People say that the late Tony Wilson didn’t know how to make money from his music. His Factory Records produced a ridiculous amount of hit bands, yet the label went bankrupt because he didn’t believe in contracts. (But he did believe in incredibly expensive floating tables.) While the same charges may be leveled against Stephen and David Dewaele, their savvy can’t be denied. After rising to fame as pop-bouillabaisse chefs 2ManyDJs, they quickly realized that they could not make a lucrative career of just playing other people’s music. So they regrouped their band Soulwax and started remixing themselves and playing those remixes live and touring virtually nonstop behind the album they called Nite Versions.
For their most ambitious project, Radio Soulwax, they put together 24 hour-long audio and video mixes, digitizing and animating thousands of album covers from their (and their DJ father’s) massive LP collection. Against advice, they forged ahead, and after much work, the mixes are available free on their nicely revamped website or their brand new smartphone app. Any normal person would take a vacation after completing such a project, but these guys decided to go on tour. We sat down with them moments before their triumphant return to New York.
You’ve spent two and a half years on this massive, risky project, which was the same amount of time Joaquin Phoenix took to grow a beard and start “rapping.” Are these mixes a hoax?? Are you actually just rappers playing actors playing DJs playing beards?
SD: No, there is no hoax. Trust us, these mixes are definitely real.
So you guys play, let’s say 10,000 songs in 24 hours, but the Flaming Lips could only manage one? Sounds like someone needs to spend a little less time in his crowd—surfing balloon…
DD: I agree. He’s totally lazy.
Your Part Of The Weekend Never Dies documentary is this generation’s electronic The Last Waltz. I can’t remember a another rock doc that captures the spirit & energy of a band as well. I saw it at a screening in LA preceded by a two hour open bar. It was amazing to watch the fucked—up fans in the theater mimicking the fucked—up fans onscreen like some sort of meta—Rocky Horror Picture Show.
SD: That’s a perfect analogy. We were in South America and Dave wasn’t with us because he missed his flight—
DD: I didn’t miss my flight!
SD: OK, there was a volcano.
DD: Yes, that’s a slight nuance.
SD: OK, so all of these kids came up to me and started citing exact bits of dialogue from the movie. I assumed it was because they had the DVD but they told me that there’s a channel that airs it once a month on Friday and its how they start their weekend and so they watch it constantly.
DD: It’s like a lot of things; it’s basically ready, it just needs a few tweaks. It’s there. We listened to it once and it all sounded great, right?
SD: Yes, we listened to all four albums.
DD: Four? (then, to me) There’s only two, trust me.
SD: But also, Die Verboten is the least ambitious band in the world.
That should be the title of the first album.
SD: And also, it was really just something for ourselves. In our heads it was just a beautiful experience for us.
DD: Yeah, but we should really get it out.
I feel like people bitch all the time that “music sucks now,” which to me just means that you’re too lazy to dig deep enough to find what’s good.
SD: It’s just that the industry has changed, which is different. Its a change to the way they perceive and buy music and a lot of people don’t like that. But there’s amazing music out there and kids are able now to make music in their bedrooms. Sure, maybe nine out of 10 is bullshit, but one is really cool.
DD: The main reason people say it is that music used to have a different impact: it was an escape from a grey, boring world. The world is now so full of music everywhere. On your cell phone, on the bus, in a taxi and there’s youth culture everywhere so now it loses some of its impact. So when people say that what I think they mean is “I don’t get the same excitement from it.”
I try to keep up with new music coming out now, but I found that listening to some of these mixes like “New Beat” or “Batuta Discos” that I was being exposed to music, and even genres sometimes that I didn’t know existed, so essentially it’s all new music.
DD: That’s exactly why we did it!
SD: It’s so hard to explain to people why we’ve done it, because all people ever say to you is “But you’re not making any money” and confront you with it every fucking day you start to wonder “Are we that stupid?”. We just did it because we could and we felt that it was the next thing that we wanted to do.
What’s the next thing you’d like to do? Any dream collaborators?
DD: (without hesitation) Steve Miller!
SD: Yeah, Steve Miller would be nice.
Stream “Under The Covers 2” from Radio Soulwax below.