2ManyDJs: “David Bowie used to post on our web forum”

The Dewaele brothers tell us about 20 years of 'As Heard On Radio Soulwax Pt.2', the 2002 clash of dance and indie, the secrets of their remixes, and discuss whether a clubnight like Trash could ever exist again

2ManyDJs have spoken to NME about the legacy of their ‘As Heard On Radio Soulwax Pt.2′ mix, as well as the indie dance scene of 2002 and counting David Bowie as a fan.

Brothers David and Stephen Dewaele, who are also members of Soulwax and run the DEEWEE record label, rereleased the classic 2002 mash-up album last week. A highly influential mix of the time, it combined the worlds of pop, rock, rap, indie and dance – bringing together the likes of Velvet Underground, Destiny’s Child, Felix Da Housecat, New Order, Peaches, Sly & The Family Stone and beyond.

This, and their subsequent mixes, releases and legendary DJ sets, would help shape the decade’s dance-punk scene and indie nightlife. One fan was Bowie who hailed their mixes as “dynamite combinations” and would repeatedly praise them in the press. The pair would later make a Bowie mix and accompanying film, DAVE, as Radio Soulwax.

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“It’s still weird that we talk about Bowie as if we’d known him but we only met him once,” Stephen told NME. “It’s pretty crazy, even now. He was even on the forum on our little website as ‘David Bowie’ asking us questions, and we thought he was someone else!

“When we met him, Dave asked him how much time he spent on the internet and he replied, ‘Don’t you see I’m on your forum all the time?’ It seems like such a weird world now.”

David and Stephen formed Belgian indie rock band Soulwax in 1995 before finding success and acclaim with 1996 debut ‘Leave The Story Untold’ and 1998’s ‘Much Against Everyone’s Advice’. It was during this time that boredom on tour pushed them to DJing and remixing, and they were soon widely bootlegged online and became part of the dance music world.

The brothers explained how they had “no idea” that their 2002 compilation would have such an impact when they were asked to put it together by their label PIAS.

“We honestly just thought it would buy us a few months to start the next Soulwax record,” said David.

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Stephen elaborated: “It could only have been made by two guys in an indie rock band who were starting to do NME tours. We were DJing on those tours because we were bored. It was always in our DNA but we were trying to find out who else was interested in mixing indie with Daft Punk and all these other things. We found Trash [the infamous London clubnight] and a whole community started with Erol Alkan.

“Then it turned into this totally different monster.”

2ManyDJs black and white press image
2ManyDJs. CREDIT: Press

Explaining the whirlwind of the time, Stephen said that “it happened so fast but we were really enjoying it”.

“We wanted to be the band again, but then we ended up headlining festivals as 2ManyDJs,” he said. “Not dance festivals, but Reading & Leeds or playing after Depeche Mode. James [Righton of The Klaxons and now a DeeWee label signee] sometimes says that we’re responsible of this DJ thing at rock festivals. Promoters started saying, ‘Hey, I could have the same impact with just two guys and some records’.

“In our heads we’re still indie kids, but at some point you have to go along with it and realise it’s turning into something bigger.”

The pair admit that their cross-genre approach might sound “really obvious now, but it was really new back then”.

“This notion of only doing one genre like deep house or drum’n’bass or whatever felt very old-fashioned to us,” said David. “It felt formulaic. We now live in a time where it’s normal for a DJ to play everything.

“To us, it was modern to listen to all kinds of different things, so that’s what you should play. Weirdly enough, everything comes in waves. Everything is super eclectic now and it’s super normal for someone to listen to Beyonce, Arca and Fela Kuti at the same time, but people are still quite rigid in their categories.”

Soulwax. Credit: Kurt Augustyns
Soulwax. Credit: Kurt Augustyns

While the ’00s “indie sleaze” scene that they were part of is currently enjoying a revival in pop culture, the brothers told NME that they believed the circumstances that led to that nightlife were very of their time.

“As Soulwax we played with The Dandy Warhols and then we met Erol [Alkan] in London when he was still doing Trash at The Annexe,” said Stephen. “We started talking to him about all the music we liked and if it felt like we knew him but had never met him. He asked us to play Trash on a Monday night – which is already crazy – and we opened up his record box and we had very similar records. He had ‘Rollin’ & Scratchin’ by Daft Punk, a Blur record, something by Elastica or Aphex Twin.”

