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Label Feature: Dekmantel Records

Click here to listen to the Carhartt WIP Radio Show featuring Dekmantel Records. 

“Running a label and a festival are very different endeavors, but they complement each other well,” says Olf van Elden (AKA Interstellar Funk), who currently oversees Dekmantel Records. “Dekmantel is more than just a label, so we can conceive projects that go beyond releasing music. Together with the artists, we can plan how to translate a release into a stage performance or special live show.”

This multifaceted nature has been the cornerstone of Dekmantel’s enduring success. Before becoming a globally renowned music festival, it began in 2007 as a series of humble club nights in Amsterdam, co-founded by Thomas Martojo and Casper Tielrooij. The aim was to bring Detroit’s influence to the city, with artists like Robert Hood and Moodymann being amongst some of the events’ earliest guests. In 2009, Dekmantel Records was launched with the release of an EP by duo Juju & Jordash, and fifteen years later, continues to release all manner of innovative club sounds, from house to experimental techno, by the likes of upsammy, Robert Hood, and Palms Trax.

Van Elden, who began running the label last year, has been involved with Dekmantel as an entity since the very beginning, initially as a visitor, then as the DJ and producer Interstellar Funk. “Over the years, I'd performed at most of the festivals and parties, and had released several records through them, so it felt natural to be more involved with the label as well,” he says.

For this month’s edition, interviewed van Elden, who discusses the processes behind how Dekmantel releases its records, and the relationships it builds along the way. As Dekmantel Festival celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, van Elden also outlines what audiences can expect from the event, from workshops and panel discussions, to a large anniversary box set.

As ever, van Elden created a mix featuring new and current label releases, as well as some tracks from its forthcoming 10th anniversary compilation.

Can you talk about the history and origins of Dekmantel Records?

Olf van Elden: The label started in 2009 with a few releases by Juju & Jordash. At that time, Juju & Jordash were still very unknown, and Dekmantel released their music on vinyl for the very first time. Back then, Dekmantel only organized club nights in Amsterdam, so releasing music was a natural next step.

If you could describe the sound of the Dekmantel Records in a sentence, what would it be?

Olf van Elden: Dekmantel represents innovative club music in all its forms and shapes, whether it's house, techno, or the darker and more experimental sides of the spectrum.

Dekmantel’s catalog features EPs, albums, and compilations from a world of artists like upsammy, Bufiman, Parris Smith, and Sam Goku, to name but a few. What are the criteria for working with an artist on a Dekmantel release?

Olf van Elden: We are always searching for new talents and interesting names. This could be a rising star of the scene like Identified Patient, or well-known artists like Robert Hood and Luke Slater. It's about balancing fresh names with established legends. We aim to work with new talents to build their profiles and develop long-term projects, but we are also very interested in collaborating with seasoned artists on new albums.

How involved are you with the development of the artists you work with?

Olf van Elden: We prefer to build long-term relationships with artists. That way, we can grow together and work on bigger plans. It's not just about releasing music; it's also about building relationships and personal connections.

Can you tell us about the Dekmantel sublabels UFO and Selectors? Are these still functioning, and if so, what’s in the pipeline?

Olf van Elden: UFO focuses on the darker and more experimental sides of electronic music, and we’ll be relaunching it after the summer. Selectors is a compilation series, but there aren’t any new releases planned for it currently.

The festival is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. What can we expect from it?

Olf van Elden: This year's Dekmantel festival spans 10 days, featuring new locations, concerts, and special events. Additionally, we will release a box set containing seven records, each representing a stage of the festival. Each stage at the festival embodies a distinct sound or concept, so we selected music from artists connected to Dekmantel who have performed or will perform there. This includes a mix of local talents, legendary figures, and our close-knit circle of artists. The tracks are divided by record according to their sound and profile. For example, UFOI features techno, UFOII is more experimental and heavy, and The Nest focuses on UK sounds.

The box includes unreleased music by Jeff Mills, Kode9, Karenn, Aurora Halal, Eris Drew, and Octo Octa, as well as contributions from local artists such as upsammy, Identified Patient, Zohar, and myself. Early copies of the box set will be available at the festival. With this collection, we aimed to provide an overview of our past Dekmantel festivals while also shedding light on what the future holds.

How did you select the tracks for your Carhartt WIP Radio show?

Olf van Elden: The mix features new and upcoming music from the label. I've aimed to blend tracks that align with the label's ethos, spanning from slow to fast tempos, and covering genres from house to techno and everything in between. I also wanted to give an overview of what's coming up on the label for the rest of the year.

In today’s ever-changing music industry, what role do you think record labels play? Are they still important?

Olf van Elden: Nowadays, it's easier for artists to distribute their music independently via platforms like Bandcamp and Spotify. However, in today's musical landscape, it's also harder than ever to make money solely from making music. With a label like Dekmantel, we can elevate artists to a higher level. We have the knowledge, experience, and facilities to build and execute bigger plans than just releasing music digitally.