Danny Wolfers, aka Legowelt, is a native of The Hague who produces electrifying tracks inspired by Italo-disco, early Chicago house, disco, new wave and of course 80s electro. Hot on the heels of “R U There Yet? U-TRAX 20/20 Vision Mixtape vol. 1” compiled by Qmoog, electronic music label U-TRAX invites Legowelt to curate their second album. As a high school kid, some of the first records Wolfers ever bought in the mid 90s were U-TRAX releases, and he was heavily influenced by the output of The Connection Machine and P.A.
The compilation brings a wide range of electronic music, from smooth ambient techno to hard electro, and spicing things up further with acid, techno and hip hop flavours. It features nine tracks from the 90s archives of U-TRAX and Phoq U Phonogrammen, by techno favorites like The Connection Machine, Tick Trax, P.A. Presents and Sonar Base and one track by Sp@sms from 2019. This selection of classics is completed by four brand new tracks from forthcoming U-TRAX albums by artists like hip-hop producer Thavius Beck (NYC), old school electro producer Nuklear Prophet (LA) and new school electro producer w1b0 (NL).
How are you? And what have you been getting up to recently?
I am doing fine, life is not too bad here in The Hague even in these times. I just did the second Legowelt art competition, where fans and freaks can send in paintings, drawings whatever and win some synths. There were awesome entries from all over the world, it’s fun to see these things coming in from distant exotic places. I am going through them now to decide which ones are the winners, so when this article is published you probably can check it out on my website.
Furthermore I worked on this Polish hardware instrument called the Polyend Tracker, its a sampler sequencer based on tracker software on the Commodore Amigas like Octamed and Protracker. Its a self contained hardware version with MIDI and SD card slot. They let me do a custom special edition with my artwork on the faceplate and I put in 5000 sounds taken from my studio. It also comes with finished projects in it, tracks that I made on it, they will be released on a vinyl LP together with the machine. Bogdan Raczynski and Pete Canon also did one you can check out sound demos and pre-order it here.
Most of my time over the past months, or even half a year already I worked on a feature animation film called “AMBIENT TRIP COMMANDER”, originally it was to be premiered with live score on synthesizers, in its first version, last October at the Utrecht Le Guess Who festival and the Eye film museum in Amsterdam. This was of course planned when things were looking a bit bright again in Holland with almost no new Covid cases and theatres were opening for controlled seated performances with 30 people. But yeah that didn’t really work out when the second wave hit and everything went in strict lockdown again, so I never did that gig. But that gave me time to work on it more and more and now its an hour long animation and much more advanced then the first version which basically was just some background visuals with a vague story for a music performance. I got time to develop the story, draw lots of new scenes and make more advanced animations. The story is about this girl called Samantha Tapferstern. She lives a boring mundane life working as a clerk in a synthesizer store in a small European city. At night she spends her lonely existence playing RPGs on her computer in her tiny apartment. One day she gets a mysterious email with a train ticket, an invitation to come to a castle deep in the dark Alps where they need her help. Then we follow her on that journey and all sort of adventures unfold.
From an artist’s point of view, how have you found lockdown and what keeps you motivated whilst producing?
I just bubbled up in my own world, like I did all my life, I can stay home for weeks like some crazy recluse, I have always been doing that. What keeps me motived whilst producing? Well I can’t do much else and it is incredibly fun to make music and get lost in a musical hyperreality to escape from the more or less grim reality. A synthesizer makes much more interesting sounds than all those moaning self entitled humans with their shrieking voices telling you what to do or think.
You have an amazing talent for art (such as this amazing cover!), is this something you’ve been focussing on a lot recently and where do you wish to take it in the future?
Well thank you. It sort of started when I launched my Nightwind records seven years ago, I wanted to have more control over my releases and also important, the artwork. I always got disappointed when there would be bad artwork on my releases, you invested some time & energy into the music and then zero f*cks are given for the album art, like they put the first google search image they see on the cover. Or the worst are those Tech House style Beatport covers which just have giant fonts on them saying the title in ugly bland colors, or a vague shape.
