WHP FEATURE 012
Loco Dice is one of the scene’s biggest characters, and not ‘character’ in the sense that people use to describe a departed celebrity who spent their whole life offending people, but ‘character’ in the true sense of someone who is a formidable force of personality. He lives and breathes his music, other people’s music, the scene, the partying, everything.
Dice began his musical journey as a brash hip hop kid who ruffled a lot of feathers in his youth, but it wasn’t his front that got him where he is now - it was his encyclopedia. Sure, he was in with a lot of the right people - it can’t have hurt to have hanged with the biggest hip hop stars of the 90s and then latterly with Martin Buttrich and Timo Maas - but such was his unbelievable thirst for musical knowledge, he found a way to outshine the lot of them.
it’s like the difference between New York and Detroit, or Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Manchester is raw and it’s rough
Rather like a born-again christian who has just been shown ‘the way’, when Dice moved away from hip hop and fell into house and techno, he took it to excess. Quite quickly he’d developed a record collection and a DJing style that was different to his contemporaries. He’d be playing old US-house B-sides when everyone else was playing minimal - he’d be taking it up when others would be taking it down. In double-quick time he became one of the main men at DC10 and Circoloco (back in the glory days of the early 2000s), and he’s never looked back since.
We begin by talking about Manchester. As much as he worked hard to understand the roots of the new scene he had suddenly become a part of, at what point did he realise the importance of Manchester in all of it?
“From the beginning! Because I did my homework very very well. I loved electronic music so much. In ’97 the transformation started for me - ’97 I did all my homework. I was learning about house music, techno, the origin, where does it come from and of course Manchester and The Hacienda start to come up. This is how I knew it’s not all about London.
For me Manchester… it’s like the difference between New York and Detroit, or Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Manchester is raw and it’s rough. The capital is always the capital… it’s always clean, it’s always nice - even if you go to the dirtiest after-hours it’s still the capital you know?
In Manchester they are normal people - they are not VIP - there’s no ‘I know this’, no ‘I’m a hipster and I wear these clothes’. Outside the capital you see people who are there for that one thing one million per cent, more than a hundred percent. Manchester especially. It’s not only the culture of the music, it’s the fan culture, it’s the football, whatever it is. The mentality is hot-blooded, let’s say Italian English!!”
And Dice would know all about that. The very name ‘Loco Dice’ comes from his own loose behaviour at Space one day in the late 90s.
One day I climbed on the roof at the entrance of Space and I’m like ‘you know what? I need one of these logos, I’m going to take it home.’
“I came to Ibiza and tasted this freedom… it went to my head! Even before I was a musician, Dice was a nickname (he’d always be seen carrying dice around as a boy). I was DJ Dice as a hip hop DJ and when I started to do electronic music I never thought I’d change my name but it came out that I was being a complete nutter.
One day I climbed on the roof at the entrance of Space and I’m like ‘you know what? I need one of these logos, I’m going to take it home.’ And I can remember two of the security guards screaming at me - one of them in German… ‘Hey Dice, what are you doing man! Come down!’ and his Spanish colleagues were shouting “Loco Dice! Loco Dice!”, which means ‘Crazy’ in Spanish. Some of my friends were there and said ‘your name is born, you’re Loco Dice.’ Then the promoter back in Germany said to me: ‘look you need to change your DJ name because you’re still bringing the hip hop guys to the club and they get confused with the music you’re playing’, so I said ‘from now on I’m Loco Dice’.”
He has said in the past how he’d gradually become disillusioned with the commercialisation of hip hop - that when Coolio - Gangster’s Paradise became a worldwide hit it really made him question what it was all for. But house music is not exactly short of commercial hits; so what was it about the house scene that made him believe it was a more legitimate art form?
You can compare hip hop to house because in house you’ve always got those commercialised songs, but the thing with electronic music - and this is what fascinated me a lot - there is so much. THERE IS SO MUCH!!”
Not even capitals could really do him justice here. He has a touch of the Laurent Garniers about him - there’s just that total undying passion for the art form and the way he sees the world, with absolutely no quarter given. Ever.
