For the next slot in our MIXED BY series, we would like to introduce an extremely special selector who goes by the name of Mendel. While many DJs work to send dancers solely into a tizzy of energy, Mendel tends to focus more on bringing people closer together with a seamless stitching of music spanning the entire spectrum of time and genre. Throwing in tracks and edits made 50 years apart that rub against one another in novel ways, Mendel never ceases to create a truly timeless feeling with his sets.
We are so grateful that Mendel has taken the time to both grace us with yet another sample of his skill, and to answer some questions we have about how he keeps moving forward and looking backward at the same time.
Let’s start this interview off with something small and innocuous; what are you up to at this very moment?
I’m tying up some loose ends before Christmas and a trip to Brazil. I’m going there for 7 weeks on vacation and a small tour, so I need to record some records and buy extra strong insect repellent.
I’m also preparing for an all nighter at Djoon in Paris on Friday. Playing six hours definitely requires a bit of extra preparation when selecting the music to bring.
Thank you again for taking the time to catch up with us—can you tell us a little bit about the mix you’ve prepared today?
I made an hour long mix, which is pretty short for what I’m used to. But I’ve been trying to shorten my mixes, because I think an hour is a nice length for the listener.
It’s a mix that you can dance to, moving through some different moods and intensities, but the drummachines keep on clapping.
Also I borrowed a ‘space echo’ from a friend, so you might hear me playing around with that as well.
Spending time in any of your recent mixes with you, it goes without saying that you’re a bit of a time traveller. Can you share with us some formative moments in your own past that contributed to where you are now?
It’s been quite a journey! There are a few moments that spring to mind. The first being the music “compilations” I used to make for house (as in home) parties when I was 11.
Another being my parents telling me that turntables and needles are very fragile and that scratching was not a great idea, but then buying me a turntable at a flea market. I remember playing out for the first time at hiphop cafe De Duivel when I was about 16, trying to fill 3 hours with 40 records, playing all A and B sides, hahah.
Working at a record store, organising my own parties and playing an endless amount of warm up sets, all contributed to my musical education. But the most important contribution to where I am now is the people who gave me a chance, to play in a bar, or a club for the first time, or who shared their knowledge. People who believe in you along the way – they’re the real foundation.
To many of your listeners, you serve as a gateway to music from a bygone era—there’s no real way to track it down besides being a full-on crate digger. Who were some of your biggest inspirations for spinning artifacts as opposed to shiny objects?
Most DJs I know got into it because they love searching for music and finding that one tune that touches you deeply.
I think humans have a very strong need to collect things, but I’ve never really seen myself as a collector. More as a seeker and sharer. I love to share music that gives me strong feelings, whatever those may be. I think this urge existed even before I knew what a DJ was.
Of course I’ve been influenced by a lot of people over time, who gave direction to my searches, like Illco & Bart Fader, Manga, KC The Funkaholic, Rich Medina, Theo Parrish, Marcel Vogel, Rahaan, Antal, Red Greg, Volcov and Mark Seven (in chronological order of appearance ;)
You seem to merge old and new quite often with a suite of edits you’ve made to a number of selections over the years. Can you share more with us about the impulse to update some of these classics for a more modern ear?
Sometimes I feel like a song can use some adaptation for the dance floor. Often it’s as simple as taking a part out or extending a part to keep the energy going. It’s quite functional. But I do also like the tradition to it, the idea that people like Ron Hardy and Danny Krivit have been doing this for decennia to set a song to their hand and fine tune that energy on the dance floor.
I imagine there’s a slight shift when sequencing tracks for the dancefloor vs preparing for your regular slot with Red Light Radio. Do you approach live sets and your radio show with a different ethos?
Yes for sure, at a party you want to keep the dancefloor going. Although I try to create different moments that may be a bit slower or deeper in a club situation as well, instead of only grooving and peaking. I love a romantic moment on the dance floor. I think nightlife could use a whole lot more warm and loving vibes.
If you could be in the room while any of your favorites were being recorded, which would it be?
I would love to see the masters work on their greater than life productions, like Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson, or Ashford & Simpson.
But also House producers who in the beginning worked with minimum resources like Larry Heard or Marshall Jefferson, and created some incredible music out of that.
Your mixes look both forward and backward in time; however, are there any peers right now that you’d like to highlight for making music you gravitate towards personally?
A lot of the new music I buy is deeper house stuff. Like Alton Miller and Anthony Nicholson. Or labels like (Volcov’s) Neroli and (Mark Seven’s) Parkway.
You do see now that there are a lot of young talented musicians and producers who are interested in soulful music. Well-produced and played songs, cats in Italy like Nu Guinea and Giovanni Damico, and in Holland like Jungle By Night and Mauskovic Dance Band. It’s exciting to see such a resurgence of warm sounds in the dance scene.
Interview by Dan