Ah well, sometimes that can work but a lot of times they don’t even try.
So around 2014 I started doing my own album covers, I just drew with colour pencils from the toy store later I started to use water colors from the art store which look a bit more pro. The artwork and the music are very intertwined it shows my vision on the music, what atmosphere it evokes in my mind. But also it basically gives the music a sort of hypothetical geographical place, a hyperreality…a place were it is told… a world is build around it and so it becomes easier to grasp for the listener. Even a few releases actually have maps with them like the Nomad Ninja and Smackos – A Vampire Goes West albums. I started doing more and more of those album covers and people started asking if I sold those as paintings. That motived me to do some non-record cover paintings, stuff that I had in my mind, I saw on my travels, read in books etc. It really became a new activity I could immerse myself in.
Then in 2019 someone asked if I wanted to do a gallery show in The Hague. I was super excited for that, it felt like some kind of life achievement to do a first gallery exhibition. I guess its like playing your first gig. I was going to do some more gallery shows in 2020 in other places, Barcelona, Sweden and Canada but yeah those all fell through, maybe we’ll do that next year hopefully.
Where I wish to take in the future? Make more paintings, its incredibly fun to paint and draw so I will keep doing that and of course I started to make that animation movie which is even more fun to do…I’ll make some more…I probably won’t stop doing that ever.
Teaming up with U-TRAX, can you tell us more about how influential this label has been on your music, your relationship with the imprint and how it all came about?
I met Richard the guy who does U-Ttrax when I did a Rush Hour instore with Esa Williams in 2017 or something. I was surprised the label was back in action as they didn’t release anything since 1995. Last year he asked if I would ‘curate’ this compilation and I said sure that would be fun!
As for being influenced by the label, sure. They were among the first records I bought in a recordstore, at I.F’s Hotmix store (a now defunct legendary record store in The Hague, one of the first that was specialised in Detroit techno & Chicago house in Holland) I am sure the record was P.A. Presents Flight Stimulator, I remember I also got that X101 LP on Tresor at the same time. I didn’t have a record player myself so I had to play it on my mums hifi set. I tried to get anything from that label, I would buy them without listening. My favourite and very influential, also for a lot of other people, is of course The Connection Machine stuff, especially Their Utroid Machine Missions – Dream Tec album. Very dreamy and freaky, it had a certain freedom…it sounded very DIY, raw but also sophisticated in its melodies, like it didn’t have these thirteen-in-a-dozen boring cliche 909 beats with boring structure. It showed me you could do whatever the fck you want, have a techno beat from a shitty cheap drum machine or rompler drum kit and play dreamy melodies over it without worrying too much about stuff like music theory and sounding like everyone else. And they also used quite a bit of voice samples from movies etc. Sometimes really discrete like on Evilish Cosmos and sometimes very upfront like on the Dream affected Dream track. This DIY mentality, freedom and rawness is something that at that time could be said for the whole U-TRAX label itself. Its definitely in the line of adventerous more pioneering cult labels for freaks like Irdial Discs and Rephlex.
How would you describe this compilation and what’s the overall direction you have taken?
Well, there wasn’t much to choose from really, U-Trax only did a bunch of records and there was already the first U-TRAX compilation by Detroit artist QMOOG last year. Do you know this guy he made a couple of mindblowing dark sinister techno records in the 90s on a very obscure label called Rhyhtm Tech-Sound, I think it was his own label? I am not sure but people totally slept on that back then…for people that never heard of him go check tracks like Mirabella or L-Tex its crazy out there stuff for the freaks!
Anyways he did the first U-Trax compilation last year and there weren’t many tracks left to choose from so I had the pick of the litter ha. But seriously the tracks that were left are among my favorites, tracks that I grew up with and I know them by heart so it was really easy. Even if there would be 1000 records in the U-Trax catalogue I would still choose these.
