard a lot of great djs (mainly from Chicago) who mixed disco and house music. At first I wasn’t drawn to electronic music, but when I heard the emotion that beautiful house music can express, I got really into that. Now after two decades of listening to ‘club music’, for me anything goes, as long as it touches me in some way.

What’s the beauty of playing vinyl, a physical format, to you?

The hassle of traveling with them, the back pain, the expenses, the turntables that are not working correctly. Almost nothing haha, so I don’t use them much for dj’ing. But what I still love is searching for records, cause you can find different things depending on where you are, which country, which shop. You never know what’s in the bins, what you might stumble upon. And of course there is also the charm of the big sleeves and putting the needle on the record, but I reserve those joys for my living room.

You’re also hosting your own community event named Ciranda. What kind of energy are you aiming for at these events?

What is most important for me is to create a space that feels comfortable, gentle and welcoming, where people feel free to dance and connect with the music and each other. The Sunday afternoon already gives it a different energy, more relaxed. Also the intimate space of Doka.

With the music, I try to curate it carefully, having a slow build up and going through different energies. There are moments of high energy, but always alternated with deeper and sweeter moments. When I invite guests dj’s it’s important to me that they can bring those different moments, and not just bang it out.

But in the end it’s all about the people who come to the party, they create the vibe. And we’re very lucky with our community.

You effortlessly mix the old and new in your sets; going back and forth in time so to speak. How do you give these older classics your own spin when playing?

I don’t really, the songs speak for themselves, especially the classics. I believe dj’ing is mainly about the way in which you present the music. The sequence of the songs. Which way are you going? Are you following the people or are you leading? Which moods and energies are you evoking with this tune, and the next? Can you take people with you into this other world of music?

Although I usually try to play tunes that are not played by everyone else, in the end there are no rules. I just play what moves me personally, classic or not, and I hope I can share that feeling with the people on the floor.

I believe dj’ing is mainly about the way in which you present the music. The sequence of the songs.

Which record(s) do you rely on to lift up spirits on the dancefloor? 

Everything, it’s mostly about uplifting for me. I like harder tracks and sad songs as well. But it’s always about giving people the feels.

We dig your vision, as stated on your personal website: “Mendel strives for the dance floor to be a place of safe expression, particularly for those whom society usually pushes to the sidelines. Less fist-pumping, more care, more footwork, more smooching.” Why do you personally feel we need spaces like these? And how do you see the sounds you’re playing in relation to this vision?

For me personally, since the early days of going to and playing at hiphop cafe De Duivel, nightlife was a space where a diverse jumble of people can meet. Where we can have unexpected encounters. Where we can live by different rules, away from the usual day-to-day competition and bigotry. Experiencing music and dancing together, can create strong connections and loving feelings, which can change a moment and hopefully even more than that.

Nightlife is often far from a utopia, and sadly many spaces mirror regular society. It’s often big business and for many people it’s got very little to do with idealism. It takes effort and care to do things differently. But there are spaces where we can celebrate ‘otherness’, ‘softness’, and break with the ridiculous and harmful conventions of society. I don’t think this is bound to a certain sound (many people find this in heavy techno for example), but it has to do with the intention of everybody who is contributing, workers and visitors. I try to do my part with the music and my nights, but it takes a community.

Nightlife is a space where we can live by different rules, away from the usual day-to-day competition and bigotry.

Thank you Mendel!