He continued: “We used to play ‘Ace Of Spades’ because we fucking love that song, and then all of a sudden Lemmy is stood in front of the DJ booth throwing the horns. I remember we both looked at each other and said, ‘This is the coolest place in the world – these are our people!'”

Asked if a night like Trash could ever come about organically again, Stephen replied: “I don’t think so. It was a whole thing where Peaches could play, Soulwax could play, as well as LCD Soundsystem and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. You have to have all of these things for it to be able to exist, but it was a really big thing for Dave and me. You’d play all over the world and in Mexico you’d find all these kinds who loved dance music but also The Smiths. All of these worlds could come together.”

David added: “When you make music, you quite often have a dancefloor in mind. I can imagine someone making a disco record with the Paradise Garage in mind. For seven years, Trash was that dancefloor for us. We’d often make something that we knew we wouldn’t get away with if we played Space in Miami, but it would work in Trash. We’d make these records and send them to Erol to play.”

To mark 20 years since ‘As Heard On Radio Soulwax Pt.2’, 2ManyDJs will be playing a special night in London – with the hope of celebrating the music and energy of 2002 but bringing a modern edge.

“Erol is playing a 2002 set, but we have Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul playing from our label, because they feel like what we’re doing now, then there’s Miss Kittin who was also from that period but is doing cool stuff now,” Stephen explained. “It’s just fun for us to all be together.

“We’ll be playing the whole record in full, which we’ve never done. We’re still figuring out how to do that.”

David agreed: “We do these shows with animated record sleeves, and we’ve never done it for that album. We’ll also be throwing in all the stuff that we do now like the Wet Leg remix and Peggy Gou. It’ll start with the original album and then go into the current set.”

Stephen added: “And hopefully by then the drugs would have worked.”

The pair’s remix of ‘Too Late Now’ by Wet Leg was well received earlier this year, but it’s not something they landed on straight away.

“Somebody at the record company asked if we could do ‘Chaise Longue’ and we were like, ‘No, that song doesn’t need anything. We wouldn’t know what to do with it,” said Stephen. “The song was so perfect that any remix would make it worse.”

Are they any new remixes from Soulwax on the horizon?

“There’s one coming out soon for Oliver Sim that we’re really, really happy with,” said Stephen. “It’s a super beautiful song. We would play it at [our vinyl-only club night with LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy] Despacio and people would go, ‘Oh, what is this?’ We love it.”

Having provided legendary remixes of everyone from Kylie Minogue, New Order, The Gossip, Gorillaz, Muse and Daft Punk to more contemporary acts like Fontaines D.C., Warmduscher and Tame Impala, the Dewaele brothers explained the secret of their remix process.

“Usually artists come to us, and eight or nine times out of 10 we say for various reasons; either we’re honestly too busy or we think the song’s already good,” David told NME. “Quite often we’ll get asked by big bands to take classic songs and remix them and we’ll be like, ‘All we’d do is make it worse!’ What we tend to do with people is just contact them.”

He continued: “Good friends send us the whole album, even while they’re working on it, to see if anything inspires us. Quite often if it’s an A&R person saying, ‘Here’s a big single and we need a big remix,’ then quite often it just doesn’t work out. If it’s done for the wrong reasons then it won’t be a good remix.

“That might be cool for brand-building or money, but in the end what we want is just something that we can play in our DJ sets. Quite selfishly, what we’re looking for is for them to contact us with something that we want for ourselves.”

As well as preparing for the London show, the pair explained how they’re currently working with Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul, as well as on “some DeeWee stuff, a lot of Soulwax stuff, and saying no to a lot of stuff”.

“We had a really quite prolific period during COVID, and now that we’re travelling again all the time we’re trying to find the balance,” said David.

They also teased that there would be “definitely maybe” be a new Soulwax album in 2023, and they’re “working on it”.

“We’re trying different things out because we don’t want to do the same thing,” David added. “That’s all we can say.”

2ManyDJs will perform at London’s Printworks (as moved and rescheduled from the O2 Academy Brixton date) on Friday February 16. Visit here for tickets and more information.

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