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INTERVIEW: Despacio
Sarah Ward , February 28th, 2014 09:06

We get an update from 2ManyDJs’ Stephen Dewaele on what he, brother David and James Murphy have planned when they bring their mammoth soundsystem back to London next month

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“We have come up with different ideas for dressing it up and musically we have come up with stuff for more people to enjoy,” says Stephen Dewaele, talking with excitement about playing the Roundhouse. Despacio, his project with brother and fellow 2ManyDJs/Soulwax member David and former LCD Soundsystem man James Murphy, featuring the trio playing a vinyl-only DJ set through a mammoth 50,000-watt speaker set-up, will be installing themselves at the Camden venue next month for two nights, March 7 and 8.

The shows come after their three-night pre-Christmas residency at Hammersmith Town Hall (when the Quietus last spoke to them), having originally made their debut at the Manchester International Festival last July. Footage from the December event looks almost reminiscent of a grown-up school disco, albeit one where a trio of some of the finest crate-diggers wander onto the dancefloor and greet the crowd, all part of Despacio's anti-celebrity DJ ethos. Dewaele gets embarrassed when the word “vibe” slips into the conversation and retracts it, saying it’s the kind of DJ persona that he doesn’t like.

“At Hammersmith we had to be on a stage but we are trying to get away from that,” he says. “People are taking pictures with the amps, they are talking to each other more and dancing. We try and let the tracks play out as long as we can, which means we have ten minutes to walk around and meet people and thank them for coming. Sometimes we bring tangerines for them.

“The whole thing about it is really about making people happy. We look at the audience and we see people smiling. When we play, people look at us but at the Roundhouse they will just see our heads. That whole hands-in-the-air stuff is not our thing. If we put our hands in the air it’s because we’re enjoying the song.”

When Dewaele talks about clubs, it’s with nostalgia for a time when music was less compartmentalised, something which he says is a recent thing: “With David and me, and with James, we are all rock kids but we were playing electronic music, and messing around with it. Back then you could play Steve Reich, Destiny’s Child, some more techno stuff and people wouldn’t think that was weird.”

“I would never go and see a DJ. If I do see somebody DJing it is because we are playing somewhere, or because it is a friend. When somebody plays something I know, I think for me it is a bit more about the music than the other things: girls or drugs. I would rather see somebody play two records really well than a lot, not very well.”

With Despacio, they plan to play more obscure records from a collection of 800, some re-pressed to improve their quality. The latter is key to Despacio - the speaker stacks, along with amps from the high-end US audio equipment manufacturer McIntosh Laboratory, are arranged in a circle to provide a surround sound set-up that engulfs the crowd, again coming from this idea of breaking down the boundaries between audience and performer.

The speakers take a day and a half to set up, and even 20 minutes before doors open they will still be tampering with Despacio. This throws up planning problems, with two lorries needed to move the equipment. “We are the worst organised people,” Dewaele says. “Someone was saying to us, ‘You guys know that it is ten tonnes to transport?’”

Any logistical difficulties, though, are worth it, says Dewaele: “We started doing this because we wanted to do something different from what we were used to doing. It is still amazing to us because we can play our own vinyl records on it. We bring our own records and then play them back to back, and take it in turns to DJ - it’s on rotation. It’s fun. We don’t play the same tracks two nights in a row.”

Despacio play The Roundhouse on March 7 and 8, and at at Sonar Festival, Barcelona, which runs from 12th-14th June -for information and tickets, click here.

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