“There is always a misunderstanding for our people…in electronic music,” says Loco Dice by phone from his studio/office in Düsseldorf. “When you drop an album, a lot of kids think, ‘This is not making me dance, that’s not good.’ Sometimes people don’t get it.”
For the German DJ/producer, there are major differences between what he does on the dance floor and what he makes in the privacy of his studio. “My DJ sets, they become a DJ set live,” he says. “I need the people.” And the nature of his sets is in a constant state of flux, changing based on outside influences like the vibe of the crowd and the way the music sounds inside a particular venue. They are about more than the DJ. The album, on the other hand, is not. “This is my story,” he says.
Loco Dice’s latest album, Underground Sound Suicide, is an eclectic collection of funky hip-hop influences, heavy and minimal techno tracks, and pop-structured songs. You could probably dance to any moment on this album, but you don’t have to do that. That’s part of the beauty of the release. “I think an album should be something that you can dance to, that you can listen to in your car, at home, anywhere,” he says, adding that if he wanted to make something solely for the club, he would go the EP route.
Dice, as he often refers to himself, got his start as a teenage hip-hop fan, dancing and rapping and, eventually, landing a youth-center DJ gig based on his expansive music collection. That was in the early Nineties; by the end of the decade, he wanted to do something different. Dice, who was already influenced by U.S. house, decided to pursue electronic music.
“I had to learn DJ’ing from zero, because it was completely different,” he says. “In hip-hop you have your routine, you know how to scratch, you know how to use a mic. You know how to drop, how to cut and all that stuff.” Techno and house, though, require different skills. Dice had to learn how to keep the groove going and how to work with the melodies. “In hip-hop, you can cut any record you want,” he explains. “With techno, or electronic music, it’s completely different. I had to learn in the first year how to mix and what to mix and you were scared to death, you’re like, ‘Can I mix this with this?’ I had no history.”
Dice eventually excelled in the electronic world. His first U.S. gig was “a long time ago,” he stresses, in New York at now-defunct club Centro-Fly. Even in the years when European DJs didn’t venture to the U.S. often, he made regular trips. He returns to New York on Halloween to play an undisclosed warehouse in Brooklyn.
Dice credits his hip-hop background for his reputation as a DJ who can quickly shift tempos and styles in his sets. That varied approach to dance music is apparent on Underground Sound Suicide. The album started out with a couple of beats made in his studio, and while he estimates that more than half was completed in three weeks, it took two years to finish the entire collection. He brings together a nice group of collaborators, including British hip-hop artist Giggs, techno master Chris Liebing, and old friend Miss Kittin. Dice even got to connect with an icon of his youth, Neneh Cherry, for the song “Metaphors.”
“When I was a young boy, I had a crush on Neneh,” he says. Much later in life, he provided a remix for the singer — when she contacted him to express how much she liked it, he took the opportunity to ask her to collaborate with him.
On the road, Dice has made helping out the next generation of DJs a priority. His latest protégé is Puerto Rican DJ Caleb Calloway, who had been recommended to Dice by friends. “In Puerto Rico, I asked if he could do a warmup for me; he did and it was great,” Dice says. The two hung out, and Dice dug Calloway’s style enough to take him on tour and to gigs in Ibiza. “Hopefully, he will put out a lot of great music in the future,” Dice adds.
He says that he no longer craves the marathon DJ circuit, like the mega-sets he has famously done at Miami club Space. Even six hours is long for him now. He prefers to go for three to four — lengthy in the U.S., but standard in Europe — and bring in new talent like Calloway to help round out the night. “I know there are a lot of DJs who like to start the night and close the night. I don’t have this ego thing anymore,” Dice says. And, much like with his album, there’s a lot of joy that comes from bringing together a good group of collaborators. As Dice puts it, “I’m happy with more artists around.”
Creeping It Real: Loco Dice + Friends goes down in a Brooklyn warehouse on Halloween. Tickets are available through Flavorus.