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Interview: Philou Louzolo

30 September 2016

On Saturday, 1st October, Manchester house and disco crew Doodle welcome Dutch genius Philou Louzolo over from Rotterdam, and descend into the bowels of Soup Kitchen for their first party since their fifth birthday in August. Louzolo's African-inspired creations have found homes on Lumberjacks In Hell, Banoffee Pies Records, Times Are Ruff and more, and is a name that you will increasingly find on the bills of some of Europe's best underground clubs. 

Ahead of his appearance at Doodle, we spoke to him about his career so far, the Rotterdam nightlife scene, and the records he cherishes most...

So, we're very excited about the Soup Kitchen date. Are you looking forward to your Manchester debut?

Oh yes, it's always special to have a debut in a new city abroad.  The only thing I don't like about visiting the UK is when I hear you Brits speak English and everything sounds so pretty and perfect and then the disappointing moment arrives, where I have to admit that my English isn't  as   flawless as I thought it was! Haha!

What are your key musical influences and how did you start DJing?

Definitely Fela.. Not only musically, but mostly culturally and politically. He emancipated my mind and brought freedom to my way of thinking.  He gave me back my confidence to be the person I am and to do what I love most.

I used to be a DJ who just liked to entertain people with whatever they wanted to hear.  I was too shy at first to play the music I actually wanted to play, but from the moment that I became conscious of my roots and my ancestor's legacy, I started to believe and preach that there was no greater (dance) music than the music that was created and founded by Afro culture.  From that moment on, I felt like I had to keep that heritage alive and DJing transformed from something  I did to entertain people into a necessity to share my beliefs with the masses.  It's my kind of propaganda. 

Members of doodle will be heading for ADE again this year, will you be playing at some of the parties or attending some of the talks?

I'll be playing at some small parties from friends, but I will also join the bigger ones, like the party with Lumberjacks In Hell at the promising new club called Claire.

A lot of people will be familiar with the party scene of Amsterdam, however what key differences are there when comparing it to your hometown of Rotterdam?

In The Netherlands, there’s this competition going on between Amsterdam and Rotterdam.  It’s been there for years and I’ve got nothing more valuable to say about it, Haha!  Neither of the cities are my true hometown, so it doesn’t bother me.

I was born in a small town in the South of The Netherlands.  Maybe it’s time for both cities to join forces and put Dutch nightlife on the map for good.

My gigs in Amsterdam are more fun, the masses there understand my music better than they do in Rotterdam.  In my opinion, people in Amsterdam have a better and wider taste,  but people in Rotterdam are more honest about their taste -- if you know what I mean. That's  why, when I don’t have to play, I like going out in Rotterdam more than in Amsterdam because when I go out,  I’m not interested in hearing the dopest jams all the time, you can still see me get down to more mainstream music if the vibe’s tight.  I love what I’m doing, but sometimes our scene can be a little too much and Rotterdam is a nice place to escape from all that pretentious nightlife crap.  Some say that Rotterdam’s charm is the fact that it's so down to earth, but I don’t always agree with this generalisation.  Rotterdam also has its glamour, pretentious scenes with high standards, but they know that all this is not who they really are.

You've had some releases on some of our favourite label such as Lumberjacks in Hell and Banoffee Pies, which you must be hugely proud of.  What do you have next in the pipe line? Any exciting projects?

The record I released on Marcel's label gave me some great exposure.  Marcel did a great job in presenting this record to a wider audience.  I'm very glad he said yes when he heard Alkebulan Republic.  If he didn't want it, I knew I wouldn't make any effort to release it elsewhere.  I'm picky and sometimes lazy when it comes to sending new material to labels, I'm used to keeping a lot of finished material to myself.

I've got some projects finished like the Lumberjacks in Hell one, projects where I collaborated with singers and bands to create new cuts from scratch.  If a label with the right vision wants to bring these records out, I'm all ears, but I’d rather choose my partners wisely in order to create something that will last longer.  So yes, I'm always making new music and working on new projects, but African music is still hot and hyped up, and that also makes it hard to distinguish the ones that are truly  dedicated from the ones that I call the exploiters.

You seem to have been playing at a lot of festivals over the summer, what's been the highlight?

This summer was one big bubble of hard work and much fun. I didn't only play gigs, I also had my job 2-3 days a week at Clone  Records.  So when I came home from Clone, I had my bag ready and waiting for me and I would be on my way to a club gig.  The next day could be a 10-6 work shift at Clone again.  There were weeks where I didn't sleep for 2-3 days because of festivals and work at Clone during the day, as well as club gigs during the night, mixed with partying and a lot of traveling in between.  My highlights were my trips to Sicily with the DJOON family and my trip to Marrakech with the Atlas Fest family.  Both were the finest blends between a week of doing gigs, partying, holiday and most importantly, good, free food!

Many of the tracks on your list on 22 tracks, such as the Bees record seem rather rare. We're keen vinyl collectors at doodle, what is your most treasured record?

This is a good question, because I've been waiting to rant about this topic for some time.

I really have to disappoint you because I honestly don’t know what my most treasured record is.  I've never considered myself a digger.  With all due respect, I don't really want to be labelled as a digger, because the most extreme diggers/collectors I know literally "collect" music, just like post stamps.  In my opinion most diggers are missing out on the fun part.  I also want to expand my collection, but I’ve got to make sure that digging doesn’t become an addiction, a greedy materialistic obsession resulting in a capitalistic desire where I must have all the dopest, most expensive and rare records ever made.

My motivation to buy a record is to enjoy it and to share the joy I get from the record with others. When you get bored of the record, it's time to recycle, give it to your bestie or sell it.

Yes, it's a product, but don't forget that we are privileged enough to buy all those records.  Vinyl is a luxury product for many people around the globe, especially for those living in third world countries. Many people don't see the irony of selling African records for high prices, when the original artist most likely made records under in bad circumstances, mostly to raise awareness in the Western world about the political, social, economic injustice that was brought upon the less fortune.  These artists and their communities often don’t benefit from this hype.

I like to dig into different sources to discover why a record was made, what kind of emotional value does the record have in the context of when and where it was made.  I got this soukous record that sounds super happy, but the singer is actually mourning the loss of his family caused by a genocide during the oppression of Congo by Belgium.  To honour the original artist and his song, I now choose my moments wisely when it comes to playing this song at parties.  It doesn't always feel right to play a record with such an emotional value at places where people are having fun and really don't have a clue what they’re about.  Especially after I saw some documentaries about that particular genocide, it felt bad to only play that record for commercial amusement.  You can't blame the crowd, but it's my responsibility as a DJ to know my records.  What I'm trying to say is that I  would  rather spend my time understanding and doing  my  research about the few records that I have, than spend time collecting as many records as possible without understanding the true origin and cultural value of the music.

For me that's how DJs are able to define themselves as truly dedicated.  In my opinion, when it comes to African music, you have to be dedicated and loyal to the particular culture and where it all came from in order to understand the deeper and spiritual value of the music.  This is how you can distinguish yourself from those who are just in it for the hype.  I couldn't care less about the amount of rare records a DJ has, I'm more interested in whether he can tell me about what was happening at the time and the place that record was recorded.

Tickets for Doodle presents Philou Louzolo are available through PFTP here