If you ever saw Part of the Weekend Never Dies, Soulwax’s 2008 behind-the-scenes tour documentary, you have an inkling about the post-show madness that typically ensues. (And if you haven’t, you’d be wise to add it to your Netflix queue pronto.) On the occasion of this particular interview with Steph and Dave Dewaele, who make up 100 percent of 2manydjs and 50 percent of Soulwax, the scene is not wildly out of the ordinary: a manager’s surprise birthday party — yes, there were cake, candles, and presents — assorted road crew members milling about, guest appearances by contemporaries/friends Tiga and Erol Alkan, drop-ins by long-lost pals, and so on.
At the heart of the chaos that follows them around the world pretty much 365 days a year, Steph and Dave Dewaele continue to push the boundaries of what making music means. Yes, it’s been nearly seven years since their last proper studio album (2004’s Any Minute Now) and almost as long since their electro breakthrough Nite Versions (which featured now-classic dance-floor-ready representations of songs from the prior record) was released, but that doesn’t mean the Dewaeles have been idly sitting around. From remixing everyone from LCD Soundsystem to Late of the Pier, recording a krautrock project (Die Verboten) with Riton and Fergadelic, working with Crookers and Mixhell, curating their annual famous-friend-filled Soulwaxmas shows in Europe, and perfecting the art of live video mixing, the last few years have been heavy on collaboration and creation. Add the Dewaeles’ hectic touring schedule as 2manydjs to the mix, and it’s a miracle they’ve avoided nervous breakdowns.
We sat down with the Dewaeles to get answers to burning questions about when new Soulwax material will see the light of day, whether there will ever be a Part of the Weekend Never Dies sequel, and why they so rarely play the U.S. [And just a heads up on that point: While not explicitly stated in the following transcript, it did sound very likely some U.S. dates would be added in 2011. … ]
You played with your friends Tiga and Erol tonight. Do you guys plan that stuff? You seem to play a lot of the same gigs.
Dave: It’s a trick. A lot of promoters will say, “Tiga’s already confirmed, can you come and play?” and “Erol’s confirmed,” and neither of them will be confirmed, but we’ll go, “If he’s doing it, then we’ll do it.” But it’s a lie.
Have you ever thought about doing a super group?
Steph: I wouldn’t call it a “super group”! [laughs]
For the last couple of years, the two of you have been primarily doing 2manydjs sets, but you do occasionally play with Steve [Slingeneyer] and Stefaan [Van Leuven] as Soulwax. What are the deciding factors about playing as Soulwax?
Dave: It’s not necessarily a planned thing on our end. It’s more every once in a while a promoter asks us.
Steph: We’re working on some new tracks and some stuff, but it’s weird for us, because whenever we do 2manydjs and it becomes something, we always have this thing where we switch between both of them. Sometimes it happens naturally – it’s not even us sitting down saying, “Let’s play again,” more like people wanted us to play.
What’s the latest on new Soulwax material?
Steph: Soon we’re going to have a new set. Completely new. It’ll all be dance-y and electronic, but at the same time, we’re starting to work more and more on new things that are completely non-electronic. Whatever people want from us, we’ll do something else. We made a lot of music in the last couple of years, we just haven’t found a way of releasing it all. Maybe 2011 will be a good year to start putting things out.
Will there ever be a sequel to Part of the Weekend Never Dies?
Steph: No. Never, ever, ever. That took so much out of my life. It’s crazy though, we had no idea how much influence it had on people. We went to Korea and people had Part of the Weekend Never Dies tattoos and kids were saying lines out of the film to me. If you look at what we’re doing now, it’s not much different. It would just look the same, we’d be older … there wouldn’t be that much difference.
I’ve heard rumors about a new project you guys are doing along the lines of your original Radio Soulwax mixes, but on a grander scale. Can you talk a little about that?
Steph: It’s hard to explain: 24 hours of mix tapes that we made as 2manydjs, but one of them is, say, only the intros of songs, and one is only guitar riffs that we like, but 500 of them. … So we made 24 hours of these. Each hour is a specific theme: disco, hardcore punk, electronic, bad rap.