“We call it techno, we call it house music, but even under the word ‘techno’ you’ve got maybe 15 different styles. House music has got 50 maybe 100 various styles. And this confusion where you can’t really label something is freedom. It’s amazing, and this is what I was looking for.
But I never left hip hop. I’m still hip hop, I’m still on the scene but I had to leave the DJing - I had to leave the entertainment side of it because I couldn’t play anything cool anymore because people were thinking too much in a box. And in hip hop it’s very difficult because you can’t play instrumentals and you can’t be crazy. You can only play a certain amount of records.”
His most recent album, Underground Sound Suicide is most certainly a nod back to his hip hop past.
“I presented this to my management and to Martin [Buttrich] and they were all like ‘we feel you, but we don’t know if the people are ready’. I was like ‘I’m doing this! Everything is freedom!”
Just one look at the comments on RA at the time it was announced would suggest they were right: a lot of people found it difficult to fathom the fusion of genres.
“Why should people talk about something when I have Giggs on my record? What is so bad about that?? Does it really hurt people’s feelings? Only because in the UK you call Grime something very very bad. Don’t see it that way! See it as a beauty! See it as something cool.
Todd Terry and Tyree Cooper back in the day… you didn’t dis them! When they did the Jungle Brothers and everything… are the Jungle Brothers more sophisticated than Giggs? Come on!! It was like it was blasphemy, like ‘Loco Dice, he’s all commercial he’s like EDM’ and then they come to my gigs and they get the biggest techno round their heads… haha!”
“I think we should not talk too much about music… music is there to listen to, to consume, to dance to, to have fun to and to enjoy. You don’t like the track? Go to the bar and have a fucking beer. We need to remember the reason why we’re going clubbing.
So maybe there was not the freedom he thought he had after all?
“You’re the first one who’s gonna hear this. There was a time in my life in electronic music where I felt ‘oh, I had to make it this way’ because I came from hip hop, I didn’t want to fuck up anyone. It was still freedom for me compared to hip hop but it came to a point where I felt a little bit, ‘What the fuck am I doing here? Why can I not mix what I like, what I want? Why can I not talk about what I like or what I want?’ And that was the year before I created Underground Sound Suicide. The album gave me all the freedom back.
So my brother… house music, techno - and this is something which I was very afraid of but I’m not anymore - people need to relax a little bit and to listen a little bit to music and to understand: you’re coming to the club to have fun and to dance. Don’t go to Loco Dice and assume ‘Loco plays a Richie Hawtin set’ only because he tours with Richie Hawtin. Don’t be so dumb and believe the internet!”
“It’s a shame,” I say, “that for all the wide range of music the internet can give people, it still seems like it’s the older guys who came up in the vinyl era who are more likely to mix up the genres when they play.”
“We’re still playing - they might call us dead but we’re not! (he laughs mischievously) Plus the newcomers… some of the new artists… big respect to the new artists, but prove yourself, don’t just talk about it! And some of them are proving it and I play with most of these artists and I love their music, it’s great. Like when you hear The Martinez Brothers (who will be playing alongside Dice at WHP), you hear they’ve got their education, you hear they’ve got the respect. You hear they’re mixing new jams with old jams flawlessly and for me, that’s perfect.
I’m not standing there and hating about new guys and saying everything in the past is good but I’m also not a hipster who goes to Berghain and says everybody who comes from Panorama Bar and Berghain are the cool DJs. Anybody from the southern part of Manchester could be an amazing DJ. As long as he shows what he’s got - his skills, his education, his DJ sets, he surprises me with one of his records…”
And he’s off again. There’s never a short answer with Dice, but you know better than to interrupt him.
“I think we should not talk too much about music… music is there to listen to, to consume, to dance to, to have fun to and to enjoy. You don’t like the track? Go to the bar and have a fucking beer. We need to remember the reason why we’re going clubbing. We’re not going to clubs to be educated by the DJs because we’re not preachers, we’re not messiahs. Maybe there are DJs where you are educated but when you come to my party, I want you to have fun. I want you to relax. Sometimes I might surprise you, sometimes it just doesn’t click - this happens - I’m a human you know?”