Having carefully selected each track, can you tell us about three or four songs in particular and the story behind choosing them?
Inventions and Diamentions – Serinity:
A hidden treasure from the mind of Kalamazoo techno pioneer Fanon Flowers. The track is so much fun, sparkling with a sinister energy that embodies a sincere ethos of techno music. An essential blueprint study track for every techno musician and fan. Far removed from the boring clinical techno that is so prevalent everywhere today. The notes seems to shift ever slightly, the synths and rhythms barely keep sync, like its held together with rubber bands and cellotape. Everything is a bit out of tune which makes the atmosphere truly otherworldly.
The juxtaposition between the ‘serene’ sample from Steve Miller band’s space intro/ fly like an eagle , with the fantastic untamed energy of the drum machines works like a charm. The hihats, spread like a thick gooey thick paste must go into history as one of the most smudgiest out there! I could keep on ranting how good this track is but just listen for yourself!
The Connection Machine – Echoes From Tau Ceti:
A classic from Holland’s finest techno duo Natasja Hagemeier and Jeroen Brandjes. Almost everything they made had this authentic D.I.Y dreamy poetic 1990s’ cyberpunk atmosphere to it. Like you were touching upon some cutting edge fractal virtual reality John c. Lilly dolphin floatation tank world. ‘Echoes from Tau Ceti’ has all this, with a sauce of rainy mid 90s dutch ‘joyful sorrow.’ Just listen how they could even make the most lame static synthesiser saxophone preset into something magic!
Heinrich Tillack – Pump Track:
Such a fun track, how it ‘manually’ stops and starts, the irresistible buzzing acid line, how it falls almost apart at times but everything regroups and continues like nothing happened, The little ‘mistakes’, like the timing structure is a bit wrong, give it a genuine simplicity, recorded in the heat of the moment without any polishing, whistles or bells. An intense track with a giant hall rave vibe…. total dance floor control track!!!
Tough question – if you had to pick a favourite track from the compilation, which one would it be and why?
It would probably be one of the Connection Machine ones, or the Fanon Flowers one…the intrusions & Diamentions that sound has been a fundamental influence on how to mix down a smudgey raw beat…those zompy hihats and stuff are incredible.
What’s in store for Legowelt in the coming months, and when can we expect the next Legowelt release!
Later this year or next year or whenever it will be, I hopefully can do that animation thing, play some concerts with it at theatres and cinemas when it is safe to do and stuff opens up maybe….but we will see. Releasewise there are some new albums planned on my Nightwind records, I got a new Smackos album waiting on the shelves, a re-issue of the first Zandvoort & Uilenbal album (‘Geruis uit Somberdorp’) which will come with a little zine including, of course, a map of Somberdorp and little stories about its locations there like a sinister clown academy and Harmonium factory that builds the harmoniums from wrecked ship wood. And there is a lot more stuff coming like always…what else am I going to do?
“U R Here! U-TRAX 20/21 Vision Mixtape vol. 2” is out now on U-TRAX and is available to listen and buy on Bandcamp.
Tracklist: 1. Iventions and Diamentions – Serinity 2. P.A. Presents – Flight Simulator 3. Sonar Base – Sonar Base #6 4. Nuklear Prophet – Doctorz of Crime 5. The Connection Machine – Echoes from Tau Ceti 6. Tick Trax – Pump Track 7. Sp@sms – Titanic (Underwater Dub) 8. THe Connection Machine – Evilish Cosmos 9. Thavius Beck – Reunite With The All 10. Maarten & Tjeerd – Winter 11. Pieces Of A Pensive State Of Mind – Crossin’ The Madmoon (edit) 12. Nuklear Prophet – Train Rider To Coconio 13. JO-I – A7 14. W1b0 – Syntax Error