Where in the proverbial rule book does it say one must produce only minimal techno, Muzak, or Norwegian black metal? It makes little sense why a producer would confine himself to the same genre for over two decades. Such a framework often leads to gauzy production value and yawns from the listener.
These are stigmas the DJ/producer Dark Chanell (AKA Luke van Scheppingen) hopes to break at Club Space on Friday, May 14, as he brings his new techno alias to the Magic City.
While the names Dark Chanell or van Scheppingen may not ring any bells, his first name is obvious in the electronic music industry. Under the EDM/house moniker Laidback Luke, van Scheppingen has been a favorite worldwide and a regular at Ultra Music Festival and South Beach megaclubs LIV and Story.
But van Scheppingen didn’t earn his keep during the EDM rush.
His origins date back to 1995 — a time when all ravers had were vinyl records and bucket hats. Before Dark Chanell or even Laidback Luke, van Scheppingen was a standalone techno project, Boom!
"That was a rogue alias of mine," van Scheppingen tells New Times. "I think I put out two vinyls back in 1997 or 1998. I've never used it ever again. It was a boom, and then it ended."
With the world slowly returning to normalcy, the time for van Scheppingen to return to his roots felt real, and he launched his techno alias Dark Chanell three months ago.
"It has been on my mind for quite a while. I remember at the beginning of my career and why I quit playing techno at a certain point was it was a bit limiting to me," he recalls. "I wasn't able to put vocals in there or certain chord progression because then it wouldn't be techno. It broke my creativity."
The 44-year-old father and kung fu athlete views Dark Chanell as a conduit to dive deeper and keep Laidback Luke at equilibrium.
"I caught this urge to play these techno sets," he explains. "From those sets, it began to be like, 'Maybe I need to make some techno tracks again.' It's been good. It's really nice to go back and forth to this alias. It's almost a dark side of me that I can tap into."
Of course, this approach of electronic bipartisanship may earn a few snubs from techno textualists and PLUR stalwarts. But the ability to play and appreciate two opposing sounds is a testament to van Scheppingen's dexterity and appreciation for all things music.
"As long as it clicks for me, I'm all about it," he says. "I do blame my mom, who is Filipina, for my cheesy side. Filipinos love ballads and singing along. My dad, who is fully Dutch, can be more abstract with music."
As a Club Space veteran, van Scheppingen sees the downtown venue as the perfect place to enmesh attendees in profoundly aggressive techno.
"I've played the terrace a few times, and I always loved playing deeper and darker over there," he says. "We figured the time was right to link it to my new alias. I'll take people back to the late '90s and show how we used to play in Europe back then."
Whether Dark Chanell or Laidback Luke, one tried-and-true method of playing is favored.
"I'm running a new setup which will make it perfect for four-channel music," van Scheppingen says.
Playing off four-channel doubles the chance of fatal error, but the high payoff allows the DJ more room to improvise and keeps the crowd guessing as to what comes next.
Van Scheppingen says back in the Boom! era, he mixed with three turntables. "Nowadays, it's much easier to play with multiple players," he notes.
Dark Chanell's debut album, No.1, on his aptly named label, Mixmash Records, is a four-track piece that's brutally nostalgic for warehouse raves. The album provides a coordinate point as to how Dark Chanell plans to play on Friday.
"Some of Dark Chanell's biggest influences are Surgeon, Jeff Mills, and the Advent — that whole era has stuck with me," van Scheppingen adds. "It comes from the high energy in the late '90s, and I want to bring it back and hold on to it."
The pandemic provided producers an opportunity to embark upon bold, new projects that may not have been made otherwise, but it was also an isolating time. On Laidback Luke's YouTube channel, van Scheppingen posted a 14-minute video in which he and his colleague, Kid Massive, discuss the perils of mental health in an industry that is vulnerable in the best of times.
"Just like everyone, it felt like being on top of the world to someone being without a job, instantly," van Scheppingen explains. “And that's something to cope with, but the reason I made this vlog was that I've been on a weekly Zoom call with some big DJs. We gather every week and talk about our mental health. It's been a revelation, but it's also been shocking how many of my fellow DJs cope and try to function."
It may take a while for the electronic-music community to acclimate post-COVID, but the best advice the 25-year veteran can impart is to keep our heads up and sincerely appreciate the present.
"These last ten years have flown by. I think we don't stand still in the here and now as often as we should. What's next? What's in the future? What's over there? I've done that my whole life, and now I'm ready to sit back and ask myself, Did I enjoy that? Maybe we can stretch that out, and that will help."
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