Which he absolutely is. He’s basically an obsessive fan who happened to become a top DJ. When Danny Tenaglia comes up in conversation, he enters full-on fan mode.
“I’m so blessed to have got to know Danny Tenaglia in the early days. I’ve been blessed to hang with the right people, I have to say. My hip hop guys who were going to after hours in New York were like ‘come here, this guy plays very very long’ and then I ended up in New York listening to Danny Tenaglia and I’m like ’This is exactly what I’m looking for! This is the music! This is the deepness! This is the vibe!’
Plus he’s such an entertainer. He’s incredible, he’s amazing. And I was blessed to get to know him. He was a big fan of my record Phat Dope Shit - my first record that ever came out - he was playing the instrumental, he was playing the vocal version, he was loving it, he was digging it, he understood. He knew when I was talking to him about the old days that I was a listener - I was not an ass-licker who just wants to DJ with him someday, I wanted just to learn and he was talking and it was amazing. For me he is still a hero - he defined DJing in a different way and I have to thank him for this.”
And it isn’t just music where the super-fan comes out. He’s also a massive football fan, splitting his loyalties between his local team Fortuna Dusseldorf and Juventus. But this season he’ll be keeping a particularly close eye on matters around the corner from WHP.
“So hate me or not but I love this combination between Mourinho, Ibrahimovic etc. and I think Rooney will play an amazing season because I think he’s a great great football player. He only needs the right people alongside him. I think Manchester United this season is an amazing team to watch. There is a lot of character. Money can buy you love sometimes! It will be an amazing Premier League this season.”
I was booking people like Paul Van Dyk and Sven Vath but I will never tell them! Big festivals, 20,000 people, big raves.
After having discussed the prospects of Fortuna Dusseldorf for the new season (“we’re in Bundesliga 2 but we’re on the way back up - it looks good for this season”) the conversation moved back to music and his old mucker, Martin Buttrich. At one time they were thick as thieves in the studio, with Buttrich engineering all of Dice’s early work and the pair of them creating the juggernaut that is Desolat records. But now Buttrich is touring around the world with his own career as a performer, has the dynamic changed?
“The only thing that has changed is unfortunately we don’t see each other like we used to. He’s worked on his own career and it was something deep in his heart he wanted to do. He didn’t know it but me and Timo [Maas] discovered it.
When he used to live in Hanover I was constantly in the studio working with him. The album [Underground Sound Suicide] was the last time I produced with him. I think after the summer we will sit down. We’re still brothers, we still love each other… it’s all good! In the summer time we’ve had a few SMS but this has been the worst year for us staying in touch. He’s also a big fan of losing his phone which makes the situation more difficult!”
A lesser-known fact about Dice is that back when he was still a hip hop DJ, he actually booked Sven Vath. He fell into a day job as a booker for a big events agency in Germany, and so began his encyclopedia.
“That’s how I know so much about electronic music! I was booking people like Paul Van Dyk and Sven Vath but I will never tell them! Big festivals, 20,000 people, big raves. Back then you had no internet so I had to really read the magazines about these DJs. What is their style, what is their heritage, which DJs can I book together with them and this is how I learnt electronic music in general.
House and techno is a business that doesn’t come from school. Your best friend suddenly becomes an agent and in five years they’re one of the biggest agents in the world. This is how it is. We’re living in this world and it’s so professional and yet somehow it’s not! And this chaos is beautiful but you have to find a solution in it and this is how it is.
You can just make it up as you go along. A new artist makes a hit record, he makes his friend an agent, his agent has no clue, he asks other DJs what he can get, he tries to get more-more-more, the agent doesn’t give a fuck, the DJ doesn’t give a fuck, they need 10, 15 promoters who’ll pay this and there you go - that’s how the market can be crazy sometimes.
But I’m glad I ran through that school to learn everything. I’ve learnt you always should be humble and you always have to be respectful. Even though we are superstar DJs sometimes, we’re humans - we should be normal and easy. And that’s a beautiful thing.”
True dat Mr Dice, true dat. There are few in the business who show that same level of humility and who can be bothered to go into such detail, especially when you call them up in the middle of a studio session.