It’s been so much work, but we’ll put it on the Internet for free. It’ll be like a loop – every week we’ll give an hour. It’s something we wanted to do, then it turned out to be the biggest fucking mindfuck in our lives. We have a radio license, so we can do it. We’re not losing money — well, we are — the time, the animators. It’s all animated fucking next level. We don’t know what to do with it. We think it’ll end up in museums — that would be cool.
How does the live video stuff you’re doing now work?
Steph: We come up with the storyboard, then we have these three animators who help us out. It’s hard, because they’re used to doing things [makes precise hand gesture] and we want things to look a bit crappy.
Does mixing video live limit what you can play in your set? For example, if you got your hands a brand-new remix and wanted to play it out tomorrow, could you?
Steph: We have 120 now, so we can pretty much play with it. [If we have a] new one, during the show Stefaan [Van Leuven, who plays in Soulwax but also comes on the road with 2manydjs] is downloading it and burning it to a CD — he brings it to us and we play it.
You guys are on the road a huge amount of the time. Are you getting tired of touring?
Steph [to cheery British roadie Blake]: Do you think Dave is fed up with touring?
Blake: No, not at all.
Steph: What does Dave do after the show?
Blake: He chills out, he listens to music, he has a good time, he’s always thinking about the next day, what work he’s going to do next. He’s always on the ball, always on top of his game.
Steph: Are you fed up with touring?
Blake: [laughs] Not at all, no! I love it.
Steph: Is the rumor true that you went out until nine in the morning last night?
Blake: It’s very true.
Steph: And you were hanging out with some Marines?
Blake: Yeah, I hung out with some pretty hardcore Marines. They were great fun. They couldn’t drink as much as I thought they should be able to drink, but …
Steph: So you’re saying the U.S. Marines are pussies? [laughs] Can we quote this?
Blake: U.S. Marines are lovely.
Speaking of the U.S., you’ve played not even a handful of festival gigs since 2008. Do you really hate the U.S.?
Steph: We don’t! The thing is with the U.S., when you want to do it well you have to do about three weeks. And what we found is, we don’t have three weeks.
From how people here talk about you guys, you could easily sell out a tour. It seems like nobody hates Soulwax – people are constantly wondering when you guys will play here again.
Steph: That’s what our agent tells us …
Tiga: Can I interfere here? That was my cue to jump in. I heard her say “Nobody hates Soulwax.”
Steph: Except Tiga.
Tiga: Because I was never a member. I should have been. I was always kind of waiting, like I figured it has to happen.
Steph [answering original question]: We should do it. Our agent’s been telling us. We don’t have the time now, but we’ll probably do it at some point. It’s nothing against America. We were saying how much we enjoy being in America — we really, really like it. Also, it’s been such a big part of our lives: We both had girlfriends in New York, so we spent so much time here.
On the other hand, it’s also great to go to Japan and Australia and Brazil and Columbia and Peru … I went to all these places I’d never been to before in my life.
The U.S. is also dangerous for us. I’ve noticed whenever we play here we party too much, people get lost …
You really think things in the U.S. are so much crazier than Europe?
Steph: It’s true! I think it’s changing. To me, when we’re here, I kind of like it better. The crowd’s a bit more crazy in America. People in Europe are a little more jaded.
You should ask Dave this question – it’s more Dave than me. Dave, why aren’t we touring the States more?
Tiga: That’s the eternal question. I’ve been asked for like 10 years, “Why do you never come to the States?”
Steph: Dave doesn’t like touring in America.
Tiga: Do you want to put a note to promoters in America? Offer this guy [points to Dave] a Lincoln Continental. [Steph laughs] Put it in the rider: “We rented you a Lincoln.” And “a Neiman Marcus gift card”!
Steph: We’re also building a studio, so we need to make money. If you tour the States you do not necessarily make a lot of money. It sounds shitty but …
In the end … are you happy to continue touring at the pace you’ve been doing it?
Steph: No, no, I would love to do a little bit less now. I would love to stay home a little bit, take it easy. Maybe have a relationship with somebody — that would be amazing. It’s all nice, and music has always been number one in our lives and the reason why we do things, but there’s a point in your life when you start going, “Wait a minute … It’s all good, but I have to make sure I have something for myself afterwards.”
So, I think we have a really good team — people enjoy themselves — but sometimes it’s good to be home. It’s insane, fucking insane …